How To Get There
Lake Waikaremoana is situated in the southern part of the Te Urewera National Park. State Highway 38 runs through the park from Rotorua to Wairoa on the east coast of the North Island. The highway runs alongside the lake and both ends of the track are near the highway. On the highway halfway between the end points of the track is the DOC visitor centre at Aniwaniwa where tickets for the track can be purchased and track and weather conditions can be checked. Huts and campsites on the track have to be booked in advance as a ticket ensures you a bunk or camping spot. Thus huts may be fully booked in advance.
There is also a motor camp at Aniwaniwa where transport can be arranged to and from the end points. The track can be walked in either direction, although the most popular route is anticlockwise so that the climb onto Panekire Bluff is completed on the first day. Water taxi transport can also be arranged to and from other points along the track if required, also pack portage can be organised.
Please note that SH 38 is unsealed for a large part of the route through the national park and is also very tortuous. Care must be taken on this road especially in bad weather or at night.
I arrived at the Aniwaniwa motor camp on a stormy Sunday evening after a weekend of snow. The forecast for the rest of the week wasn't too bad but it was certainly going to be cold. On the plus side because of this the track was to be a little quieter than during the peak summer season.
The next morning I was dropped off at the Hopuruahine
access point by car. If being transported by water taxi to/from this end, the access point is 45 minutes further along the track. Despite the bad weather the previous night, the rain had stopped and even the sun was trying to peep out from behind the clouds.
With thoughts of five days in the peaceful bush in my head, I happily started on my way. The first section of the track leads you alongside some lovely wetland fed by the Hopuruahine river.
As I reached the lake I spotted the first group of a multitude of bird life that call Waikaremoana home. There are many species of birds living on the lake, including paradise ducks, white faced herons and kingfishers.
The forest is also home to many bird species including kiwi. I was amazed when not long into the tramp a tui came and landed on a tree branch no more than 5 metres away from me - the closest I had ever been to one of these beautiful birds.
Almost exactly 45 minutes after the start I arrived at the water taxi pick up/drop off point. There's a handy little bench to rest on whilst waiting for your transport. There's also a lovely expansive view of the lake from here.
The first hut on the track is Whanganui hut
, another 45 minutes further on. I stopped here for lunch and marvelled at the 'mown' lawn at the front of the hut! Most of the huts on the track are of similar design, having a large open kitchen area with plenty of tables and benches plus some form of heating with a couple of bunk rooms off the main area - handy if you want to have an early night.
From Whanganui hut the track leads around the lake edge until the Tapuaenui campsite is reached after about an hour. All camp sites on the track have a small shelter for cooking with running water facilities and a toilet, usually hidden in the bush nearby. After the camp site the track turns inland and crosses the 'neck' of the Puketukutuku range. The range juts out into the lake and this makes it an ideal spot to raise kiwis as a fence has been erected across the neck enclosing off the point and allowing kiwis to live predator-free. The fence exists as much to keep young kiwis in as it is to keep predators out. Once the kiwi population has reached a certain amount, the fence will be removed and the kiwis will hopefully spread out into other areas.
There is obviously intensive predator control in this area with large numbers of stoat and possum traps around. The fence is electrified as well, so trampers should not touch it. Be careful as it does run close to the track in places.
It takes about 45 minutes to cross the neck, and the next hut, Waiharuru, is about another 30 minutes further along the lake's edge. I must admit that Waiharuru looked more like a bush lodge than a tramping hut, but its gas heater was very welcome after the four hours of tramping from the road end.
The hut sleeps 40 people in its separate bunk room and has loads of space in its kitchen area to rest and chat after your day on the track. There is also plenty of deck space outside to relax on in warmer weather!