Day 36: TA km 871 to Waitomo 

Distance travelled today: 25 km

Total TA distance covered: 896 km

It rained hard overnight but all my gear remained dry. I think I have by tent tensioning technique down pat so that there is no room for rain to blow in under the awnings. But by the time it came to breaking camp the rain had stopped. This made for a relatively dry pack up other than the tent itself that drys super quick with a few shakes and fives winds in the sun or wind. We got away by 7am for the walk into Waitomo and hopefully a resupply for a day as I’m basically out of food. A couple of pop tarts for breakfast, 2 museli bars and a small amount of scroggin was my food for the whole day, until hitting town.

The trail started out along some really nice farm tracks that were well graded and wide. The views out across the rolling hills in the early morning light were fantastic and remind you why you are out here. The odd cloud lingered about with some darker stuff off in the distance.

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From the farm track, the trail entered onto an old timber trail, an old tram line or something like that I think. It wasnt maintained but  had a super light grade to it as you would expect with a a track like this previously used to haul timber. The regrowth forest was lush but a cleared path was found the whole way along. The odd muddy patch but notjing to really worry about. Of course shoes were wet anyway from walking through moist vegetation. Just about every day, wet feet at least once.

We talked a bit out along this track. This was Jurgen’s first real bush adventure away from chalets, lodges and hotels he tells me. He is no stranger to hiking and has travelled many routes in Germany, Switerzland and else where in the European Alps but the experience here is very different from what he is use to and he is keen to learn how to approach tramping in New Zealand. All this is very new to him. He is very observant of everything that you do and had lots of questions really about what I eat, how best to respply, what maps I’m using (as he currently relies on GPS with the TA loaded in), what water is safe to drink etc….

At one point the topic of travelling together for a few more days came up. He was very keen to continue with me and would change his plans to whatever I was up to. If it was to be a rest day in Waitomo, he would take a day off, or if it was to continue onto Te Kuiti he would continue. The problem was I really didn’t know what I was up to. I felt like a rest day but it depended a lot of what services were in Waitomo and what the weather was doing. Initially I was thinking a day off was in order, at least my feet tell me so, but the walk Te Kuiti is only 15km, a half day really. It was at this point I said we should split and do our own thing. We would meet up again on the trail at some point like I have with so many other trampers. To be honest I think he has a need to walk with someone else at least for now, to learn more stuff, but I didn’t feel like being that soneone. At some stage you need to branch out and explore Te Araroa on your own terms and there is only one way of learning how to walk the trail, and that is by walking it yourself, discovery what works, what doesn’t and adapting. That is what everyone else who has walked from Cape Reinga to here has done. He is still in that process, Auckland being his Cape Reinga. Don’t get me wrong at all, I like the guy, I honestly do, but I’m walking this trail for me and I don’t really feel like having an apprentice tagging alone. We walked 100km together over 4 days and that is something to be proud of. If you’re reading this mate, well done, really; you will pick the ways of the trail up and it won’t be a problem; in two weeks time you will be a natural. Enough of a confesional from me. At times this blog is difficult. It is like a diary for myself to remember the trip but I’ve chosen to make it public so that people can keep tabs on how I’m going; but I also have to remember that being in the public domain, there is a chance the people I write about will read this, as was the case with Rob Wakelin, the CEO of the Te Araroa trust. Thanks for the email Rob much appreciated.

So back to the trail….the timber trail eventually came out to a farm and led down a farm road. The biggest news along this strectch was a massive white bull sitting in a paddock. Luckily the trail did not take us through here. This guy was huge and competly unfazed by outr presence on the opposite of the fence. The bollocks on this fella where the size of basket balls. I bet if he wanted to have a go the fence was no spotting him.

A couple km’s down the farm road and it was back into paddocks to take on a new section that just opened this year, having been re-routed. This was ok. The way ahead was clear, a straight line up and down along a fence line. The ground was chewed up a little by cattle but no problem. A few creeks with narrows bridges encountered along the way and up onto a rural airstrip. This one must get a bit of use as there were signs indicating getting the site managers attention abd gettingbthe ok to cross if aircraft are operating. None wrte today. From here a 2km section along more farm track and fresh cut track along a fenceline. This was tough ground underfoot and I eyed off the solid track just on the opposite side of the fence but I said on route and followed the marked track. It’s hard enough for the trust to negotiate with landholders for the trail to pass through their property, no point in pissing them off by walking off the route and causing issues in the future. It can understand, it was a working farm with vehicles travelling on the track and they want walkers safe and out the way by routing them along fencelines – fair enough.

Eventually, the trail turned back into the bush. By now the rain was coming down and the jackets came out. But it was one of those days where the rain toys with you. Starts with just a sprinkle and it’s ok to keep going, then gets harder, and harder until the jackets come out, then it spots until it’s too hot to continue walking and sweating in your jacket so you take it off, then it rains solid again…repeat over and over.

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The trail made up for the rain though. A pleasant section through native bush with tall canopy down to a stream crossing. I showed Jurgen how to approach stream crossings; un buckle pack straps, scout down for obstructions like log jams that could be an issue if you get swept down, survey the water to find the shallows and channels, look at the colour of the water,  pick your crossing point, face up stream, bend forward and take it slow, making sure you have firm footing before lifting the next foot, use your poles for additional traction. No issues in crossing and he was very thankful – another lesson learned. But it was a low stream.

The trail then beat a path along an old track for a couple of kilometres to join with a DOC managed combined mountain bike/walking track. This was awesome. Nicely benched, well constructed and soft under foot with fern fronds fallen from above. A pleasure doing buisness with you unnamed section of track. Sadly all good sections come to an end and it was back onto bitumen into Waitomo.

Wow Waitomo is a busy place and definitely on the tourist path. Hundreds of them. Fresh clothes, cameras swinging around necks, money belts strapped around waists and rent a vans abounded. I’m sure we looked out of place. It didn’t take long to make it to town and head in for a beer and something to eat. On the way we ran in Gareth a Kiwi TAer raising money for foster children. He had previously walked with Jurgen a few weeks ago. We found the general store grabbed a couple of handles and cheers of congratulations for the last four days were had –  down they went. I’d sorted a bed out at a backpacker for the night and Jurgen was off to the holiday park.

Later over a few beers at the pub I met Ian and Hanna from the UK who are also doing the trail, while Chris & Cathi rolled into town meeting up with Jurge and Gareth at the holiday park. It’s always a heap of fun catching up and sharing stories of the trail since we met last. Pizza for tea – yum.

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