January 21st 2017
Possible camping – Ketetahi car park
Total distance: 724 miles
Of course we woke to heaps of condensation. We were by a river and on grass. We aimed to leave at 7 to get our short miles in early and make the most of our time in town. Of course we didn’t make it out by 7, we went back to sleep when the alarm went off. We eventually got packed up and were about to leave when Michael walked into our camp. We had heard a lot about Michael from other hikers, and we even saw him at the McDonald’s in Mercer but he was gone by the time we went to talk to him.
He sat down and we had a chat for about an hour. A while back the Texan couple we met going north told us a story about someone being chased out of a farmers field by a farmer with a shotgun. It turns out that someone was Michael and that wasn’t what happened at all! His story was that he walked up to a farm house to get permission to camp there but he didn’t like the look of it so turned around and found somewhere in some tall grass near a road not too far away from that farmhouse. In the night he heard a ‘big gun’ being fired and lots of shouting. He lay close to the ground for about an hour and a half hoping no one would see him and that he wouldn’t get shot. At first light he packed up and ran out of there.
Michael was great to talk to, he hiked the PCT north last year so it’s likely that we crossed paths somewhere in Oregon. We eventually hiked out at 9am. But with only 5.6 road miles to get done today it wasn’t too much of a problem. We did the miles in 1 hour 50 minutes. The roads were quiet and we entertained ourselves so the time flew by. Before we knew it we were back at the Ketetahi car park. We walked to the end, touched the sign, then made our way back to the road to try to hitch a ride.
We had only been there a couple of minutes when another girl came and joined us. She was from the Czech Republic, but now lives in Auckland. She had managed to get 4 days off from her duties as a mum and had just hiked the Northern Circuit, she was now trying to get back to Auckland. She was really sweet and asked loads of questions about our hike. Whenever a car came by she would go and hide in the bushes as she though we would have a better chance of getting a ride if it looked like there were fewer of us. There were very few cars on this road and every car that did go by didn’t stop, they actually gave us a wide berth.
After about an hour and a half, when I was completely losing the will to live (long past my accepted waiting time of 10 minutes for a hitch), a car pulled over. He only had space for one so of course we gave it to the girl form the Czech Republic and went back to stand by the side of the road. After another hour we decided to start walking back the way we came to get to a busier road 4 miles away. We didn’t really want to walk another 4 miles back on ourselves but it was getting cold just sitting around.
About half way down the road we turned to hitch and a van pulled over. They said they weren’t going our way but could take us to the end of the road where we should have a better chance at getting a ride. Perfect. The van contained 4 very nice kiwis. Once we were on the busier road we felt a lot better at having moved closer to our end goal, but the traffic was a lot lighter than we had expected. After about 20 minutes 2 German ladies here on their holidays pulled over and gave us a ride about 30 minutes to National Park.
We went back to the little petrol station and I got another hot chocolate and Julia sensibly got something to eat. I wanted to wait and really enjoy my meal when we got to Whanganui. We hung out in the petrol station for a while warming up until we could wait no longer and headed across the road to stand in the cold wind.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long before a car pulled over, Mike and Maurice were coming back from a fishing trip and were driving all the way back to Whanganui. Excellent! We had some great conversations in the car and as we were approaching town (five and a half hours after we started trying to get a ride!), Mike offered us a place to stay. Well, we couldn’t turn that down!
We dropped Maurice off to his house and said hello to his Donkey and went on the Mike’s house to meet June, his wife, who was preparing a meal for us. And they had two cats! Yes! We had tea and homemade shortbread (delicious). Then we had a great meal of sausages and loads of veggies, then they went out to see the Opera. It amazes me when people leave complete strangers in their house and then go out! We had a little chat about ocean rowing and Mike left me with a book to look at. We did our laundry, showered and settled in on the sofas to watch the Australian Open (well Julia watched it). I had polly on my knee and found Puff (the cat was called PUFF!!) was curled up on my sleeping bag that I put out to air. Then Puff sat on me then Polly came back. It was purrfect!
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.