We left Te Kuiti at a slow pace again as Frances’s ankles were no better. Maybe walking so hard and far with a pack on and new orthotics in her shoes was not a good idea. Maybe not enough rest after her original injury?
Out of town we went then along a bit of a basic track until we met with the towns local domain and surrounding track called the Mangaokewa Track. This was lovely for about 3km, the kind of track I could imagine kids running along and locals swimming in the good spots in the river we were following. It was slow going as Frances continued on in her strong, no nonsense way, even though she was in obvious pain.
Then we came onto the Mangaokewa River Track 15km 5-6 hours the sign said. Our Trail Angel had warned us that the day would be “at least 7 hours” stressing the at least, so we dug in deep to keep going.
The “track” was very basic and reasonably new, which meant not very obvious and in need of a lot of work. It was probably made specifically for the Te Araroa to join up Te Kuiti with the Timber Trail, which is a well established mountain bike trail.
So we followed the river for another 9 hours. Sometimes close to the bank and, where that was not possible we had to climb up banks and sidle along cliffs. The tracks that had been made were on a real slope, one foot or less wide, so it was very hard going for me and even worse for Frances. She didn’t complain, just hobbled on in agony. Tough lady!
This was a long hard day. It was ugly, we kept taking the same wrong routes that others had before us, needing to back track many times. There was prickly blackberry, gorse that tried to eat us alive, swampy ground that stunk and wanted to swallow us up. Then we would come out onto steep farm paddocks covered in long grass.
To top it off we had been going for about 9 hours solid when we had to go up a very steep farm hill. Half way up a tiny French girl passed us as we sat resting. We watched her climb right up the hill then sidle along under a cliff. We thought surely she’d made a mistake. But when we carried on we saw the damn orange triangles up there so knew we had to follow her. The track was non existant, the grass slippery, and a fall would gave resulted in a 100 meter tumble. Sore ankles would have been the least of our worries!
It was awful, especially for Frances, who must have been close to the end of her ability to keep her pain and frustration under control. I wouldn’t have been so good! For God’s sake, what are they trying to do to us?
We managed to survive that and then tried to take a shortcut onto a farm road that we thought was above us, but that didn’t help at all. We still needed to get back down to that bloody river.
We had about 4 km to go before we reached the camp spot on the edge of the farm. We had been going for over 10 hours. It was time to stop. We found a nice camp spot where we could easily get to a small creek that fed into the river and there was a log to sit on. (Always a bonus)
We were soon cheered up by a cup of hot soup and a bag of chippies that I had carefully carried all day. Bloody hell! It was good to sit and munch on those chippies. Then more paracetamol and ibuprofen for Frances and I.
Tents up and then a wash in the creek. Frances was busy washing her nether regions when Dad Dave and son Baxter came around the corner. Like all good hikers they averted their eyes and stood quietly while she finished her wash.
They were going to press on so I gave them a lollie each and they were on their way…still looking happy. We wondered if we would have enjoyed the day more if Frances wasn’t injured.
We were both asleep within minutes. It had not been our longest day but it had been the hardest by far.
Day 45. Rescued by a couple of farmers.
We started out wondering how Frances was going to manage to 40km walk we had ahead of us. We got lost in huge BlackBerry bushes and had to retrace our very slow and painful steps a couple of times. A nights rest had not helped Frances at all: if anything she was worse this morning. This was not a good start to the day at all.
We were really out in the back blocks and the roads around had very few people living on them so they were notoriously difficult for hitching.
However just about 2km along the farm track we heard the wonderfull sound of cattle being herded by dogs. Yay, that meant a farmer. Then we saw him coming over the hill on a quad bike with a trailer. All our dreams had come true. What more could we want?
So we stood still so not to scare the cattle, and watched the farmer and his team of 7 dogs move the cattle. He came over to see us and we began by giving him lots of compliments on his great team of dogs, his good looking cattle and the healthy grass on his fabulous farm. We stopped short of saying that he was also a very good looking young man.
Then we apologised for having to camp on his farm and explained our predicament. In true Kiwi fashion he tied up his dogs, let us throw our packs in his trailer, and had us climb on the back of his bike, where the dogs usually sit. We were as happy as pigs in mud.
He took us down the road for a couple of kms to a house where the another young farmer offered to take us through to Pureroe, where were were to start the Timber Trail.
We felt slightly guilty as passed Dave and Baxter and the young French girl but we did what we had to do. The Te Araroa throws up things out of left corner all the time. And as I always say, if everything goes to plan, there is no adventure to be had. (Maybe I wouldn’t be so blaze if it was me with the injuries)
So we had a quiet afternoon lazing in the sun, Frances with her leg strapped and raised.
We wondered how the 2 young kiwi girls we had camped with a few nights ago, were handling the awful track from yesterday. They had taken an extra rest day in Te Kuiti so would be a day behind us. We didn’t think they would handle it well at all as they only actually done 8 days of the trail for various reasons. They were not a fit nor happy unit and that day was very difficult, even without injuries. I saw a helicopter go overhead and hoped it wasn’t them.
The French girl arrived about 5.30 pm having hitched a ride for the last 7km. Dave and Baxter didnt get here till about 7.30pm so another 10+ hour day as they couldn’t get a hitch at all. We were again very lucky girls to have found our farmers.
For a few days now I had been thinking that it was not a good for Frances to keep going as her ankles were not getting any better and I was concerned that some long term damage was being done. Our days were getting slower and longer.
We had already booked bicycles to do the Timber Trail (2 days instead I’d 5) and then onto Taumauranui (1 instead of 2). When we got dropped off she had a test ride on someone’s bike and was really pleased to find that riding didn’t hurt.
However, after some quiet time to think, Frances discussed some other options with me. I aired my concerns and we came up with some alternative plans. Neither of us wants to have us split up as we are a good team and we both want to complete the trail. However we need to be practical and wise about it all. Sadly, Taumarunui will be the end for Frances at this stage. She can rest up again and see how she is when I am ready to cross over to the South Island in January
That night we we inundated with mosquitos. I had dozens inside my tent and the others had them in the lining. Buzz buzz all night, Unable to kill them all I pulled my sleeping bag liner up over my head, put on my eye mask and my earplugs in and went to sleep hoping that I didnt get bitten on my nose and mouth as they were the only parts showing. Everytime I got up to toilet more came in with me.
The next morning I spent an hour squashing the little biggers with a wad of toilet paper. Some were full if blood so must have had a feed on me. Luckily I don’t react so no itchy bites to deal with.