Thursday, October 27, 2011

Whanganui River Journey - Day 60 to Day 66

The journey down the Whanganui river was a great adventure. Lynda has joined me for this 6 day (176 km) canoe trip, from Whakahoro to Whanganui city. We stayed in DOC huts most of the way, John Coull, Tieke Kainga (which is also a Marae), Downes Hut and then tented at other campsites down the river. We had a little bit of rain on the first and last days, but otherwise the weather was great. It was a magic experience, canoing quietly down the river through the gorges and fern covered cliffs. Although, I think the highlight had to be watching the RWC final at the "Bridge to Nowhere Lodge", way out in the middle of the bush, the only house on the river for miles, on sky TV, powered by a generator. The owner came and collected over 29 of us from the John Coull hut, in his jet boat, to avoid the danger of some of us attempting to canoe accross the river, after a few drinks. What a night. Go the AB's.

A canoe trip like this was a welcome break from carrying a backpack, first it is a great relief not carrying the wieght and then there is the added advantage that you can carry so much more food, and fresh food at that. Bacon and eggs for breakfast and steak for dinner. We also took a cask of wine, with cheese and crackers and lots of lovely dips. Lynda's brother Brian and his friend Pat also joined us for the first two days, so it was a bit of a family adventure. We had 4 large barrels strapped into our canoe and they were full. Every night we stopped, we had to lug these barrels up steep and slippery paths to the hut or campsites. Not sure how I'm going to adjust back to dehydrated rations again, as I head down the coast and back on the road again. Now over 1,300 km since I started in August and less than two weeks away from Wellington.

Tongariro National Park - a complete round trip taking me past the 1,000 km mark

The Te Araroa trail includes the Tongariro Crossing, but having saved a bit of time by by-passing the 42 travrese, I decided to make good use of the extra days and really have a good crack at these wonderful volcanic peaks. With a full pack of food or at least enough for 9 days, I set off to complete both the "around the moutain" and "northern circuit" tramping tracks. A combined distance of just over 100 km, starting and finishing at Ohakune. Although it is already late spring (20 Oct), there is still plenty of snow, as the track circles the mountains at about the 1,400 m mark. In fact as the weather was so changable, I got a mixture of sun and snow showers most days. This made for an interesting time as I went over the Tongariro Crossing, the highest (1860 m) and most northerly part of my route. I climbed up from Oturere hut in bright morning sun, although through heavy snow and onto the souuth basin. I got time for just one photo only (the one I posted on Facebook), before low cloud and freezing fog rolled in. Complete "white out" in a matter of only a few minutes. There were other people on the mountain, mainly tourists, many of them scurring to get down to lower levels and almost all travelling in the other direction passed me. I decided to press on, as I felt it was safer following other peoples footprints and heading into the wind, than against it. The main problem however, was the wind got stronger at the top of Red Crater, not only was it throwing me and my pack around, it was also covering up the footprints in the snow, that I was using as my guide to get from one snow pole to the other. Then I ran out of snow poles, some of them were missing, good on you DOC, has anybody checked the snow poles recently. Not a good look I thought, as I stood there staring out into the whilteness. I was just about to get out my GPS and apply a bit of modern technology, when I heard voices coming towards me. It was a local tour guide trying to get his party off the mountain, while at the same time gathering up other lost soles on the way. This party made a clear track for me to follow and in another 20 minutes or so I was down to clearer conditions and best of all, out of the wind. I hear later from DOC staff, that search and rescue had to pull 5 tourists off the TC that day, who had wondered off the track and got lost. The rest of my trip around the moutain was uneventful in comparison.

Old huts and wild pigs

Pureora Forest Park and the land of tall trees

After making my way down the Te Araroa trail, through Te Kuiti and Benneydale, I set about preparing myself for the 3 or 4 days of forest walking trough the Rureora Forest along the Hauhungaroa track. This track follows the Hauhungaroa moutain range along the western side of Lake Taupo. This is beautiful forest, with some of the tallest native trees in the country. I saw NZ's tallest Totara, amongst others. Also, the bird life is fantastic. Lots of Kaka flying about, feeding in the trees high above and at night I heard plenty of kiwi calling in the thick bush. And to my delight, I saw several family groups of the lovely little "Whitehead" or the north island bush canary. This was a really first for me.

Unfortunately, on the 3rd day into my bush trek, I ran into some really bad weather and after heavy rain had effected rivers and streams, I decided to bail out and took a side track which lead me down to the highway alongside Lake Taupo. From the I walked to Turangi and on to Tongariro NP.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mt Pirongia - high in the clouds on day 43

After a few days rest and a chance to catch up with old friends, at the Alpaca Expo, I have now resumed my journey south from Hamilton. First stop was Mt Pirongia. Climbing the 986 m high Mt Pirongia was a challange, especially with a full pack, after I had loaded up several more kgs of food from the Bin Inn in Hamilton. It took just on 6 hours to reach the summit and then another 30 minutes to progress along the ridge to the DOC hut, perched in the forest overlooking the valley below. And what a beautiful place, thick cloud forest and stunning rock outcrops. I had the hut to myself and the peace and quiet, that comes with such a place. Photos to come once I get to a camera store.