The Kaimanawas – Thunderbolt circuit (Dec 26-28, 2016)

This year we carried on our Christmas tradition of tramping, tramping, tramping as much as possible in New Zealand (even though these days we reside in Australia).  We flew into NZ on Dec 23 and had a couple of days with Dylan’s family on the north island.  Then, on boxing day we drove and picked up our mate (another kiwi who lives in Australia with us, but was also visiting family over Christmas) and drove south to start our first trip.  Due to the weather patterns this year (a La Nina weather pattern in NZ), there was a lot of re-shuffling of our plans.  We ended up doing our trips backwards from our original itinerary (the best laid plans in the world are all for naught if the weather doesn’t cooperate).

The Kaimanawas is an area that we have wanted to explore for some time.  Although there isn’t the same quantity of tramping in the North Island as the South Island of New Zealand, there are still a number of areas that we have wanted to explore, and the Kaimanawas was one of these.  Dylan picked out the most difficult route, a three day circuit up the Thunderbolt track, across the tops and down to the Waipakihi hut.

This trip was also my chance to try out a new lens for my camera, which I conned Dylan into letting me buy right before our trip, and a Dylan got to try out his brand new Osprey pack which I was somehow conned into letting him buy!


New pack!

Overall the trip was good.  After living in Australia for 8 months, I have a renewed appreciation for how lush NZ bush is and was able to see it through new eyes!


We did end up doing quite a bit more bush bashing than anticipated, as the track isn’t quite a complete loop and you will either need to road bash a few kilometers at the start or end of the track, or do as we did, and try to follow some old power lines from the substation (I do not recommend).  We then climbed up to Urchin, down to Waipakihi stream and intended to follow the thunderbolt track.

Well, just as an FYI, this track is not correctly located on the NZ topomap.  We followed the track as mapped, but just bushbashed our way up the hill for about 450m.  We did find these lovely old permalac markers to taunt us.


Infamous track marker

Eventually, we did find the track, about 150m lower than we were.  At which point we were totally exhausted (both myself and our mate were getting over some seriously nasty bugs, and our mate’s knee was absolutely done for) and nearly at the bushline.  We popped up above the bush and camped for the night.

Day 2 resulted in some pretty incredible near white out fog conditions.


Mist provides such atmosphere and views are over-rated.


Actually no, no they are not.

We ambled (or, in our mate, Scott’s case) shambled across the tops.  There was a bit of a route in some sections, and Dylan did an amazing job navigating us across the range.

At the end of the day, the weather had really cleared and we were treated to a most welcome swim in a perfect swimming hole just before reaching Waipakihi hut and becoming re-united with the official track.


Swimming hole

Day three dawned absolutely amazing – and we knew it would be our shortest day back to the car!  We had a pre-tramp swim (as you do).  And after a short climb up to the Umukarikari track, we were rewarded with some absolutely stunning views of Mt. Ruapehu.


Mt. Ruapehu

It was an absolutely perfect day with crystal clear views of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe.  It’s views like this that make us get out of bed, put on a pack and start walking.  Simply stunning and there is no place I’d rather be.


This is what we live for

Writing this post makes me realize how much I miss NZ, the landscape, the mountains.  I don’t know that there is any place I’d rather be.

And if you’re wondering how Scott’s knee fared after 3 days, well it’s safe to say he was done for after this trip.  But Dylan and I managed to squeeze a few more days tramping in despite the odds being against us (it was an eventful holiday).

Happy tramping!


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