Day 38. Waihaha hut – Ngakonui-Ongarue road. 36km. Total 1039km.
The night was pretty busy, it felt like everyone was at least twice at the loo. Anyway, I head out after waking up before everyone else is even getting up. The sun is back again! The trail to the next hut should take 7h for 11km so I am again prepared for the worst although hoping for the best this time. And it will be a beautiful hike, through bush, opening up on clearings along the river, many stream crossings (my well dried out socks!). Of course I also have to climb above fallen trees, hike up a steep ridge and walk through mud but it doesn’t matter. I am fine and enjoying it.
After just 4h I reach the Hauhungaroa hut and prepare myself hot tea and muesli as a second breakfast.
Getting out of the forest should take 2h for 7km, this time a realistic timing. I end on a 4wd track and not immediately on a road, at a stream I take a break anyway. My shoes are soaking from the last river crossings and I try to dry everything a little while having lunch.
I continue on sandals to dry the skin of my feet and get some relief for my blisters. I walk through gates up to a huge red gate that is well locked. I am at the right place, seems I have to climb up and over it! Finally not as difficult as it looked, but with backpack I am not as agile. Then the long road section really starts, but it’s a gravel road with almost no cars but those wonderful countryside, green hills, sheep, cows…. Plus it’s very easy to walk now although I have to put back on my shoes. I wonder where my Canadians are as I thought they would catch up.
Before 5pm I start looking for campsites but there are fences and farmland everywhere. Around 5.30pm I see a section where trees have been cut and I walk up to a house to ask if I could camp there. The girl says that people go there for firewood and I can certainly camp there, but 1.5km further a family let’s hikers stay on their paddock. That feels much safer so I continue. When I see people up a woolshed I ask again – and then trail magic is going to happen! Immediately they say yes, come over. I get into one of the pick ups as the house is about 2km further down the road (ups, is that cheating?). Casey invites me to stay here for the night. I get a drink as the others and we sit outside and talk and I get a share of a huge homemade muffin. So yummy! I am offered to not only take a shower but also have my clothes washed in their washing machine plus the dryer so they are all good later tonight. Plus I can actually sleep on a bed in the dining room and of course eat dinner with them. I am so impressed by this overwhelming natural hospitality. There are friends coming over, drinking, eating (the kids of some friends are cooking dinner can you imagine!). I get a Wi-Fi access to check on my family and friends and can charge my stuff. I must be dreaming, so much kindness towards me, a complete stranger. Thank you so much dear trail angels! I will try hard to give back as much hospitality to strangers once I am back in my own country. The night ends late in a very comfortable bed.
Day 39. Ngakonui-Ongarue road – 42 Traverse. 45km (incl. 9km hitchhiking due to unsafe hiking on a highway). Total 1084 km.
Even after sleeping late I am awake at 6am, just too lazy to get up. But it’s time, they are getting ready as well and I want to go much further today. After a quick breakfast and saying goodbye, I continue the road another 12km to the town Taumarunui.
As I have clean clothes and fully charged batteries there is no need to stay here. So when I arrive around 9.45am, I do my resupply in the supermarket, buy a new gas canister and talk to some Kiwis who approach me about the trail. I also eat some yoghurt and an apple, the problem is I bought again so much that I can hardly carry my backpack. But as I want to do the 4day side trip in addition to the regular trail I planned for 8 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 6 dinners (I will be in Whakapapa village once where there is a restaurant). Plus snacks. And chocolate.
So now off for more road, following highway 4 out of the town past a holiday Park and a gas station where I buy some ice-cream. I am offered a ride which I declined. But then the road walking is getting more difficult, with almost no shoulder to walk on.
I take a break in the shadow, it’s now really hot in the sun and my backpack so heavy I cannot carry it further. Then even more difficult road walking in bends uphill. A car didn’t see me and is getting so close, but no space for me to go anywhere further. That’s it, I am not going to continue walking here and being hit by a car for real. At a point where cars can actually stop for a viewpoint I try to stop it car for the next few kilometers to Owhango. I hate doing this but safety first. A car stops, two other French hikers are already inside. They want to go much further though, not doing the 42 Traverse. About 9km further (and no shoulder!) the kind driver stops for me in Owhango. I treat myself to another ice cream and try to convince myself I didn’t have another choice than hitchhiking (plus I will walk much more on my side trip!). Then I walk to the start of the 42 Traverse, a nice river and carpark. 4Wd and mountain bikes can take this trail as well so I expect a rather easy, road though quite hilly. When I see the altitude profile for the Traverse I get a bit scared. Looks like plenty of steep up and downhill parts with river crossings!
Let’s go anyway, it’s not that bad in the beginning although it’s very hot in the sun and I bought too much food, my pack is soooo heavy! After a while on a gravel road I get to a carpark, the trail is still pretty easy afterwards though. I had asked a guy on his quad about camping and he advised there would be plenty of spots after the carpark.i can’t really see any yet but want to continue a while anyway. I am catched up by two Canadian hikers! Nice to meet new people on the trail. I try to walk faster while they slow down so we can talk. After a first river crossing I fill up my bottles and now I can’t continue much further due to the increased weight so I stop at the first reasonable spot. The Canadiens want to continue but then come back after a few minutes to tell me there’s a nice clearing a few hundred metres further where they will be staying. I move my tent up to the clearing and we struggle to put the stakes in the gravel grass. It’s nice to cook dinner together and chat, we know so many people now that all three of us have seen at some points. They had breakfast with Robin and Chloé the French couple this morning for example. Like this you always know where the others are on the trail. I am tired and go to sleep early.