January 24th 2017
Mount Lees Reserve – Palmerston North
Total distance: 781.8 miles
We wanted to get to Palmerston North at a reasonable time but we still weren’t keen on getting up early. We tried but after a planned start of 6:30 we got going at 7:30. We were on quiet back roads for the most part and we entertained ourselves with reading and podcasts.
The first 6 miles was pretty uneventful. We saw a goat. Then we went through the outskirts of Feilding. We stopped at the petrol station where we were offered two rides into Palmerston North, or Palmy as it’s know locally. We hope Palmy is as forthcoming with its rides! We grabbed a drink and a snack and ate it on a patch of grass outside the petrol station. Moving on we had a random bit of tall grass and a sketchy little stream to cross before joining the road again. It wasn’t long before we arrived in Bunnydale, Julia got ice cream and I got another soda.
After bunnydale the trail goes across some farmland, through fields of sheep and over a bunch of stiles. The stiles were an enormous effort after walking on the flat for so long. Thankfully the farmland didn’t last too long and we were back on the road for our final push to Palmy.
We went into the countdown there as it’s bigger than the New World in Taumarunui, and bought a few bits for the canoe trip. I brought mostly drinks. 2 litres of fruit juice for today and tomorrow, fruit drinks and cordial for the canoe and chocolate because it’s on offer here. Not much really but everything I bought was really heavy. That’s when I found out we still had half a mile left to walk to the highway we needed to hitch from. I put as much of it in my bag as I could and hoped for the best.
After eating an apple turnover (probably the reason I’m getting fatter), we walked to highway 3 and set up by the side of the road, making sure there was a nice place to pull over. We started hitching around 3:15. Taumarunui is a good 145miles / 230km away so we needed plenty of time as we expected to need multiple hitches.
Highway 3 is really busy and crosses the middle of town before heading north to Whanganui. We didn’t think we would have many problems getting a hitch here. We were wrong. Car after car drove by, hundreds went by without stopping or even slowing down. The sun had become so intense and I felt my whole left side starting to burn. I tried to cover my leg with my sit mat and rolled down my sleeves. Eventually I had to sit down because I was starting to feel funny, and Julia cracked and sat down too. Just after that a man pulled over. He was on his way to the airport and he was early so he offered to take us across town to a better spot for hitching. Perfect, thanks Jeff for our first ride, and for getting us out of the sun! It was so hot that the road had melted onto my sit mat which now had tar all over it…great!
Back on the side of the road we got our second hitch from a man called Steve who took us 20 minutes further up the road to Sanson, just south of Bulls. We were creeping forwards but at least it was forward progress! Our third hitch came from Simon, a Brit living in NZ for the last 8 years. He took us all the way to Whanganui where he lives with his family. We had great conversation with him and he invited us back to his house for tea, but as it was 5pm and we still had a long way to go we needed to keep hitching. He made sure we were in a place where all the cars would be going in our direction.
Our fourth hitch was from a German man, Torsten, who was here on his holidays and driving back up to Tongariro with hopes to get some good weather for the crossing before he had to go home. He took us back to National Park.
So we were now back where all the hitching first began, unfortunately the petrol station was closed so we couldn’t get a hot chocolate. In contrast to earlier it was now really cold, I guess because we have gained so much altitude. We had been hitching for 2 minutes when we see Sarah and Creya coming towards us, they just completed the crossing today and had great weather. The went to a cafe in search of hydration. I told them if we manage to get a vehicle big enough for all of us I would come and get them, thinking it was unlikely but a nice offer. I was nervous about this hitch as it was quite difficult last time and it was 7:20pm
So we said we would give ourselves until 8pm before going to stay in the YHA. It didn’t take very long for a minibus to pull over. A minibus!! Dan was on his way back from a trip and his bus was empty, so I ran and got the others and he took all of us back to Taumarunui, right to the door of the holiday park. Perfect. By 7:50pm we were back where it all began.
The holiday park was packed out this time, lots of TA hikes had gathered, as well as our canoe group there is another group launching tomorrow so we met a lot of them. We met Jayson / Po (US) and Maxime (Germany), Marcus (Germany), Matthew (UK), Laura (US), Alexa and Andrew (US) and we were reunited with Simon who we haven’t seen since 90 mile beach!! And we also found out his name isn’t Simon, but a Dutch name that no one can pronounce! We also saw Martin who we last saw about 6 weeks ago.
Marjory and Remi were also there and the rest of our group will arrive tomorrow. Julia and I made a chicken and mushroom risotto for dinner and chatted to lots of people before going to bed way too late, but we have a zero tomorrow so it doesn’t matter. Jayson made friends with a hedgehog he found trying to get into his tent and it was the cutest.
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.