Posted by: Vallere | July 29, 2011

Tackling the Giant -or- How we almost became statistics

The second Sunday our family was here, we drove up River Road with the intention of seeing Ruapehu and maybe hiking one of the trails on it up to a waterfall. We went to church first thing that morning, came home and grabbed lunch, and then got on the road. The Doc’s driving was making everyone carsick, so they begged asked me to drive. River Road is incredibly curvy, and a good portion of it is one lane (including some bridges). Parts of it aren’t sealed. It’s a tough road to drive on with blind curves, a sheer cliff on one side that rocks could fall from at any moment, and a sheer drop to the river below on the other side. But all its danger and the stress of driving it are more than made up for by the amazing views:

There is one part of the drive where you are just going around and around, in and out of hills, for what seems like forever. And just when you think you’ll never get to the mountain, you come around and bend and BAM! there it is, just staring you in the face. It’s an awesome view, especially now with them all covered in ice. You could so clearly see Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro.

So, like I said, I was driving. And, in order to keep folks from puking (my MIL gets SUPER carsick) I was going pretty slow with all the curves. We ended up getting into Ohakune later than we anticipated, and drove up the mountain to the carpark beside the trail we wanted to go on. The hike was supposed to be pretty easy, with an hour and a half return. We figured we’d be cutting it close, but should definately get back before the sun was down. There was snow in patchy areas, and it was pretty chilly, but walking always warms you up, so we grabbed our coats, I put Ceirdwyn in the mei tai and we set off on the trail.

The first part of the trail was just beautiful, with amazing views of the mountain peak, and there were a couple of bridges across streams flowing down from the mountain.

About 20 or 25 minutes into the walk, FIL was really feeling winded. He’s got some health issues so we didn’t want to push him too hard. He found a bench to sit on, and said he would just wait for us to return. I hate he missed the rest of the view we got, but I don’t know that he would have made it without a ton of difficulty, so I hope the pictures will be good enough for him! There were some amazing, HUGE trees growing up the side of the mountain…

… but we quickly got up past the tree line into an area that was very tundra like. I could imgine that, if we were still in North America, I would see elk grazing.

We got closer and closer to the waterfall, but it was clear that the sun was already starting to go down. And my MIL was losing steam quickly. There were parts of the trail that SIL was just kinda pulling her along 😉

We finally got to a point where The Doc said, “We will walk 15 more minutes. Even if we aren’t to the falls yet, we are turning around or we won’t make it out before dark.”

The boys were troopers and they just trudged right along. We got to the end of the trail, and it was a long staircase down to the base of the falls. MIL didn’t think she could make it back up the stairs, so she got a little view of the falls from about halfway down. The Doc, SIL and I left the boys with her and ran down to see the falls. They were really pretty, but the stress of knowing we were losing light kind of overshadowed the enjoyment of them. We had about 2 minutes to look and take pictures, and then we had to start out.

We walked on at as fast a pace as everyone could handle, and with each step, the light got dimmer and dimmer. We made it back across the “tundra” walkway, and back into the treeline with another gorgeous, sunset view:

Darker and darker…we finally made it back to where FIL was waiting. He was quite cold by now as he had just been sitting. We resisted the urge to sit and rest ourselves, and kept walking. It was slow going. Some parts of the trail were getting icy, especially the bridges. Twilight is just a hard time to see anything, and there were a few trips and slips, but thankfully, no one was hurt. By the time we made it back to the first bridge, it was nearly completely dark. It didn’t help that there was no moon. We were holding hands to keep everyone on the trail because you couldn’t see anyone more than 5 feet in front of you. The Doc was pondering whether we should just sit down and stay put till morning, when SIL pulled out a pair of lighters and said, ” Nobody better ever give me grief about smoking again!”

Those little lights were just enough to see the remainder of the path and get us to our car safely. We climbed inside, blasted the heat, and said “never again!” to starting a hike that close to evening.

I can see it now…front page news…stupid American family heads out into the bush with small kids, no flashlights, and no supplies…*sigh*

So that’s the story of how we tackled Ruapehu and just barely escaped.

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Responses

  1. LOL

  2. Great story!! 😀 I’d say it was worth it as well.
    When we went to the NC mountains last year we did something similar in order to see Lynville Falls:
    It was nearly sunset, but none of us had seen the the falls (My father and I had been to the caverns with my family as a child). We were working our way down HYW 221 from Boone to Maggie Valley. It had been too late to see Grandfather Mountain and I was determined that we’d see something of nature that evening.
    We pulled off the road into the parking lot and all got out. I put Alora in the sling. The signed read about a 1 mile walk downhill. We set out at as quick a pace we could with small children. The farther we got the more concern I had about my dad being able to make it up the hill and if the girls would need us to carry them back. Michael’s biggest concern was the wild animals that come out at dusk!
    It was worth it. The falls were beautiful and calming. I hated that we could not take the rest of the path to see the largest drop, but it was late. After a few picutres, up the hill we went.
    Daddy was REALLY dragging halfway up. He was desperately trying to hide his pain. My heart was breaking for him. Michael kept hurrying us along getting more and more terrified of the possibility of wild animals. I started naming all the animals in the woods, and reminding everyone that they are probably used to people on that path, so were probably staying away.
    Michael and the girls were several paces ahead. Daddy was looking for some comic relief, so he stopped to pick up a large rock. He told me quietly to “watch this” and threw it up into the woods beside Michael.
    HA!!! Michael jumped and turned around in a flash while saying “What was that?!” He saw us laughing. What came from him was, “Gerald that was NOT funny!” over and over again.
    Needless to say we made it in one piece with the slightest bit of light to spare. Daddy and I were still laughing. To this day, Michael does not see the humour…though I think he’s coming around.


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