Te Araroa: change of plans in Taumarunui (from Ongarue to Taumarunui)
From the end of the Timber Trail, it was only another 25 kilometer to make our way back into civilization. Well, we walked through the small town of Ongarue, but we don’t count that as civilization. We left the shelter early Wednesday morning. With 31 degree Celsius, it turned out to be another rather warm day. We followed gravel and iron road along the main trunk railway line.
The heat was exhausting. We arrived just before lunch time in Taumarunui. As we are suffering from hiker hunger, we can eat non-stop. We therefore stopped at the first café we came across. After lunch, we continued our way through Taumarunui and stopped at the i-SITE to ask about the following sections.
From Taumarunui, the Te Araroa continues down south via the 42nd Traverse and the Tongariro Crossing towards the Mangapurua Landing on the Whanganui River. However, the 42nd Traverse is, just like the Timber Trail, suited for cycling. Not the most exciting trail to walk. That is why the The Araroa turns off the 42nd Traverse around midway to follow bush track. According to the Te Araroa Trust, this part of the trail has suffered weather damage and they recommend not to walk this section. Instead, they suggest to walk the entire 42nd Traverse, which is fine but not really interesting according to hikers who walked the entire 42nd Traverse. Second, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is, according to the official DOC information, best walked from south to north. Yet, the official route of the Te Araroa walks the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from north to south. Third, the Whanganui River is (just like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing), one of the Great Walks. This Great Walk starts in Taumarunui. However, if you follow the official route of the Te Araroa, you will start the river section at the Mangapurua Landing. Nobody seems to understand why this is, because there is nothing at the Mangapurua Landing. Canoes have to be brought there by boat making rental more expensive. Fourth, a lot of people stop their canoe adventure in Pipiriki. When walking the Te Araroa, one has still to continue another 62 kilometer down the river, when stopping in Pipiriki, this involves a lot of road walking.
For these reasons, we decided to change the Te Araroa. We will take the bus from Taumarunui to National Park (a town close to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing). From there, we can walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from south to north, just like the DOC recommends. Upon completion of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, we will take the bus back to Taumarunui, where we will start our canoe adventure on the Whanganui River the following day. We decided to go on a 7 to 8 day adventure, meaning we will paddle all the way to Whanganui City.
We will therefore skip some parts of the official Te Araroa. However, we think that the route we are now taking, is much better. And it still provides us a continuous north to south connection.