DISTANCE: 913-1154 kilomters
Well, I think I may have spoken to soon after the last update, as there was yet again another one of the north island’s infamous road walks. It wasn’t supposed to be that bad, especially that long, but due to logging, that section of trail was closed. That meant no scenic reserve or walk along a river. Instead, an additional 20 k’s of road-walking. So, I mustered up as much positivity I could and trudged on. 2k’s in, already bored and sweating from the late afternoon’s heat, I looked up to see a train pass by on a nearly bridge. That’s when an idea clicked in. Why not hike the rail? And surely, that’s what I did. Up a steep paddock I went, trying my best not to get shocked by an electic fence (failure), and on I went. What could have been a dismal day turned out to be an adventure. Along the rail there was a number of farm tracks following the otherwise direct route, and I eased along with them. I felt like a real hobo, but who was gonna see me anyway? The next day I pressed on, now off the rail and onto a forestry-like gravel road that rolled through pastureland. At one point, 10 k’s before my 40k day would come to an end, I was curiously scopping out a shortcut that would take me through pasture and keep me off the road. As I did, a fella pulled over and I was delighted that he wasn’t going to kick me off his land, and instead helped me find the most ideal route through it. In fact, he’s been chatting with the folks of the Te Araroa Trust, and some day in the future the trail will likely pass through. It’s a nice place,FYI.
At the end of the 40K day, I reconnected with the forest. The next morning, I headed up to the summit of Mt Pureora, which had nice veiws, though not as nice as they were a bit wet from a low-lying ceiling of clouds. It reminded me of Maine, in late September, when clouds come scrapping by keeping everything on the horizon a secret for another day. (That horizon, as my notes said, beheld sweeping vistas of the volcanoes of Tongariro Crossing.) Down from there I made my way to the Bog Inn Hut, which honestly was more bog that hut. Built in the 60’s you’d expect it, and it had a certain charm nonetheless. I opted to hike on though, as it was still early. I made it several more k’s to a great camp beside a creek.
The following morning I expereinced a bewildering and unfortunate setback. I had a later start than normal as the rain came in over night and the normal morning tweet and twatter from the birds didn’t sound my natural alarm. 8am was my departure, easily and hour or two later than normal. Now donning rain gear and a pack cover, I reached a trail junction at 8:45am and continued on, eager to cross over my 1,000th kilomter. The trail snaked its way through the forest, very reminiscent of the Appalachian Mountains or that of western Oregon, as it was wet and dripping with moss and lichen. I kept hiking, winding my way, occassionally detouring around a big ol’ fallen tree. At 11am, thinking I should be really close to the next hut, I came to a trail junction. THE SAME DAMN TRAIL JUNCTION I WAS AT HOURS EARLIER. A wave of emotion came on, first confusion, then disbelief, the anger, then hoplessness, then a few good old fashioned tears, which to be honest there weren’t as many as you’d think. Without much else to do, I turned back the way I came (south-facing) and walked on. I have to say, that despite the time setback, it was an experience I’m glad to have, well, experienced. What a deja-vu, “does-time-really-exists” feeling. I have no idea which particular fallen tree I had gone clear around the merry go round, but I made it past it the second time, drifting my way every deeper into the Huahungaroa Range. (Which if you say really fast sounds like “how hungry are you?” which I was and still am… My thru-hiker appetite is in full throttle and I feel my body shrinking everyday. Once I find a scale, I’ll see what I’ve lost. I’m guessing 10lbs. Anyway, It was 2pm when I reached the Waihaha Hut (it was laughing), and I was greeted by a beautiful hut with a big covered porch and space for 10. I had it all to myself, and after that morning I’d had, I decided to stay put and dry out my gear and help recollect my bearings. What a great time it was, just lounging and writing, reading and starring off into maps. I think the trail was trying to tell me, in one way or another, “Stop racing to your grave.” Enjoy this hike. Slow down. Laugh at all the pieces.
And sure enough, I found my spirit to be much higher. Then and now. I had a few stumbles the following day, and I just laughed them off. Plus, I had fallen into a decomposing and mossy log so it cushioned my fall. The route continued on, me in the forest with just the sound and stillness of nature. I do wish there were other thru’s nearby, but that doesn’t seem likely. From there the trail passed another exceptional hut, this one with a great view, but no swimming hole like the one I took the afternoon off at. It then walked out of the forest, followed a few old roads (more like 4X4 tracks) and then down on a backcountry road to the town of Taumaranui. As to wether I’ll stay the night is up in the air. I have some weather considerations and route logistics to work out as there is a bit of weather on the horizon and the much anticipated canoe trip down the Whanganui River may be out of the question as outfitters don’t rent to solos… I might just buy myself a dingy then and chuck it when I’m done. I just can’t see myself missing out on an opportunity like thru-boating a river for 3 days. I don’t care what it costs.