January 3rd 2017
Huntley golf course – Ngaruawahia
Total distance: 483.6 miles
It was great to be in a shelter for the night. We were debating whether to get up when we heard a car and voices, even though we were allowed to be there we still sprang up and quickly packed away all our stuff as fast as possible, feeling like we were squatters. I think it was the fastest we have ever packed up and we were on our way by 7:30.
We had 5 miles of road walking to reach the town of Huntley. We got away with about half of it being in nice weather until it started to pour down. We were expecting the rain to be worse than yesterday so it wasn’t a surprise but it was a pain in the bum. It’s really miserable walking in the rain, especially walking along a road in the rain. We passed Huntley power station and walked as quickly as we could, leaving the trail to cross the bridge and find some shelter and food in Huntley.
On the way we passed a house and two angry looking dogs came out barking at us and blocked our path. They we really frightening! I reached out to use Julia’s backpack as a shield. We continued walking but the dogs were blocking our way. The owner was calling them and he came running out. The meanest looking dog stopped it’s barking and just rolled over and displayed his tummy for his owner. We could laugh at the situation now as we were safe and the dog was under control, actually he looked like he was under some kind of spell!
We were soaked, it was starting to trickle down my shorts and I was on the verge of feeling like I’d soiled myself again (and not because of the dog encounter), so we went to McDonald’s which aside from KFC was the closest place. What’s worse than McDonald’s in the afternoon? McDonald’s at breakfast time. McDonald’s food is gross. But. It does have free wifi and they don’t care if you hang out in there for a long time. You can charge stuff and this McDonald’s was the first place we have been that offered free soda refills. Long live the free refill. We ended up getting a chicken mcmuffin thing and a hash brown with a soda. (Hash browns on their own are $2.40! They are not worth more than one dollar surely?!). We wanted to give ourselves chance to dry out a bit so we ended up staying there for a couple of hours. Breakfast service turned into lunch service and we got a second round of a cheeseburger, fries and an apple pie and some more refills of course.
I asked the lady if we could fill up our water bottles and she said I had to ask at the cafe, which basically meant ask the cashier next to her – the one with the long queue. So I asked her if I could just pop behind the counter and fill up my water. She said yeah so I went and helped myself. We eventually got out of there around 11:30 and thankfully the rain had stopped and it looked to have brightened up a bit.
We had three more miles of road to go before the trail turned and followed the Hakarimata walkway. We got that done quite quickly and found the pit toilet (an actual pit toilet this time, not a fancy robot one) and started up the forest track. It was super muggy so we took off our waterproof coats knowing the big climb ahead of us would be even sweatier with them on.
Julia worked out that I clocked up 3000 consecutive hiking miles today
The first two thirds of the climb is stairs. Just constant stair climbing. I’ve been really feeling it in my knees today. All that flat walking is killing my body. The first few steps were a killer for me, I was getting a lot of pain in my kneecaps and I was worried that it was the start of something terrible. But as I moved on the pain got less and my body seemed to settle into what it was doing. There were a couple of lookouts on the way up. One looking over the Waikato river and the direction we had just come from and the other looking north towards Hamilton and the direction we were heading in.
The trail then turns into a tramping track and stays that way for about 6 miles. It is tough and slow going. The rain has created a lot of muddy patches. It’s quite windy but we are sheltered by all the vegetation and the wind has given the plants a bit of a blow dry so everything isn’t quite as wet as I’d been expecting. We trudge on, Julia is off ahead out of sight, and I go as fast as I can which is pretty slow. Once at the top on the big climb the trail rolls with ups and downs all the way to the Hakarimata summit. The trail was covered in tree roots which are basically out to kill you. They are so slippy in the rain and the bigs ones that stick up are a danger because you can trip over them, but the hidden ones are the worst. You step on a hidden one and your heart jumps up into your mouth as you nearly end up on your bum in the mud. Thankfully I managed to stay upright but because I was being so careful I was going really slowly. Some lady trail runners caught up to me and we had a chat. They warned me to be careful in Ngaruawahia and to not leave my stuff out of sight. According to them Ngaruawahia is worse than Huntley and we were told that was bad.
It started to rain again so I put my waterproofs on. Where has summer gone New Zealand?! It was still so muggy and I was sweating profusely but I was determined to try and keep my shorts dry. I managed to successfully navigate my way around the mud and the tree roots without falling over to reach the summit where there was a lookout which I imagine gave a really nice view on a clear day. But we got no reward this time and we just headed straight down. Julia had been waiting for me for about 25 minutes. She said she was powered by McDonald’s but I think mine weighed me down.
The downhill was a popular trail running track and it was mostly stairs. We passed loads of people running up and down in the rain. Quite impressive, then we remembered it was January 3rd and everyone is full of good intentions! The stairs were an absolute killer on my knees and I was more than pleased to get to the bottom. It was still raining and we were soaked again. The whole track was listed as taking 7 hours. We did it in 4.5 which wasn’t too bad. We found a public toilet and I didn’t want to come out. It was so warm and dry in there.
But we weren’t far away from town and that’s where we planned to stop. We heard you can camp in the park. We weren’t looking forward to pitching our tents at all but at least there was somewhere to stay. A quick look on google maps told us that there was an Indian restaurant in town and as we had been craving curry since smelling it in Devonport, we decided to deal with camping later and go and get food. On the way there a man (Peter) pulled over in his car and asked us if we were TA walkers and were we looking for a place to stay. I was weary of him at first just because of what we had been told about this place. But he told us he had hosted loads of hikers before and we could have a shower and pitch our tents in his garden. Then a 6 month old Labrador climbed out the window of the car and came bounding over. Does the stay include play time with the puppy, we asked. That sealed the deal and we said we would love to stay.
The Indian looked a bit ramshackle but the food was absolutely delicious and it was nice to be in the warm and dry. When we got there we got chatting to a lady called Sharon who was asking us all sorts of questions. We told her about Peter and about our travels. She said she had a houseful today otherwise we could have stayed with her…indoors. She gave us her address and phone number and told us if we ever needed somewhere to stay on our travels we could stay with her. How nice!
It was still raining and we were hoping that Peter may have a garage we could sleep in rather than pitching our tents. We found his house and saw the garage was full to bursting with stuff so that idea was unlikely. We knocked on his door and he showed us where we could pitch our tents, after we sent them up in the drizzle he invited us in to shower and use the loo etc. His daughter was there too so that felt safer (not that he ever gave us any reason to feel unsafe, but you never know). We showered, got dry and then I spent most of the evening chatting to Peter and playing with the dog and completely winding him up. We played with the lion a lot until it got super soggy. As he is still young he’s doing that chewing thing where he tries to chew your hands and your feet and our playtime saw him lose two of his baby teeth.
Then I get him into trouble when I blew on his nose and he started racing around the house at 90 miles an hour. That got him a time out. Sorry Bodhi!
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.