Mon 04 January – Day 51
The rain started again in the early morning so I was awake and hoping it would abate by the time my alarm went off at 5:30am. There was a canoeing safety briefing from 6:20am starting with tea or coffee and delicious home made bread. Although I wasn’t leaving for the river today I wanted to attend the briefing anyway to get the lowdown on the river and canoeing safety. It was all over in less than an hour after which time I went to grab my pack whilst todays group were donning their life jackets and roaring out in the Whanganui Canoe hire vehicles with their canoes in tow. Jonathan is ready to go as well so we set out together towards Owhango. Today we will follow the Hikumutu Rd almost all the way. Jonathan has not walked for a few days since canoeing and I am sporting a sore achilles so I’m a bit wary of putting too much pressure on it especially as I have had the recent break from walking. Fortunately it is only 24kms for todays walk and it is on the road all the way. I’m keen to see what the countryside is like today having only driven the highway between Taumarunui and Owhango so it will be interesting to walk this alternate route. After the heavy rain of the last few days there is a lot of streams running along the side of the road however the clouds are parting and with it is the anticipation of a blue sky day. There is no traffic and its just us and the sheep and cattle this morning.
At Hikumutu we came across a real surprise – a swimming pool beside the road. There was also a hall and a toilet however it was the pool that took our attention. We went in for a gander, felt the water which was wonderfully refreshing and wished that it was the afternoon rather than 8:30 in the morning. Down the road is an ostrich which comes up to the fence when hikers pass by. Sadly it was obviously having a day off when we passed by as it was no where to be seen. So no photo sorry. We did smell the goats before rounding the bend in the road. It was quite a large herd with kids. They ran ahead of us for a while then disappeared over the side into the bush. Nearby, the Whanganui River passes close by the road for the last time – it was flowing fast and was very brown. There was no traffic at all. We had the road to ourselves apart from the odd stock wandering outside of their paddocks. Eventually the road began to climb. It was gradual and easy on my achilles which is pleasing me immensely as I would be loathed to pull out now that I am underway again, for some recovery time. On the other hand I need to remain careful and vigilant of my achilles so it looks after me all the way to Bluff. The gravel road narrowed until it was no bigger than a country driveway. Heavy vehicles are not encouraged. It was really pleasant walking underneath the poplar trees lining the road side which provided shade from the sun and whispering leaves in the breeze. Jonathan has pulled ahead of me and I can no longer see him so I plod along enjoying the view and feeling grateful I wasn’t walking this yesterday when it was pouring with rain. Near the summit two vehicles passed by in opposite directions. I thought what are the chances that having seen no other cars today that two pass by at the same moment? Coincidence can be remarkable.
The climb is to approximately 500m in elevation to the plateau where Owhango is located. Anyone familiar with the highway between Taumarunui to Owhango will remember the big hills from the flats. This is what our little road did too albeit in a different direction. There was a small descent and it was here that Jonathan was having a rest and waiting for me for the remaining few kms. Turns out he had only been waiting a couple of minutes. My feet were tired by this point and with the anticipation of nearing our destination I just wanted to get there as quickly as possible. It was now about the destination, not the journey. One last straight and we reached the main trunk line and SH4. Turning left it was a short walk to the home of Kay and her partner Mike who are trail angels in Owhango. They are renowned for their hospitality and many of our TA friends have stayed here in the preceeding days. We dropped our gear and headed to the local cafe for lunch. The walk had taken 5 hours and we were in time for lunch. Later we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in Kay’s garden, a hot shower, laundry and even an ice cream. Kay really knows how to keep us hikers happy. The bus from Auckland arrived with Dean onboard and later in came Kaj (first time meeting him) and later still Max (first time meeting him too).
Tomorrow we will all commence on the 42nd Traverse. It is 38 km through to the Tongariro holiday park on the Traverse and other tracks and roads. I’ll probably break it up into two days.