Day 55: Whakapapaiti Valley Track and Mangahuia Track
Wednesday, January 3, 2024 10:12 pm
Location: National Park Village / YHA National Park (1174.7 km)

Continuing through Tongariro National Park, we made our way to the small town of National Park Village.

CareFree and I left the holiday park shortly before 8. The only hitch we (and another guest leaving at the same time) had was figuring out where to put our room key, since the office was closed and there was no key drop box. I suggested we put our keys in the “late arrivals” box, since this time, the holiday park staff are arriving later than us.

A short walk down the road brought us to a trailhead that took us west, away from the center of Tongariro National Park. We immediately went through a dark forest, and then passed briefly through a bog on a boardwalk. We had to step around a deer that was lying on the boardwalk, dead, with one of its eyes open. It was a little creepy.

Forest in Tongariro National Park
Forest in Tongariro National Park

After more trail through a forest — which wasn’t as nice as yesterday’s trail, but still very good by TA standards — the boardwalk wound through bog for a while, with views of Ruapehu in the distance.

Bog Below Ruapehu
Bog Below RuapehuA boardwalk snakes through a bog below Mount Ruapehu.

Still on boardwalk, we stopped for a break at a trail junction, and then veered off onto another trail through the bog.

Fortunately, it had been a couple of days since the last rain, so the trail was mostly dry, but the trail itself was a ditch cut through grasses, with a small lip above that was often just wide enough to walk on to keep our feet from getting wet in the standing puddles that hadn’t yet drained off.

We reached an old sign for the Hauhungatahi Wilderness, curious in that it claimed that because of the wilderness status, there were no marked tracks in the area. We immediately turned right, to the north, following the usual orange arrow markers that we’d been following for the last two months.

The bog wasn’t terrible to hike through, but it was somewhat slow, and we were glad we had good weather to do it with. When the bog ended and we entered forest, we were happy to have a change of scenery (and trail). That happiness was short-lived, though, when we nearly immediately reached the top of a cliff in the forest.

The trail took a sudden three-meter drop, down from a cliff via any of a number of heavily eroded pathways roughly about the width of a foot wide.

We were able to make our way down by hanging on to a tree, finding some (rather tenuous) footholds in the dirt, gradually lowering ourselves, and then making a controlled sliding descent for the last half meter or so.

It’s the sort of path that gets more and more eroded (and thus harder) with each hiker that passes through. It was dry for us, but going through in the rain would have been extremely challenging.

About 15 minute later, we reached a stream that was too deep to cross dry. We just charged through; swapping out of our boots would take a bit of time, and we weren’t confident we’d be able to make it through the rest of the forest without getting our feet wet or muddy. (We did. It was slow going.)

We were surprised with a few stretches of boardwalk, which helped our pace a bit, but the boardwalk wasn’t nearly enough, and had very curious omissions.

The forest canopy eventually shrunk down and stopped protecting us from the sun, but the trail tread dried out and became easier to hike.


Eventually, we reached a road, and had another hour-long road walk into National Park Village. We stopped at the Four Square at the south end of town for ice cream and soda, and checked in at the YHA hostel. Another room assignment snafu got us upgraded from a room with a queen bed to a “family” room, with a queen bed and three singles. It was more space than we needed, but it was a nice room.

At the Four Square, we noticed they had pack covers for sale, at (surprisingly) reasonable prices. At dinner, Susanna mentioned going to an outfitter further down the road, and that she saw they had pack covers. We decided to take a look, and I got a (bright yellow) pack cover to replace my lost one. The new one is much bigger, and has a draw string, so it should stay on much more snugly, and should also fit much better with my sleeping pad and crocs attached to the outside of my pack.

CareFree’s shoes continue to deteriorate faster than we would expect them to. Besides the sole rubbing off extremely quickly, both shoes have now developed cuts where the fabric attaches to the bottom of the shoe, and holes on the sides where her pinky toes are. She’s hoping to get them replaced in either Whanganui or Palmerston North (if they even survive that long), but at least the upcoming river journey will get us five days down the trail without much wear on her boots.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of familiar hikers here: we’re all heading to the same place: a trail angel’s tomorrow, and Whakahoro on Friday, to start our canoe trip down the Whanganui River on Saturday.