November 29, 2016
km traveled today: 53 (20 highway km’s hitched due to knee injuries)
total TA km: 1056
After a night of sleep in Waihaha Hut that was for me a little fitful, thanks to one of the school group’s teacher’s loud snoring, we blinked awake at Jasper’s 6:00 alarm and started gathering our things together.
The hut wasn’t as residually warm from the night as we had feared, so we weren’t too terrified to venture out into the cold and wet. We got out before our five new friends and set off pretty quickly down a stretch of trail that was much better than we expected.
At about 106.5 we passed a great place to camp if you want to push past Waihaha hut, and after that passed a bunch more along the way before the next hut. All told we did the 12ish km to the third hut, Hauhungaroa Hut, in about 4 hours (the signed estimate was 7 hrs) and stopped for a bit, unsuccessfully tried to warm up, and pushed on. The next 3 k of the final 6 to leave the forest was was great and we zoomed through it but the last 3 were really the worst, so muddy and so steep (mostly down).
Out of the forest we sprawled on a gravelly clearing for lunch, hoping the rain would hold off and contemplating our remaining 13 or so k of road walking until reaching 1033k, a point at which we had read there is somewhere to camp. We took a fairly brief lunch and kept pushing, mindful of Jasper and Shepard having started to acutely feel some pain in their knees. The road was nice and soft and quiet for a while but the knees kept getting worse such that we were really in the mood to hitch into town.
The road was disappointingly dead, though, so we eventually ended up walking the full day and a little more, past 1035 ish (didn’t see anywhere at 1033) before successfully flagging down a builders’ van who let us squeeze in the back with their tools for the 15 minute ride into town. Riki, the driver, was kind enough to drive us all the way to the holiday park on the other side of town and we checked in here a day early so are planning to stay 2 nights and take a zero day tomorrow in town.
After a dinner of spaghetti with two-year-expired mushroom beef gravy flavor, we considered our options and made the obvious decision of hitching into town to the Indian place called Mini India and filling up on Tikka Masala. Back at our tent we are full as ticks and excited to sleep luxuriously tomorrow morning. New shoes in the mail tomorrow as well!