Duchesne Markham, Trade Development Coordinator, tells us why her favourite undiscovered location is close to home.
Position: Trade Development Coordinator
What is your favourite ‘undiscovered location’ in New Zealand?
It would have to be the Pouakai Tarns on Mt Taranaki – as the sun is setting to be specific. You see the iconic mountain reflected in the tarns or mountain lakes while the sky is alight with vibrant reds, pinks and purples. It is a true sight to behold.
Why is it special to you?
Being a New Plymouth girl, there will always be something special about Mt Taranaki to me. It’s hard to explain, but if you ask any local they will feel the same.
I think it is because no matter where you are in the region, the mountain watches over you. From my first day of school to my wedding day, it was there in the background. When I am based there, it is the first thing I look out for when I open my curtains in the morning.
Local Maori call the mountain tapu or sacred because they believe the mountain is an ancestor, whakapapa, the family tree that stems from our ancestors to the land. When I look up and see the mountain, it is nice to think of all the people who came before us and are watching over us every day.
When you think about that, you can understand why some people have a somewhat spiritual connection with the mountain – and why the view from the Pouakai Tarns can be deeply significant.
Who did you travel with?
I last visited the Pouakai Tarns for the sunset earlier this year while hosting a group of NZ journalists, guided by TOP Guides. The media were experiencing the trip to write stories about the latest Pouakai Crossing walk that is being developed with DOC at the moment to complement the Tongariro Crossing. The tarns are positioned toward the end of the walk so are the big reward after a day of hiking (you can also reach the tarns by walking for two hours along the Mangorei Track to the Pouakai Hut).
When we came over the final hill and saw the mountain’s pink peak surrounded by a sky of colour, everyone in the group went silent. We all sat down and took in the beauty of the view in silence until the show was eventually over and night crept in.
After the sunset, we hiked the final part of the Pouakai Crossing with head lamps. It was fantastic listening out for kiwi and turning the lights off every now and again to see hoards of glow worms.
What is your best piece of advice for people visiting Pouakai Tarns?
If you are walking to the Pouakai Tarns for the sunset, either stay at the nearby Pouakai Hut (you can purchase Hut Passes from any DOC visitor centre and arrive early to secure a bed) or book a guided trip. The walk back to the carpark is down a lot of stairs which can be scary and unsafe if you haven’t got an experienced guide showing you the way.
Lastly, don’t forget to take your camera!
What is the closest airport/how do you get there?
You can fly direct to New Plymouth airport from Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch with Air New Zealand and from Auckland with Jetstar. There are plenty of flights to choose from each day and it only takes about 40 minutes from Wellington and Auckland and an hour and a half from Christchurch.
As for mountain shuttles, you’re best to call TOP Guides who run Taranaki Mountain Shuttle. They can pick you up from your accommodation and drop you back again at the end of your adventure.