I have had a week off the trail catching up with friends and family. They have all been following my blog so knew a lot about what I have been doing so it was my turn to find out about what has been happening while I have been off wandering.
As I have found when I have been away on previous travels, things at home don’t change that much compared to my “everyday being different” scenario.
My Dads 90th birthday was well celebrated with lots of family there to eat too much and talk too much. (Definite Webster traits). Note many more girls than boys in my family.
I felt okay going back for third helpings as I had lost 6kg since starting the trail. People kept saying how good I looked, which confirmed what I already knew, being that I was carrying too much weight and looked unhealthy before leaving. There is nothing like a damn long walk to get one fit and healthy and tanned.
I flew from Napier to Auckland and picked up my pack from an airport locker. Then I headed out with my sign to hitch a ride to Mercer.
I was no sooner out of the airport carpark when I was picked up by a young woman who cleaned the planes. She dropped me at Mercer where I just had enough to time to pitch my tent at Podges Place (local pub, motel, come TA camp ground, before Frances arrived.
Frances was dropped off by her parents with a working foot and a set of orthotics for her shoes. Hopefully they will do the trick and keep her going on this damn long walk.
There was about 7 other hikers at the pub to share a beer and stories with after an icecream at McDonalds. We like to share our spends around all the local businesses.
Day 36 Mercer to Rangiriri. 26 km 10 hours. Not much fun at all, long hot day
The trail started out over farmland through srub, bush and long grass. It was not well marked so we were continually going off track. When the markets (usually orange triangles) are not placed often enough we go the wrong way. As the days go on and more and more hikers go the wrong way we wear a track. So this then looks the correct way. So there was 8 or 9 of us out there going all over the show. 2km took us about 3 hours.
Then basically we walked alongside the mighty Waikato River which also has State Highway One running alongside it. Frances was limping and I feared the rest had not fixed her completely.
We walked along stopbanks on farms for about 12 km on a very hot day. We do appreciate the farmers allowing us to walk across their farms which saves us from playing chicken on the motorway. However walking on ground that has pugging from the cows walking in the mud is hard work now that the paddocks have dried out. The grass was long ready for hay making, sometimes waist high, also adding to the amount of concentration needed to keep upright and not twist an ankle.
The overseas hikers were suffering with hayfever and allergic rashes on their legs from the grasses so I shared out my anti histamine tablets. I am well desensitized to such things and have no reaction.
Eventually we came out onto a quiet country road and had a 8km road walk ahead of us in stifling heat.
It had been a very hot day and we were looking forward to a beer at Rangiriri. This is another little village that the motorway and life seems to have passed by. We have been through many places that were once thriving little communities and are now sad looking places with little more than a pub and a few derelict houses.
After about 4km we sat under a tree to drink water and eat some jet plane lollies (sweets). The only sugar snacks we have are at the end of the day, just to perk us up and get us to the end when we are lagging.
Along comes a nice local in his truck and he just can’t resist 2 gorgeous woman on the side of the road. In typical Kiwi fashion we jump on the back with our packs and get delivered to the pub. I offered to give the man a kiss but he said he was already in enough trouble with his wife this week.
Over a beer we decided to miss the next days walk to Huntly as it was another 25km of the same boring day we had just had. So on the advice if the local barmaid we headed to the end of the onramp to the motorway 100 meters way.
Our womanly charms worked again and we were soon on our way to Huntly with a nice young man who gave us some religious bedtime reading.
The Huntly Motorcamp was home for the night and I give it 20 stars. It was the nicest, cleanest and tidiest campground we have stayed in so far. An added bonus was a massage from a local guy. I am doing quite well with the blokes lately if I must say so myself.
Day 37 Huntly to Ngarawahia. 10 hour day through Hakarimata Scenic Reserve. 28 November 2019
Up and off by 7.30 we stared the day with a 6km road walk. Huntly doesn’t have a very good reputation but everyone who passed us greeted us warmly. There is a lot of graffiti around the train tracks but that seems to be a worldwide thing. Rail bridges seem to be good palettes for that kind of art. Or is it a sign of too many unemployed, or people with too much idle time on their hands?
Anyway off I went chasing Frances along the road for 6km . I take a while to get my body going in the mornings while she takes off rearing to go and with longer legs than mine. So she gets us moving and we always make good time on the roads. We even out over the day as I am faster on the more rugged and downhill tracks.
We entered the track through the Harkarimata Scenic Reserve and We both sweated like pigs for the next 7 hours (12km). It was hot and humid and we had a 400 meter climb straight up steps to start with followed by smaller ups and downs all day.
The bush was beautiful, the views magnificent, the track very rooty. But it was dry and not slippery so all in all a good, if not long day. We both decided that 4 hours of beautiful bush is actually enough in one day. The bush was nice but it just went on for too long. We were both over it and wishing we were back on one of those days where things changed every hour or so. Variety is good. This just went on an on!
The steps down seemed to go on forever as well. We passed many locals huffing and puffing up them. Our knees and feet were screaming for us to stop but at least we were no longer puffing and sweating. There were some good signs of encouragement to stop and photograph.
Our home for the night was at a Trail Angels in Ngarawahia. Originally from South Africa, this couple, and their daughter, are planning to do the South Island section of Te Araroa next season.
Gabrielle, their 10 yearold daughter met us at the gate and even gave us a piano recital before bed. An typical South African meal and lots of conversation made this a special place to stay.
Day 38 zero day in and around Hamilton, shopping and visiting Frances’s family and friends.
Frances has done the trail from Ngarawahia to Hamilton many times so we decided to skip that and get a ride into Hamilton with Regina our Trail Angel.
Some hikers are particular about walking every single step of the way but that is not for us. Sometimes we think it is okay to skip bits and believe that the extra kms we do finding ice-cream shoos and pubs makes up for it.
Many of the hikers have only 3 month visas so they skip the whole way from North Auckland to Hamilton. In the end everyone does their own hike. It is a journey that is personal to each individual and everyone’s story is different.
Today we passed the 750 km mark which us 25% or a quarter of the trail distance wise. I don’t think it will be a quarter of the effort as we have not yet been above the bush line. We ain’t seen nothing yet!!