Day 34. Waitomo – Mangaokewa River Track. 26km. Total 923km.
Today I wake up at least every hour and finally get up at 5.30am, taking my time to prepare and pack up inside the hostel. My stuff is somewhat dry, but outside its raining again. I wait for the rain to become just some dripping before hiking back the 1km from the hostel to the trail. It’s a short walk up the road to the entry point, farmland then bush. It’s raining again now and I am pretty much wet everywhere again. I decided to not wear my rain trousers but just my shorts as the pants are not waterproof anyway. I am now hiking on farmland again as the rain stops. What a relief, even though it is very cloudy. What I don’t understand though is why I have to hike up EVERY hill on the farmland just to go down again? Often I could have just followed a different path not hiking up and down… But you can’t see it usually where the trail will go.
I move through the Pehitawa forest with beautiful trees (Kahikatea according to my trail notes). Then more farmland and hills, but some very nice views finally so it’s worth going up!
Finally I reach Te Kuiti at 11.30am and stop at the New World supermarket for buying my resupply for the next 5-6 days plus my lunch for today (salad, tomatoes, cucumber!). Then eating and repackaging at a table outside before restarting the trail around 1pm.
The Mangaokewa Reserve Track is beautiful with the limestones, the bush and river.
It leads after 3km to a swingbridge and to the start of the Mangaokewa River Track. It’s 15km and I planned to go till a pine forest at the southern end before the road. Tomorrow it’s then just a short hike to the roads and then 38km on the road to a campaign place! It’s a nice track all the way along the river, some parts are an easy stroll in the grass, but often I have to climb up through bush and I fall twice, once sliding down and getting caught in a tree, with my heavy backpack it’s difficult to get up again. I soon realise that I will not make it as far as I thought today as I am fighting with the bush instead of hiking a lot of kilometers.
I see a few nice campsites but continue until I am at the perfect place at 5pm: a nice spot down at the river with a table, chairs, a fireplace… There is a 4wd track coming down slightly I guess it must belong to people living close by but I will be careful. I can set up my tent sell protected under trees and try to dry my gear in the sun that appears every now and then between the clouds. There was a stream just 2minutes away so I walk back to get water (the water of the big river doesn’t look too good, especially after all the rain it’s brown). I love the place and try to make a fire but without success. Maybe the wood is still too wet but more likely I have no clue how to start a fire!
Anyway, there are some more short showers so I am much better in my sleeping bag in my tent.
Day 35. Mangaokewa River Track – Southern end of Mangaokewa road. 33km. Total 956km.
It’s raining. I pack up my wet stuff in the rain and start hiking at 6am. The trail is pretty tough. You think about a nice walk along the river? Not in New Zealand, I should have known by now 😉 It’s a narrow trail through bush, farmland, swamp like grass, muddy sections, streams,… It’s pretty tough and pretty beautiful. I am just very afraid to slip, as the rain has made everything so slippery and difficult to walk on. And for some parts it’s just a very narrow trail, if I slip it’s either ending in the big river or some way down the bush. Did I mention it’s also raining and I am completely soaked again? Well, I am now even talking to the weather and telling it that if it stops to rain once I am on the road again so I can dry out that’s fine.
I enter another farmland section and have to hike up a steep hill, then I loose the trail before finding it again and now walking into a pine tree and eucalyptus forest. There is kind of a road now and it’s easier to walk, it evolves into a grass median and a few gates further I am on a gravel road. And guess what? It stopped raining now and I am taking a break to at least remove the wettest clothes and try to dry them. Thank you weather!
It’s now 35km on roads until the Pureora Reserve with a camping place. It’s 10am and I think that road walking will now be easy and I could make it today. So I start hiking in my sandals. Am stopped by two guys in their car who think I am lost, continue on the gravel road where there are almost no cars at all. I have lunch at 11.30am and put back my shoes on (still wet but I am getting blisters due to the gravel in the sandals). It’s again starting to rain now. My afternoon will be full of walking on this same road, between sunshine, clouds, rain and hail. Being cold. At 3pm I already know I cannot make it. I think about walking just the gravel road section but then hitchhiking for the first time the 8km on the highway. But just to be wet again at a camping place? Maybe I can sleep in a shed somewhere? There are so few houses though, no people to ask, just farmland and sheep everywhere. At 4pm I pass by some sheds and a guy waves hello and we talk a bit, then I am invited for tea. I am freezing cold and happy for a break in the shearing shed, just when it starts raining heavily again. The guy is the manager of this part of the farm (the overall farm has more than 20,000 sheep and I forgot how many cows) and explains that all the road walking I have done belongs to the same farm. If I want I can stay here, they have a couple of rooms for people who temporarily work at the farm. 3 guys are staying but there is one room left where we just put a lot of stuff on the side and then I can put my sleeping pad on the ground and be warmer and drier than outside. I can also take a hot shower and use their kitchen. Wonderful, thank you! The hot shower is fantastic after the cold day. I prepare some tea when the three workers arrive, they are cleaning the woolsheds everywhere in the North Island. There is a lot of demand as not many people do this tough job and they are booked three years in advance! I have to drink a Coke-rum with them and then I am invited for dinner, followed by a nice Australian movie, Red Dog, based on a true story. I go to bed at 10pm, it’s been a long time I didn’t sleep that late.
