Sunday, January 14, 2018

Snapshots: Whanganui National Park

Today, a jet boat brought us back to a world with Internet and roads.

Three days earlier I maneuvered our rental car along a narrow, winding road, avoiding recent rockfalls. At Pipiriki, New Zealand, a jet boat came to take us up the Whanganui River, through a vertiginous gorge, to the Bridge to Nowhere Lodge.
Thursday January 11
Drive to Pipiriki.
Whanganui National Park
3:00p Boat pickup.
Friday January 12
Saturday January 13
Sunday January 14
9:00a. Boat to Pipiriki.
Drive to PMR, Palmerston North Airport.
Return car.
d.  PMR 5:20p JQ386
a.  AKL 6:25p
Bus to downtown Auckland.
The lodge is set in the most remote section of the Whanganui River Valley on farmland, with no connecting roads. All transportation seems to be via the river.
Typically, people arrive by canoe on a multi-day journey. They pitch their tents in the campground down the hill and come up to the lodge for beer.
View from our room.
We stayed in the eight-room lodge where we enjoyed from-scratch dinners and a real bed. Two evenings it was just Dwight and me at the big dining table. Another evening we were joined by a 20-something New Ager and her father from southern California.

Our main activities were hiking and reading; I finished two novels.

From the veranda, we watched a parade of animals stopping by. They came in groups: calves then sheep looking for grass, ducks excited about some new puddles.
The manager gave us verbal directions for two loop trails that would nicely satisfy our hiking needs over two days.

Each day we walked across farmland, past cattle, sheep, chickens, ducks, emu, geese, honey bees, goats, deer, and horses towards a trail that would take us high above the valley. We reckon we were the only people hiking the trails.

On our first day of hiking, a log in a mountain hut showed only one visitor this year.  (Our track, GPX format.)
In the distance, Mount Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park.
100 years ago, the government decided this isolated, hilly area could be turned into farmland for returning World War I veterans.

The area was settled, and there was a community in the 1920's, including a one-room schoolhouse.

By the 1930's remoteness and poor soil made farming increasingly uneconomic. Settlers were abandoning their farms.

A concrete bridge replaced a rickety wooden bridge in 1936, but most of the settlers had abandoned the area beyond the bridge. Quickly, the road fell into disrepair and returned to bush. By 1942, all settlers had left the valley.

Lodge staff offered to set up a river trip to a short trail that leads to the bridge. We gently declined.

On the second day, rather than look at an ill-conceived bridge, we hiked another loop: up to, then along, the top of the valley, then back down through farmland. (Our track, GPX format.)
Later that day, a storm came through, but we were safely back at the lodge.
On the third day, a jet boat took us back to Pipiriki and the twisty road beyond.
Bridge to Nowhere Lodge, Whanganui National Park.

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