First stop on the lake

Trip Start May 18, 2003
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Thursday, February 26, 2004

East Cape Tour - Day Five!

Just to ensure that there is no confusion during the next few entries, the following commonly used 'Kiwi' terms are explained (although I may have referred to them previously in passing):

Tramp = Hike, e.g. We are going tramping today.
Bluff = Cliff, e.g. Beware of the steep bluff.
Bush = Forest, e.g. The track goes through the bush.
DOC = Department of Conservation, e.g. How far to the next DOC hut?

The day started with a hitch, there was a problem with Sebastian's cooker that meant we might not be able to do any cooking during the hike. After a lot of tinkering Sebastian managed to fix it, which we were all relieved about. There is nothing better than a hot meal after a day of hiking. And even the simplest hot meals seem to taste incredible when on camp.

Eventually we were underway having parked up Pam, packed our backpacks and booked our return ferry pick up. The first stage of the hike was from the ferry drop off point to the Panekiri Hut (at the highest point of our hike). Many people complete this hike anticlockwise also, but we were keen to tackle the steep climb on our first day.

Once off the jetty and up the hillside a little we took the customary "before" photo and then started our steady climb. Parts of the hike seemed very steep and hard work, especially as our packs were at their heaviest now. It did not take long before we were rewarded for our efforts with glimpses of the lake every now and again through the trees. When it was time for a break we settled on a bluff overlooking the lake from a great height. It was truly breathtaking. The efforts in climbing to this height were soon put to the backs of our minds when looking out over the beauty of this lake and the surrounding landscape. It would have been great to spend the rest of the afternoon there, but we had to move on and make our way to the hut.

There were several clearings along the bluff that had picturesque views. The second one we saw was probably the best place to stop for a lunch break, if you are going clockwise around the lake.

As we climbed further up the trail our packs started to feel heavier, and reaching the first hut became a mini quest promising the reward of rest. Although we were still close to the bluff, views across the lake were obscured by thick bush. Occasionally we would get to see through a gap in the trees just how high we had climbed.

Eventually seeing the hut structure peaking out of the trees was a very welcome site. I almost felt like an explorer discovering the place for the first time. We made the first leg of the hike in good time, considering that we started so late in the day.

Before preparing our dinner, virtually everyone staying at the hut came out to watch the sunset. Unfortunately the bush was hiding the actually sun but we could see the yellow and orange glow across the landscape from our high vantage point. A platform jutting out from the cliff a few metres would be a welcome addition to the Panekiri Hut, allowing visitors to watch the complete sunset.

A short walk into the bush to catch the last of the suns rays revealed an extraordinary sight - the trees almost looked like they were on fire with the speckled glow of the sun piercing through the canopy. Unfortunately none of the photographs I took captured the effect as we could see it.

Following a great dinner it was time to play Settlers again, this time by torchlight. As far as I know there is no lighting at any of the DOC huts on the Lake Waikaremoana track. The only exception to this may be the newest huts (which we did not stay in). Of course one of the great advantages of being here, away from all the usual background light sources, is seeing the myriad of stars in the night sky.

Playing Settlers always seems to draw attention from people who have never seen the game, but especially so when playing it at a DOC hut. We were not the first people to play board games here though, as we found a counter for another popular German board game in the kitchen.

While we were playing we spotted a small rodent attempting to get into one of our backpacks, so before going to bed we sealed all the food bags and hung everything up on hooks. The sleeping quarters were basic but adequate triple bunks with thin foam mattresses. I've not slept on a triple bunk before and was glad that the hut was not full. If we hadn't been so tired the snoring from our neighbours might have kept us up.
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