Te Araroa day 7 – Mangamuka and road walking.

December 9th 2016
Makene Road – Waikoropupu stream
13 miles
Total distance: 109.3 miles

I was woken up at 5:20am by my alarm, I tried to move my body and I felt like I had been 5 rounds with Frank Bruno and then been knocked out. I don’t think there was a single bit of me that didn’t hurt. My legs and feet were obviously sore but I also had muscle soreness in my arms and shoulders and chest – basically all the upper body muscles. And my hands were swollen to match my swollen feet. My hands were sore from gripping my trekking poles so tightly and my ribs hurt, but I think that was because I spent so much of yesterday laughing. I haven’t laughed like that for a long time. The type of laughing where you can’t breathe and you lose all control and become hysterical. 

It was really warm last night, I didn’t need my sleeping bag on at all, but it must have rained because I had big blobs of water on my tent. Everything that wasn’t soaking wet was a bit damp. I smell absolutely revolting. I realise I have been wearing this top for 15 days now without washing it. My waterproof jacket did a pretty good job of protecting me though, I was dry from the belly button up and from the elbow up. The bottom was wet because it probably sucked up moisture from my shorts and my sleeves were wet because the rain was so heavy, that when I reached up with my trekking poles to climb up the trail the water dribbled down my sleeves.

I called out to the others to see if they were awake. Awake but unable to move was the general response. We stayed lying down for another hour, pushing back our leaving time to 7am. I really didn’t want to put any of my wet and stinky clothes on, but that’s the only way they are going to dry. I got ready leisurely, and discover that my corn I’ve had for ages now on my foot is soft enough to peel off. Gross. So I remove it and now I’m left with a crater in my foot which I hope doesn’t cause me any problems. At least it isn’t at all painful anymore. I also find a little bit of chafing around my knicker line, it’s pretty sore, it’s probably just from being wet all day and the one wee I did have meant it was very hard to pull my knickers and shorts up properly, so that was likely the cause of that. I put some zinc oxide cream on and hoped for the best. 

My chafe however, was nothing compared to Julia’s. She has really bad thigh chafe to the point where the skin is broken. I find it amazing that she doesn’t let anything like that phase her, she just carries on and deals with it. I would be really moany if that was me. I pack up slowly until the only things left to do are put on my shorts and my shoes and socks. I don’t want to do either. The shorts weren’t too bad in the end and I went for fresh(ish) socks and put them into my sodden shoes. 

We ended up leaving at about 7:45 by the time we had faffed about. We only had 4 miles to go to the Mangamuka store but I couldn’t hold onto the kids for that long so had to drop them in the forest before leaving. I had no food left as I had eaten it all last night so julia shared her shortbread cookies with me. Now normally I would never use shortbread and cookies in the same sentence but these were really crunchy, not like proper shortbread. 

We walked about .2 of a mile up the road and came to a sign that said ‘trampers camping’. That’s were the camp spot was! But I don’t think any of us had .2 miles left in us so we were glad we stopped where we had. The rest of the way was a road, which was pretty sketchy. The speed limit was 100km/hr, and we had nowhere to walk, so we walked on the road and moved off onto the grass verge when there was something coming. Thankfully the traffic was fairly spread out and sporadic but when the did come along they were going so fast. Some people moved over but most didn’t. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience I’ve had, but I was so glad my new waterproof is bright orange, the drivers could certainly see me coming! 

An upgrade to my kit I have made is to the hip belt pockets of my pack. I cut the existing one off and replaced them with removable Zpacks ones. They are so good. I can fit my whole days worth of snacks in one pocket, and in the other I have my GoPro, head net, earphones, bandana AMD sunglasses. I think all ultralight packs should be sold with modular add ons. 

Anyway, we made it to the store alive and Magnus and Robert were there eating ice creams. So I went straight in for a double scoop of cookies and cream and hokey pokey and a sprite. It turns out that we had all camped on Makene road last night, all about 200m apart. 

Kristen is having a problem with her knee. We have made it 100 miles today which is the furthest she has ever gone and in some of the toughest terrain I have experienced. You know how far I have hiked this year and my body feels pretty broken, I can’t imagine what she must feel like. I’m so impressed with her though. She is a strong hiker, and even when she was clearly in pain she remained upbeat and positive. But now she doesn’t think she can carry on and needs to rest her knee. This is the sensible choice as pushing on could make it much worse. I give Sue and Marvin a call to see if they can accommodate her for a couple of days until we make it to KeriKeri and of course they say yes because they are lovely people. Sue even offers to drive all the way out here to come and get her. 