Day 36. Southern end of Mangaokewa road – Bog Inn hut. 29km. Total 985km.
The sun is back! I wake up to a clear sky and start hiking at 6.30am. The sunlight is beautiful combined with the green hills and sheep.
After a Kilometer I arrive at the highway which I need to follow for 8km. Somehow the time is passing by fast, luckily not too many cars. Then another 3km to the Pureora Base where the trail starts. I follow for quite a while the Timber Trail which is mainly a cycle track and extremely well maintained. A true pleasure to walk and enjoy the nature. They are draining the water so it’s pretty dry.
At an intersection I am hiking uphill to the Pureora summit, the trail is muddier and not accessible for bikes but still alright. It’s not really steep and so I easily reach the summit, just as it starts to hail – luckily just for 5 minutes. The view is incredible, 360 degree. I am seeing Lake Taupo, Mount Ngauruhoe, Mount Ruapehu. I am so excited to see real mountains! But – they are covered in snow and I will be there in a week or so and wanted to hike up to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe. I will have to check in the next town what is possible.
Unfortunately it’s too windy and cold to stay very long, so I continue downhill (much worse trail), follow again the Timber Trail, before moving on to the final stretch to the Bog Inn hut. The French couple I already met at the last hut is already there (they have been skipping sections and will now follow the Timber Trail instead of this one). I am there at 4pm or so, enjoying to be there early and doing some stretching. The hut is small with just 4 mattresses and exists since 1960. It’s very cute but I feel so cold despite the fire. I have to eat dinner early to get warm again. Then Robin and Chloé arrive, nice to have so many French people around. I am now feeling warmer but hate going outside to brush my teeth… How will it be up in the snowy mountains?
Day 37. Bog Inn hut – Waihaha hut. 18km. Total 1003km.
I am as always waking up at 6am, try to stay in bed a bit longer so I am not waking up everyone else. The four others are not going to continue this trail, they want to do the full Timber Trail instead as it’s nice and easy. As I start walking at 7am in the drizzle and fog through the mud again I wonder why I didn’t choose the easy way as well. The others are hitchhiking and only doing the parts they want to do, maybe enjoying themselves more than I do? But I cannot stop myself continuing this personal challenge as it was conceived, hiking or kayaking every bit of other. I imagined the trail to be a big struggle today with 8.30h indicated for 18km. But I am surprised to find it only partly muddy and the rest rather easy to hike. It’s taking me less than 3h to reach the summit of Mount Weraroa. No view, just clouds around me. So happy I made the Pureora summit yesterday with clear sky!
Then back down and rather easy hiking is following as it’s mainly flat. I am now pretty sure I will be faster than the time indicated and already think about continuing further, either reaching the next hut (but another 7h further) or simply camping somewhere. But then things get more difficult, up and down, then to a river which is surprisingly deep to cross (not even mentioned in the trail notes but knee high!). I decide to dry a little bit after the crossing and have my lunch now. Then it should not be far to the hut. Well, it’s now rather scrambling over fallen trees or skirting around, hiking up and down very, steep parts so I arrive at the hut at 2pm.
I can see smoke coming out of the chimney so someone is around. Three Kiwis are already there and the hut is all nice and warm while outside its now pouring. It’s decided. I will stay here and have a little rest. I wash my shoes, socks, gaitors and try to dry them close to the fire. I wash my hair and change into dry clothes. Then I have a tea, some muesli and a chat with the Kiwis before I need to plan the following sections. I would like to do a side trip after the Tongariro crossing to do the Round the Mountain Ruapehu tour. It’s 4-6 days in addition to the Team Araroa. Plus afterwards the Whanganui river journey is following so I will have to get organised for it as well in the next town. Can I do everything and still be in Wellington on December 20 latest? It will be very hard to make it on time but if the weather forecast is good I can’t miss the Ruapehu trail.
I enjoy so much being all warm and dry inside the hut. More people are coming. All Kiwis doing some weekend hiking. I didn’t even realise it’s the weekend, I am not keeping up anylonger with days. In the evening my Canadians are coming! They are five now as Jess’ boyfriend arrived, he is joining them for 2 months. We catch up on our little trail stories and have a nice evening in a very crowded nice and warm hut.