Since last time. My back felt a little better after a rest day, so I linked up with Daisy, Luke, Kevin and Renée and walked 32km. The next morning it was killer painful. After an hour of walking Kevin and I got lost in the woods and emerged by a road. We took this as a sign, three lifts and 1.5 hours later we were dropped off at the Sky Tower in central Auckland. Hitching 116km of trail is not a pure hike, but hitchhiking does include the word ‘hiking’ so were all good.
In Auckland I managed to find some free digs for a couple of nights and rest. With a visit to the Chiropractor and some delicious food cooked by my host Debra I was soon on my way South again. Kevin needed less rest so I was own my own for a couple of soggy days dodging traffic and hitching down busy roads to get out of Auckland.
In the forests of the Hunua Range i found Doug, Eleri and Pavel. We also met another Kevin, from the Outer Hebrides who is doing the cycling version of Te Araroa. We had a fun evening camping at Hanua Falls but heavy rain arrived over night and persisted all morning. We said goodbye to Kevin and headed back into the bush. Despite being much tougher than expected the next two days provided us with good views of Hunuas reservoirs and nice camping spots.
Arriving at Mercer we were initially disappointed by the flooded path and busy highway we had to walk along. The generosity of Sandra at Podge’s Place motel, offering free camping and showers was amazing. Pizza and beer was also great for moral. Fueled by good rest and good food the following day was my largest yet, walking 43km to Huntly. Partly driven by the speed of walking on the road, but mainly the thought of stopping any earlier to spend the afternoon hiding from the rain in our tents. Arriving in Huntly we gorged ourselves in the takeaway. A full size pizza a cheese burger and bag of crisps was still not enough to quench my appetite. In our bedraggled state we haggled down the price of a bunk at the holiday park.
After a leisurely start and large breakfast we headed for the Hakarimata mountains north of Hamilton. These passed easier than expected and we enjoyed a cruisy day through the forest and along the river bank. We stopped for an open bivi just short of Hamilton, leaving ourselves an easy mornings walk, giving our legs a rest but saving on the cost of hostels in the city centre.
With a half day off we shopped for supplies, I bought some new shoes and posted them a couple of 100km to where I estimate my current pair will fall apart. Food resupply was much more organised this time around. On the last stretch I massively underestimated the amount of food I required and had to stock up at an expensive petrol station. For this resupply health star ratings were treated like golf scores, the lower the better. The options with the highest calories always won. I also added more salty foods to stop cramping.
The climb up Pirongia (958m) was short but tough, my body never seemed to feel energised and the 800m ascent over 8km was a struggle. At the summit we stumbled upon Pavel who We had not seen for a couple of days. This must be the 4th time Pavel had disappeared only to randomly appear further down the trail.
We were all extremely grateful and excited to reach our first hut of the trip. The Pahautea Hut sits just off the summit of Pirongia and was recently re built. With 20 beds and amazing panoramic views this hut was palacial. We enjoyed a lazy afternoon playing charades and enjoying the view.
The following morning took us down the otherside. Although there was lots of mud, most of it was dry mud, good quality mud. We made quick work of the descent, doing our best race commentating on over takes, under takes and sketchy slipps. The afternoon was less exciting, mostly gravel road and a few km through pasture. We managed to squeeze our 6 tents onto a tiny verge next to the trail and helped our American friends celebrate Thanksgiving with a special dinner of noodles and peanut butter……
That night I felt my back seizing up again. Getting up for a pee in the middle of the night went terribly, unable to stand up after an agonisingly crawl out of my tent I fell down the bank onto the trail before crawling, on my hands and knees back up it and into my tent. In the morning I was unable to stand and packed up my tent with the grace of and arthritic Labrador. With 98% of my weight on my trekking poles I managed to get to my feet and hobble on at a snail’s pace. Luckily Kevin came to my rescue and offered to swap packs, although slightly heavier than mine his had a much better carrying system and I was able to walk at a decent pace again. Even when empty my pack has an annoying lump in the padding that digs into my lower back, like an angry lepricorn hanging off my neck and digging in his disgusting little knees. Over time I had become used to this and it wasn’t until the bag swap that we figured it could possibly be the cause of the problem. Arriving in Waitomo next to the glow worm caves, I again got out my thumb and hitched back to Hamilton.
So this post ends much the same as the last, with me sat in a hostel, with a sore back but feeling excited about getting fixed up and heading to the next adventure – the Tongariro Crossing and the Whanganui River