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What Crazy Weather Looks Like on Mt Taranaki

© NZPocketGuide.com

53 Days on the Road

There’s a volcano right behind our holiday park that is begging to be hiked! And, Goddammit, we want to hike it! We have a window of opportunity with the mountain weather forecast giving us clear weather and the winds have died down. This is our chance to hike higher up Mt Taranaki!

Signs look good as we walk out of campervan to a clear starry sky at 5.30am. We are so keen to get on the mountain that we finish our work and are on the road up the mountain by 9.15am! That’s got to be a record. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Stratford, the Shakespeare Town we discovered yesterday, but there is a dirty great stinking cloud hanging over Mt Taranaki…

From farmland to a volcano forest

Nevertheless, the mountain road to the Stratford Plateau is a sealed one with not too much of a steep gradient, so our effin’ huge campervan can handle a drive up to get a closer look at the mountain’s weather situation. We drive into the Egmont National Park where a boundary for a national park has never been so prominent! It is farmland, farmland, farmland, right up to the sign saying “Egmont National Park”, then the land land turns into a super dense and tall forest. It’s insane! (You should check out the aerial view on Egmont National Park – Guide for Backpackers).

Our campervan delves deeper and deeper into the forest on its own little bushwalk. However, the higher up the mountain we go, the more the campervan starts to rock from the wind…

Views between clouds

Before we hit our hiking destination, the Stratford Plateau, we arrive at Stratford Mountain Lodge, which also has a bunch of hiking tracks and information boards. 5-minutes drive by car (or camper in our case) and we will be at the Stratford Plateau, the highest a road can go on Mt Taranaki. We are past the treeline on the mountain, but man, that was what was keeping us sheltered. It’s a whole new kind of windy up here! We are surrounded by alpine shrubs bouncing around in the wind. Where there’s no vegetation, there’s snow. We can see the tow lifts for the ski field, the ground only sprinkled with snow at the moment so it is not open yet.

Four seasons in 30 minutes

We park up the campervan for a quick look around. There is a viewing platform at the end of literally a 30-second walking track with an awesome view looking down at the forest and out to Stratford below us. It’s not the same story when we turn around to look at the peak of the mountain behind us. The clouds are moving so fast that we are experiencing four seasons in 30 minutes here! It’s snowing, then it’s windy, then it’s raining, then it’s windy, then it’s sunny, then it’s windy… We know we are meant to get an awesome view of Mt Taranaki’s peak right here, but that’s not happening today.

We see a group of hikers park up in the car park, get out of their cars, look at each other, then get back in and drive away again. Ok, we’re not staying here any longer. We hop back in the van and make our way back to Stratford. We see the rest of cars parked at the Stratford Mountain Lodge start to leave too. Man, this is not the day for Mt Taranaki. It’s not worth risking our safety for views we could barely see through the clouds. Plus, we didn’t want to risk the weather getting worse and the road to become icy.

It’s a bit of a bummer, but maybe we can try one of those lower mountain hikes tomorrow.

Back-up plan: Cleaning the camper

Back in the Stratford Holiday Park, we decide to do some necessary chores around the campervan: giving it a deep clean. Not exactly the extreme mountain hiking we had planned, we know, but having a clean camper when travelling around New Zealand is pretty essential! We don’t have time to get sick, we don’t want to share our mini home with insects, and we don’t like bad smells in such a confined space. (That’s why Laura has been banned from farting and Robin has not).

There’s little stuff we do to keep the camper clean on-the-go, for instance, taking shoes off in the van, wipe surfaces after every use, keeping literally all food items in sealed plastic boxes as to not attract insects… So far so good. Our campervan has been clean for 53 days. We’re so proud of her *said while wiping tear from eye*. But, we still should clean it properly once in a while so that’s our “extreme gap year activity” of the day! Robin’s vacuuming the floor, Laura’s sweeping the sand out of the driver’s cabin… soapy sponges are flying around everywhere… We won’t go too far into this cleaning spiel because that is literally what we did for two months before our trip!

Our plan is set for tomorrow, we will drive up to the Stratford Mountain Lodge again, and check out those lower mountain hikes. We are particularly intrigued by the Enchantment Walk. See you then!

Little did these backpackers know that they were driving into extreme mountain conditions

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