Lee Hewes

is totes becoming a teacher…

Te Araroa Adventures – Days 5 – 7

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After spending a few days in Taumarunui stocking and psyching ourselves up, it was time to leave and head off along the trail. Firstly we had to take some supplies to the canoe centre, ready for our paddle down the Whanganui some 11 days after our departure from Taumarunui.

We carried our packs to Whanganui Canoe Centre, took part in a safety briefing, signed a few documents and paid our fares before backtracking into town to check out of our motel and send some things to ourselves in Wellington before backtracking again to the canoe centre. Unfortunately these backtracks were necessary due to the strange opening times and signage of some of the shops in Taumarunui, with some saying they would be closed when they were actually open, and a few other weird nuances which messed around our timing somewhat.

The track from the canoe centre started off fairly mildly, with country road walking alongside cattle and sheep farms, some nice views of snow covered mountains, as well as a random ostrich that shared its yard with a few cows. My nephew had fun ‘dancing’ with it as it threatened us away from the other side of the fence.

From there we hiked along some gravel roads, through rainforests and over hills before making it to the tiny town of Owhango at about 5:30pm. Although this hike wasn’t demanding or arduous by TA Trail standards, it was my first day, and the hike, as well as the 20 kilograms I had strapped to my back were beginning to take their toll.

I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed to learn that we’d have another 5 kilometres or so to go before we would reach our campsite in the Whakapapa River, taking the day’s hiking distance to 35 kilometres (+ 9 kilometres if you include the pack-less backtracking to and from town).

We arrived and set up camp, and I learned how to use my new cooking gear and water filter. It was a nice campsite, with access to the river to collect water and go for a quick dip. We met a father who had taken his kids for a Christmas camping and quad biking journey, he offered us some eggs and gave us a little bit of information about the track to come.

In the morning we set off to begin the 42 Traverse, and this was going to be the day that punished me.

The traverse itself crosses semi-alpine forests, ranging in elevation from 520m – 910m, with many climbs, bends and dips in between. After about two hours of hiking, I began to feel the strain of the 18 or so kilos strapped to my back, and to curse myself to a certain degree for not looking more into ultralight hiking and camping gear before leaving Sydney.

My nephew, being 28 and having about 1000 kilometres of Te Araroa hiking experience over me, lost me quite quickly, only to wait at ‘you are here’ spot on the first of the signs in the images below. We carried on together for some time before he hiked ahead again. However, this time the outcome wasn’t as positive.

I missed one of the trail signs on one of the final creek crossings and veered to the right instead of taking the trail to the left. This caused me to deviate from the trail for a couple of kilometres or so before realising, and by that time I had no safe option but to set up camp beside the track I was on and make my way to the state highway the following morning.

My nephew had been waiting for me by the river we were supposed to camp at and had become quite anxious when I hadn’t arrived by dark. In this time I had found some mobile reception near to where I had set up camp, had contacted my wife to let her know where I was and had sent some messages to my nephew, which I could see had not been received.

The following morning (Christmas Day) I walked ahead a little to find a sign and to ensure that my track would take me to the highway, backtracked to get water from a nearby stream, packed up my gear and set off for the highway.

Some two or three hours of hiking later, I received more mobile reception, contacted Bianca, and finally heard from my nephew. I reached the highway a short time later and hitched a ride up to where Jayke (my nephew) had just made his way out of the forest. From there we hiked to Tongariro Holiday Park. Quite a Christmas adventure!

After setting our tents and weathering an alpine thunderstorm overnight, we’ve spent today resting at the holiday park, to allow one of my legs to recover from the last few days. The spa has worked wonders. Tomorrow we will hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and make our way slowly toward Whakahoro to canoe our way to Whanganui.

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