January 18th 2017
Whakapapa – National Park
Total distance: 685 miles
Despite being so tired I slept pretty badly, I woke at 3am and struggled to go back to sleep until 5am, then at 5:30 a siren went off. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but unless the volcano was erupting, which I thought was unlikely, I wasn’t moving anywhere. There was a whole bunch of commotion outside with people trying to find out what it was. There was a fire somewhere we think.
I drifted in and out of sleep until about 9:30 when we decided we should really get up and get moving. We packed up and went to settle up in the office, I bought a Magnum ice cream for breakfast and we headed over to the isight to check out the weather forecast. We stayed in there for a while because there was a whole bunch of interactive stuff to explain the area and all the volcanic activity. As well as a stuffed Kiwi bird which was cool, here are some other things I though were interesting:
We only had 12 miles to do today so we left around 11:30am. The weather was ok, it looked a little overcast but we had enough of the sun yesterday so we welcomed the clouds. It was really muggy, it felt a bit like an approaching storm. The trail was varied. It started off nice and well maintained with boardwalks and a smooth path, then it became quite rocky until it descended into mud and ditches! Progress was slow going through the mud and when we came to a river crossing I decided to just plough straight through. It had started to drizzle and I figured my feet would just get wet anyway. And once they were wet I wouldn’t have to try so hard to keep them dry!
We came close to falling so many times. The muddy ditches eventually turned into boardwalk again and then into a relatively smooth trail. About 10m before we got to the gravel road there was a nice grassy path and I fell flat on my face. I had survived 8 miles of obstacles only to trip over nothing. Thankfully it was a soft landing and my only problem I had was that I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so much. We found a pit toilet by the campground and then hiked the last 4 miles of road to National Park.
It went pretty quickly but it still seemed to take a really long time to get to the petrol station which we could see ahead of us for a while. It also got really cold and the soda I had been craving turned into a hot chocolate by the time we were in the petrol station. We walked to the YHA which was the last waypoint on the gps and then it was time to hitch a ride back to Taumarunui. I don’t really like the process of hitching, I hate standing on the side of the road with my thumb out being ignored by everyone. After about 5 minutes I got despondent and started making a back up plan in my head which involved eating at the restaurant we were stood in front of and staying at the YHA.
There wasn’t a lot of traffic heading our way and a lot of it was turning into the village. In America trucks never stop for you so I have got into the habit of not even attempting to get a ride from a truck. Julia kept her thumb out and as I said ‘trucks never stop’ the truck pulled over! I was amazed. We climbed up the side of the cab and the very nice driver, Rick, took us to Taumarunui. It was one of my favourite hitches, so cool to ride in a truck!
When we got to town we made a beeline for the Thai restaurant as we had been talking about it for the last couple of days. As we were walking down the street someone called out Julia’s name. It was Sara and Creya! Once we had established we were all going to be staying at the holiday park we went off to get our food, which was delicious, then went to the supermarket to get a few bits to supplement our resupply for the next couple of days. I still had a few thing left over so I just filled up on chocolate and sweets.
We then had to hitch again to get to the holiday park which is about 3 miles away. We again stood on the side of the road but this time we were picked up really quickly by Mary who works at the holiday park! Result. She always looks for hikers when she comes into town which is excellent
There was a weird sense of familiarity that I enjoyed when I arrived. We knew the people, we knew the place and what to expect from it. It’s a nice feeling that you don’t get very often when you move about so much. The holiday park charges NZ$17 for TA walkers, but they made a mistake last time and charged is NZ$15. I asked Phil if he was going to do it for us at the same price as last time and he did, but it definitely stung his Yorkshire pride!
Phil was awesome though, it was due to rain overnight and he had a gazebo set up ready for a rugby team who were due to arrive tomorrow, he said we could pitch our tents under it to keep them dry. We pitched up and Sara was doing a load of laundry so we were able to toss our socks into it which was a nice unexpected treat!
We hung out in the kitchen for a while and we met Sandy and Colin, two more TA hikers from Canada (the French bit). Robin the German dude was also here but he went to bed very early. We had planned to leave a bit later tomorrow to wait out the worst of the weather, so we stayed up way to long chatting, when midnight came around we all decided it was time for bed.
As as a side thought, it was amazing that of the 7 of us, 4 people were speaking English as their second language, their first languages being German, French and Taiwanese, and we were all able to communicate. Because they can all speak English. I feel so embarrassed that I can’t speak a second language and so lucky that so many others can.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.