Owhango to Tongariro
Well, so much for having a few easy days. It rained all day and there was no way we were going to stop and camp in this weather. We had no choice but to push on and get to the Tongariro Holiday park. The first 20kms were up the 42nd Traverse which is a 4wd track from Owhango through the Tongariro Forest park. It runs all the way out to SH47. We exited roughly half way and on to the Waione/Cokers track to follow the official trail. This comes out at the Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre. Before we got on to this track we had a quick stop for lunch but had to keep moving because it was too cold standing still. There was no escape from the rain. We crossed a stream and I put my sandals on so my boots didn’t get soaked. By the time we got to the Whakapapa river crossing 5kms later my boots were fully soaked anyway so I didn’t bother taking them off. The river was about 20m across and the water was flowing fairly quick due to the rain but clear enough to see the bottom and no floating debris. Jesse gave us a quick river crossing lesson and we formed a chain by linking arms through our packs and slowly waded across. The chain provides a lot more stability so if one person loses their footing the other two will take the weight easily. We navigated our way over avoiding deep spots and had no issues. I would not have been comfortable doing this alone so was very grateful to be with these guys. There was no turning back at this point and camping was not an option due to the weather. The main thing was that we got over the river before it got any deeper or faster otherwise we would have been in trouble. After the river it was another 5kms before we came out onto the road. The track was more like a stream and very overgrown. We waded through mud and puddles most of the way and up steep narrow channels cut out of the hills in the steeper parts. I wish I could have taken photos but my phone had to stay in my pack to keep dry. By the time we got out to the Hillary OPC we were really starting to feel the cold and had been soaking wet for several hours. It was about 5pm at this time. We were lucky there were a couple of guys at the centre who offered us a ride down the road to the holiday park. They could see we needed it. I took a moment to look at the memorial for the Mangatepopo canoyoning disaster which happened in 2008. Six students and a teacher from Elim college died when their group was swept away because of flash flooding upstream. I had been down the very same gorge with a group the day before the disaster so I remember it well. That section of the gorge has no alternative exit points and has not been used since.
We were hoping there would be a cabin for us at the holiday park and we got lucky. A small cabin with 3 single beds. The first thing to do was get warm. I had a very long hot shower before sorting out my wet pack which had soaked through into my food and some of my gear. After a feed I slept very well for a good nine hours.