Day 57 – Taumarunui to Owhango

Date: 21 November
Trail covered: 27.9km (kms 1033.1 to 1061.0)
Weather: beautiful

It is amazing how much different you feel after a reset – when you get to have a proper  rest, and everything gets washed and dried, you sleep well in a bed, and then when you start out again, you almost feel like you’re starting over again. It’s almost as if the rainmageddon of Day 54 never happened. The rainpocalypse. The rainnihilation. The rainatastrophe. You know what I mean. The wet stuff that falls from the sky and makes you wonder what in God’s name you’re doing outside in such evil weather.

None of that today. There isn’t a cloud in the sky this morning.


Breakfast first. I walked down to Izzy’s Cafe, which is the same place as the Thai restaurant from two days ago. Cafe by day, Thai by night. Although they should stick to Thai. I got bacon and eggs and coffee. The eggs were done well, but the white toast was more butter than toast, the bacon was cheap bits instead of the good stuff, and the coffee tasted like rainwater.

Feeling totally unsatisfied I went to the bakery on the way back. As I got there, this vehicle pulled up and the driver also went to the bakery.

I lived in a semi-rural town for half my life and never did I see a farm vehicle of this size simply pull up outside the shop so the driver could get a pie. How Kiwi is that.

Back at the motel I packed up all my stuff, and then I realised I didn’t keep my socks out… and where were they? Right at the bottom of the pack, of course. So everything comes out of the pack. And I get my socks out, then it’s all packed up again. And then I realise I left my cheese in the fridge. Dagnabbit. Everything gets unpacked again.

I also spent a little bit of the morning stressing that my cans of Jack Daniels and Cola that I put into the waterproof barrels at the canoe hire yesterday will be making the other things mouldy as they were slightly wet. Oh well, at least most other things inside the barrel are sealed if that happens.

Met Ethan, Alex and Peter at McDonald’s. I didn’t get anything, I thought about it, but they were clearly very understaffed today. Here is Ethan waiting over 15 minutes just for one hot chocolate.

He’s got more patience than I’d have…

Ethan and Alex had to go to the post office to post their “bounce box” forward. A bounce box is a box that overseas hikers use that contains all your stuff that you brought to New Zealand and aren’t taking on the trail. It could also be used by anyone to buy multiple pairs of shoes or other things in advance and post them to various points ahead of time. So while they did that, Peter and I went to BP next door, as he needed some new sunglasses.

Peter’s new sunnies. The lenses looked a lot more orange in real life.

We walked down to the post office to meet the others and on the way Charlie turned up. He said this is the last day he will be hitching because his pain has mostly gone away, but also there aren’t any more road sections for a while after today. He was all ready with his hitchhiking sign.

Name me one person who doesn’t want to go to Owhango?

Inside the post office there was a bit of a dilemma. NZ Post have a thing called Poste Restante where you can send things to a post office and they’ll hold it for you. Apparently in the last two days, Whanganui and Palmerston North stopped providing this service. And Wellington is too far for the box to go. So some frantic last-minute calls and Ethan has arranged to send the box to the Whanganui Top 10 Holiday Park which is the terminus of the river journey. Crisis averted.

Alex writing the new address on the bounce box

There was one last thing to do before setting out. I’ve done the safety briefing for the Whanganui River but not the safety briefing for the Tongariro Crossing. Luckily I passed that with flying colours.

It was tough, but I managed it.

Just kidding. That was just me messing around in the kids playground across the road while waiting for the others to hurry the hell up. Charlie had started hitching 15 minutes ago. I bet he is in Owhango already and we haven’t even left Taumarunui yet.

Taumarunui roadside art

On the way out of town we got our first glimpse of the Whanganui River that we would be canoeing on from Tuesday.

River level sure is low at this point

Doesn’t look like we need to worry about it being flooded any time soon, although a lot can change in five days.

Here’s my 11am picture, these houses on the outskirts of Taumarunui:

It’s 11am, time to take a photo and fumble around trying to silence my phone alarm

We passed this on the road. Someone said that this was pure Mario Kart.

Do you see what they mean?

Suddenly I had a craving for a G&T Brownie, despite that being an extremely weird combination.

Mmmmm… G&T Brownie *Homer Simpson drool sound*

We also passed Taumarunui Canoe Hire after a few kilometers. This is the place we were driven to yesterday for the safety briefing and to sort the paperwork.

Hopefully this is the last time I have to type the word Taumarunui.

A bit further on I walked around one corner and said loudly “look at that!!!!!”

Mt Ruapehu on the right with all the snow, Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom) in the middle and Mt Tongariro is the sad little hill on the left

I’ve seen these mountains many times before but not recently. I got a real shock seeing them because I wasn’t expecting it yet. The Americans stopped to take a bunch of pictures. Peter was well ahead at this point but he can’t have missed them. Of course the photo here doesn’t do them justice. They’re so big and impressive.

We passed this and tried to work out if we were somehow back in Rangiriri. And also we tried to work out exactly what type of animals this place is selling.

Is it a bull? A sheep? Or just a real ugly dog?

Ethan didn’t like getting too close to this guy:

They say ostrich, I say emu, what’s the difference? I don’t know!

And we saw our last glimpse of the Whanganui River until we launch the canoes onto it.

Bye river, I won’t miss you

A bit more cotton on the road…

I think it’s cotton anyway…

And the road turned to a gravel road.

Not bad scenery

I fell behind as I needed to pee and have a muesli bar. The Americans aren’t stopping for lunch today, which is odd.

Oooh look three people now! Is one of them Peter?

