Taranaki doesn’t typically get snow in the winter. I think there was a few millimetres in 2009 or 2010 and it’s still the talk of the town. For the most part this is great news; I can cycle all year round on my road bike and growing veggies in the winter is no problem, etc. But sometimes I miss how beautiful it can be and the childish excitement that probably stems from the association with ‘snow days’ when I was younger that would force the schools to close and every child would get a bonus day of mischief charging around the park in a hat and gloves.
Anyway, living so close to the mountain means we can always nip up into the Pouakai ranges for a winter wonderland experience and a great one at that. Lonely trails, frozen lakes and the stunningly symmetrical Mt. Taranaki dominate the landscape. Ellie and I recently marched up the Mangorei track with two friends we met in Rotorua whilst doing the Redwoods half marathon. We cycled from our house in Welbourne, a district of New Plymouth, to the end of Mangorei road – a lesson in exponential gradients as the road heads straight towards the volcano adopting its perfect sloping form.
From the end of the track we stashed our bikes and continued the hour or so trek up to Pouakai hut. I was talking to Nathan as I climbed and we agreed that today perhaps wasn’t the day for a view of the mountain, the clouds were wrapped thickly around the summit and we had only caught fleeting glimpses of its silhouette through the turbulent blanket of cloud so far.
We found a frozen lake, it’s a lake you see often in photographs of Taranaki with the mountain appearing reflected in the still water. Today the lake was frozen the only tell-tale sign it was there at all was an absence of the hardy alpine grasses that grow everywhere else on the ranges.
As we ate our lunches by the frozen lake the weather began to change, the mountain was becoming more visible and slowly emerged form the clouds as a solid permanent shape, but with little feature. Standing still meant we were all getting colder but the prospect of a full view of a snowy Taranaki kept us watching with delight as eventually the thick shroud subsided revealing a bright crisp view of the entire range. For the rest of our trip I’ll let the photos do the talking. I will say though that the ride back home from the top of Mangorei road on the bikes is rapid, almost entirely down hill for 20km!