Tues 05 January – Day 52
Another early start this morning, nothing new there but still undecided whether to go right through to Tongariro or camp overnight. Jonathan departed at 7am followed by Kaj. I set off at 7:30am with Dean not far behind. Kays place is on the road to the start of the Traverse so shortly after leaving, the road leads into verdant bush for a couple of km down to the bridge crossing the Whakapapa river. Tuis sung from the trees along the way this morning, not that I come close to mimicking their vocal dexterity. I could only manage a kissing noise – my repertoire for all bird calls. The 42nd Traverse begins after the river and is a narrow gravel 4wd road for 46km-ish to SH47 through the Tongariro Forest Park. It follows an old logging road and is popular for hunters cyclists 4wd and quad biking plus a section of it is part of the Te Araroa trail. After km 1083 the TA branches off the Traverse onto the Waione-Cokers track to follow a different route to the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Centre. From there a track leads to the Te Porere redoubt and the trail finishes at the Tongariro holiday park after 38km from Owhango. So it’s doable in one long day although some will camp enroute and make it a two day hike. Soon enough I see Kaj and he has met up with Elena. She stayed with another couple in Owhango last night. We all depart together. Being twenty somethings they put on a good pace and I am thankful that my achilles seems to be fine so I can keep up on the straight bits and downhills. They are excellent to follow and are faster going up any hills for sure. The road undulates up down and around the hills with plenty of bush cover from the sun. Occasionally there is a break in the vegetation for wider views including a lookout spot to see the upper reach of the Whanganui River. It makes the trail more special to appreciate that we are walking through its tributaries and will soon be canoeing on it until it flows into the sea. The Traverse is busy with other users. We pass a number of cyclists, there are quad bikers hunters and others enjoying the track. They give a noisy advance warning that allows us time to move off the narrow road and out of harms way. Favourites are two 4wd dune buggys and the two hunting dogs perched on the bonnet of a vehicle. There are a few stream crossings to negotiate. Just deep enough to get our shoes wet, we stop on either side to remove and then replace shoes and socks. The water is chilly and refreshing. Not unpleasant on such a hot day. Our first larger crossing is at the Waione stream. Again shoes off for this wider crossing that was swift flowing and needed poles to keep safely across. Once on the other side we stopped for lunch and chatted to the passing vehicle occupants.
As it is still early afternoon we decide to push through to the holiday park. We should manage it by 6pm. Immediately after the Waione stream is the turnoff of the Waione Cokers track. It is 12km long and takes over three hours to complete. It is a different beast to the Traverse. No longer a road, the track is narrow, no more than a quad bike across. Vegetation hangs across our path and there are deep muddy puddles to constantly skirt around. We don’t see another soul on this track although there is evidence of quad bikes over the years rutting the track. Deep channels made by their wheels bound a muddy central path that we try to stick too. We feel for our hiking colleagues who came through here a day before when there was heavy rain. It must have been hell. Even now we slog up and down short but steep hills, watching not to slip over and using our hiking poles as additional feet in order to keep to the centre. Descending another steep track we arrive at the biggest water crossing, the Mangatepopo stream. Fortunately the water has subsided since the recent rain so we get across with ease. The far side is a mystery however as there are TA arrows but no track, just a stream. So up the stream we walk and arrive at the other side of the Mangatepopo stream. It has split around a small island. It is when crossing this side that my right foot slides on a slippery rock and I fall sideways into a sitting position in the water. My pack strap bag is submerged momentarily along with my phone. I fear the worst as it is not water resistant. On examining it will turn on and off however the swipe function is not working. Bugger. There is nothing for it but to put it away and deal with it later. No more photos for today 😕
The Waione Cokers continues in the same muddy way until eventually emerging near the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Centre. It is closed due to the holidays so we push on along the roadside until a track veers off to the left. It is unmarked despite being the TA and we only know where to go by looking at the TA app GPS. Much of it is in grass although as a DOC area it is woefully overgrown and ill maintained. We trudge on to the Te Porere redoubt. This Te Kooti constructed redoubt has an upper and lower defence network that was based on European design. Unfortunately for Te Kooti and followers it was easily breached by the militia. The site is an urupa and can be viewed respectfully from elevated platforms. Also from the platform we could see the holiday park teasingly close by so we made haste to get there. Jonathan was surprised to see us all, believing we would have stopped overnight. We enjoyed some well deserved beers 🍻 and a wonderful hot shower 🚿 tonight having conquered the Traverse in what was a long 10.5 hr day.