I tried to catch up and did eventually manage it, although Alex really was Speedy Gonzales today and none of the rest of us could keep up with him. Ethan and Peter and I did have a quick lunch on the side of the road.

I was looking forward to my Rocky Road Bites I bought but when I opened them not only had they partially melted already but they were dark chocolate. Eww. I’ll eat dark chocolate if I have to but definitely not my first choice.

So I got out my protein bar, and that was dark chocolate too! Grrrr. I’ve got to start reading labels. And Peter then pulled out his Green & Blacks branded 85% cocoa extremely dark chocolate. Apparently some people do like it.

Continuing on… about 9km to go now. Passed a bull that was big and scary:

And this fence that was useless:

And this ground that had fallen away:

It wasn’t until near the end of the day that we got to see the mountains again. And we figured what a great view this house must have:

The road walking was getting a bit old by this point.

It goes on and on and on

My pack wasn’t hurting my back too much today which was a surprise, especially after buying five days worth of food. I thought I needed to buy that much food because I thought there was no more real shop between here and the river… although I later learned that the town of National Park has a Four Square supermarket. Oops. I don’t remember that being there when I drove through last.

Here is a sign we passed. Whakahoro is 43km away and is where we launch canoes from but it takes five days to get there because Te Araroa takes such a ridiculous detour so it can include the Tongariro Crossing. But I’m glad it does, the crossing is probably the bit I’m looking forward to seeing the most, other than the North Island finish line and Bluff of course!

Which of these obscure places would you pick?

We arrived at Owhango and saw quickly the Owhango Hotel. Oh how I’d love a beer.

Everyone outside the Owhango Hotel

Charlie had already been in town six hours because he hitched, and said that the hotel only opens on Fridays. Well doesn’t that just rip your nightie. No beer for me. Okay fine, Owhango I know has a cafe, because I’ve driven through here before and also Charlie said he spent most of the day there. But it’s 4pm… is there any chance it will be open? The others continued on to the campsite but I left them and went to see.

Of course it’s not open. What kind of stupid, ridiculous question is that?

Since it was closed I went across the road and took a photo with this sign.

Latitude 39 Degrees South

This means the GPS should be reading S39° 00.000 however my GPS was reading S38° 59.775. In other words, about 200 or 300 meters north of where it thinks the actual line is. Weird. Why put a sign like that in if it’s not accurate.

While I was contemplating this, a hiker called Ellen walked past, coming south on the main road from Taumarunui. Hmmm, she sure looks like a TA hiker, but I’ve never seen her before. She said she walks sections of the TA but she’s not strict about the route. She is doing the 42 Traverse tomorrow like we are but it will take her two days whereas we are doing it in one. And then she will do a much longer version of the Tongariro Crossing which includes something called the Northern Circuit. Apparently this takes quite a few days.

By coincidence she is staying at the hotel, which was supposed to be closed. But we walked together around the back of the hotel and found the owner. He let us inside and I could buy a beer after all. Freaken A.

That selfie definitely did not go well.

After that I continued on to the campsite.

Nice final road to get there

Unsurprisingly, everyone else had already set up. No rush for me though, it was only 5:30 so still three more hours of daylight. Excellent.

Immediately after setting up

It’s a nice spot by the Whakapapa River.

The trail continues over the bridge tomorrow and onto the 42 Traverse.

A little something to get us excited about tomorrow

After a dinner we played some cards. I was Ethan’s partner in two games of Euchre against Charlie and Peter. We absolutely annihilated them both games. I think we may have been a but lucky with the cards though. Speaking of luck, look at this:

And this:

That’s phenomenal. Talk about lucky. Surely a forecast like this can’t be completely wrong.

Everyone else was in bed by 8.15. Apparently people are sore and tired from the shining sun all day. Yet I feel excellent, I’m not tired at all and still full of energy. Given that I’m at least 10 years older than all the rest of the members of the group, I have to say I feel pretty good about that.

Although Peter always manages to fit in some exercise before bed.

I went for a walk across the bridge to see the view from the other side.

Es nice

And managed to type up today’s blog post since everyone else went to bed so early.

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

7 thoughts on “Day 57 – Taumarunui to Owhango

  • What a cracker of a day to start this section .. esp with great weather and a surprise opp to have a beer. Over 1000 kms now. Wow. Talking of treats.. great to read of kindness shown to the hikers, like the farmer who bought you all beers. Enjoying your blog a lot. All the best for the T. crossing and kayaking. The river map made no sense to me….but downstream is good! And enjoy not sitting at a desk at work!

  • The Northern circuit does a big loop around tongariro and ngaruahoe, with huts to stay in along the way. Some people do it in 4 days but it can be done comfortably in two if you’re fit enough. But that’s not what you’re there for.

    I’ve done the tongariro crossing from the direction you are going, from the ketetahi carpark. Depending on what time you will be there, you probably won’t encounter anybody until you get to the top. But then there will be a constant stream of people. Have fun going down the stairs 😉. There are also a couple of chemical toilets along the way as well, just in case.

    • There was a lot of people at the summit but then the walk down was actually quite quiet! Maybe I took too long going up!

  • Is that a pink rubbish bag I can see? If so, I’m super jealous of Taumarunui’s rubbish bags.

    Also love the Mario Kart pic 😂

  • Owhango is an old forestry town. When the mill closed in the 1980s the company sold a lot of rundown workers cottages at a cheap price for holiday homes. So it’s busy during the ski season or Xmas.
    On the walk down to the river, there is a walk past a nice Lagoon through original forest. There are some glow worms on banks beside the walk.
    The river is the Whakapapa, which comes off the ski field. The Traverse 42 walk is the regenerating forest which was milled.

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