In the past 8 days we hiked/canoed/drove from National Park Village to Wanganui and covered 144,5 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.
Total TA kilometres: 1375 kilometres according to maps
Philippe: getting out of the canoe
Nadine: canoeing through the rapids without falling in
Philippe: getting into the canoe, getting a cold
Nadine: paddling on a still standing Whanganui River with headwind
Please note: The stated kilometres are approximate. The hiking times are pure walking times, without breaks. On average we take 1,5 – 2 hours breaks during the day. The smiley’s describe our mental, the muscle arm our physical state. 10/10 is the best.
You find our actual pictures from the trail on Instagram.
Day 47: National Park Village (Zero Day)
The internet was so slow or didn’t work at all and we had to write the blog with the tablet. But otherwise it was a real Zero Day with lots of food, reading, watching a movie and moving as less as possible.
Oddly, my feet were already itching. I really don’t need another day in the backpacker. At least not my mind 😉. And our feet are going to get a rest in two days for five days anyway.
Since we’d already got the main tasks done yesterday, we had a truly relaxing Zero Day today (finally!). Just laundry and blogging was on the list. The latter was bedeviled by lousy internet, but eventually we could check it off our list too. It was neat to be able to just “be”.
Oh, and we’d timed our Zero Day perfectly: it rained more or less the whole day. There was even some hail at one point. How nice that we could stay inside today.
Day 48: National Park Village to Oio Road
36 kilometres, 6h45min
The first 15 kilometres on the Fisher Track (also for MTB) were the nicest of the day. We hiked continuously downhill on a narrow gravel road and had good views to the wooded hills of the Erua Forest.
Afterwards the hills got bald and the sheep paddocks began. A few houses (one was a villa made of clay!), the gentle Retaruke River and the everlasting gravel road. Despite the surroundings, it got dull. The Tongariro Crossing was a roller coaster in comparison. The coming 3-days section from Wanganui to Palmerston North is mainly on roads, which already annoys me. Maybe we ditch this part?
Accordingly, there was plenty of time to dwell on thoughts and later to change to podcasts. To much pondering is never good for my mood.
Tomorrow there are another 17 kilometres on roads to Whakahoro.
Gravel road, a short tramping track, gravel, tarmac, gravel. To our left and right forests or paddocks. Hills as far as the eyes could reach.
The most exciting thing was when could get a short glimpse of Mt. Ruapehu, whose peak was covered behind clouds.
On such long roadwalks I usually develop aches and pains. It starts with a brief nip of the knee, then maybe a tension in the hip flexor, then the ankle. In the evening my thighs are stiff and my feet swollen. Just 17 kilometres tomorrow, then we’re going to canoe for five days.
I’m looking forward to the South Island, where we’ll walk on roads far less.
Day 49: Oio Road to Whakahoro
17 kilometres, 3h10min
A short day laid ahead of us. 17 kilometres to Whakahoro. We got over with it very quickly. My body started to complain already. It knows that I won’t walk too much in the next five days. Hopefully, the canoe tour is enough time for my body to recover.
After we’d settled on the DOC Campsite we spent the afternoon in the Blue Duck Café. Taylor and Jenny (Te Araroa hikers) joined us later. Two new TA faces! We’ll spend the first night on the canoe tour at the same campsite.
We had oddly much time, which we spent with reading. Tomorrow the time hs come: canoeing on the Whanganui River!
The 17 kilometres on the gravel road went by pretty quickly. And just a few cars drove past and required us to stop and turn away from the dust clouds they were causing. Still before lunch we’d arrived at the DOC camp in Whakahoro. But much more importantly: at the Blue Duck Café. After lunch we wanted to get a treat and were hoping for some comfortable chairs to read and write and pass the time. We were welcomed joyfully and offered some free drinks because we are Te Araroa hikers. What a nice welcome!
Three hours on a sofa, coffee, a muffin and a gingerbeer later we went back to our tent and joined Taylor (USA) and Jenny (NZ), who are going to start the river journey to Wanganui tomorrow too.
Day 50: Whakahoro to John Coull Campsite
37,5 kilometres, 5h35min (canoeing)
Why again did we decide to do the five days long canoe tour? If we don’t function as a team than it’s in a canoe. I never thought a canoe is comfortable. And after half a day (delayed start at 11.50 because of the unpunctuality of Yeti Tours) I can say that I’d rather walk the Tongario Crossing backwards than to paddle 4,5 days. Canoeing is awful especially if A I’m starting to get a cold since this morning and B the shoulder isn’t okay. This combination is very wicked. Additionally there is our team dynamic which makes our canoe a powder keg. Maybe it’s going to be better with more time and some meds.
We had a relaxed morning and I even got myself a hot chocolate at the café. At 9.30am we were waiting for the arrival of the tour operator with the canoes. More than an hour later he came, and so we started canoeing no sooner than just before noon.
But seriously, who had the idea that we would enjoy five days of canoeing? After one hour I started asking myself that already. Sure, the surroundings were wonderfully atmospheric and the Whangnui River was flowing gently. But soon it got monotonous. And uncomfortable. And tiring. And let me say that it is not particularly advantageous for a harmonious relationship.
Let’s see how we will handle it tomorrow.
