We go year-about, having one year on the island, and one year doing something else. Last time, we walked the Routeburn Track.
This time it was a return to Lake Waikaremoana, in Te Urewera.
I've not been there for a few years, but it is, hands down, my favourate place on the planet.
It just feels like.... home. It always has. I keep coming back to this place for some reason that I can't quite explain, to walk the track, visit the lakes, or just get away from everything and reset.
I've come here has a child. As an adult trying to escape a job I desperatly needed a break from. On our honeymoon. On a final camper trip before going to the UK. On a "do we want to move back to NZ" trip.
I always keep coming back. I hope I always will.
It's my chill out space. My stop and reconnect space. My "remember why the fuck I'm doing all of this" space. It was the part of NZ I missed the most while we were away.
I've walked this track many times. I think I did it first at about 4 years old, and I've done it maybe 5 or 6 times since. Back then it used to cost 50c for kids, and $1 for adults, in the honestly box in each hut. Now it's a "great walk", $35 for an adult, and don't even start without a booking cos it's booked solid.
I'm ok with that.
And I love seeing the diversity of people walking it. Chinese/Asian New Zealanders, Pakeha, European tourists (German, Swiss, American, Canadian), Kiwis - hell, we met 3 groups of people from Waiheke!
This is the first time I've done it this way around (Onepoto -> Hopuruahine). We always did it the other way for some reason, which might have more to do with my parents desire to cut a day off the end than anything.
Except one time, when we got to the top of the bluff to find the water tanks all frozen and we had to turn back. It was no different this time - water was still scarce, but at least it wasn't frozen. It was good and bad to get the bluff done on the first day - good in that it's done, bad in that I have 4 days of food in my pack, not zero.
Compared to the walk up the hill, the walk down is an easy 2.5-3 hour jaunt. But throw in some mist (The Tūhoe have the name "children of the mist" for a reason) and it's a stunning morning walk, ending in a swim at the hut.
Day 3 starts with a walk to the Korokoro Falls (half an hour from the track, without your pack). It's very worth the walk tho.
And finally to the Marauiti Hut, which I swear hasn't changed in 25 years.
The last day is a nice, flat walk to the Whanganui Hut, and the water taxi back to the car.
This hut, Waiharuru, didn't exist when I did it last (around 1992 or so). It was a tiny hut called Te Puna, which was only ever used by "boaties" because of it's location. This is, by far, the fanciest hut on the track.
Leonie has written some about it, too: