Whakapapa Day walks – Tongariro National Park

A very light sprinkling of snow fell as we arrived at the WTMC lodge at Iwikau Village, Mount Ruapehu, on Friday night. And some of it was still apparent first thing in the morning, though disappearing rapidly once hit by the sun: a brilliantly clear start to a calm and sunny weekend.

Disappearing overnight snow

After breakfast we piled into the van. Our first stop was near Owhango, where Monique and Petr were hoping to do a loop to Ten Man Hut. [See Monique’s separate report of what they found, and didn’t find, in the way of tracks.]

The rest of the group returned to National Park and drove along the 4WD track to the start of the Tupapakurua Falls walk. The first part, to the Taranaki Lookout, is on a very easy track. The rest of the way to the Tupapakurua Falls viewpoint is a more typical, but easy, tramping track which undulates through pleasant bush. Our walk took 3-4 hours, including the extra section at the end which goes down to the base of the falls.

Track to the base of Tupapakurua Falls.
Tupapakurua Falls – pointing out a flowering dracophyllum strictum

Sarah, Karen, and I tackled this more challenging part, while the others relaxed over lunch and enjoyed the view. A sign notes that the track is no longer maintained (but the NZ Topo Map app shows the track running all the way to the base of the falls).

The route down begins with a somewhat precarious traverse across the slope, fortunately with a handy rope ‘handrail’, and this was sufficient to deter some of the others from continuing any further. The rest of it wasn’t too bad, if you’re used to typical tramping tracks. Altogether the extra section took an hour return. Those who did it enjoyed the adventure, and the waiting group heard a loud whoop announcing our arrival at the falls.

Tupapakurua Falls

On the way back to the van, we heard from Monique that they hadn’t been able to get to Ten Man Hut and would be ready to be picked up at 2pm from Owhango. After picking up some ice cream (for our pudding that evening), the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing at and around the lodge.

We took advantage of the lodge’s catering facilities and enjoyed a cheesy cauliflower and tuna bake with salad, followed by peach crumble and ice cream.

Dinner at the Lodge
Pudding time

After dinner we played a dice game called Farkle, ending with loud cheers when David pulled off a last minute big score to win the game.

Saturday sunset
After dinner games

Sunday’s weather was equally good. Petr was dropped off early at the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing to go as far as he could (he got to Blue Lake) and still get back by his arranged pickup time. During their ‘expedition’ on Saturday, our Chief Guide had assessed Petr’s fitness and capability as suitable for the solo trip.

Rory, Kat, Karen, and Matthew walked down to Whakapapa Village via the Round the Mountain, Whakapapaiti Valley, and Silica Rapids tracks, which took 4 hours. They found the river crossing downstream from Whakapapaiti Hut a particularly cold one.

Heading down to Whakapapa Village.
Seeking a crossing place

Meanwhile, the rest of us cleaned and tidied the lodge, and had a well deserved mid-morning break at Ma and Mel’s coffee cart at the village.

Sunday coffee stop
Tawhai Falls

After picking up Petr from the Mangatepopo Road end, we took a short detour to look at Tawhai Falls, before meeting up with the Whakapapa Village downhill group. There was a quick refueling at the National Park and then we headed back to Wellington, arriving at 6pm; a relaxing and fun weekend.

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