At the end of August, with my friend Arturo we organised a 3 days trip in the Taranaki NP. The weather forecast was good with a high pressure system settling in for the period we were in the park. We decide to do the Pouakai circuit that brings you on the Northern flank of Mt Egmont. The main objective for me was to capture at sunset/sunrise the reflection of Mt Egmont from a small pond near the Pouakai Hut.
We decided to leave Auckland on Thursday afternoon and doing the 4 and half hours drive in the evening/night; sleep in the car and next morning starting up from the visitor centre towards the Pouakai Hut. This first length of the circuit is the longest (13 km) and the most brutal in terms of ascent. After walking up and down in the forest, you have to go up 500 m of stair cases and ladders to the top of Henry Peak. After reaching the top of this anonymous bump you simply have to drop for 300 m to get to a highland area that takes you to the location where the hut is. I can tell you that with 30 kg of backpack on my shoulders, the ascent to this peak was accompanied by frequent breaks and a lot of swearing! Not to mention that the going down on the other side of it was also very steep and not that nice for my right knee. At the top of Henry Peak, the weather was starting to change for the worst with a lot of fog and low clouds covering the view (see below).
However, one hour later when we approached the area where the small pond is situated, the weather changed again. The clouds started to lift and disappear completely by the time we were at the shore of the pond. Considering the toll that I paid on the track, I was left with no energy and we had still to cover another 600 m to get to the hut where we would spend the first night. I was twisted between staying there and waiting for the sunset or getting to the hut, drop some of the weight from the backpack, and getting back on the pond (and doing all of this in less than an hour!). I was also pondering to give up for the sunset and just come back for the sunrise.
In the end, I decide for the hut option and doing the extra 1200 m. And the decision was very wise. By the time I was back at the pond, the sun was starting to set with no clouds in the sky. Oh well, another postcard sky. I had time enough to play around with several compositions in different light conditions. The best results are below.
The next morning my alarm clock went off at 5.45. I managed to get out of my sleeping bag and started to get ready for returning to the pond for a sunrise session. When I got out of the hut, thick layer of fog was covering everything making even hard to find the way back to the pond. Nevertheless, we started our walk (this time Arturo decided to join me) and I was hoping that some break in the fog during sunrise would lead to a spectacular dawn. We reached the pond still in the fog and start the waiting game. And we waited… for nothing. The fog didn’t go away and later on rainy clouds came in. I didn’t even bother to set the camera on the tripod. Wet and cold we decided to get back to the hut, start a fire and have a good breakfast.
The second length of trek would take us to Holly Hut. When we started out rainy clouds had filled the sky. Around noon, we managed to get to Holly Hut without much rain. Our legs were still in pain from the previous day “stair walk”. So we decide to start the fire and get as much rest as possible for the next and last day. By the afternoon, the clouds settled in and didn’t open up for the rest of our stay. We didn’t see Mt Egmont for the rest of our journey.
The last part of the trek was quite fun with a lot of stream crossing and a bit of rock climbing. Rain and wind accompanied us for the whole time till we reached the visitor centre by noon. After changing in dry clothes and a nice lunch, we started our 5 hours drive back to Auckland.