Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

Day 44

October 16th, 2015

Oct 14 day 44 Whakapapa Campground to National Park 20 km 9:00-2:00


Today was all about the trail. It was also about my usually wrong preconceptions. Here in the middle of the national park– Tongiriro/Ruapehu– are a large number of trails catering to an equally large number of tourists. I started this morning from Wakapapa Village on a trail that led to a hut and also to a campground not far from the other village serving the National Park– felicitously called the National Park Village. It was only a 20 km hike and I left (late as I had big breakfast) because I assumed (!) it would be like walking a sidewalk. Most of the trails around Tongiriro are graveled, 5 ft wide, with nary a root or mud hole. I left the village on such a trail, in a damp misty almost rain, winding through young forest with regularly spaced informative signs for the nature hikers. It was a bit cool, so I hiked with some pace and was rewarded in a short while with some beautiful walking across alpine bogs. The Pennine Way taught me to appreciate bog hiking, particularly on well-designed well-drained paths. The trail then led into beautiful scenes of Ruapehu (were it not for low lying clouds), including long stretches on boardwalks to reduce impact on fragile flora. Then came the moment when the trail split, one fork leading to Whakapapaiti Hut and the other to Mangahuia Camp. Although, like Robert Frost, both seemed equally inviting, clearly the direction to follow was the hut and not the camp (the latter went on to the National Park village, my destination). Immediately on turning, I found myself not on the bog but in it. Not since leaving Tan Hill on Pennine Way have I found myself is such a bog– no way to tell whether a step was on a tussock or ankle-deep in water or mud. Those conditions prevailed for the next 5 km. I have crossed streams before, but usually not lengthwise. The trail followed yesterday’s rain down the landscape, and I slipped and slid behind it. Eventually I came out at the road, and a short hour on brought me to the village, dry socks, a bed, and some hot food. Spent the rest of the afternoon trying to work out the logistics of traveling down the river to Wanganui