Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ruapehu Round-the-mountain Part 1

Sorry for being a bit absent from the blog lately. We were away for a week completing the Ruapehu Around-the-mountain track. As you may deduce from the name, the track loops around Mt Ruapehu, an active volcano in the centre of New Zealand's North Island. Ruapehu hasn't had any serious indigestion since 1996, but knowing what bubbles beneath does add a bit of excitement to the tramp.

I'm not sure what possessed us to do a six-day tramp after nothing more than day hikes all spring. Luckily we made it through without too much pain.

We began the walk at Whakapapa Village (there are a few places where you can access the track from various road-ends, so you can do part of the loop, or start in a different place.) Day one took us between Mt Ruapehu and the conical Mt Ngauruhoe (another active volcano). Clear, sunny skies gave us great views of both mountains all day.
Those same sunny skies were making us pretty hot and tired, so when we stopped for lunch G managed to rig up a bit of shade using a ground sheet and my hiking poles.
We spent the night at Waihohonu Hut, which is also on the "Tongariro Northern Circuit" Great Walk. Needless to say there were lots of people there, but there was enough room for all.
The second day of the walk led us past a clear spring called Ohinepango Springs. From there the landscape became more barren and we began to understand that we were tramping through a desert. Walking on rock, ash and sand was a bit hard on the feet, compared with the previous day's tussocks. At one point we had to cross through a valley where there have been several "lahar" (muddy volcanic floodwater) flows. These occur when the water from the crater lake near the summit hits a tipping point and overflows. The dramatic scenery these events have left behind is quite striking, but since there are warnings not to stop while crossing through I wasn't able to take any pictures.
That night at Rangipo Hut a family of four arrived at 9:30pm. Apparently they had left from Whakapapa Village that morning and the father had decided that rather than staying at an expensive Great Walks hut, they'd take a "short cut" cross-country directly to Rangipo. It started raining around midday, and we were happy to arrive soggy at 2pm or so. These poor kids had spent hour after hour in the rain, away from the track and any sign of other trampers, plodding on past sunset. They arrived on the brink of hypothermia. If you're thinking of sharing your love of the outdoors with your kids - this is NOT the way to do it! They must have thought they were being punished for something horrible. They were still tucked away in their sleeping bags when we left the next morning, but I assume they were fine after some food and rest.

Day three involved a lot of going up and down. The biggest of these was the Waihianoa Gorge. A very steep descent into the gorge leads to a swing bridge over the river. Going up the other side the track sidles more and is much less extreme.

About half an hour after leaving the gorge, we met someone coming the other direction. It was one of the guys who'd been at Rangipo with us the night before, with his wife. She had unfortunately forgotten her rain jacket at the hut - and he was going back for it! This meant that he'd be going up and down that gorge three times that day! Luckily he was very fit and experienced - a former Search and Rescue volunteer and mountaineer. That night there were a lot of women in the hut asking their partners "Would you have gone back for my rain jacket?" Just to make matters worse, the rain returned that afternoon so he had to do the last couple of hours in the rain.

I'll continue this with the final three days soon!

1 comment:

Casino Tips said...

It is remarkable, very useful phrase