Te Araroa day 35 – Pirongia mountain

January 6th 2017 
Possible camping – Pahautea hut
12.4 miles
Total distance: 526.4 miles 

I shut my eyes at 10pm. That’s got to be the earliest for a while. In the night I heard a gun shot which woke me up, then I hear a vehicle coming up the dirt road. The lights were bright and they were casting weird shadows all over the walls of the tent. It got closer and closer and I sat up in my tent wondering if they were going to come over and say something to us. I heard the gate next to us open and they disappeared through it. It was about 1am. A few moments later a series of gunshots were fired. I tried to ignore it all and went back to sleep. 

When my alarm went off at 6am I turned it off. We were aiming for a 6:30 start but that clearly wasn’t going to happen! At 6:40 I heard Julia call out to me asking if I was doing anything. I wasn’t. I thought I would just close my eyes for a few moments and I would get up at 7. I went back to sleep, 7:40 rolled around and we were still in our tents in our sleeping bags. 

We ended up leaving around 8:30, we weren’t too concerned about the time as we only had about 12 miles to do today, most of it was a big climb though. We wanted to get to our first DOC hut early and spend some time lying down, but we reasoned that we did our lying down this morning instead. 


The weather looked changeable, and it looked rubbish on the tops of the mountains where we were heading to. We walked over pretty looking farmland, it wasn’t easy walking though as the ground was so uneven. We were walking past lots of sheep and we came to a field where they were herding the sheep up. We weren’t sure whether to walk through it or not but we did and the sheep parted right down the middle to let us through. We watched the dogs and farmers doing their thing for a while, it was really cool to see the dogs doing their job. 


Julia went off ahead of me. I was picking my way downhill and she was running. I lost sight of her but assumed she would wait at a junction somewhere. I came to a stream and a gate and thought that would be a good place to wait but she wasn’t there. She must have gone on ahead. Maybe she just wanted some alone time. There was a stile to cross but it was all overgrown, so I went to go through the gate near it. As I put my hand on the chain I thought I heard someone shout my name. I didn’t know where it could be coming from so I stood and turned around in circles looking for Julia. The call came again. Where are you? I shout back. I’m behind you, I got lost she replies. 

I’m not sure how she got lost, I came to a big patch of thistles and I wasn’t going to walk through that, I went to the left and picked up the trail markers but I think she went straight through the thistles. Nutter. Reunited we walked a little road section before coming to the start of the Pirongoa Traverse at the Kaniwhaniwha picnic area. We used the loo and then on our way out Julia started walking the wrong way…she’s lost it today! 


Back on track we hiked up the Nikau walk which was a nice open well graded walk, the weather was taking a turn and starts to drizzle a little. Just a mile or so into the walk was the Kaniwhaniwha campground and stream. We took our lunch break here and collected some water for the climb. The weather was hot one moment and cold the next. We just had our fingers crossed for no rain, although we had a shelter to look forward to tonight so at least we wouldn’t have to pitch our tents in the rain. 

We then followed the Tahuanui track which would take us 5 miles up to the summit. It’s a tramping track which we heard can be very muddy. The estimated time was 4.5 hours so starting at 12:30 we had loads of time. The forest was gorgeous and the track was great for the first half, it was nice and gradual and although there were lots of tree roots and vines it was a nice walk. I have to keep checking the GPS because some of the arrows were not pointing in the right direction, but ultimately it was difficult to go the wrong way. I kept stopping to marvel at some of the trees. The roots on some of them were incredible. Julia was off ahead and I knew she would get to the summit way before me. With 2 miles to go mud patches began to appear, they were mostly avoidable, and sometimes it took a bit longer to work out a pathway around or through the mud than it would have just to walk straight through, but I didn’t want wet horrible shoes and feet. I hopped and jumped my way around the mud, using trees, rocks and roots for support. I did spend a lot of time removing my poles from deep mud. It carried on like this for ages. At one point I jumped down and felt a gross crunching in the top of my left knee. I was very worried for a moment that something serious had happened. I carried on gingerly, but as I went on there didn’t seem to be any pain so I hope it’s going to be ok. 


I really enjoyed walking the forest today until the last half a mile to the summit. It was extra muddy, extra overgrown – for a bit the plants totally engulfed me. I couldn’t see anything, not being able to see your feet is problematic. I got even slower and when I got to a sign saying it was an hour to the hut I said something along the lines of ‘you’ve got to be joking!’ But after some more mud jumping I came to a wooden walkway and I thought I had gone off track. Now they put a walkway in, right up near the summit?! That seems very odd. But it made the walking easier and I got to the Pirongia summit (3146ft) in about 10 minutes where Julia was waiting, having arrived about half an hour before. The climb is more than worth it, the views are incredible. 360° views. We didn’t stay long as it was pretty windy and we were so close to the hut. More mud, slipping and walkways, plus a very hard knock to the right knee on a rock got us to the hut in about 10 minutes. 


The hut is really cool. I think it was only built last year but it has great views and a shoe cleaning station. Julia walked straight through the mud as you can tell by her socks which were white, so she made good use of that. Inside are bunks and mattresses, tables and benches and a food prep area. A guy called Robin from Germany was there, he is hiking the TA too and a couple who were just out doing some hiking. I ate some pizza bread and crisps from my food bag, no need for the food prep area for us! I also ate the can of chicken I had been carrying since Mangawhai – a long time ago. I don’t think I have enough food for this section. I am still super hungry. 


My knees are really sore from the crunching and the knocks so I go for a lie down for about an hour, which is a luxury when it’s only 6pm. After lying down and writing the days blog Julia and I play some cards. An Aussie girl called Vicky comes into the hut and joins us for some games. Erin finally arrives, she took a different route to us, she got a bus out of Hamilton and camped where we had lunch today then took the Bell track where there are some caves and a big tree to look at. Robin had camped with her last night and told us that was her plan. We were starting to get a little concerned that she hadn’t made it to the hut yet. 

When she arrived she was covered in mud and said the mud had been up to her thighs! She broke her trekking pole and was generally tired and muddy! We sat around and chatted and played cards by the light of a head torch until we decided cards were too noisy because the other two people had gone to bed, and Robin went to bed ages ago. We chatted about random stuff until about 10:30 and we think we have convinced Vicky to come on the canoe trip with us! 


It was nice not to have to sleep outside. It was cold in the hut and cold outside. 

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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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