Start: National Park (1,113km)
Finish: Bridge to Nowhere (1,191km)
Distance for the day: 78km
Cumulative distance: 1,191km
Big day. It was another case of the official paper/ mapped distance not reflecting the true distance due to a long road diversion (see earlier posts explaining why). We recon my actual distance for the day was more like 94km. Anyway, it was a great day, probably my best day of running yet.
|Meeting the local farmer in the remote Wakahoro Camp|
The misty overnight rain hung around for the first hour or two of running, but it made for pleasant running conditions – much cooler than anytime since I started the run. The route followed a long distance mountain bike route across a historic mountain route, and it was a real pleasure to running through somewhere so remote, yet with with fast underfoot conditions. After a short climb, the trail descended for a good hour, quickly losing the height we had been at in the Tongariro area. There started a long diversion of around 40km on winding gravel roads, to reach a dead end village called Whakahoro. James kindly followed me down there in the van – providing regular sustenance and company - and we were both pretty blown away by the remoteness and beauty of the location nestled at the junction of steeply sided forest valleys. The area has loads of history to it, and did used to have ‘vehicle’ links to adjoining valleys, but they have since become dilapidated and turned into tramping tracks instead of roads. The main source of income in this area is adventure tourism – cycling, walking etc – but in the height of the summer in the middle of the day, we were the only ones around except the young local farmer who was great to chat to. If this kind of place was in the UK or anywhere else in the world it would be heaving with outdoors enthusiasts. I wasn’t complaining though, it was special to have it all to ourselves.
I took the Kaiwhakauka track from Whakahoro which was one of the former vehicle routes, and has been maintained to a great standard by the Department for Conservation (DoC), including loads of the brilliant DoC-trademark suspension bridges across the tributary streams. The route was well graded, climbing steadily, following the deep gorge of the river of the same name as the track (actually, probably vice versa). After 16km it reached a pass where I hung a right, for the final 21km leg down the Mangapurua track to the Bridge to Nowhere. It was more of the same; lovely smooth tracks meandering through woodland, meadows and some dramatic ‘bluffs’ (cliffs/ rocky outcrops). The advice on the signs was not to linger on the bluffs, and you certainly wouldn’t want to with plenty of evidence of recent rock falls. By this point I was feeling pretty much ‘done’, and was starting to count down the kilometers to the day’s end, but I maintained good pace and reached the iconic Bridge to Nowhere about 8.45pm after running hard for over 12 hours. It was a special place, I wanted someone there to share it with me, but I settled for a few self-taken photos. The substantial bridge was built in the 1930’s when the government attempted to open the area up to farming, but the concept never took off. When you see the density of the forests to the steeply sided valleys and how remote the area is, it’s not really surprising.
|Planning the long section ahead from Whakahoro Camp|
|Leaving the comfort of the van for the long 37Km run to the Bridge to Nowhere|
|The sign says 13hrs to the river - Jez did it in 6hrs - faster than suggested for a mountain bike!|
From there it was a couple more kilometers to the Whanganui River itself, the point I begin my 120km down-river kayaking leg. The area is only accessible by foot, jet boat or kayak. Mark had taken the jet boat up earlier in the day, along with camping gear, kayaks and his incredible motivation and enthusiasm. It was great to see him after my epic run, and he was all ready to whisk me across the river in the kayaks to a DoC camping ground where we spent the night in preparation for the paddle. It was all carefully planned by Mark but had plenty of scope of hiccups, but the whole process went like clockwork. I like it when a plan comes together – well done Mark…..
|Wild, super green, forests - as far as the eye can see - Whanganui National Park|
|Bridge to Nowhere|
|Cliff faces, bluffs, deep forest-clad gorges. Track cut in to the mountainside. A special place to run.|
|The NZ Department of Conservation - and of their trademark suspension bridges. If you're going to bridge it - bridge it in style!|