Distance travelled today: 26km
Total TA distance covered: 745km
One month on the trail!
The hospitality at Podges Place in Mercer was great. With free camping in the back yard of the tavern & a hot shower you can’t really complain. Lovely hosts in Podge and Sandra. Always up for a good conversation and friendly aussie, kiwi banter about the cricket and rugby. Who won the rugby? I never did see the game but I know we smashed them in the cricket
Being a tavern and all in a small town the place was lively right through to about 11pm. We all joined in the fun and enjoyed many a beer. For our foreign friends the locals were for them to sample the local brews and their were many free shouts.
A bit of rain overnight didn’t dampen spirits in the morning. With the rain shaken off tents it was on the road again, and while starting the day with dry socks and clothes these were soon drenched as the trail entered into thick head high grassland that retained the over night moisture. Walking through, my shoes, socks and clothing constantly brushed against the wet vegetation and was saturated in minutes. Lucky it wasn’t actually raining or a cold wind blowing. The breeze was actually quite warm.
On another positive note, because when your saturated you need to think positively, my trail runners were the cleanest they have been for a long while; the wet grass scrubbing the caked on mud off. Along with the moisture the grass also deposited copious amounts of seeds on to my lower half. Good dispersal strategy for the grass but a mess for me.
A few kilometres of grassland and it was over highway one onto the banks of the mighty Waikato River for the rest of the day. Before crossing the highway I lost the trail for a bit. It left a road and pointed me down through a swampy area before hitting a wall of gorse. I think it is meant to take trampers under a rail line and the highway. I found it easier to back track 5 minutes, following the road and crossing straight over the highway. I wasn’t going to walk through a wall of gorse above my head in short sleeves and shorts, and by the look of things most take the road option here.
Over the highway it was difficult to make the trail out along the banks of the river. I cut in several times but there didn’t seem to be much of a track. Again it was easier walking on the nice wide grassed verge along the highway itself. The directional arrows soon pointed me in the right direction back to the river as the highway swings away from the Waikato.
By now the my clothes were drier and the trail followed along stop banks on the true right of the river. This continued for much of the day. Once out into the open along the edge of young corn fields, the sun was out and I took the opportunity to dry my tent out.
The trailed continued along stop banks for the rest of the day and climbed over a few high points with great views across the river. It’s fairly mighty. You could clearly see a strong current and many swirling eddies close to the banks. There were also a few spots where the trail had actually been washed away by the river and you had to pick your way up and around.
Right at the end of the day the trail was a little weird. The actual route follows for about 5 or 6 kilometres through paddocks with a stile to cross at every fence, and there were quite a few, but a gravel road was right next door. It looks like just about all trampers chose the road over the paddocks, as it makes for difficult walking over ground cut up by cattle, and I chose the same. The road open was much quicker, easier on the feet and you didn’t have to worry about twisting an ankle on the uneven ground.
At the start of the day I was aiming for Huntly. Once the trail comes out at Rangiriri I planned to hitch into Huntly along with Chris, Cathi, Emma and Jay but I didn’t make it that far. At the junction of the SH1 and Rangiriri they are building a new motor way and while walking through some of the construction, a digger operator on his way home for the day stopped and rolled his window down. He told me that you can’t access the SH1 on foot to hitch and that the trail cuts across to the east over the river on another bridge, which it did. The plan to hitch to Huntly from where I was, was thwarted for the day, he gave me a lift for the last 500m to the Rangiriri Pub where he was also staying. I met up with Chris and Cathi who were out the front trying to score a ride from there. By the time I walked into the pub and had a beer in my hand, my decision was made. Stay here tonight and hitch out tomorrow morning. It was getting latish in the day and with 25km under the belt I was satisfied with the progress made. By the time I found a room Chris and Cathi had disappeared so I’m assuming they managed a lift into town. I lost sight of Jay and Emma after a rest break before the construction and I’m assuming they managed to do the same. The rest as they say is history. Tonight I have a bed, cold beer and a pub meal. I’m happy.
So the plan is now to hitch to Huntly tomorrow morning. We all thought about hitching the next section from Rangiriri to Huntly as it is a repeat of today, along non formed tracks and stop banks for the whole day to the next forest section. It is really difficult on the feet and just a little bit boring. Tomorrow the Hakarimata Range and onto Hamilton for me.