Wanganui to Wellington and beyond

Unfortunately from Wanganui to Wellington didn’t involve a lot so I’ve had to extend the blog and there goes my alliterative title – no W towns down here in the SE corner of the North Island. Wanganui provided us with a drive up the Whanganui River, the highlight being the little settlement of Jerusalem dominated by the convent and its church. We drove down the coast and then inland to a lovely river campsite with lots of cicadas willing to pose for the camera.

Wellington gave us a change of pace, catching a bus into town to visit Te Papa museum, Old St Paul’s church (beautifully made out of wood) and the Weta Cave to get a bit of insight into the digital and miniature effects used for The Hobbit and many other movies.

We then headed back to the countryside to use some of the DOC camps and see the bottom of the North Island. At Catchpool we took a circular walk to one of those big NZ rivers that are all gravel with a bit of water down the middle (quite different when they’re in flood as we saw in 2004). The bridge crossing on the side stream wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Japanese garden with its arch and quite different to the usual swingbridge which we have seen in many different standards. The next stop gave us a lighthouse up 254 steps, a NZ fur seal colony and some amazing gravel pillars. We also found a town where old bulldozers go for semi retirement. They are used for towing the boats up and down the beach.

We went to our 3rd DOC camp in the mountains and after admiring its very high swingbridge, it gave us some mountain weather – rain and hail and sheltering outside the toilets to cook tea!

This called for a retreat to a caravan park with their very useful kitchens to escape the inclement weather – more rain and strong winds. Castlepoint  has a very interesting coastline with a sheltered bay behind a rock reef that the lighthouse is built on, all dominated by the towering Castle Rock. We also know what to do if a tsunami warning sounds.

Tararua Ranges in the southern part of the North Island has only 80 clear days in a year (or 57 according to a fellow walker) and we managed to get one of them. Usually it looks like this or worse.

We had a perfect cloudless and more importantly windless day on top (as it usually blows a gale). Admittedly we did watch the weather forecast and wait for the right conditions. The first day saw us climbing up 900m through a beautiful gnarled and mossy forest in the fog which suited the trees perfectly. We reached Powell Hut which sits just above the tree line and offers a grand view down to the valley below. The cloud gradually lifted to afford great views.

We could see the lights below and the sunrise was awe inspiring.

We climbed to the top in the perfect conditions and could see the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean both from the top of Mt Holdsworth. All the mountains marched off along ridge lines all with their own routes and Ray would like to have explored them all (though when we met a Kiwi couple at 7pm that night who had walked for 10 1/2 hours along one of those ridge lines to get to the hut I was glad we weren’t). We could see our ridge line and set off with many stops for photos and chasing gorgeous red butterflies. We reached the point we had to  descend to the hut at lunchtime so took a side trip to the next peak along the ridge.

Jumbo Hut was smaller but still with a great view. The next day we had to descend to the stream – 750m in 2km and relentlessly steep or very steep right until 20m from Atiwhakatu hut. Our knees were glad to see it. The path out from there was a breeze apart from the two bridges that were out and we had to detour into the creek bed, the tiptoeing across the top of the land slip and the swaying wire swing bridge that one poor lady caught her finger on and lost her ring!


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