Whakapapa River to Bench above the Mud Tunnel
What a gorgeous campsite. Even though the group camped next to us played music and partied and bounced a rugby ball off of Ellie’s tent and generally behaved like inconsiderate dolts as the young are at times wont to do, the white roar of the river drowned out most of their clamor. We resist the urge to make a racket at 5:30 am in return, and head out onto the 42nd Traverse.
The Whakapapa River is beautiful, and I wish we were walking along it for more of the day.
The 42T is similar in grade to the Timber Trail, though the forest is not quite as stunning. It’s fantastic walking.
We start to get our first glimpses of the high volcanic area that I assume is the Tongiriro crossing. How exciting to be above treeline!
The trail funnels into a strange deep trench in the clay, which becomes deeper and deeper, and steeper and steeper. The top is open to the sun, and heat radiates through the trench. I can’t imagine how difficult/impossible this would be if the clay were wet. Actually, I can: I imagine it would be similar to being a mouse in a 5 gallon bucket. In the interims when we are briefly released from the trench, we push through tunnels of gorse. Gaaaahhhh! I start to overheat, become itchy, past due for a break. We crash downhill in a particularly steep trench and arrive at a creek, where I announce I am stopping. “Don’t you want to go a little farther?” coaxes Prana. Hell no. In desperation I strip down and splash into the biggest pool of the creek, which is only waist deep, but does the job. After cooling down and washing off the gorse prickles I feel better and we carry on up the trail, to be confronted by a large river around the next bend. Ok, so maybe Prana was right.
There a few more long clay trenches that are more committing.
We reach a fork in the trail; the mostly well maintained 42T carries on to the right, and the Waione-Cokers track splits off to the left. The TA of course goes left. The tread narrows down to a single track, and after an hour or so we start keeping an eye out for camp and the tiny water source listed before it. At the water, Mike No Evil has left a message for us:
Even if it’s a lie, it’s great to see. We come around the bend on the grassy meadow and have an early camp. What a pleasure! It’s even early enough and I’ve listened to enough music today that I feel inclined to break out the hula hoop. I feel self conscious hooping in front of a big group, but there’s space on the trail back around the bend. An early dinner and early bedtime is accompanied by a chorus of Tui birds.