The final day started out pretty much as the previous day - windy and wet. With the rain the temperature had obviously risen too as I could see that a lot of snow had melted away overnight. Another relatively early start today as I had to meet my ride back the motor camp at 3pm from Onepoto, although that allowed me plenty of time to admire the stunning views along the way.
From Panekire hut, the track continues along the undulating ridge line of the range, but today the drops were larger than the climbs as I started to drop down from the 1100m plus level of the hut. This section of the ridge is much more open and exposed and there are fine views of the lake from the track. Not far from the hut are a set of steps to guide you down past a bluff. If you are travelling the other way these steps indicate that you are almost at the hut, just another 5 to 10 minutes to go.
Just over two kilometres from the hut Baldy Knob
is reached and on a fine day this would be a superb lookout with fine views of the lake. Unfortunately low cloud prevented me from appreciating them. The track continues to drop and just over four hours from the hut another lookout at the unimaginatively named No 2 trig is reached. I stopped here for lunch and was able to admire the views as although it was still windy, the clouds had lifted and even the sun was peeping out from behind them from time to time. From the trig there is a splendid view of the Panekire Bluff and all around the lake. It was nice for me to be able to view the points and bays I had tramped through over the last five days and memories of the tramp came flooding back.
From the trig point its a straightforward 400m drop down (40 mins) to the the lake side. My pickup point was another ten minutes further on at a new DOC shelter next to a camp site and car park. There is an older shelter on a terrace just before the camp site which offers more protection from the elements but pickups can't see you waiting there.
Not long after I reached the new shelter, my ride turned up and took me back to the motor camp. As I drove past the lake on my homeward journey, I stopped a number of times to take in some last views of the lake that had been my home for the previous five days.
The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk lives up to its billing. The walk manages to combine beautiful low level beech forest with some sub-alpine plant life and the track had easy sections and slightly harder sections. I would recommend this tramp to anyone trying to get a taste of the Te Urewera national park, it can be done comfortably in four days - I would combine days one and two if going clockwise as I did, and if travelling anticlockwise, then either make your third day Waiopaoa to Waiharuru for an early pick up on day four, or just make it to Marauiti on day three if you have arranged a late pick on the final day.
The track can be done in three days by combining any two of the days in the four day option, but that day would indeed be a long day, probably easier in summer with more daylight. Kayaking is another popular option on the lake and with so many camp sites around it's well worth considering as an alternative to joining the hordes on the track and at the huts!