This post is going to cover quite a large area spatially, but it’ll be a bit less picturesque than most of the others, because I’ve pretty much just been road walking for the past 2 weeks. However this post will also be a bit more people focussed than previous ones, partially because it has been an excellent illustration of the extraordinary generosity of the kiwis which I keep encountering, and partially to fill in space (there’s only so much litaeterary value in “I walked down a road… I walked down another road… etc etc”.
My final day in Raetihi produced the first delightful kiwi. I’d been washing my trousers, and so was wearing shorts and sandals on a lovely but breezy day, and was sat in a cafe eating the fattiest item of food I could find, with a glass of water. A lady wandered past and, noticing my shorts and sandals said “you must be from cooler climes than here”. This sparked a 5 minute conversation about the UK and travelling etc. She then wandered off. A few minutes later, a coffee was delivered to me. It turned out that this random person had seen fit to treat me (a random person) to a coffee.
After waiting for the weather to forecast to tell me it would not be raining the next day for 3 days in Raetihi (3 magnificently sunny and warm, and “definitely not raining” days) I decided to ignore the weather forecast and walk to Pipiriki anyway. Somewhat surprisingly, the weather continued to be pleasant for a couple of days. The walk to Pipiriki was a pleasant road walk, only being passed by a few giant log trucks from a plantation halfway along the road, and a few mini busses with trailers full of canoes and kayaks, ferrying tourists back and forth (Pipiriki is one of the main finish points for the popular pass-time of paddling down the Whanganui river). On getting close to the Pipiriki, the valley sides became ludicrously steep, and it appears that they regularly collapse in the heavy winter rains.
Fortunately I only saw a brief light drizzle at Pipiriki campsite, but even so, when there’s a kitchen/lounge and its raining, you take shelter. So I did. Inside I found the owner talking to a couple (who were cycling around the area), and so we got to chatting about the journey, things to do in the area etc. They then proceeded to bake some savoury muffins. I made a delicious meal of pasta, lentils, and carrots, and found this supplemented by 2 delicious muffins!
From Pipiriki I then walked down the Whanganui road to a small village/hamlet/area of limited residency called Jerusalem. At Jerusalem there’s a small nunnery (is that the word?), inhabited (pun intended) by a bunch of nuns who work in the Whanganui area. Indeed one day in Whanganui I saw two of these nuns driving an extremely muddy vehicle through town, something which seemed a very odd mix (one doesn’t tend to imagine nuns and off road driving in the same sentence).
Beyond Jerusalem, I was looking for a campsite for the night (there’s one on the whole Whanganui river road) as the rain started to fall (rain which I was told could last for days) when a local farmer pulled up and asked if I’d like a lift to Whanganui. Now of course I’m walking this trail, not driving it, however with 40-50km still to go before Whanganui, and rain on the forecast, I was more than happy to accept a lift. If there’s one thing more miserable than walking in the driving rain, it’s walking in driving rain along roads. This farmer not only took me to Whanganui, but went a few kilometres out of his way to drop me at the reception desk of his favourite campsite in the city!
Upon entering the kitchen of the campsite I met two folks called Tony and Les. A more…. mature… pair of travellers, it turned out that Tony (age 65ish) was doing the Te Araroa trail, and Les (his brother in law) had joined him to kayak down the Whanganui river. By all accounts it sounded like they were thoroughly enjoying their travels, with infinite stories to tell and a whole lot of laughing. The next morning I discovered that some of the other campers, who had left extremely early in the morning, had left me a couple of eggs and some sachets of porridge! On my second night at the campsite Tony and Les were kind enough to ask me to join them for dinner (sausages, potato, various veg) and a tot of whiskey. As my alternative was rice, lentils, and water (something which I’m rapidly becoming bored of), I was more than happy to join them. I then spent a few days in Whanganui, visiting the various free museums and Glass blowing studios as well as watching the Christmas parade (a complete anomaly to me, being as it was 25 degrees plus and I was knee deep in suncream).
From Whanganui it was more road walking along state highway 3 (quite possibly the busiest road I’ve had to all so far), ending up at Koitata, a small seaside settlement, which it seems even folks from Bulls (perhaps 20km away) don’t seem to know about. On the way to Koitata I met Luke, another TA walker who has taken a year out of his job go do some travelling and walking (this sounded rather familiar). We walked together, discussing the merits of good coffee and the demerits of other caffeine based drinks, but it quickly became apparent that we were moving at very different speeds, so we ended up travelling independently, but meeting repeatedly over the next few days, until Luke left the trail to visit some family.
From Koitata it was yet more road walking most of the way (a brief period of respite walking through a plantation forest), along which I was given a grapefruit (when someone offers you a grapefruit, what can you say?), before reaching Bulls, the most pun filled town I’ve come across so far. Below are a few of the signs from Bulls, my personal favourite (which I didn’t manage to photograph) was a perfume shop with a sign saying “scents-a-bull”.
More road trudging got me to Fielding and then Palmerston North, which is arguably one of the most spread out cities I’ve come across. Everything is miles from everything else. Unfortunately, by this point the weather had taken it’s toll on me, this time not the rain, but the sun. I arrived at Palmerston North feeling fairly unwell and ready to sleep, and I believe I had a mild case of sunstroke. This is really a nasty problem, and indeed can be dangerous if you don’t sort it out, so I spent two days in Palmerston, generally moping around the library and staying out of the sun while drinking lots of fluids. And that’s where you find me now, preparing to head out into the Tuataras, and finally get away from road walking for a while (I think I’m now on about 2 weeks of trudging down roads… now I can see why the hunters I met in the Pureora forest said this would be a bit less exciting than the rest).
Anyway, until next time