January 20th 2017
Whakapapa river – Possible camping
Total distance: 718.4 miles
It poured down with rain for most of the evening and into the night. A few cars came by fairly late but we were tucked away so there were no issues there. I slept really soundly and woke to find water dripping on me and a small puddle next to my head. There was so much condensation it was dripping off the inside of the fly and into the tent. Some of it had dropped onto my sleeping bag so that was damp, everything was damp from the condensation. Gross. I used my bandana to wipe away some of the moisture and asked Julia what she was doing. She said she was doing nothing so we both drifted off back to sleep for a while.
We had made a plan to get going at 7am but everything was so wet and it was cold so neither of us were keen on moving. There was condensation under my mattress and the floor of my tent was pretty wet. I dried off everything as best I could with my bandana. We called out a few times to see if the other had started the packing process yet, panicking that we were being left behind if we heard the other one rustling. Eventually I really needed to toilet so it forced me out my tent. There was a pit toilet at the parking area (still only 2 nature poos!) and after that the packing up began. We ended up leaving at 9:30! Only 2.5 hours after we had intended to.
As we were walking over the bridge I felt something hit me on the bottom and I thought Julia had hit me with her trekking pole which I thought was a bit unnecessary, but it turns out it was a dog who came bounding out of nowhere and frightened both of us! Given how much it rained yesterday we were expecting a muddy mess on the trail today, but the first half of the day was fairly smooth sailing. There were some big puddles, but there were all avoidable. We had a few streams to cross and a couple we managed to cross precariously on rocks and a couple we took our shoes off for. I didn’t want to walk with wet feet if I didn’t have to.
Most of the time I’m ok to walk along and be comfortable with my own thoughts, but today was different. I needed constant entertainment, constant mental stimulation. The trail, called the 42 traverse, is a 4WD / mountain biking track so it was easy to walk along and we could walk side by side, so I played podcasts from my phone so we could both listen to them. It was nice to then be able to discuss them afterwards. The trail was easy to walk down but it was difficult to avoid all the thorny plants along the sides and I got stabbed several times. We only saw two people today, both together on a little quad bike thing and they had 5 dogs with them. They were hunting pigs. The encounter was brief and we didn’t see anyone else the whole day.
The podcasts covered a wide range of subjects and they made the time pass quickly. There were lots of streams around today but not many of them were accessible. At a quick lunch stop I managed to collect about half a litre from a pipe in the side of the trail. It was difficult to collect but it was cold and tasted nice. We came to a fairly major river crossing and crossed that with no problems, it was knee deep at most. We had a little sit down on the other side to dry our feet and put our shoes back on, and although it’s a nice day it gets cold quickly when you sit, so we didn’t stop that much today, preferring to carry on and stay warm.
I am having a bit of a disaster with my clothing. I have developed a hole in the shoulder of my top where it had become paper thin, so that goes along with the holes in my shoes and the holes in the seat of my shorts and the holes in my knickers. The heels of my socks are starting to look very thin so they will probably be the next things to give up the ghost, typically everything breaks down at the same time! I may have to look for something temporary in Whanganui. My holes however aren’t as bad as the ones Julia has in her socks. They have practically disintegrated!
After crossing the river the trail gets worse. It’s still a 4wd track but it’s much steeper and slicker. The track went fairly steeply uphill and the trail was smooth compacted mud, which was bad news for us as we have no grip left on our shoes. The balls of my shoes are practically bald. Not great for walking on slippery mud! But it was actually a lot less muddy than I was expecting, especially after all the rain. We picked our way slowly up the track and when it evened out it became more muddy with big puddles. We were doing a good job of avoiding the mud until Julia slipped and submerged a foot, now one was wet she just ploughed on through the water. We had lots of slips and near misses and scrapes from trees and plants. It was tiring and draining.
With only about 0.4 of a mile left to finish the track I slipped and fell in the mud. My foot slid off the bank and splashed into the water, sending up a splash which covered my bottom and my right arm. So now I had wet feet, and a wet bum. Two of my least favourite sensations. The bushes were also really overgrown so we were continually being slapped in the face by the foliage. The grasses were super sharp and the ferns were scratchy and the branches pokey. At one point Julia lost her balance and also the control of the trekking pole which flew out behind her and whacked me across the knuckles that was painful!
I was more than ready to be done with that track and when we got out on to the road we were greeted with a view of Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom) and it had a dusting of snow over it! We were only there a couple of days ago and the weather was great. When they say the weather is unpredictable up there they aren’t kidding. And Mt Ruapehu must have had a fresh dusting of snow too as we thought this morning. It was awesome to see the mountains again and I thought it would have been a really cool way to see the mountains for the first time had we not already been to Tongariro.
We walk along the road for a short distance before turning back onto a track again. This time it was muddy and really overgrown with tons of gorse over the trail. Gorse hurts! It doesn’t effect me much, just a little itchy where it’s touched my skin, but Julia has an allergic reaction to the gorse so she wasn’t happy to see it. Some of the bushes were huge, at least twice the height of me if not more. We were getting a bit fed up by this point so we decided to relieve a bit of stress by shouting as loud and as long as possible. That helped a bit and we powered through the gorse and other scratchy plants until we got to the parking area with possible camping.
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.