For those following on the trail if you think it will be an easy day between Whakapapa and National Park Village then think again. Also be aware if there is heavy rain, or it has been raining for a couple of days you may not be able to cross the Mangahuia Stream at TA km 1147.3.
I had not remembered any comments about today's track in blogs or Facebook comments so I assumed it was just a standard track and would be an easy day. I was wrong and this was a very memorable and challenging track with the theme being 'water water everywhere'.
I started the day with a cooked breakfast of pancakes and some hash browns with some nice coffee and orange juice. I figured this should give me enough fuel to last the short 20 km day.
It was still raining so I geared up but the wet weather pants were relegated to the bottom of the pack again, not to make a reappearance until the Tararuas.
A very short walk down the hill and past the visitors Centre and I was on the Whakapapaiti Track.
The track started beautifully until it turned off for the shorter circuit to Silica Falls. From there it was still a lovely track but a lot of it was under a few cm of water. I was enjoying myself feeling like a kid again splashing through the puddles.
At the first Bridge I saw the water was running high and fast after all the rain recently. After seeing this I was concerned I would not get through the track and would be forced to turn back due to the high rivers but luckily all the big streams were bridged.
I had to cross a few small streams but they were not a challenge. I stopped at one to take a photo and the Walker from yesterday turned up. I figured we would be crossing paths throughout the day and thought I must ask his name next time i saw him but I never saw him again.
The track was mainly in the bush but occasionally came into the open at old slips, streams and mountain swamps which were all boardwalked. Despite how wet the track was I thought I was making good time but I only got to the track junction 15 minutes sooner than the DOC time.
At the junction I turned into the Mangahuia Track and this is where things got fun (read challenging for those who do not have a warped sense of what is fun). The trail for the next 5.5 km was effectively a stream and constantly under water from mid shoe to knee high. The first 2 km was in the open and this was largely narrower trails of water, some moving at a good rate on the downhills. There were some larger ponds to get through a well. It was funny to see a couple of small bridges considering what I was walking through. There wasn't much mud on the trail, just water.
Then the track entered the bush and I thought the water would reduce but no. It became wider and there was more mud but this was usually under a cover of water. It was actually pretty setting the reflection of the trees on the water as I splashed through. The water was on average mid shin for these parts.
Just after entering the bush there was a steep downhill and I arrived at the Mangahuia Stream. This was running really fast and looked deep and there was no way I was going to be able to cross it. Even if I waited for the other walker it was still not safe to cross with two people. I realised I would have to turnaround and go back to Whakapapa and road walk to National Park Village.
Before heading back I thought I would just have a quick look upstream just in case there was a crossing point. The bush was thick but I bashed through looking at the river in a couple of places and none were any better. Then just as I was about to give up I plunged into the thickest part of the bush and came to the river edge where the river split in two to go around an island and the current was reduced here and there were more rocks. I was happy with the depth and current so decided to have a go at crossing. The first channel was only mid shin and not a worry. On the island I had a look at a couple of places to cross the second channel but there was a steep bank on the other side and it looked too deep. Slightly upstream was a nice get out point and it didn't look to deep. Also the were a couple of big boulders I could use to protect from the flow so I decided to try crossing but was ready to back up if it got too deep or fast. I took my time making sure my poles were steady and one foot at a time firmly planted and it was actually easier than I thought it would be, apart from the shock of cold water at crotch level (mid thigh on a person of normal height).
Once across I then had to bush bash all the way back to the track but luckily I came across a goat track which made it a bit easier.
Relieved I didn't have to turn back I was on my way again after taking off my rain skirt which was redundant after getting my shirts wet during the river crossing.
I continued to splash my way down the trail strangely really enjoying myself. There was one section of boardwalk which I can only assume was an experiment given the condition before and after it.
Near the end of the bush section there was a long section of boardwalk and the the vegetation changed to Manuka and afterabout 500 metres of wading down the track a gravel track started. It was actually clear of water for most of and this continued all the way to the Mangahuia Campsite surprisingly 15 minutes under the DOC time of 2 hours 45 minutes.
Here I made the most of a tap to was the mud and grit of my shoes and socks in preparation for the 6 km road walk to National Park Village. SH47 was very quiet and the few cars going past gave me heaps of room. After climbing a small hill the road turned a corner and National Park was in sight however it was still 3 km away.
I plodded along thinking I was doing about 4.5 km/hr but I reached National Park in 1 hour exactly which was 6 km/hr - must have been the thought of hot food. Also thankfully the rain stopped just as I started the road walk and I was dry by the time I reached the village.
I went straight to the cafe and had a lovely chicken and pineapple burger with chips and a cupaccino. I then headed to the 4 Square (small grocery store) to buy lunches fur the next 6 days.
Then it was a hundred meters and I was at the backpackers. I booked the female dorm (my tactic to reduce the chance of having a snorer) and I was a little concerned as it was a 10 person dorm but so far I am the only one in it.
I rang Gavin of Yeti Canoes and finalised the detail for the Wanganui River. I had left my name with him incase he had someone else wanting to do the river and he contacted me yesterday to tell me he had some people getting in at Taumaranui so I could meet up with at Whakahoro (conveniently on the exact day I wanted) and we could continue on to Wanganui together. He also arranged the campsite bookings with DOC for me. I was really happy with this arrangement and relieved to get this sorted. It was great service from Gavin at Yeti Tours (www.yetitours.co.nz, freephone 0800 322 388) to arrange this for me, especially thinking outside the box and not just looking at people doing the Whakahoro canoe put-in, none of the other companies had gotten back to me.
Today I decided to give my walking poles names (I am not having conversations with them yet so I am still sane - really I am). In the Army some people name their rifles because they are so important to their survival and I think the same about my poles. The right one is called Fred. In the old army ration packs that had tins there was a great little tool that was a tin opener and spoon and this was called a Fred. As my pole is also a camera tripod, selfie stick and tent pole out is multi use like a Fred. The other pole is called Brave Banana due to the slight bend incurred yesterday as it saved me from a bad fall, sacrificing it's sleek straight lines.
Also my socks seem to be at their end of life. They just need to last to Palmerston North where I can get free replacement at Bivouac (Icebreaker lifetime guarantee)