Tongariro Northern Circuit Day 3 and 4 (March 16th and 17th, 2017)

Phone Notes – Day 3 March 16:

Didnt sleep well at all. The wind, twisting and turning all night, trying to not breath in the fine sand while not breathing my carbon dioxide in the sleeping bag. It started getting light out and realized it was raining. Not just a vertical rain but angular rain due to the wind. It was almost like low clouds but the rain was heavier than just a dense fog.

It made packing up camp unpleasant because my tent is so small I can’t sit up straight. I will be upgrading my tent for sure.

The inside of my tent is quite gritty and little bit wet because I had to obviously take the rain fly off to fold up the tent. Grrr.

It’s still raining pretty hard and I have no desire to camp tonight. Wish I could set up,my mattress and sleeping bag on the floor in the hut so that at least it would be a dry night. Blahhhhhh….

Now just waiting for time to pass.

Daisy has been talking my ear off.  I just want to hike alone tomorrow.

Day 3 – March 16th

As mentioned at the end of the last blog post, it started raining sometime during the night. However, with the wind blowing sand against the tent, it’s hard to know exactly when the rain came. All that matters really is how challenging it is to pack up everything in your tent when the tent is about 1.75 times as wide as I am and you can’t sit up straight even at the tallest point of the tent. That means trying to pack up everything in your tent while basically in a mainly horizontal but semi-vertical (very hunched over) position. It’s not much fun.

Regardless, I got everything inside the tent packed into my pack and then moved my pack to the hut where it would stay dry while packing the tent. I was camping on sand and so it was really hard to have the tent pretty clean before folding it all up and putting it in the bag. The inside of my tent got a bit wet (obviously) since I had to take the rain fly off and fold that, take out the tent poles, and then get to the tent. I was not exciting by the thought of having to set this damp, sandy mess at the end of the long, cold, rainy day of hiking ahead of me. Finally packed up and breakfast eaten, I donned my rain gear (including rain pants) because the rain wasn’t supposed to stop.

Because it was raining and all the layers of clothing and the backpack straps, it was challenging to access my phone for pictures. So I don’t have any pictures from the landscape that we walked unfortunately. But I will try to describe it as well as possible and let you create a mental picture.

When Daisy and I first started hiking, it was still consisting of sharp rocks of various sizes (boulder-size down to sand) and some vegetation on the landscape. As we continued hiking though, the landscape changed to rolling hills with almost no vegetation, but all sand and smoothed pebbles and small rocks. You couldn’t see very far on account of the foggy/rainy atmosphere. The rain wasn’t falling directly vertical; it was more at a 45-degree angle without being extremely windy. It gave the landscape a bit of an eery, wet, foggy essence. I wasn’t very put off by the rain though and the two main reasons being that:

1) – I was prepared for the weather. I had been carrying my rain gear for these last 5 months (since October) and finally put them to their full use.

2) – Some of the best times that I will never forget were playing with my siblings down in the field behind our house. Guess the weather: cold, rainy, foggy, and probably windy. We would be down by the hedgerow pulling large branches out of the woods to build a teepee with. Then, once the teepee branches were in place, we would bring a large tarp down and try to wrap it around the teepee to create a shelter. By then, it would be almost, if not dark outside when mom would call us back up to the house. We would be soaking wet and cold but who cared about that. 😀  Good times.

At one point we reached the end of this barren rocky/sanding rolling landscape and came to a forested hill. We had to hike up, and up, and up, and up and at one point I was getting really tired. I just stopped in my tracks and said out loud “I am so sick of uphill!!” I could tell that regardless of my rain gear, the dampness had penetrated (via capillary action of my sleeves and pants) and were now damp. Because of the outside temperature (not warm) I knew we had to keep walking. If I stopped to rest my feet, I would have become very chilled and with the dampness, that just a recipe for disaster. That probably sounds dramatic; believe me… it wasn’t that bad at all. Before too long once I realized how damp I was, we were within eye-site of the next hut (Waihohonu Hut, Elevaton 1,120 meters).

Thankfully this was the biggest hut on the track.  The other two were pretty small and so would have been mayhem trying to dry out all the gear.  But this was definitely the best hut for all the people and gear that needed drying out.  

At this hut, the camp sites were not directly adjacent to the hut; they were down the hill a little ways (probably 100 meters or so). Daisy looked at me and said “Hut first?” Heck yea – I’m not setting up my tent in this miserable weather. We got into the hut, took off our soaking outer layer of rain gear, boots, and packs in the entry area, and went into the main room where there were two drying racks, several picnic tables, and some hikers already trying to dry their clothes next to a nice wood stove with a fire burning. I brought in my rain pants and jacket and hung them up. A while later, I brought in my boots and put them as close to the stove as possible. But then it was later in the evening and lots of people were already there trying to dry out all of their gear as well.

