Mt Taranaki National Park
‘Round the Mountain
I’ve spent the last four days completing the ‘Around the Mountain Circuit’ walk at Mt Taranaki (Mount Egmont) National Park. The Mt Taranaki volcano is impressive to say the least, and dominates the landscape in the inevitably named Taranaki Region. Its last major eruption was over 150 years ago, and Geonet (those tasked with monitoring and assessing volcanic activity in the Land of the Long White Ash Cloud) currently lists the location as having ‘no volcanic unrest’. This was not particularly reassuring when the night before I left for the hike an earth tremor rattled my motel room in nearby New Plymouth. Now that tremor may well have had more to do with the fact that NZ lies atop clashing tectonic plates, but I guess it’s all academic when you’re running outside in your jocks thinking the roof’s going to cave in.
The walk circumnavigates the mountain, and travels through a variety of habitat types as it climbs and descends the flanks of Mt Taranaki: dark, dense, wet lowland forest; less heavily vegetated subalpine areas and alpine tussock grasslands. I had waited for a window of a few days of fine weather and was blest with clear sunny skies.
The track passes dramatic geological formations, including lava flows from past eruptions.
Many of New Zealand’s national parks contain huts that are available for use by hikers. They range from small and serviceable to quite large structures that can accommodate large groups.
In addition to stopping at Kahui Hut, I camped out for a couple of nights during the walk, and woke to frosty mornings and frozen shoelaces.
I didn’t see any other hikers for the first two days of the walk, only bumping into a small group about lunchtime on day three. Suddenly hearing other people and realising you’re not the only person on earth usually results in a flurry of nose wiping and ensuring your fly is done up.
Bedding down for the final night under the dark summit of Mt Taranaki was pretty amazing, and a little intimidating too. When I woke in the morning the clear, sunny weather had changed to fog and rain. Kitted out top to toe in wet weather gear I made the final descent back to the National Park visitor’s centre. After completing the walk I did feel a sense of achievement, but not in that old-school mountaineering I’ve-conquered-nature kind of way. It was a feeling of satisfaction after being immersed in a challenging environment, and having walked with care and respect around a sleeping giant.
For more on Mt Taranaki National Park click here
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