Shinrin-yoku is the Japanese practice of “forest bathing”; a relaxing meditative walk in a peaceful forest to rejuvenate the mind and body. Quite by chance we found a New Zealand track that fits that description exactly.
Our plan for the day was to drive to Whakapapa and take the short loop track to Taranaki Falls. We stopped to charge our rental VW e-Golf in Turanagi, at the very south end of Lake Taupo, at the single DC fast charger there. As usual, I was unable to get the car to charge to 100% (the e-Golf is the most disappointing EV I have ever driven, for many reasons) but I figured it should have enough charge to get to Whakapapa and back. Except that once we were within 15km of our destination the indicated remaining range figure had decreased to the point that I reluctantly decided it was going to be cutting things a little to close for comfort. I turned around, though not before we had spectacular views of Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe!
But there is no shortage of hiking opportunities in New Zealand. A half hour earlier I had spotted a trailhead sign and a parking area on our route, Hwy 47, known as the Te Ponango Saddle Road. So I headed back there and we started on the Rotopounamu Track, a 6km loop around a small lake. (GPS coordinates -39.0163253, 175.7320472)
The track is an easy, well-maintained gravel trail with minimal elevation change. The native forest is healthy and vibrant with bird song.
Everywhere we looked there was something interesting to see, including what a small sign said was “the tallest moss in the world” (two photos immediately below).
It was just a remarkably peaceful, extraordinarily relaxing walk, even though the weather was cold and windy. We felt privileged to be there.
There is something about the 20m high New Zealand black tree fern that inspires awe, especially when walking through a literal forest of them.