The walk over Manuoha, and to Lake Waikareiti and Sandy Bay really was the highlight of my walk. It was absolutely awesome.
From Whanganui Hut, the last hut on the Waikaremoana Great Walk, it’s a quick walk out to the road and then a short distance along it to the start of the track up to Manuoha. This is a backcountry track, and not that many people do it. In fact, I didn’t meet anybody on that day, and on the next just one other lady.
At Sandy Bay, there was a big group then for a night, otherwise it was very quiet – just an old man, almost 80 years of age and visiting Sandy Bay for the last time in his life. But that’s a different story.
The track up Manuoha is very pleasant. After the first bit up to a steep ridge which is hard work, it’s a very gradual climb up to Manuoha. The forest is absolutely fantastic all the way:
Up on Manuoha, the evening light was quite spectacular:
On the next day, it was a very gradual descent with no steep bits at all. It was a marked route, with frequent track markers. Once you’re out of the goblin forest (the best one I’ve ever seen) and there is more undergrowth, you actually cannot see the track anymore at all as it is overgrown by waist high fern. It was really quite cool to follow the track markers with my eyes, and my feet finding the track themselves.
The forest was just as great as on the way up:
The weather was great, so when I arrived at Sandy Bay, I pitched my tent on a small grassy clearing by the lake:
Very nice spot with evening sun, it was just a long way to the loo.
The bay itself is very shallow and the water can get quite warm. Great to have a dip in after a day of tramping.
I stayed at Sandy Bay for a couple of days, relaxing, reading, and talking to people when there were any. The weather was mostly sunny and dry with quite a lot of wind, and just one short interlude of showers. It got very cold at night though, with frost one morning. In fact, during the whole tramp the nights were unusually cold for the season and just below the comfort zone of my sleeping bag, brrrr.
Towards sunset, the wind usually died down, and even though it was cold, it was quite pleasant. The lake in the evening lake certainly was worth putting on thermals and a beany:
On the day I decided to walk out, it was all blue skies and sun.
The golden sand on the lake shore, and the clear turquois blue water made it almost look tropical:
It was an easy walk back to the motorcamp, on a good track along a few wetlands and through good bush.
I went up to Lake Waikareiti again on the following day, to escape a noisy schoolgroup at the motorcamp. It was very pleasant up there and I sat and looked out over the lake for a while. Peace came to an end when a few DOC people arrived, as they were doing some supply drop-offs by helicopter.
So I went back to the motorcamp again. Luckily enough, it rained quite a bit in the evening which got the schoolgroup to retreat to their camping area and tents.
I took the shuttle back to Rotorua on the next day. Back to the city, to fresh vegetables and fruit, to a soft bed. Luxury! But of course also back to fumes, car traffic, and boring walks no hard tarmac. If you asked me, bush tracks are so much nicer!