We hang out our stuff to dry, we give Kristen our muddy socks and other bits that are beyond hope and buy some sort of resupply to get us through the next 2/3 days. I will again be surviving on crisps and chocolate and crackers and candy. Things that begin with a ‘c’. I notice Julia had found some pies so I go back and add a chicken pie for my dinner tonight. 

With all that sorted we order fish burgers which were absolutely delicious. Fish and beetroot is turning out to be a winning combination. I didn’t take my shoes off while we were there which in hindsight was a ridiculous decision, they really should have been aired for a bit. As we are sat at the picnic table, chilling out and waiting for Sue to arrive, a girl comes over to me and asks me to draw a name out the bag for a raffle. They film me doing it, one of the stranger encounters on the trail! 

Sue arrives and we fill her in on what we have been through in the last week since she dropped us at Cape Reinga. As we had been there for 4.5 hours now it was time for us to go and for Kristen to go and get some rest so we said our goodbyes and walked off down the road. A car came by and honked its horn scaring the bejesus out of me and it was Sue! 

I wasn’t looking forward to road walking this sketchy road again and I was thankful when we turned off onto a dirt road (or gravel road as we say in the UK and a metal road as they say here in NZ). Considerably less traffic on this road, just a couple of school buses. The sun, when it came out, was intense and the top of my head was really feeling it. The bandana helps but I think I may have to invest in a proper hat. Lots of people skip these road walks but I don’t feel like they are road, they are just really wide trails. 

We walked along the dirt road for the next 9 miles, passing lots of bee hives, there are so many about. I give the hives the widest berth I can when passing them. There was a waypoint marked on the app saying ‘giant kauri tree stump’ that is ‘worth a look’. Well, we took the 5 minute detour to go and see the stump and I have to say that I don’t think it was worth a look. If we hadn’t been told it was a tree stump I would have never known! There seemed to be a little path behind it and Julia investigated one way and I went the other. I encountered a plant with razor sharp leaves which sliced through my knee which was rather painful, I somehow managed to get out of there without any more cuts. Julia was slightly more worse off than I was having walked into something that gave her a really bad reaction. Her skin was stinging and covered in lumps, and as we carried on the rash came up in more areas of her legs. So between the chafe, the rash, the cuts and scrapes from her fall, the sunburn and the rash on her neck she isn’t doing to well skin wise! 

We chat as we walk, it’s nice to be able to walk side by side and by 6pm we have made it to the Waikoropupu stream. There is a warning in the trail notes about this stream which says if the water is flowing over the concrete bridge you shouldn’t continue on as the water levels will be too high in the Mangapukahukahu gorge. Luckily for us the water wasn’t over the bridge. We found a sketchy little camp spot just a few meters up from the river. Not the best or flattest spot we have had but it’s a spot. We set up the dry tents and I finally got to take my shoes off. The soles of my feet were completely white and this is where I regret not airing them out earlier. 

It has taken us half the time to cover the same distance we covered yesterday. Today we started 2 hours later, took a 4.5 hour break and finished 2 hours earlier! 

After observing a funny little creature on Julia’s tent (hoping it’s not a leech), we went back down to the river and washed all the mud off our legs and feet. It felt so good. Had the water not been so cold, or had the weather been better it would have been a perfect little swimming hole. Back in my tent I eat my chicken pie which was much nicer than the mince and cheese pie I had a few days ago. I sort through my food and find I probably have too much for the next couple of days, but it’s better the have too much than not enough. I will be able to have a feast tomorrow. 

Another modification I have made to my kit is to change my sleep socks. I got them from Zpacks, but they are made in NZ and they are made of Possum down, which keeps you warm and repels water (not tested that part yet but they are doing very well with the keeping me warm part). 

My legs are still throbbing, especially the thigh area, and my feet are making themselves known, so I am happy to lay down. I even manage to think about what I’m writing rather that doing it with my eyes half closed. Tomorrow more rain is forecast and there is mud on the horizon. 

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I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps. 

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