Mangorei Road: Pouākai’s Very Own Stairway To Heaven

I tētahi wā, he maunga; he maunga tūturu, he maunga tipua, arā ko ‘Taranaki’ tōna ingoa . . .

Once upon a time, there was a mountain; a true-blue, legit af, “superheroesque” (*my kupu/coin), sink-to-your-knees-in-awe kind o’ mountain, and his name was: ‘Taranaki’.

Mounga (Mount) Taranaki – 2,518m (8,261ft).

Various Māori legends comprising our nation’s deep and mystical cultural history have him suffering second-best status in the fucking mother of all battles with a love rival (among other things), named ‘Tongariro’ (see my Panitahi-Fantham’s Peak post for more kōrero (storyline)), but perhaps lesser-known is that when Taranaki was eventually trounced, shamed, and forced to flee, he fled to another of our “female” maunga (mountains), in ‘Pouākai’.

Taranaki was at this time known by his decidedly more historical moniker of ‘Pukeonaki’, having never been touched or messed-with by humans (and thus, ne’er climbed or claimed).

Having carried his pēpē (baby) ‘Panitahi’ (“Fantham’s Peak”) with him (the tamaiti-aroha (love-child) of his affair with female maunga ‘Pihanga’, if we’re to place any stock in rumours and/or innuendo), together the trio settled thereafter and gave life to the rich and varied natural landscape we know today as Egmont National Park.

Now, there are a couple of options for those of us seeking to spend time atop Pouākai and her ‘range’ (which includes peaks Henry, Maude, and Kiri, along with the Hump, Tatangi, and Pouākai herself).

The first demands completing the hut-to-hut portion of either-or of Pouākai’s Circuit/Crossing, and hiking one’s self from Holly to Pouākai; in a couple of hours the junction is right there, simply ‘huri ki tō taha mauī, e kare’ (“turn left, yo”) and go.

The other involves entering via the end of Mangorei Road (parking is “limited”, but if you know the Tongariro Crossing well then she’s not actually that limited), and traipsing up ENP’s signature “wooden rafts” for two-point-five hours (*or-so)…

Rafts for rafts’ sake.

I know this now.

Firstly, those fucking rafts; as bloody neat as repairing the track is (our Department of Conservation hasn’t had a great deal of attention during the frustratingly piss-poor reign of John and Bill’s rather motley ‘Blue Crew’ (don’t “lose yourself”, now (*grins*)), I really do question who needs a more-or-less continuous boardwalk of said rafts leading ’em all the way up and back down again..?

Dude – where’s the squish?

I’m no twenty-something, I need me some squish – hell, I even rely on the squish – when my knees are pissed off, and protesting.

(Secondly) but hey, there’s plenty o’ said squish from Pouākai Hut to the (aforementioned) junction (top of the boardwalk gets you to the hut, then go hut-to-range/s and turn right), and even more so from the spectacularly eroded, ill-maintained track around and past Tatangi for all of us to navigate with care while we tentatively wonder when our Achilles tendon/s will finally “ping” in one of those characteristic, water-filled potholes that used to resemble steps.

Perhaps all this water retention is the very reason for the rafts..?

Still, the views and the sense of adventure are there, they’re always there on Taranaki, ‘cos he has a climate that’s unique and personal to him.

Since learning of the relationship between Taranaki and Pouākai I’ve been curious keen af to experience first-hand how they see one another, particularly from Pouākai’s poho (breast (i.e., the range/s)) – mainly because I’ve visited Taranaki’s apex, and have no desire to repeat that slog (you know that wide-eyed emoji(?), yeah, [insert here]).

The opportunity to head to Pouākai, play, and be nosey, was there during our recent Labour Weekend.

What began as a definite possibility on this trip soon ‘turned’, as Taranaki often does; things were fairly warm-fuzzy at Pouākai Hut, but demanded a change of clothing for the very high winds that were clearly blowing over the tops.

Then, by the time Pouākai was technically in-view, well: there was no view.

Misty Pouākai – a view from Henry Peak.
The view starts to fade at the Hump.
No view/deal (looking straight at Pouākai and her poled route).

We made the decision to abandon any heroics.  I’d be loathe to climb even Rangituhi-Colonial Knob for the first time with zero visibility and Tāwhirimātea going nuts with his gale-force winds, let alone Taranaki’s beloved Pouākai.

So, back down the rafts we trudged, resolving to return another day and try out the slightly longer route up-and-over Dover Spur…

Hopefully there’s no bloody boardwalk on that side (*grins*).

On a more serious note, I’d love to see some aroha (kindness, affection) given to ENP over the next little while.  Who really knows what our current PM and her rainbow-coloured “army” have in store (right(?)), but surely the sheer amount of green in there will mean our Earth Māmā ‘Papatūānuku’ gets some serious lovin’ from now on.  You need to get iwi on board, Eugenie – iwi, tramping and alpine clubs, and any-and-all other interested invested parties who give an authentic shit (the figurative kind, not the actual) – and galvanise ’em accordingly.

And for goodness’ sake, do not allow what’s currently happening in Tongariro to happen here; I for one would happily pay a subscription to use our national parks if that meant I could park for as long as I needed to, to achieve everything I’ve set-out to do on any given trip.

I’ve observed and noted with revulsion the tiko (poo) at the top of Mount Ngauruhoe – I simply don’t agree with my future visits being shortened and compromised as the apparent only means of getting rid of the shitty (‘scuse the pun) so-and-so’s responsible.

There are other ways, and those ways involve people, I reckon – not cars, or shuttles.


Dedicated to the two lovebirds, Pukeonaki and Pouākai, and everything they’ve made possible so that we may play safely and respectfully in their ‘space’ (he mihi ngākau nei ki a kōrua);

‘Haere pai atu, hoki ora mai nei’ – or: “Go well, and return safely”, always,


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