Tama Lakes - New Years Day
I have started a bit of a tradition where I get up early on New Years Day (having not drunk the night before... unlike my 20s) and start the year being active.
New Years day 2019 was spent cycling and climbing the Mount Maunganui for sunrise. This year the plan was to watch the sunrise from the top of Tama Lakes - but some of us had a wee sleep in instead. Was just me and our friend Shannon for this trip, while we left the boys at home to watch the kids and puppies (and nurse hangovers)
We are pretty sure we were the first people to the top as we only saw one other person on the track on our way there. Earlybird catches the worm!
This track is a good alternative to the Tongariro Crossing when it may be closed, or if you want to do something without the crowds.
The track leaves from behind The Chateau in Whakapapa Village. It's easy to find, as its well sign posted from Bruce Road.
The start of the track takes you through the bush, before coming to the top of the Taranaki Falls. Plenty of views towards Tongariro and back up to Ruapehu. The track is nicely formed, and well maintained too.
From there you can be well exposed to the elements. When I have done the track previously it was a giant wind tunnel with strong gusts. This time round our aim was to get it complete before the sun bared down on us, as it was forecasted to be one of the hottest days so far this summer. When we left at 7.30am it wasn't long before we were warm and stripping off the layers.
The track rolls up and down gentle slopes, through valleys once carved from lava flows and snow melt.
The track turns off towards the Tama Lakes, with a toilet conveniently located there also. Don't miss the turn off or you will be heading around the mountain towards one of the huts.
Then the fun really begins.
On a windy day this is where you will be most exposed. On a previous trip the gale force winds were whipping up the small stones, and you could lean into the wind with it holding you up. I was grateful that it wasn't too bad today, as the climb up to the top of the lakes can be a dicey one.
The rocks are loose under foot, so shoes with a good grip on them are recommended. I had my hiking boots on, but Shannon was fine with normal runners.
The hike to the top is worth it. Views out back to National Park Village, over to Mt Taranaki, Ruapehu and then also towards the Gentle Annies to the east.
There was a slight haze too, which was because of the fires over in Australia.
The trip back down from the top needs to be taken with caution and can be slower than the hike up. I've always struggled with the downhills and it was safe to say that my knees were hating me for it by the time we got home (nothing a bit of magnesium oil can't fix!)
On the return trip we detoured down to complete the Taranaki Falls loop walk. It's safe to say that must have been everyone's choice of walk for the morning, as there were plenty of people already there enjoying the sights. It was refreshing to splash some of the ice cool water on my face before we continued on though the bush and back to the car, just before it really started to get hot for the day.
All up the 17km walk took us 5.5hrs (far from the 4hrs Ben has completed it in before), but we stopped twice for snacks and I have precious cargo on board now, so took it easy.
Although I was initially disappointed that we missed sunrise, I'm still grateful I got the bump out for a stroll and we completed it.
And as a reward to myself at the end... I got an ice block, and had a well deserved afternoon nap.