Fri 08 January – Day 55
I was not enthused about the walk through to National Park today. I didn’t think it would be that interesting and considered hitching instead. The young guys are all staying an additional day and Dean is walking through today so I do the same. It was a good choice as the walk from Whakapapa to the Mangahuia campsite was excellent.
I lazed out of bed this morning and went for a stroll to get a photo of the Chateau Tongariro in the morning sun. Dean was ready to roll before 9am and we stopped at the kai cart by the camp office for coffee and breakfast burger. It does a 10% discount for TA walkers which is nice of them plus some free advice about the track today. It rained into the early evening so the river may be high. Suitably fed and informed we set off along the Whakapapaiti Valley track which will branch onto the Mangahuia track after 6 km. The first part leading out of the village is in tip top condition as this is where the day visitors stroll to get their nature fix. The further away from the village, the more it becomes what we like to refer to as a “TA track”. Mud wet steep roots more mud rocks drop offs overgrown mud… However it doesn’t change that we are walking through lovely alpine bush, open ground and beautiful scenery. We have a decent pace today as well so can carve up the walk to National Park. We walk through strands of beech, follow little streams that have found their way onto the path as well and try to keep our feet dry as long as possible. The tussock fields benefit from boardwalks and the larger stream crossings have bridges. The small streams are in low flow even after last nights rain and there are well placed stones to cross upon. The clouds are looking ominous and we are anticipating some showers however fortunately the forecast is wrong and after a couple of hours the sun comes out and we are treated to a nice breeze. After turning onto the Mangahuia track we go a short distance to a point where the DOC managed area ends. It is ‘never-never’ land past here and anyone considering passing beyond is sternly cautioned by an ancient sign. We abruptly turn right 90 degrees with an equally ancient sign indicating it is 3.5 miles to the Mahuia (Mangahuia) camp. I’m curious why these signs haven’t been updated by DOC since goodness knows when they were installed? The track is now through tussock which skirts a stream. We step from right to left and back again constantly looking for the dry earth between the waterflow. Despite this we again hold a good pace through the tussock until we descend a steep muddy bank to the Mangahuia stream which we have to cross through the water. Another TA hiker had to turn back recently as the stream was in flood. Luckily it is not so high nor fast flowing for us today and we remove shoes to walk safely through the chilly mountain fed water. We realise that we must be getting close to the camp site as the track is again in a superior condition with boardwalks and gravel paths. Sure enough we emerge at the Mangahuia campsite where we have a bite to eat and rest for a bit. The next section is a roadwalk along SH47 to National Park village. We considered hitching the 7km but in the end we just got on the road and walked. It wasn’t too bad as there was a large berm and not too much traffic in our direction. The final straight however is 3km in a direct line into National Park. It seems to take forever and was with much relief that we got to the junction and celebrated with an ice cream and drink! I said goodbye to Dean here and walked further north along SH4 and put my thumb out for a ride to Taumarunui. It wasn’t too long before a journalist travelling back to Auckland picked me up and took me right to the gate of the Taumarunui Canoe Hire. I was pleased to be reunited here with Mandy and Slane who I had seen at Mangere plus I met two new TA’s being Genevieve and Jack. Later this evening Karen stopped by and asked if we would like a jet boat ride? Unanimous support from us thank you! A family had booked a trip and to fill the boat TCH ask any TA hikers who may be staying to go along. Our lucky day!