Around the Mountain Ruapehu – Day 3
This morning the weather gave us a window of opportunity to get off the mountain. The forecast was fine with lighter winds until around 11am, before more gales and thunder storms were due to set in. We took the chance and woke at 5.30am for a 6.30 start. After surprisingly decent sleep and a museli bar breakfast, we headed off across the Rangipo Desert towards the Waihohonu hut.
Rangipo hut to Waihohonu hut
We felt pretty good as we crossed the Rangipo Desert. The ups and downs didn’t seem so bad today, and the views across the barren landscape were stunning in the morning light. As the name suggests, the desert is so called because its harsh alpine climate, strong winds, poor soil and frequent snowfalls mean that not much can grow here.
The track was easy going and despite the ups and downs we covered the 13Km distance quickly. Highlights included a river crossing over a beautiful new bridge, and walking through a variety of sculpted landscapes.
We arrived at Waihohonu hut by 10am, made a hot drink and had something to eat.
This popular 28 bed hut is like a palace compared to most backcountry huts, and you need to book in advance if you want to stay here. We stayed for an hour and chatted to the DOC warden before heading off.
Waihohonu hut to Whakapapa Village
From here, we had been intending to head on past Oturere hut to camp for the night, before doing the Tongariro Crossing tomorrow (on the Tongariro Northern Circuit) but with the forecasted gales and storms, we headed straight back to Whakapapa Village via the Tama Lakes.
We took a short detour to the historic Waihohonu hut, which has an interesting and informative display and is definitely worth a visit.
The trail to Tama lakes was easy uphill all the way, for around 15.5Kms. The views of the Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe to our left and right were splendid.
As we got past the Lower Tama Lake it started to rain again and the wind got up. We could hear thunder in the distance. Luckily we were well protected against the elements with all our gear, but this section of trail is popular with tourists (being so close to Whakapapa) and we felt sorry for the families who’d been caught out by the rain.
I hiked the Tama Lakes a couple of months ago in glorious weather, but this time I couldn’t wait to get back to Whakapapa via the Taranaki falls track. The past few days hiking had definitely taken its toll on my unprepared body, and I was about ready to drop!
We got back into Whakapapa Village around 3pm, and sat in the sunshine as we took off all our wet gear. We had a little lie down in the van, then got ourselves together for a little treat… High tea at the Chateau Tongariro 🙂