Snowing in Springtime
Woke warm and comfortable in Taurmanui, but the weather outside did not match our cozy state. We cooked EGGS! (yum!) with leftovers scrambled in, and then hit the road by 7:00 am. Thus far, hitching around New Zealand has almost been too easy- of course, until we really needed it. Our morning started with a 20 km highway road walk, that we were counting on hitching for both our legs and safety sake.. unfortunately, it started raining and we ended up walking ALL twenty km along the highway into Owhango. Here we began the 42 traverse, a section of the trail that is actually a four-wheel/motor bike track. It was raining all day, but at least the trail was easy enough to follow and well “metalled”. (that is the New Zealand word for “paved with lots of rocks”). We had to ford a few streams and this left us with wet boots and that only thing keeping us warm was our own body heat. This section of trail leads to a “poorly marked” i.e. NOT marked section of trail, that is a maze of winding ATV tracks. Luckily, we had our GPS and could navigate, but many hikers could find themselves miles off track at all of the unmarked junctions. We stumbled upon what looked like a homeless man (or woman’s) outdoor camping site, and even he/she dare not be out in this weather. So we, soaking wet, pitched our tent and thanks to some dry wood we’d collected earlier, made a warm dinner and passed out.
We woke to yet again rainy and cloudy skies. Putting on wet pants, socks and boots after a cold night’s sleep is possibly the hardest thing in the world. Yet, once we got moving everything except our hands seemed to warm up. We finished navigating the maze of the traverse and found ourselves dumped out on a vacant road. Today was the day we had planned the Tongariro crossing! Very exciting and picturesque tramp of which we had been told we simply shouldn’t miss. We still had another 12 km on the HIGHWAY to get to the start of the trail, so when the ONLY car on the road passed us, I stuck out my thumb and luckily!!! Ben and Kelly, a young British couple, picked us up! We were their first hitch hikers and Kelly took a selfie with us J They brought us right to the start of the crossing just as the sun began to peak out from behind the clouds! We were psyched, and despite the fact that ALL the tours for the day had been cancelled, we were going to attempt the traverse in the brightening weather. The smell of sulphur from this active volcano filled the air as we began our climb. About 6 km in, the sun ducked back away and rain fell on us yet again. We stocked in a hut for a snack and found three other hikers inside, they were putting on rain gear and turning around! We were devastated. We figured we’d eat and see what the weather did… instead of brightening, the rain turned to snow and a torrent of wind whirled outside. We decided (I, Kate decided) it was best to turn around. In billowing snow, we ran down the path from which we’d come and back to the base. Once down, we were freezing and asked one of our fellow deserters if he could give us a ride around the mountain to theWhakapapa Holiday park on the other side. He was from the states and agreed to take us! Warm showers, dinner and beds helped to warm our bodies, but we were saddened that we couldn’t make the pass, seeing as we had a boat reservation in two days that we needed to make. We plan on attempting the crossing at the end of our journey, time permitting.