November 17, 2016
km traveled today: 26
total TA km: 719
Today we finished the Hunua Ranges and ended up in the town of Mercer.
We woke after a night of constant rain at 6:30, packed up camp as it still rained, squeezed on our soaked shoes and socks, and left camp with hardly a word. As soon as we left the campsite field, we were on forest track (after about a quarter k of gravel road), climbing steadily and pretty steeply.
In the hills we were inside the clouds, so it wasn’t actively raining but humidity was 100 percent for sure. It was one of the coldest mornings yet so we hardly stopped for the first couple hours, trying to warm ourselves by walking. The first 6 or 7 k of the day were some of the toughest hiking yet- – the cold, the rain, the mud, and the dense hardly-cleared Supple Jack vines (can’t blame anybody for that as they grow insanely fast) combined for a lovely first couple hours.
Eventually the clouds parted and made for some wild views.
After the last decreasingly strenuous but still disappointingly slow kilometers in the forest we descended a couple switchbacks and eventually to a swing bridge crossing the Mangitawhiri River where we ate some lemon and orange gummies as a morale-booster.
We ate lunch further along the road as rain showered on and off and blazed through the rest of the road section. About 10 km outside of Mercer we crossed under a highway bridge over a river and found our way onto a stopbank, akin to the little rises that train tracks sometimes are built on, that stretched for almost the rest of the way to the town.
We had been worried about the river flooding over the track but realizing that the track was this elevated thing set us at ease. In the roiling swollen river Jasper and Shepard saw some golden orange fish that might have been carp of some sort. We passed by an Archimedes Screw used as some component in an irrigation system. After a km or so of more gravel walking we crossed under the big highway SH1 and continued down the riverbank – unfortunately at this point it was flooded over onto the trail so we had to walk basically on the shoulder of the highway the last km into town. At the motel we are enjoying the lawn for camping and the hot showers!
It has rained on and off the whole day so we are hoping tomorrow’s riverbank walking won’t be impossible. Maybe hitching a huge section is in our future. The owner of this establishment (Podge, of Podge’s Place) has tipped us off that there is some derby-car racing in Huntly tomorrow and the next night – full contact five-on-five team racing – which we are stoked to check out. We sat in Podge’s Place for a while to get out of the rain, and met an American named Kevin who we talked with for a long time.
In general, excited to be getting towards wrapping up the super town heavy part of the trail, but realizing that we’re going to miss it a little – fairly consistent toilets and occassional showers have been pretty sweet.