Saturday, June 22, 2019

Mountain Camping + Yesterday's Hike to Silica Rapids

We're warm and toasty in our caravan despite the cold mountain temperatures that ultimately deliver days of perfect clarity. With the winter solstice upon us, we take mornings slowly, enjoying coffee and internet updates before making a big first meal.

Dijon + rosemary crusted lambchops for the big walk

The caravan has double glazed windows and two heaters, so we're always warm. When we finally set out on a trek, the sun is higher in the sky, the air incredibly clean and sun-warmed.

The track first meanders through a beech forest, but I like these trees too.

A bubbling stream ahead, with orange-gold bottom, courtesy of the iron-oxide clay from upstream swamps.

Soon the landscape shifts dramatically.

Our path shifts to a boardwalk over a swampy area of tangle fern, red tussock, and wire rush.

Ponds next to the boardwalk are home to freshwater crayfish.

Now we're in a dense forest beside a stream tumbling over ancient lava flow. Walking uphill to Punaruku Falls, which provides big audio, though we only catch a glimpse of it and I never get a shot of the falls themselves because the trail veers off.

The trees give way to sun-loving alpine growth. In the distance are two of the three people we saw on this four-hour walk.

Finally we reach Silica Rapids. Where the stream emerges from the lava cliffs at the head of the valley the water is rich in silicate minerals and aluminum. As it moves, the water aerates, laying down deposits on the stream bed rocks.

An into-the-sun shot to show the landscape behind us.This place is a treasure.

Now the route climbs to a tussock covered lava flow.  It's easy to look down all the time to avoid a stumble, but well worth pausing to view the path ahead (although sometimes this is also exhausting).

The last portion of the loop track winds through sub-alpine shrubs to the Bruce Road--the only road in this part of the park--which leads back to Whakapapa Village. and our camspsite. But we have a way to go before we see the road.

First a deep deep staircase down to another bridged walkway. Art's glad to have his homemade walking stick with the sheep horn handle.

After three and a half hours of multi-terrain hiking I thought we'd seen it all until we came to these high steps going up, the path secured with small boulders. Gently, carefully...keep those ankles secure.

Whew, another bog.

Magnificent, with its own weather system.

The sun is fully out and we are warm. Also joyful.

Last leg before the road (see Art down there?). If you made it this far, thanks for walking with us and looking at too many volcano pictures.

After four hours, Art's fitbit says we walked 16,000 steps and 88 floors. This hike spanned 7 km /4.5 miles (most of them uphill I suspect).

 2.5 km to go

We proceeded to walk 500 yards past our campground and straight into the cafe at the Chateau for a bit of pate and a flat white.

Brilliant trek. We are knackered!

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