Just a view of the gray, wet, and miserable weather that was happening outside the relative dryness and coziness inside the hut.  

Because of nasty weather, there was nothing to do but stay inside, get dry, and stay warm. I should have brought my book with me but I didn’t; it was just one more thing to carry before I left. I regretted that decision basically every afternoon when I reached the hut with time to spare and nothing to do. So, I just rested, wrote phone notes, ate dinner (rice and baked beans again – nicely cooked and hot), rested some more, and then some folks sat at our picnic table with us and we started chatting.

Making new friends with other hikers… literally chatting the afternoon away.  

As you can see from the photo above, there were quite a few hikers in the hut. If you look closely, you can see the closer drying rack (near the ceiling on a pulley system) filled with clothes and gear. Around the fire, the amount of gear, footwear, clothing, and packs, just grew as the afternoon progressed to evening. Same with the second drying rack in the background on the left-hand side of the picture. The folks at our table; the two on the left side were a brother and sister doing just two-day hike from Whakapapa Village with an overnight at this hut. They were from Auckland; the sister lives in Brooklyn, NY, and the brother is a teacher in Auckland. The other two on the right-hand side of the table were a couple on holiday from Spain; the guy is an engineer and the girl just recently passed exams to be a doctor. It was really nice chatting with them and it definitely made the evening go faster than it was going before.

The rain stopped as the sun went down. I had no desire to get my stuff and set up camp out of the hut. Daisy and I decided to just sleep on the benches in the hut. Since we were “camping” we couldn’t just use the bunks in the hut. The prices per night are about $20 more for a bunk bed. People finally started going to bed between 9 and 10pm. I waited till most people had gone to their bunks before pulling out my air mattress and sleeping pad. I didn’t want it to be too obvious that I was going to sleep inside. I had already decided to get up before the sun and pack up. I wanted to be ready to hit the trail when the sun was coming up.

Day 4 – March 17th:

One camper was up and about before I was. They came into the main area in the dark, flicked the bright lights on and quickly, with an “oh crap” under their breath, tried to turn them off. Somehow they got one row of lights to turn off, but not the other. The lights are on a 30-minute timer so that very little unnecessary energy is wasted when no-one is around. That got me up and going. Packed up my stuff, ate breakfast, and before I left to hit the trail, I gently asked Daisy if she would mind if I walked alone today. She said no problem and that she was planning to do this multi-day hike on her own anyway. So, at about 7:30am, I was on the trail. The sunrise was beautiful.

The sunrise was beautiful… but it made getting a good picture of the hut slightly difficult.  

The trail signs said it would take almost six hours to hike from this hut to Whakapapa Village (where my scheduled shuttle would pick me up). The shuttle was going to pick me up at around 2:30 and since I was in no desire to rush the hike, I just got an early start to give myself plenty of time. Hiking on the trail, there were two mountain summits that were uniquely wrapped in clouds which I thought was pretty picturesque.

Summit wrapped in clouds.  

Another summit with wispy clouds by it.  

Just me, myself, and my shadow hiking this morning.  :-p 

The trail followed this pretty stream for a while.  

Daisy ended up catching up to me and we walked probably the last 5-6 kilometers together. My feet were pretty sore by the time we got to the visitor’s center. It turned out to be quite a beautiful day, thankfully. Regardless, I had my sweater and hat on. I was tired from the previous two nights of poor sleep and so needed the extra insulation.

Reached the end of the trail… time to take off the shoes, eat some food, and wait for the shuttle to whisk me back to Taupo.  

The shuttle ride back to Taupo felt like forever. It was a welcome sight and relief to arrive at my host’s house, connect to the internet, catch up on communications, and then unpack and shower for the first time in 4 days. 😀 I threw in a load of laundry, ate a delicious dinner, and then just sat down and rested. Man, that was a good night’s sleep in a warm and comfortable bed.

Only two more days in Taupo and then head to Auckland for my flight to Amsterdam.

One thought on “Tongariro Northern Circuit Day 3 and 4 (March 16th and 17th, 2017)

  1. it’s good to see you enjoyed the good weather and the bad….glad you didn’t let it spoil your plans. I loved the part about your childhood. I’m so glad you have happy memories!

    Liked by 1 person

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