Best One-Day Hike In The World?
“Move over Tongariro, there’s a new ‘best one-day walk in the world’ in New Zealand.” The Pouakai Crossing winds around Mount Taranaki’s northern slopes and “aims to attract those who might otherwise tackle the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.” Paul Bloomfield hiked the trek and shared his experience in an article in Wanderlust.
Mount Taranaki, which Bloomfield describes as “genuinely Middle-Earth otherworldly” is the stuff of its travellers’ – and, particularly, trekkers’ – fantasies with near-perfect cone, diverse habitats and Maori heritage.
“The visual treats began at a viewpoint a little above our drop-off. To the north, surf rolled in to the shores of New Plymouth, guarded by the humpback Sugar Loaf Islands and Paritutu Rock,” writes Bloomfield, who hiked the trek with his guide Nick Brown and John Haylock, a local hiker.
“Behind us loomed the scarred slopes of Taranaki, and to the east, hazy on the horizon, rose the hefty cones of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro – the volcanoes that form the backdrop for the more-famous crossing.” “Like any hiking trail worth its salt, the Pouakai is rich in heritage, human and natural.”
“The mounga (mountain) is male, and the summit is his head. Standing, sitting or eating at the very top is considered tapu – very disrespectful,” Brown told his two hikers.
“Long ago, the Maori say, Taranaki lived with other volcanoes in the centre of the island. He and Tongariro both fell in love with Pihanga, a beautiful female mountain – and fought a mighty battle over her. Tongariro triumphed, and Taranaki – his wounds still visible today – fled south, finally settling alongside his new partner, Pouakai,” said Haylock.
Bloomfield recounts delving into the Goblin Forest. “Rarely has a wood seemed more alive, plants layered on other plants. And among the branches of the twisted kamahi trees I heard the weird warbling of the tui for the first time.”
On their way they “encountered several more reminders of the region’s Maori heritage along the trail.”
“To our right, the Kokowai stream trickled into a smudge of rust-hued ochre deposits, coloured by iron and manganese oxide. This spot remains culturally important for Maori, who historically used ochre to decorate their faces, canoes and buildings,” writes Bloomfield.
After emerging from the woods, “the path traversed a scrubby saddle, winding east to the showcase flourish. Pouakai tarn is an unremarkable sight in itself: a smallish, roundish pond,” as reported in the article.
“But stand just to the north and you get the bigger picture – one that adorns countless postcards: Mount Taranaki, reflected and framed in the tarn’s still waters in all its symmetrical, multicoloured, majestic, mystical, grandiose glory.”
After his hike Bloomfield found himself pondering, “Tongariro versus Taranaki: which triumphs in the day-trek stakes?”
“In terms of visual drama and scale, Tongariro’s craggy craters, fumaroles and colourful lakes have the edge. Yet the Pouakai’s less overt charms are many: it has turbulent geology, epic beauty, Maori heritage and diverse nature, but also delightfully sparse trac – we passed only seven other trampers, three of whom were Department of Conservation workers,” concludes Bloomfield.
Article Source: Wanderlust, Paul Bloomfield, October 2016
Image Source: Twitter – Taranaki NZ