Time: 5.5 to 6 hours
Distance: 14.3 kms
The Tongariro Northern Circuit can be completed in either direction. I completed the tramp in an anti-clockwise mainly because this meant a good weather day for me to complete the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. As with any tramp, it is always best to check with the Department of Conservation about track conditions and the weather. The staff at the Whakapapa Village DOC centre are pretty clued up and always have the latest mountain forecast from the MetService.
I started out from Whakapapa Village in some pretty wet conditions, although fortunately the forecast high winds kept away. The track to Waihohonu Hut starts at the end of Ngauruhoe Terrace just past the Skotel resort. The track forms part of a loop taking you past the beautiful Taranaki Falls which are reached after about an hour from Whakapapa. It's worth a short detour to take a look at the falls from the bottom of the 20 metre drop.
The Circuit track leads away from the falls and heads upwards towards the Tama Lakes. These lakes are another worthwhile side trip from the main track. The Lower Tama Lake is only a 10 minute detour with the larger Upper Tama about a 1.5 hour side trip. I made the trip to the Lower Tama Lake, but the weather conspired against me and I had to pretend very hard that there was a stunning Alpine lake in view!
The junction with the lakes side trip is reached after two hours from Whakapapa. The main track then heads on up and over Tama Saddle. With the bad weather on the western side of the saddle, some decent views of the Waihohonu valley came into view. I took lunch on the other side of the saddle and spent the afternoon following the Waihohonu stream.
Historic Waihohonu Hut
A couple of hours after lunch I reached the historic Waihohonu Hut, a 5 minute side trip from the track and well worth it. The hut still has some of the old furnishings that would have been there years ago, a bit like a hut time capsule, including a meat mincer, not sure if it still works though.
From the old hut it's a short 15 minute stroll to a brand new shiny DOC hut, which I actually didn't realise existed. So in total there are three huts at Waihohonu, not sure what the plans for the middle-aged one.
New Waihohonu Hut
The new hut is very comfortable with two large bunk rooms, gas cookers, a log burner and fantastic views of Ruapehu. Unfortunately due to the weather Ruapehu didn't show itself until the following morning when we were treated to stunning views.Day Two - Waihohonu Hut to Oturere Hut >>>
Category: Great Walk Hut
Heating: Log Burner
Water: Rain water tank
Cost: Great Walk Hut ticket