One of the best things about living in New Plymouth is the accessibility to the sea and the mountain. I’m on holiday at the moment, so that means awesome sleep-ins if I want them, but that doesn’t mean I waste my days. At lunchtime a few days ago I decided to check out a hut up Mt Taranaki. Maketawa Hut seemed closest so I packed a light bag and off I went.
It’s at this point I want to emphasise something. Even on a short walk on Mt Taranaki you should always take it seriously. The weather can change very quickly and when people don’t take the mountain seriously accidents happen and sometimes death can occur. Mt Taranaki is stunningly beautiful and, when treated with respect, a great adventure. It’s only when people underestimate it that things can get a little curly. Prepare for your journey and you will be fine and have a great time. For information about the tracks and what to take check the Department Of Conservation (DOC) website before you leave. Make sure someone knows your plan before you go. Fill in the log books at the huts. These may look like a nice visitor book, but they are there to help people understand where you might be, if you go missing.
My journey was going to take about 3 hours (round trip). I made sure I had a few basics. I had some long pants, a warm top and a light rain jacket. I was wearing shoes with a decent tread (and this is my bare minimum for footwear when tramping in New Zealand), water, something to eat and a foil emergency blanket.
I started at the North Egmont Visitors Centre at the top of Egmont Road. There is a decent amount of car parking available, and although today was rather busy, I was lucky to find a freshly vacated space. I had read the DOC website and it had said there were two tracks I could take to Maketawa Hut. The first being Maketawa Track which takes around 1 hour 30 minutes and the Translator Road. I didn’t take a map on this journey as it was well sign posted, so looking at the Visitors Centre sign board I followed the arrow to Maketawa Hut.
It turns out this arrow took me to the Translator Road; a 4WD road mostly of loose metal, dotted with the odd concrete drain off point. If you are after bush walks this way is not for you. The road doesn’t change much and if all you do is look at your feet you get pretty bored. I started to look around and capture in my mind the amazing land formations. It didn’t take long before my breathing was a little heavy, I haven’t done any tramping in many years and my body was letting me know. The gradient of the road was fairly steep in places and daunting to look at, but I tend to have a determined stride and I don’t like resting until at the top of a difficult hill. Luckily this road is not just a straight uphill climb. It twists and turns and at each turn it flattens a bit, so these spots are where I caught my breath. Not for long tho, I wanted to get this done.
It took me about 45 minutes to get to the top this section of road. At that point the road carried on up to the Translator (communication tower) and the Summit of the mountain. I was greeted by another signpost saying the hut was downhill. Down. What a thought. I was so used to ‘up’, that ‘down’ just felt like a dream. I stopped to catch the view.
On the way up I had passed 2 people trudging along and I think they gave up not long after I passed them. A couple of people passed me the opposite way looking smug that they were going downhill. But at this junction, between Maketawa Hut and the Translator, it was more travelled. There was a handful of people coming down, and while I was taking photo’s, there was a couple coming up from the Hut. We stopped to talk about the track and swap stories. What a great way of getting ideas for further adventures. I found out what to expect on this journey and what directions I could use for other missions on the mountain that I might like to do. We shook hands and went our different ways; of course they couldn’t help themselves saying that my track went Down the mountain, but at the end went back Up to get to the car park, so mean!
Downhill and the different terrain was fun. I was now on the Maketawa Track. At first I had to go slow, the track had wooden slats installed to prevent erosion, but they were so close together and they were almost steps, so I was having to be careful I didn’t twist an ankle or worse. Taken slowly it was fine. Looking down the mountain I could see the hut nestled in the trees. The track wasn’t very wide at this stage, often just enough for your feet and the vegetation on the sides were growing over to obscure it. The track was running along a small stony gorge, dry at the bottom, but I got the feeling when the weather was bad in winter water ran down it. It wasn’t a case of lose your footing and fall, but to the right of me was the soft soil leading to the gorge wall, so best to keep your feet on the track.
It only took me 10 minutes to get to Maketawa Hut. The track takes a little side trip of 80 meters and, tucked away in the bush, the hut hides from view. It sits at around 1000 meters and looks out to North-East Taranaki. The hut sleeps 16 people and provides foam mattresses on bunk platforms, on a first-come-first-served basis. To stay overnight you have to purchase hut tickets; each ticket costs $5 (Adult) and $2.50 (Youth) and this hut requires 3 tickets per person for each night. A wood burner and fuel is provided. There are food preparation areas with sinks and rainwater is collected outside in large tanks for use. The water should be ok to drink, but if you are unsure, sterilizing can’t hurt. There is a long-drop toilet a short walk from the hut. To stay the night you will need: Torch; gas cooker; pots; utensils; sleeping bag; fire-starting equipment; rubbish bag and don’t forget toilet paper!
For places to purchase hut tickets go here.
I didn’t hang about in the hut for this trip; I was exploring not staying. So a quick chat with another group of trampers and off I went. This time continuing down on the Maketawa Track. Unlike the upper half, the track changed to more bush than scrub. I was jumping down large tree-root steps and then dodging muddy puddles. There was signage earlier, saying parts of the track were eroded or overgrown, and here was where the erosion was noticeable. I flew down the track; I was loving it, only slowing for a particularly tricky section. I passed gnarled moss-covered trees, rocky outcroppings, small gullies. The scenery was stunning. This section of track had a few wooden bridges and even a couple of ladders. If you struggle with steps and obstacles, this track is not for you. I can imagine going uphill could be tricky too.
I think it’s amazing that my favourite colour isn’t green. Everywhere I looked green dominated. Dark green moss, to rich green trees, to light green grasses, it was everywhere. I began to realise that the colour green was a huge part of my life and that I associated it with beauty. I am very grateful to live here.
The Maketawa Track was meant to take around 1 hour and 15 minutes, but by the time the track started to go uphill again, it had been around half an hour and this was the uphill stretch back to the car park I had been warned about. Really though, this section was a doddle. Fifteen minutes later I was out in the open car park, panting a little, (which I think may have frightened a woman unpacking her car in front of me). I was back and it had taken me 2 hours 6 minutes to complete the loop, and that was with stops, talking to others and viewing the hut.
Comparing the two tracks I am unsure if I would rather go the direction I did or the other way around. As much as I really didn’t like walking the 4WD Track up hill, I don’t think I would have liked going uphill so much on the Maketawa Track. I leave that choice to you, from here it’s your adventure, not mine.