We have been camping at Tawharanui for about 15 years now and still haven’t done all the walks. Probably because when we get there we tend to go into major relaxation mode and just move between the campground and the beach. OK that makes us sounds more lazy than I would like – we do run out to the end of the peninsular andjumping around in the surf is a great workout. There are lots of tracks to run here ( usually we are camping in a group so the kids stay at the camp with friends ) and my husband and I run together but more recently we have camped by ourselves and of course we still wanted to run ( coz that’s what we do ) so we take the kids mountain bikes and all had an awesome time doing a 10km loop round the peninsula enjoying stunning views from every angle while on Takahe watch. Yes that’s right Takahe were recently introduced to the park and while we didn’t see them this time we saw 3 last time we were there. Even if you don’t see the Takahe the bird song in the bush is amazing and we ticked a few more birds off our bird spottinglist, Saddleback this time.
Now I’m not much of a bird watcher but there is an impressive list of birds to be found in the regional park. We found that when we camp by ourselves we are more motivated to explore so did more bird watching and ticked another walk of the list. The Maori Bay coastal walk starts and finishes at the Lagoon carpark near the park entrance, and can be walked in either direction. We walked around the coast first after checking the tide times very carefully. We had a near disaster ( stranding ) on a coastal walk earlier in the year – lets just say children were carried on shoulders and my husband got quite wet.
At the start of this walk ( heading north around the coast ) there is a tide chart to avoid any tide disasters. While the main North facing beaches at Tawharanui are known for their glistening white sand, the Kawau Island side of the peninsula is rocky so be prepared to rock hop for about 1 hour. The views out to Kawau Island are of course stunning with lots of bird life to enjoy (shags and gannets ) and the rock pools were teaming with sea life to make the walk fun for everyone. Its a very peaceful walk with no other people around. When you get to Maori Bay ( a little hard to know exactly which bay it is ) there is an exit track up a cliff pathway which joins back onto the main trail network. We didn’t think the sign for the track was very easy to see so keep your eyes peeled for the stairs. It was then an easy 35 minute walk back through the bush where our Takehe watch could continue and of course we got to do some more bird spotting.
It was hard to know what was keeping me awake the most the night before the Tongariro Crossing with the kids; my concern over whether we were prepared enough or the fact I was sleeping in a tiny room with 3 over excited children ( my two and our 14 year old homestay ). I’m not great at sleep at the best of times ( you can follow my journey on that in future blogs ) so after quite a few hours of tossing and turning I was awake before the alarm.
As I like to be as prepared as possible we had made the sandwiches and snacks the night before. So all that was left to do was convince the children that it was cold outside and yes they should put on that extra layer, fit in as much breakfast as possible and finishing packing enough food, water, warm clothes, sun hats for 3 children and 2 adults for a 20km hike (I still wish we had taken our luggage scales to see how heavy our packs were)
Out the door to catch the bus and yes children it really is cold outside. Nothing like the nervous energy of 30 people at 7.30 in the morning in the confined space of the bus and then I realised we had the youngest children on the bus by a good 5 years with my son of 7…hmm I really hope we did enough training.
After a safety briefing from the driver (was he looking at the parents of the 7 year old ) and a team photo of our group ( 11 adults and 7 children ) we set off. I always find it hard to pace myself when I first set off on a big event and was a little worried my children had the same problem when they set off at what can really only be described as an excited jog.
One of our friends later said when he heard we were going to do the walk with our kids he thought we were mad, in fact he thought we were crazy doing it with kids, but quickly changed his mind when my son ran passed him on the uphill.
The Crossing starts off over a boardwalk for a few kilometres and is a nice warm up to the climb up the hill. The first time we did the Crossing about 15 years ago going up the hill involved clambering up boulders but has now been upgraded to steeps and a winding up hill track and stunning views of Mt Ngauruhoe. There was a definite chocolate break at the top of that hill.
From there we crossed the crater which is kind like being on the moon. We walked in October and there was still snow on the mountains and some of the lower laying spots. Kids young and old had snow balls fight adding a few extra kilometres to the walk zig zaggin backwards and forwards to pick up more snow.
From there it was a climb up out of the crater including the bit where you hold on to a chain as you shimmy along an icy ledge and realise your 7 year old went through this bit by himself.
Time for a quick lunch break. No-one wants to linger too long for fear of not wanting to move again.
And then its time for the fun bit, down the scree hill to the Emerald Lakes. At this point I am pleased I was lucky enough to borrow a friends hiking boots that stopped the gravel getting in. Gee I do love scree hills – just cant figure out how the scree hill doesnt end up in a mound at the bottom.
Some of our group went around the Emerald Lake where there is thermal activity but I conserved my energy.
And then passed the Blue Lakes and we start down the hill. At first the down hill is a welcome relief but its a lot of downhill, in fact it was all downhill from there.
And so it was that we did the Tongariro Crossing. It’s hard to know if I can describe it as a family outing when I barely saw my son as he raced to keep up with the big kids. Thank goodness for the uphill that slowed my daughter down so I could share most of the experience with her.
On the upside I never heard one complaint from my son which is not to say he didn’t complain it’s just that he was so far ahead of me I never heard him.
Someone suggested I get my children’s thoughts to add to this but for all I think my children are amazing at what they achieved, I have realised that children take it all in their stride (and that stride may be a jog) when the next day as my son got out of bed he asked incredulously ‘why would my legs be sore?’
Nevertheless I am proud of what my family has achieved. Turns out with some commitment to training and lot of belief in your children, they believe in themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my love of a shared goal (see first blog) with the children even if they have yet to realise just how amazing their achievement is!
We started walking about 8.30am and finished about 2.30pm. We walked at a comfortable pace with a 7 and 12 year old and had stops for photos & fuelling although the 7 year old didn’t exactly walk with us .. he ran with other younger members of our group.
My husband and I carried everything for the children, and that was 3 children’s gear as we had a 14 year old home stay. In hindsight I maybe would have had the kids carrying some of the gear.
My kids walked in normal running shoes. I did wear boots that I borrowed off a girlfriend but the trail can be walked in normal running or walking shoes, you might just end up with some rocks in them after the scree hill but you can always empty them out.