November 25, 2016
km traveled today: 20
Total TA km: 917
At 6 this morning we all awoke to Jasper’s alarm on the lawn of the YHA in Waitomo (home of the famous glowworm caves). After a more intense than most breakfast of fried eggs, toast, marmalade, and leftover carrot cake, Dave the manager of the hostel offered us a ride to the start of the trail, since the YHA was about a 3 km roadwalk from where the TA enters private farmland to start the walk towards Te Kuiti.
As soon as we were dropped off, a few raindrops began to fall, foreshadowing the rest of the day’s weather, and immediately the walk was hilly, lumpy from deep cow hoofprints, and covered in nettles, gorse, and spiderwebs all of which combined with a sheen of uphill-walking-in-rain-jacket sweat to make us really appreciate some of our drier and easier mornings. But when we crested a long hill and emerged onto a freshly tilled field with a misty view over the vast rolling pastures of the central North Island, all was forgiven – sweat will dry, gorse pricks will heal; the trail rewards when least expected, so we must walk always with minds positive and open…
After a couple km of tramping across fields, dodging minefields of sheep and cow turd (at one point having to cross a 10-foot bog at least eighty percent saturated with cow manure, which we only just now washed out of our shoes and socks) we stopped for a break to enjoy the rest of our loaf of bread and orange marmalade, the only food we brought with us as we expected to be in Te Kuiti by lunchtime.
Somewhere in the mix was some dirt and gravel farm track walking and one stretch of nice path in a nature reserve, featuring swamp trees which together absorb high water levels and dirt and nutrient runoff from heavy rains, so that the river below doesn’t flood as much. We ended up arriving in Te Kuiti by one or 1:30 but not before the trail climbed a little 264 meter hill just for the giggle of it, which was guarded by a herd of bulls whose enclosure we had to walk through – we’ve seen some nice and mellow bulls but these were neither: as we entered their area there was much hoof stamping and tossing of densely-muscled heads, and Jack’s yell of HYAH! became less and less effective at shooing them away, such that after bolting a few steps away they would circle back around to face us, ultimately following us too closely for comfort as we half-ran to the stile which marked our exit across the fence to safety.
Once we arrived in Te Kuiti we found our way to the Wheels Roadhouse where we enjoyed some bacon and egg cheeseburgers, before backtracking a bit to the New World supermarket to do our resupply for the upcoming 5-day section in the Pureoras.
We decided to slightly modify our strategy for food for this section, because we are realizing how much we value both lightness of pack and heartiness of nutrition: we dropped our usually kilogram-per-section bag of gummies, as well as our typical cookies for desert and tortilla with lunch, making up the lost calories with a couple more nut bars and some extra trail mix type stuff.
As it stands for this section we are eating two One Square Meal bars for breakfast; salami, cheese, peanut butter, and scroggin for lunch; either spaghetti, cous cous, or rice with flavor packets or soup mixes for dinner, and five bars throughout the day. Still more than our Scottish friend Sean who eats just wheet-bix, four bars, and cous cous in a day, but successfully more calories-per-weight than we had been eating, we think.
After our reoutfit we continued in the rain out of town until we came upon a fast, swollen river, which it looked like we were intended to cross. As we discussed backtracking to a bridge, Jack, Jasper, and I heard a shout from across the river – Shep had taken it upon himself to cross upstream a little, on a log that somehow was sturdy all the way across the river. Unfortunately we had just discovered that we were in fact not intended to cross here, but instead to walk about a kilometer upstream on a lovely, sort of gravelly path: Shep refused to cross back over so he walked along the other bank as we walked on ours, but as we walked on his path became too overgrown so he diverted to a road which bent slowly away from and ended up about a kilometer uphill from the river.
As Jack and Jasper and I arrived at the bridge we were originally supposed to cross at, we worried that we’d have to make camp without Shep and sleep all three of us to the one tent we had all the parts to scattered between our packs, when suddenly down tramps Shep from the hills above.
Relieved, we continued up the river, crossed a very nice waterfall in the forest where we stopped to fill up our bottles, and eventually entered a scenic reserve right after crossing a swing bridge (maximum one person at a time) back to the left bank.
Right at the exit of the bridge we came upon the campground where we are right now – under a huge tree and surrounded by camper vans and a couple other thru-hikers, we are drifting off to sleep to the sound of the rain which hasn’t fully stopped since ten o’clock this morning.
Tomorrow we put back on our soaked (but cleanish) shoes and socks and finish this river track, hopefully eventually camping at the base of the Pureoras.