Day 51: John Coull Campsite to Ngaporo Campsite
44,5 kilometres, 8h30min (canoeing)
Yes, today I was feeling a bit better. Eulogised be the science that brought us Paracetamol (Cordiflu or something like that) and Ibuprofen. Sadly they only alleviate symptoms. Our teamwork improved wondrously, too. Remaining was the paddling, my running nose, my shoulder and again my hips. And I thought canoeing would bring some recuperation. No, it’s even more straining than walking and oftentimes slower. Yes, indeed. The Whanganui River is more like a lake in some areas and we had to be careful to paddle in the wright direction. Additionally came the headwind, which slowed us down so immensely that I would have been faster crawling on my knees.
The only silver lining was and is the nature. Over aeons the river has dug a deep canyon. On both sides rock walls rise steeply to airy hights. And often the trees of the Whanganui Forest grow down on the waters edge. Everywhere the birds tweeted and small waterfalls purl into the brown soup of the Whanganui River. Really stunning!
44,5 kilometres and 8h30min just paddling. A long day. Tomorrow it’s 9 kilometres to Pipiriki. Then I’ll have to decide, if I feel fit enough for the following 2,5 days or if I’d rather hitchhike to Wanganui to get some bedrest.
I’m still not convinced that I want to paddle for another three days. Because the river is running rather low at the moment, the current was mostly hardly noticable. When then the headwind set in for more effect, I felt as if I was paddling through mud and still wouldn’t move a single centimetre.
It also rained now and then and when we had dinner there was thunder rumbling through the canyons. No, so far we haven’t had the best time on the Whanganui River.
Day 52: Ngaporo Campsite to Pipiriki (and further to Wanganui)
9,5 kilometres, 1h50min (canoeing)
My strength lasted until Pipiriki. After that I was done.
Today the coughing started and the prospect of a nice warm bed was tempting more than ever. We wanted to get done with the last 9km very quickly. But the meandering Whanganui didn’t want to flow. Instead the surface reflected the cliffs like quicksilver and we were forced to paddle hardly. The weather was rainier than the two days before. I was jolly glad, when I could leave the canoe and hobble around on firm ground.
It took a while until we reached Wanganui City. First we had to wait for the bus of Yeti Tours (1h 15min delay). Then we bombed down the gravel road with 100 km/h to Raetihi, so that some of the passengers could catch the bus to Wellington. And finally we raced down to Wanganui in 1h 30min. It was a great gesture from Yeti Tours and Gavin to take us with them in their private car. But the numerous bends tipped me over the edge. Bends + Car + Philippe = not good.
Freshly showerd and lying on a bed in a double room I felt tremendously better. We stay for three nights.
We’re in Wanganui. No, we didn’t engage the turbo-gear and speed-paddled all the way in a day. We moored at Pipiriki and informed our tour operator that we’d like to end our tour here. He had to get another group from there anyway so that wasn’t a problem. We also got a ride from them to Raetihi and from there to Wanganui. So easy can it be to give up. Giving up? Rather being consequent and listening to your body.
I quickly get into vindicate-mode and get a queasy conscience, especially when I’m talking to other hikers who point out on several occasions that they don’t skip or bypass any kilometre (the pure purists 😉). But why should we carry on with something that we obviously don’t enjoy, when our bodies go to the barricades and the way out is so painless? We’re going to continue our Te Araroa from Wanganui and who knows, maybe we’ll find some nice detours on the South Island (on foot!) to compensate our “missing” kilometres. 😉
PS from late at night: I’m not unused to sleeplessness and difficulties to fall asleep. That’s something that comes with a mind-focused person in a busy environment and plenty of stuff going on in one’s life (before I started travelling and reduced my daily stress level dramatically).
Since I’ve been on the trail, my mind switched to an even lower level. The main things in my mind are walking, eating, sleeping, repeat. By the time I cuddle into my sleeping bag at night it might be: where will I walk, what will I eat and where will I sleep tomorrow? But soon tiredness overcomes me and I fall into a dreamless sleep.
So how come that as soon as I’m in civilisation my mind starts rotating faster and faster and away from the basics of walking, eating, sleeping? I start planning days ahead, thinking about my chores (washing, shopping, gear maintenance, …), my family, my friends, my future, my life. Is it the sudden and inevitable injection of connecticity to the outside world and all the people I am close with (near or far)? Or is it the people I see going along with their lifes, working, shopping, being with their family and friends?
I don’t know. But it does make me anxious and sleepless again. Hence I’m writing this at 10.30pm, way past hikers midnight but still with a buzzing and steaming brain. It’s time to shut down now and to let go. Tomorrow is a new day and nothing will have been missed.
Day 53: Wanganui (Zero Day)
I think, today has been my first real Zero Day. In return Nadine had to do the laundry. 😉
Reading, writing, eating, lounging around, eating, reading, showering. My goal, to move as little as possible, was achieved. It wasn’t difficult at all to do so. The sun was out (as usual on a rest day), the birds chirped and the garden of the YHA was the perfect oasis to enjoy all that.
The YHA in Wanganui is the perfect place to unbend and recover. It’s comfortable, clean, quiet and relaxed. In the backyard we enjoyed the splendid weather, drank coffee and listened to the birds’ twittering, we drank coffee in the cool shade and washed and cared for our equipment.
With three nights this is the longest stay we’ve had in New Zealand up to know. It was exactly what we’ve needed.
Day 54: Wanganui (Zero Day)
It’s getting better with my health. Another zero day spent with sweet idleness. Reading and eating. The usual. I’m going to dream of the lactose free coconut-mango ice cream for a while. Tomorrow it’s walking time again. 3 days and 100km mainly on roads to Palmerston North. Yehaa…
Sleeping, eating, resupplying, eating, idling, eating, idling, sleeping. What a day! 😀
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