In this second video in the Got to Get Out series Get Out & hike Te Araroa in sections, host Robert Bruce shows what it’s like taking a group of novice hikers up and over the Pirongia Traverse, Waikato. The purpose of this series is to encourage every day Kiwis to walk sections of Te Araroa, to improve their health and wellness and prove it’s not just for fit foreigners. To watch part one in the series, click here.
The Pirongia Traverse section of Te Araroa is a 16km ‘up and over’ Mt Pirongia, a mighty ancient volcano in the Waikato region. It’s a pretty hard slog.
The traverse of Pirongia Mountain starts with the Department of Conservation’s Nikau Walk - an easy stroll south from the Kāniwhaniwha carpark, following the stream through a forest of plantings. Before long you are plunged into dense original native bush, including rimu, totara, nīkau and tawa. If you listen carefully, you can hear the song of native birds that are benefitting from intense trapping and predator control in the area.
The ascent to the summit (Tahuanui Track) is a pretty hard slog, especially if you are new to bush walking, as our group were. The novice hikers featured in this video found it challenging, though did very well to all make it to camp. The hardest part of the track (both up and down) is the thick mud and slippy roots that can cause some trouble, especially after rain. Check the weather forecast before starting this trek, as it can be quite challenging in high winds, and rain.
On a good day, the Pirongia summit at 959m above sea level provides views south toward Ruapehu and Taranaki, and over the wide expanse of Waikato farmland looking east. As you can see in the video, the weather was terrible for our summit visit, so it was a quick stop, then thankfully less than an hour to camp for dinner.
Hikers intending on taking two days to complete the Pirongia Traverse have the option of camping in tents, or staying in the Pahautea Hut. Both hut and campsite require pre-booking, so go to the Department of Conservation website to book a spot. Weekends are busiest.
Day two of the traverse is a steep descent from campsite, to the Waitomo side of Pirongia via a well made boardwalk. For some, especially with bad knees, it can be as hard or harder getting down, as it was getting up the mountain the day prior.
Inexperienced hikers should expect to walk 6-7 hours each way. Though, fitter and more experienced hikers can complete it in far less. Some Te Araroa hikers finish the whole traverse in just one day.
People thinking about hiking sections of Te Araroa, should download the trail notes (see teararoa.org.nz) and prepare by sourcing the right clothing for the conditions, equipment such as walking poles and footwear, and lightweight nutrition to keep energy up during long days on foot with backpack.
Some advice for hikers wishing to walk the Pirongia Traverse:
- There is no water on the trail (up or down) so ensure you have enough for 5-7 hours in the bush each day. We took 3 litres each, then filled up at camp
- The track is exposed in places and it rains a lot on the mountain. Pack a good coat, warm clothes, and waterproof gear, including pack cover
- Some hikers prefer trail sneakers / runners to boots, but in this case the thick mud (often shin deep) and slippery roots, lend the track to boots in my opinion
- Shin gaiters are another good idea, to keep mud out of your socks
- Pack light as it is a hard slog uphill: source lightweight equipment, cooker, sleeping bag and backpack, and avoid carrying unnecessary kit
- Make sure you have all the pegs for your tent. The wind can whip through the camp ground, as we found out the hard way
- Trekking poles can be useful on long flat sections of Te Araroa, to take strain off your back and provide balance, but are less useful through dense steep bush such as Pirongia. Pack them anyway
- The campsite has longdrop facility (bring own toilet paper just to be safe), running water (recommended to boil). Bring your own gas bottle
To watch part one in the series, click here. The next videos will be out soon, as this project proceeds through increasingly difficult sections of Te Araroa. A documentary following the novice hikers journeys, will be released in 2023.
This video series has been supported by Backcountry Cuisine