The last few days have been very pleasant. Loads of trail, a couple of showers, a roof or two over my head and an afternoon spent with other long distance hikers.
I left the beach to climb into the mountains(perfect time as a storm was blowing in) and passed through farm pasture on a steep-as hillside. The trail dropped down into the bush, then back up through the bush, then down and back up. A sweet scramble up rocks and i came to a helicopter platform and a welcomed stop for a few moments. To my surprise there was other hikers there and they possessed the unmistakable look of thru-hikers. Lean, weathered and a curious and hopeful sort of look in their eyes. After 18 days, these were the second and third hikers I’d met (if it weren’t for all the town stops and beach walks and the flocks of people that attracts such luxuries, this hike would be more lonesome than the Continental Divide). Before we even introduced our names to one another were were talking gear, the two of them very curious as to how my pack looked so much smaller than theirs. “Do you have a tent?” “A stove?” “What clothes do you have?” Etc etc etc. i spilled out most of my pack’s contents and while showing them my system, i informed them that i did have 3 thru-hikes behind me and therefore, of course, have perfected my system much more than theirs. (My base weight is 11lbs, theirs 20lbs). Ouch.
After i loaded my pack up, we trotted along together. Abbey was from Canada, a few years younger than me and also on a working-holiday visa. She plans to hike the trail in six months, and therefore i enjoyed her company while it lasted because i knew it wouldn’t with such a difference in pace. Meanwhile, Albert is from Sweden and due to time constraints, he will skip to the south island and hike as far as he can before needing to return to work as a biologist. The two of them have been hiking together for a week and its quite possible i might bump back into them as i finally took the time to sit down for a bit and stay at a very welcoming home-stay, just outside of the town of Warkworth.
But before kicking my feet up, we hiked down from that helicopter platform and through the town of Matakana. The whole time it was pissing rain—i mean just pissing!—and by the time we got to town we were dripping wet, with pools of water forming below us in the lobby of the information center. After a bit of pizza(certainly no new york pizza), we continued our journey back to the forest. It was getting late however, and the forest wasn’t coming any closer. We walked up out of town, first on pavement, then a gravel road, and still past more houses. Then, Abbey decided to do something i would have never been able to do. She went up to a house (9pm), knocked on the door and asked if we could camp. It was still pissing rain and the wind made it hard to hear and before i knew it, the kind family invited us in, let us shower and the three of us slept in their extra bedroom, warm, dry and happy.
In the morning, i had breakfast with the dad—a heaping bowl of cereal and a cup of tea and then headed out to brave the elements. It was 7am, the other hikers still in bed. The storm had picked up and i found myself picking up many branches and ponga leaves along the route. It took five hours to reach the exit of the thick track, five hours of some awesome hiking. (They say it’ll take 7). The ground was laced with thick roots, but my feet glided over them with ease. Big Kauri trees lines the way, in addition to numerous other trees that i am still in the works of memorising. It was real enjoyable, with the sound of water and wind against the thick canopy overhead, a big change from the constant hum and saw of the cicadas that would otherwise be the day’s soundtrack.
By early afternoon i arrived at my destination. Some very kind folks offer hikers a place to stay(for a very reasonable fee). Ive showered, laundered (forgot about my socks so those might be considered a national security risk at this point), and stuffed my belly with good, wholesome food. Homemade lasagne last night, fresh greens from the garden and a few glasses of wine. Then for breaky, farm fresh fried eggs, bread, jam, granola and fresh milk from their goats. Spoiled.
Anyway, im ready to head back out. The weather is much more in my favor and my legs itchy to hike. Its funny, my calfs feel tight and the calluses on my feet feel like bricks of cement, heavy and tight. You would think a little time off would be good for the body, but its sometimes quite the opposite. (And i haven’t even taken time off really. I got here at 4pm yesterday and will be hiking by noon today).
Anyway, i will update loads of pictures when i get to Auckland. This little ipad doesnt have a way to plug my camera, so until then, you’ll just have to use your imagination. Its funny, it took me some 7-8 hours to get from Auckland to the far north via bus and hitch-hike. It’ll take me three weeks to walk it. What a difference, but the thing is, the allure of the thru-hike is that it takes that long. Time has finally slowed down and im not constantly asking, ” where is the time going.” Sure miles are accumulating, but time is passing by much more naturally. It feels good. It feels right.