We’re back to some semblance of regular posting now, and as promised, this post is going to be about the trip from Hamilton to Te Kuiti (check out the map of my travels to figure out where all these places are… in fact, maybe I’ll try to link into the post below).
The walk out of Hamilton was reasonably bland and urban as expected, though a few kilometres out the path passes through the Taithe Waikato region arboretum, which is a really pleasant park type area (which of course I forgot to take any photos of), and then heads out over fields past Whatawhata (I’m not making these names up) toward the start of the Karamu track, around which I spent the first night camping. As an aside, by this point I had got the absorption method of cooking rice down to a T, though it takes about 50 minutes to cook, it uses virtually no gas (only enough to bring the water to the boil), and results in perfect rice. Excellent for being out on the trail… works with pasta too.
The next day I set out for the Karamu track, but found that it was closed for farming operations, and so instead had to take a diversion down a few roads to get to the base of Pirongia. Whilst this was a little irritating, the views of the landscape are really quite spectacular, and it’s nice to have solid (but quiet) road to walk on every now and then, so I was quite content. As I reached the base of Pirongia (a shield volcano, and the highest peak in the Waikato region) there was a DoC campsite and some very well maintained paths which filled me with hope of a not too difficult climb. As it was only lunch time (ish) I decided to push on to the hut at the top of Pirongia instead of staying at the campsite (an excellent excuse to use my newly purchased DoC hut pass).
As it happens, the well maintained path lasts until about 50m beyond the campsite. After that it’s back to incredibly muddy rooty viney struggle for 4 or 5 hours up to the top. That being said, the sun was struggling to come out all the way up, which led to some moments of extreme beauty in amongst the muddy ascent. about 30 minutes before reaching the peak of Pirongia, I heard voices behind me, and turned to find a pair of walkers coming up (which surprised me somewhat… I didn’t think there would be many people up there, particularly with it being a Wednesday). After a brief chat, I discovered that they (Dave from the U.S. and Alex from Sweden) too were walking Te Araroa, but they were doing the whole thing (and at some pace it seemed!). They had met each other a few weeks into the walk, and had now been walking together for around 2 or 3 weeks. We headed off to the summit where in amongst a vast cloud we got one peak (hilarious pun) at the surrounding landscape, all the way back to Hamilton. Then it was back into the cloud, and we headed down to the Pirongia hut, my first DoC hut experience, and it was really rather magnificent (of course I forgot to take any photos). The “hut” had a kitchen area with running water from a rain water tank. It had a composting toilet, and 20 beds, each furnished with a comfortable mattress. There were also candles up there for after dark (which give out a lot of light by the way) and a comfortable seating area, as well as various spaces to set up tents if the 20 beds were full. To start with I thought this was a little ambitious, but over the hour or so after we arrived, another 8 people arrived! On a Wednesday! During term time! In mid spring! Using that logic, I guess it gets very busy through the summer holidays, hence the need for 20 beds and tent space.
After a very comfortable night’s sleep in the hut, I set off in the morning (I was going a fair bit slower than Dave and Alex, but they didn’t do mornings too well), and slipped and slid my way down the mud slurry track of the South side of Pirongia (even worse than the track I’d come up, if that’s possible), but nonetheless, around mid afternoon, Dave and Alex caught me up, and so we walked together (well, I trotted along) for the rest of the day, stopping to camp at the end of a DoC track in the middle of some very remote and picturesque farmland.
The following day I set off early again (even with my ludicrously long tooth cleaning routine, there was still no sign of Alex waking up once I’d had breakfast and cleaned my teeth!) but quickly got diverted by a farmer who told me the current “track” was half lost and quite dangerous (plus missing some key stiles and arrows), so I diverted down a few roads to reach Waitomo (a village which seems to solely exist for its vast glow worm filled caves… which are ridiculously expensive to enter), which took ages. By the time I reached Waitomo, it was mid afternoon, and there was no sign of Dave and Alex, so I assumed they had not been redirected, and had taken the (shorter) proper route. I pushed on, hoping to reach Te Kuiti by nightfall, but unfortunately missed that by a good hour or so, so when I couldn’t see where I was going any more, I set up my tent in the corner of a field, and nodded off.
The next morning I strolled down to Te Kuiti, wandered around the town centre (which is…quiet) and then sat in the library for a while using the (excellent) library WiFi to do my internet stuff. I then set up my tent at the campsite (which is…quiet) and headed out to find a coffee (at a rather lovely and inexpensive coffee shop called Tiffany’s, which is…quiet). Who should I pass wandering down the main Street, but Dave and Alex. This confused me a little, but it turns out they had gone by the proper route to Waitomo, and had got totally lost, camping somewhere before Waitomo, and then walking from there to Te Kuiti today. However this time they weren’t stopping. Having told me of an excellent deal on pulled pork in the local supermarket ($4 for 800g I think), they were aiming to be out of Te Kuiti and well on their way to Taumarunui by night. My poor legs (and my poor feet, which now have the biological equivalent of vibram soles) need a rest though, but who knows, events may transpire and I may catch up with them again in the future. You never can tell.
Anyway, after a day or two’s break and another coffee or two, I’ll be back on my way, and hopefully I’ll remember to take photos of the things I actually want to talk about for the next post.
Until next time.