Day 53 (Fri 1 Jan – Happy New Year): Mangatepopo stream campsite to Tongariro National Park
Started at 8.15am, reached campsite 12.30pm, 11k
Pain in the head status: Woke in the night and in the morning with a nasty headache but it went off after breakfast and an aspirin. Was too befuddled to make much sense of what that headache was all about. It returned in the evening so I had an early night – even more so than usual.
Word of the day: Pernicious, destructive, ruinous
A later start today because we heard whio snorting and whistling on the stream beside us, and spent some time watching a whio pair bobbing about on the water and foraging at the stream’s edge; a special sighting, knowing how endangered these birds are.
It was also a short day so we took our time. We had the rest of the Waione Cokers track to complete, deeply rutted and gouged by pernicious quad bikes, but by morning tea time we popped out onto the road by the Hilary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, where we were briefly able to check the weather forecast, and rethink our plans for doing the Tongariro Crossing tomorrow, with thunderstorms expected in the afternoon. We also got stunning views of the mountains, with steam from the Ketetahi hot springs dwarfed by the clouds still chugging out from Te Maari craters that ejected the rocks that flattened Ketetahi Hut some years ago. No sign of Ruapehu erupting despite the risen alert level. We shall pass, before the monster emerges.
Back on an easy grassy 4WD track, this led us to the Porere Reboubt, an historical site from the last of the Maori wars, where the defences of the Maori leader Te Kooti were overcome by the British troops. The dugouts were still visible, looking very small and cramped for the hard pressed defenders.
We arrived early at the Tongariro Holiday Park and had a long talk with the owner about how poor the tourist business is here due to COVID compared with beachside campgrounds. Not enough kiwis exerting themselves to do the Crossing, all lying on the sand and splashing in the sea. She sorted out transport to the Mangatepopo end of the Crossing tomorrow morning but we have to find our own ride over to National Park; hoping there will be an end of day pick up shuttle at Ketetahi carpark to transport us on (no internet service to book).
Thankfully, I could buy ginger beer and a packet of chocolate thins at the holiday park to ease my hunger pains. You know it’s bad when a cute little quail scuttles across the track and you think, that would fit perfectly inside my lunch wrap.
Birdlife excesses: We’ve heard, even seen, dozens of long-tailed cuckoo screeching in the forest. This must be one of the cuckoo’s migratory primo destinations, like Bali for Australians.