Chateau - Oturere - Tongariro
16-18 October 1998
Having travelled up by different means, we all met up for the first time Saturday morning opposite the DoC Office. Formalities completed, we were on our way by 8.45am. It seemed rather ironic that after the lack of snow all winter, here we were starting a tramp and it was snowing!
The weather slowly improved as the day wore on. We took a break to look at the Lower Tama Lake. We reached the old Waihohonu Hut, looking very resplendent in its bright red coat of paint, at 1pm, and had a leisurely lunch on the sunny front lawn.
At 2pm we pressed on, stopping briefly to chat to the occupants of the new Waihohonu Hut. Not long after this we encountered a new section of track that doubles back on itself. It was a bit disconcerting that we seemed to be going the wrong way. Eventually we crossed the stream, and were now heading in the right direction. We arrived at our destination for the day, Oturere Hut, at 5pm. Total time for the day, 8hrs 12 minutes.
Sunday morning we started out at 8am, the party having grown by one. This was Katrin, who was travelling by herself and was invited to join us for safety and company over the more difficult day to come.
We got to the Emerald Lakes approximately 1.5 hours later. Had a good look around, then slowly made our way up to the top and Red Crater. It was very windy on the tops, so we elected not to attempt the Tongariro summit. Instead we battled our way against the tide of day trippers doing the Tongariro crossing. It was like walking the wrong way on Lambton Quay at lunch time. And some of their attire! Many looked like they should have stayed on Lambton Quay.
Once off the tops the wind abated. We reached Mangatepopo Hut for lunch at 12.45. We set off again at 1.30 for the final leg of the journey. Yet another change of landscape. A rather hot slog across the fortunately mostly dry scrub back to Whakapapa village. Arrived there at 4pm. A day of 7hrs 54 minutes and 54 seconds.
All in all, a very enjoyable trip. A trip of quite spectacular landscapes. Most untypical of our normal NZ tramping experience. And I do have to recommend the chocolate eclairs from Jonny's Bakers at Ohakune.
And the answer to our 4 trip questions: <OL> <LI>Why track re-routing? Combination of track beautification and bridge getting washed out. While it does add 30 mins or so to the trip, it was a nice piece of beech forest so we'll forgive them [note this diversion is not yet marked on the DoC Tongariro Northern Circuit guides].
<LI>Why shade cloth on tundra beside track? When they put the new track through, they had to move some plants. These have been covered with shade cloth to give them a bit of assistance in their new location. This will be taken off after a year.
<LI>Why did the DoC officer laugh at me when I told them it was going to be sunny on Sunday? No faith?!
<LI>What was the distance? 49km. </OL> Trip comprised: Andrew Kubisch (German precision timekeeping), Kerry Popplewell (mummified toes and hot water bottle), Alistair Betts (leader & scribe) and Katrin Mlakar (from Slovenia) for Sunday.