Sunday, 14 December 2014

In A Round About Way - Taurmarunui/Tongariro/Whanganui

Today we completed the alpine crossing past lakes craters and over the highest point of red crater at 1750m. We had amazing weather with a clear view of mount Taranaki over the top of distant cloud some 137km away.
It was a wise choice doing the TA SOBO for this section as we were pretty much alone until reaching the blue lake. And then we struck the TB hikers (tourist bus). There must have been 2000 of them up there. Welcome to New Zealand's great walks. But then once we passed Red Crater we were alone again. 
We are staying tonight at Mangatepopo hut in the tent, testing our gear in our first night of expected temperatures of -2.
I'd seriously recommend everyone stay a night at this hut in the hope they get to meet Boyd the DOC ranger. An awesome, down to earth and extremely knowledgeable bloke you could talk to for hours. 
We've met two groups of TA walkers who have done the 42 traverse and Cokers track, their descriptions do not appeal so we think we will have a bit more of a walk around here over the next couple of days then off to canoe the Wanganui.

It was pretty warm in the tent but left before the dew point lifted and had to pack away a wet tent.
Today is overcast but the wind and rain is holding out.
We were warned about the worn track to come but were surprised at how easy it was to walk and despite the weather deteriorating were treated to some beautiful views of Ruapehu.
Having decided against the 42 Traverse we opted to head for Whakapapaiti Hut. It's a lovely walk up to this hut and we even ran into Jack Hikes on the way (with matching shoes and poles) and had a good chat about all our TA experiences and what add on trails we may do.
Now we are at Whakapapaiti with another 5 walkers, a party of 4 dairy famers, one of whom was a guide on the Whanganui river - how's that for luck, he recommends Taumarunui to Pipiriki in 5 days. and a very quiet male reading his book. (At last nights hut there was a master butcher).
We have very wet boots from a water crossing we have to do again in the morning so little point trying to get them dry tonight.
My face is really sun burnt from yesterday's snow and cloud burn today. Must remember to bust out the hat. Skin like a roast chicken.

It's amazing what a night of light rain does to a stream up here. Last night we crossed the Whakapapaiti at mid shin and this morning it was at the top of my thighs. A pretty wet walk out to Mangahuia campsite, then we hit SH47 in a bid to get a hitch to Turangi. 2 hours later and a whole lotta cars and empty tour vans, we were resigned to the fact we may have to spend the night on the side of the road and walk the whole 40 something km's to Turangi. Just then Chris who owns a motel in Turangi stopped on his way back from fly fishing. It's always the locals.

Back in Taumarunui now. Setting off down the river in the morning for 5 days. The weather report has gone from a week of good weather to a week of shitty rain. Oh well, at least we got it good crossing the Tongariro. 

Day one of the Whanganui, we had a short briefing and some sketches of where to aim for entering a rapid... The point of the V. Then onto the water... We arrived at our campsite at 4pm. The Rapids were kind we stayed afloat plenty of shouts of 'left a bit' 'right' no profanities though and some beautiful scenery, from high rock to bush and of course fields of sheep. As for the V not sure we got it right all that often.  We stopped once at Lavender Farm, quintessentially English garden of rows of Lavender with a cafe and garden tables, smelt amazing had a fresh orange and a beer (well we are on holiday after all). I have offered to have the back seat, which is the steering seat tomorrow... Don't think I will be allowed ;-).

Glen - pretty sure Sherren and I are not compatible canoeists and would much rather have had a kayak. They're much less cumbersome and leave you free to explore more.

Got stung by a bee when putting up the tent. First one in 31 years. They still hurt! Then copped about 15 mozzie bites overnight. Nothing on those far north mozzies though. 

Nice camp at Poukaria. DOC need to get their shit sorted though as the water pump is 'ucked. After all this is a great walk camp and we're paying a decent fee for the privilege.
There are also possums that are in no way weary of humans. I'd say they are being fed by other campers. They're so cute aren't they???
But again being a great walk, it would be nice to see a few more native birds if the possums weren't around to eat their eggs.

Some prick pissed all over the toilet seat this morning. Only 9 of us here last night. Some folks are just plain 'unts!

Got sunk today. Got the right v into the rapids but was slightly off line and got pinned to a rock. Handled it well but after 2 minutes of effort and not getting off, decided it would be easier to get out, let it swamp and then get to shore. No drama, we bailed out and were on our merry way. 

