January 2nd 2017
Mercer – Huntley golf course
Total distance: 468.1 miles
I had a great nights sleep, despite being surrounded by flashing Christmas lights. I didn’t notice a thing. Although I have got into the habit of sleeping with my buff over my eyes which I can highly recommend.
We aimed for a 7:30 start, with the food establishments opening at 7am. We went to Pokeno Bacon for breakfast and I have the best bacon buttie ever. So much proper bacon crammed into perfect white bread. The only thing missing was a bit of red sauce. The Kiwis are oddly stingy with their sauces and they charge a ridiculous price for sauce as an extra. Sauce should always be given with a meal, just like fountain soda should always come with refills.
Anyway, the buttie was excellent. I also had a Guava juice from popular Aussie brand Bundaberg which could be an expensive habit to get into but I love juice so much. Marjory joined us for a coffee and hiked out about 20 minutes before us. We didn’t leave until about 8:30 in the end. We had heard that the trail is crappy from Mercer to Huntley, a bit like the end of the day yesterday, long grass, cow shit, lots of fences and stile, and it parallels a road. It was drizzling as we set off and it was forecast to rain so we decided to walk on the road rather than get soaked in the long grass and covered in liquid cow shit again. We felt there wasn’t any need to go through that with a perfectly good road to walk along.
The first bit was along highway 1. There was a nice wide shoulder and it was easy going. We set out at a stroll and it was all very casual. We had nice views of the Waikato river to the right and highway to the left. The road narrowed into one lane on our side of the road and it became a bit more mentally challenging. With a side road which would take us off the main highway up ahead, Julia started walking much faster but I just couldn’t keep up. Everything was hurting from pounding the tarmac for so long. Feet, knees, hips, brain. I was getting bored and tired and hungry.
We made it to the side road after about 3 hours of highway walking which was more than enough. Glad to be back on a dirt road we carried on just as it started to pour down. Although it was raining it was still really warm and muggy. Not good weather for waterproof wearing. You’re trying to stay dry but sweating from the inside. Our shorts were wet and walking along feeling like you’ve soiled your pants is such a horrible feeling.
We were heading for Rangiriri, we knew there was a cafe there but saw it closed at 3pm. We should make it by then. We made the time pass by learning the words to songs from the musical Hamilton (as we are approaching the town of Hamilton), and chatting to the cows. My legs were really on the edge of giving up as we got closer to the town and my need for a wee was increasing every minute. Impossible to find somewhere to wee along these dirt roads. We came to a sign for TA walkers advertising homemade pies in Rangiriri and we were excited to get there. We had made it 16 miles by 2:30pm in the rain with no breaks.
It’s slightly off trail but only about 0.2 of a mile. A lady pulled over and offered us a ride. We first found the public toilet and it was an electric one but it was flashing red. We went to the pie shop which was right next door and the owner Cathy said it was just being cleaned. Well, this toilet is fancy. Everything is automated. The door, the toilet paper, the hand washing station. And it cleans itself. Very odd to find in this tiny little town. As well as owning the pie shop Cathy owns the B&B next door and we were able to leave our stuff on her porch while we were in town. She said we could use her lounge to relax in after we explained we would be hanging around for a couple of hours to dry out before moving on. If we had chosen to stay the night, Cathy let’s people camp for free and also offers rooms at a hiker rate.
Well, it turns out we didn’t need to use her lounge as we stayed in the pie shop and ate until we could eat no more. Two people in there before us left half a pot of tea and said we could finish that off which was nice. Cathy makes all the food herself, and she tried hard to get us to eat a salad but instead we went for an apple pie first, which we shared. Oh man it was delicious. I wanted to take a picture because it was so beautiful too, but we ate it all before I realised I hadn’t taken a snap. Next we chose a mince and cheese pie which was also delicious. Especially eaten with sweet chilli sauce. One of those supermarket pies just won’t be the same now. Pastry is definitely up there in my top 5 foods. Flakey, puff, filo, shortcrust, all pastry is wonderful.
Then, Cathy offered to make us a pizza. She was going off piste with the menu and she seemed genuinely happy to be making food for us. We chatted to her for ages and gave her some advice on how she can become more of a go to spot for hikers. It is some of the best food I’ve had on trail. Just as we were packing up to get going again and Cathy had a phone call from another hiker. A girl from Belgium. It was Marjory. She still had 8km to go! She had walked the trail in the tall grasses and it had obviously slowed her down considerably. We were glad we chose the road, it wasn’t any different mileage wise but the walking was so much easier.
We wanted to carry on another 5 or so miles to Huntley golf course. We had been warned by both Mike and now Cathy that Huntley is the most undesirable suburb in New Zealand and we didn’t want to find ourselves there after dark. Every single one of our encounters in New Zealand have so far been excellent. We haven’t met anyone dodgy, but we were a bit more alert on our way down to Huntley. We let our imaginations run away with us and decided that all the residents of Huntley were meth heads. Crystal meth is quite prevalent here apparently, with the largest bust of the drug found buried on ninety mile beach.
On our way out of Rangiriri we noticed a woman clearly off her tits, stood with what looked like all her belongings on plastic bags while she danced to whatever tune it was she could hear, while next to her some people in a car were doing something that looked drug related. My knowledge of drugs is limited to the tv shows Breaking Bad and half of Narcos. But this encounter fuelled our imagination fire. We were a bit more worried about walking the road as all the people driving up were tweaking in the cars and we had a higher chance of being run over, but in reality people were very courteous and moved over when passing us which was very much appreciated with the non existent shoulder. We chose to walk the road as the trail is up on a stop bank again and it would just be wet and horrible as it had been raining continuously since we turned off the highway.
Our crystal meth stories really helped to pass the time, which is the main purpose of making up silly stories, and we were soon approaching the Huntley golf course. I had called earlier to check with Gary of it was ok to stay there. He said we could ‘park up wherever’ and that the ‘men’s toilets would be open for us to use’. When we arrived we saw a ramshackle building which looked more like a maintenance garage, with a smaller shed on the side as the toilet. This couldn’t be the club house could it? It was strange that Gary had felt the need to define the toilet as the mens toilet when it was just one in an outside shed. Maybe this is what a golf club run by meth heads for meth heads looked like!
We saw a guy around the side of the building, with a cute little dog who was not keen on giving up his ball but very much enjoyed the chase. The man didn’t come across as a meth head (only in our little fantasy world) and he explained that the club house was further up the fairway and we could stay there with no problem. We found the club house which was a much more substantial building and found the mens toilets which had showers and a big changing area with them. Well, there is plenty of room in there to lay out our sleeping bags on the floor without having to pitch our wet tents, so we set up camp inside the men’s changing room in Huntley golf club!
The man we spoke to earlier came in to take a shower and didn’t say anything about us being in there. I was already lying down in my sleeping bag while my legs pulsed and I didn’t see his little dog run in after him and screamed as he jumped on top on me. It gave me a real fright! He told us no one should be coming in here and we should lock the door. He was a nice man. We have been lucky with people today, they have all been very nice. We are especially thankful to be inside, warm and dry as it rains outside!
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.