Te Aroha means loveMay 11 in New Zealand
Mt. Te Aroha is the tallest peak in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest park. The trail head starts at the spa, with the world's only known hot soda water geyser. The water is heated over magma and filled with bicarbonate, which it spouts every 45 minutes or so.
When compared with Old Faithful, or most geysers in Yellowstone, the geyser in Te Aroha seems amusingly small. Some noisy spurts. But its chemical uniqueness make it fun to see.
Everyone we talked to here asked what we're doing, are we going all the way to the summit? And wanted to tell us it would take 2 hours or less if we're used to hiking. Nate & I would like to know when the last time was any of those folks actually went all the way to the summit. I thought I had read the hike was around 6 hours, but everyone was saying around 3.5 round trip, so I thought I must be confused. I'd read a lot of NZ stuff before arriving after all.
The first part of the trail starts off going to the lookout area, which looks down over the town of Te Aroha. It was steep going. Several people seemed to take it in as their work out or some such, heading up to the look out and back. The ascent was steep and relentless for probably 1- 1.5 hrs. The mountain is steep, and so is the track up it. To the right was a huge drop off. It wasn't too scary though, as all the trees and brush were there to break your fall. This was still somewhat of a semi-tropical forest. There's no tree line, just lush greenery all the way to the top.
While the greenery was fascinating and different, I ended up getting a bit tired of it. Since I couldn't see out, I could never tell how far up we had come in relation to the other peaks, or the town below. Just ferns and vines, and vines on trees, and ferns on trees, and ferns going on vines.
After reaching the look out we sat a spell and chatted with a local, who told us not to be too pround not to go to the top. So we set out for the next 2/3 of our journey, and that's when it really got tough.
If this was Colorado or Utah, I know there would have been signage, and warnings, and ratings of this being a primitive trail, and very difficult. Here there was an arrow. I don't actually even know how many kilometers we climbed, because any signs that had additional information, just gave us their time estimate! 2-3 hours up, 1.5 hours back.
Primitive would probably even be an understatement. It was like doing huge lunges for 6 hours. I've never been on such a continuously steep trail in my life. We agreed it was like the Hanging Lake trail times 15. Most of the time I was surprised it was even a trail. It looked more like a rock fall, or roots clinging to an eroded hillside we were climbing, or just a washed out rivulet. When there were no tree roots or rock slides, logs were strapped into the mud as a staircase.
The top was gorgeous and magnificent. We were above the clouds and every surrounding green peak. We stopped a moment for our snack, and finished just in time before it started raining. Luckily the rain stayed light, as I began to be concerned about sliding all the way down the mountain.
The fear of rain was soon succeeded by the fear of dark. It was taking us much too long, dusk was falling, and under the tree canopy, even less light was able to penetrate. I could feel my legs shaking, but tried to go even faster to get out of the most treacherous parts before night. We succeeded in getting back down to the first part of the trail before it got really dark.
It was funny to review the trail in reverse. I had thouht that first part so hard, until I saw the second half! Now I was happy to be back on the "easy" part. We could see lights in the town turning on below, but there were no lights in the forest, it only got darker.
I had had one bad fall up on the treacherous part, I slipped on a root, and both of my shins slammed into respective roots on my way down. Nate slide down a set of steps that had gotten damp. We had a huge number of near misses. Finally, down in the final stretch, it was so dark I misplaced my foot in a rooty rocky area, and fell all the way down. It was a fall in stages, I coudln't seem to stop, finally nearly landing on my face.
At that point, I turned on my cellphone flashlight. I had avoided it for as long as possible, fearful that it might drain my battery too early and leave us in the dark. But we were very close by then, and made it out happy and whole.
Dinner at the Taj was huge. We were exhausted and got their banquet special, taking about half of it back to the camper van as well.
Trying our first night of freedom camping.Read more