At Whakahoro now. Rubbish left strewn, toothpaste spit left through the sinks, benches covered in food waste. There's a pig here which probably encourages leaving rubbish and it's way too friendly when you're trying to cook. People are (gr)'unts!!!
Some of these great walk facilities are  pretty shitty. Prefer the back country facilities. They have a more courteous clientele too! Although they have got wheelchair access to the hut and long-drop here. Progressive!

Sherren, we saw lots of ducks and a bird of prey ... Not sure what maybe a hawk.

The sinking was thankfully slow and almost planned, or we would still be against the rock now! we were told that upside down your canoe is easier to get ashore however ours wouldn't turn over just went under.  I sat in it and paddled with water to my armpits. It drizzled most of the rest of the way to camp so we would have got wet regardless.
Thankfully all the stuff in the barrels stayed dry.
We should be in a tent tonight, but there's a bunkhouse and its empty at the moment so we are chancing our arm hopefully we won't get turfed out, clothes hanging to dry.

New Zealand weather sucks!

Absolutely teeming down today so rowed like there's no tomorrow and turned an 8 hour, 37km row into a 5 hour slog. Stopped at all the camps on the way to use facilities before getting to John Coull Camp. The camps out here are lacking for the money you pay. Would rather they up the fees and have a decent shelter put in.  John Coull camp had 56 people at it last night and there's 1 table and shelter to share. The hut is ok but fits 24 in the bunkroom and again has only 1 table, 1 sink and 4 gas rings at $32 per night per person. We upgraded as the camp is so wet we'd rather not.
The rapids were fun today. Not as rough as the last two days but had some narrow fast ones where you get quite close to the rocks. The river is starting to rise now so will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings.

Sherren, early this morning although drizzling the water was like a mill pond and the rocks and reflections beautiful, saw lots of kingfishers today. My first "woohoo" going through a rapid today, it was fast and narrow skimming the cliffs.  My stomach muscles hurt this morning and my arms ached as soon as I started to paddle, I think my technique has improved and I should have the hang of it by day 5!
Glen has been eaten alive by mozzies and I've remained relatively unscathed. Although my legs are once again covered in bruises, from wedging myself in.

With all the rain we had, the river rose at least 2 meters over night. We had to reposition our canoes twice to ensure they didn't end up in the Whanganui estuary.
We set off after an early rise but slow start, figuring it would be a pretty quick and easy row. Well it was quick, measuring 8kph at a standstill and 15kph while paddling on the gps. However it was no easy feat, as the eddies were now pretty huge and were throwing us around with all that extra water making hard work of steering.
As the day passed logs got bigger and we even saw a couple of dead goats flowing down stream.
We stopped at the bridge to nowhere track and had a chat for a bit with a German couple and in the space of 30 minutes saw the river rise another half meter.
Not long after that we pulled into Tieke Kainga and were greeted by Petuere, an interesting and knowledgeable Maori chap, well versed in history and mythology.
In the space of a couple more hours we noticed the river had risen a couple more meters and washed away the opposite neighbours canoes and was even threatening their quad. Will be interesting to see what the river levels actually get to on 

Sherren, when I shut my eyes I'm going up and down on the waves!

The mighty Whanganui dropped a couple of meters over night and after bidding farewell to Petuere we set off looking for the 50/50 rapid. The trip was pretty swift again and we came upon some big waves in the rapids but alas there was too much water flowing and the 50/50 was not to be (this is the success rate).
When we got into Pipiriki, there was a jet boat heading out to save the gear of a couple of other TA hikers who spilled and lost their laden canoe.

All in all. Fantastic service from Taumarunui Canoe Hire. Would recommend this outfit over all others.
Sherren loved the whole experience and although I still enjoyed myself, I still prefer the bush a whole lot more.
Not sure where to go next? Will check the dreaded weather and decide.
Back in Taurmarunui camping ground tonight. Really welcoming hosts and a great place to hang out. Have run into Paul from Russell Forrest again and a few other TA hikers. A few stories of the tough terrain floating about but thus far everyone we've met has skipped the Waitomo to Te Kuiti section. Will be keen to hear from anyone else out there who has done that section recently.
Decided to divert to Taranaki tomorrow. Will aim to walk around the mountain before Christmas and will then hit the Tararuas in the new year at some point.

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