Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Tongariro Crossing and the Whanganui River

Here is the case in point against those travellers that feel anything to popular or touristy is not worth doing. The Tongariro Crossing was one of the top 5 things I did on the trip, and virtually everyone does make the crossing. It's brilliant.

1/11/08: The bus from Taupo was fairly long, as far as NZ buses go. It's not a large country, so 4-5 hours is somewhat of a hardship. NPV is small and beautiful. I was early for bad, as the bus to the start of The Crossing was at 7.

The view back toward The Crossing

1/12/08: The Summit of Mt. Tongariro is at roughly 2,000 meters, and the track is 20.5 KM long. Somehow I was able to do this in 4.5 hours including the summit. I would have had time, had I known, to summit Mount Ngauruhoe instead, but everyone told me that The Crossing alone would take 6, so I did the shorter, easier Tongariro summit. I did finally use my tripod to take a self portrait at the top, with applause from other hikers. That was fun. The longer estimates for hiking times is common in NZ, basically if you are an obese, 65 year old, pacemaker toting invalid the times listed on hikes are for you. I will say that I did get quite a second wind, and was really flying past everyone on the hike. With some step, soft and sandy descents, often it's much easier just to run down, and that is what I did. I probably saved 40 minutes and lots of where and tear on the legs. Of course, everyone else thought I was nuts, but I kept going. Once I got down into the forested parts on the other end I put on the mp3 and finished quickly. It was a great day.

Mount Ngauruhoe

1/13/08: Very sore form the hike. Made myself breakfast, went shopping for the canoe trip, listened to the Pats, ate dinner and went to bed.

From National Park Village

1/14/08: Leaving NPV for the Whanganui. It was an 8 am pick up, we went to their shop, gathered the water tight barrels we would be using for the trip, and loaded all of our things inside. From there it was about a 40 minute drive to the other shop where I rented the rest of the gear I would need: Tent, sleeping bag, cooking stuff, etc. Everything was loaded into my Canadian canoe. I like riding Canadians. The other people doing the trip were really nice, but they all thought I was nuts for going alone. I get that more in NZ than other places I have been.

Starting out

We all left at the same time but after the first bend in the river I didn't see them for the rest of the day because I was fishing. I was doing a ton of fishing, but not much catching. I reached the first camp just before nightfall and dinner was waiting for me, as just about everyone staying there made extra food. Good timing. I did share my Jim Beam in exchange, so we were square. After everyone had gone to bed I went to the river and made a small campfire and just relaxed for a while. Has to be done. I only found out later about the 'fire ban.'

Day 2 - thats all my gear

1/15/08: After coffee and breakfast I talked with the volunteer at the hut who is there for a two week shift. I got on the water by about 10:30 and was planning on less fishing today - mainly due to a complete lack of success yesterday. I know I know, but there is not much extra time built into the trip. Basically you need to row all day to reach the next site - especially as one person in a canoe. I actually passed the group as they were having lunch, however not long after I rolled my canoe on some rapids and had an....interesting time gathering myself on a rocky shoal. I was actually looking at my map and not really paying attention to the river, when I went sideways into a tree in the water. Right about then I decided to have lunch. Especially since I needed to wait for my paddle. After that I put the paddle to it, stopped and did the 'Bridge to Nowhere' hike, and got to the camp a bit earlier this evening. This was the night I broke open the smoked trout and shared with the group. It was SO good. I couple of nips and to bed.

A bridge to 'nowhere.' Those crazy Kiwis!

1/16/08: We all started earlier today, I was paddling by 9:20 and it turned out to be a good thing. It was a straight paddle to make it to the rendezvous point by 2:30, and then on to my bus at Rahiti at 3:50 so that I could make it to Wellington in time for the Police concert the following evening. This was the last bus, so I would have to hitch if I didn't make it. I though I could go the whole day without lunch but after two days of non-stop rowing I was starving. So just as I was looking for a good spot I came up on some big rapids pulling me right toward a hug boulder. I really pushed for the outside but couldn't make it. As the canoe turned sideways I leaned the wrong way and *presto* into the river. This time I had help - another boat was getting some nice shots of me in the river. However it wasn't the group I was with, so I was happy. Later on other boats in our group would roll, and I would not, so not so bad. We barely made it by two, and I barely made the bus, but it all worked out. Got to Wellie, stayed at Base, went to dinner. Oh and I saw Rob, the Stray driver.

The last leg

1/17/08: The Police.

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