Distance travelled today: 30km
Total TA distance covered: 1033km
Based on the track notes or the DOC signs, today was expected to be a big day with at least 9 hours to walk 18km through the forest out to a road, followed by a full road walking section for another 37km or so out to Taumarunui. So was with this in mind that I set the alarm for 6am, aiming to be on the trail by 6:30am and to get as many kilometres in during the cool morning as possible. I had my pack, packed last night and basically just needed to throw my sleeping bag in, munch on some bars for breakfast and get going.
The Hoff had the same idea and was on the trail just before me but there was no in catching him. This guy moves fast, real fast. An ultralighter carrying very few kilos. Wish I could do the same but I’d say I’m light weight for this trip, not ultralight. I keep thinking of gear to ditch and am still finding stuff to send home or send ahead in my bounce box but I think my gear is as paired down as I’m prepared to go. I want to be comfortable on the trail. There is enough of a sufferfest walking big miles over hard ground, I want to be able to sleep well at the end of the day, be warm when I need to be and stay dry.
I hit the trail virtually running. Along the river the going was flat and really top quality trail. It made for fast and really enjoyable walking. I chewed the kilometres down.
Despite how I thought the trail would be with the description of 10 hours to the next hut, it was great. A few steep ups and downs and the odd wind thrown area to duck under or around, but for the most part easy going either following the river or thin ridge tops with great views down. The distance came easy.
Along the way I stumbled into a trail maintenance crew who had been choppered in to the next hut, Hauhungaroa Hut, and were working their way through. Turns out these guys had done the maintenance I’d walked through in previous days and were staying at the hut. What a job. I wouldn’t mind that. Walking through the forest with a mini chainsaw, clearing track and getting choppered in/out with food and beer. I quizzed them how far to Hauhungaroa Hut and they reckoned an hour and a half – for me this meant an hour.
Sure enough I arrived at Hauhungaroa just after an hour at 11am, taking 5.5 hours to reach it from Waihaha. Not sure how anyone thinks it might take 10 hours from hut to hut. Perhaps the trail notes are meaning 10 hours from Waihaha out to the road?
Anyway, based on this awesome effort, I realised I would not be staying at this hut tonight with still the best part of half a day to keep walking. At this rate I’d easily meet the road by mid day and might as well keep pushing as far as I could to reduce tomorrows 37km road bash down as far as possible.
DOC’s estimate from Hauhungaroa Hut out to the road was 2 hours so I set myself the goal of taking half an hour of it. But I couldn’t do it and it took me the full 2 hours. From Hauhungaroa the track condition deteriorated back to the typical tramping standard that I had come to know through previous forest sections. Back into roots and mud with with sone really steep sections thrown in where a rope would have been handy on the slippery mud; I made do with tree branches.
I reached the road by 1pm, found a nice shaded spot and got stuck into lunch. A nice long, shoes and socks of break was called for. Any additional distance from now was bonus as I thought I might be camping out near the road at the start of the day.
The rest of the afternoon was spent road bashing as many kilometres as possible. On my way out I met Ross a keen hunter with pack and rifle slung over his shoulder, headed high to one of the mant open clearings where he might chance a deer. We had a good solid chat fir 10 minutes or so and he wanted to hear all about Te Araroa. A firm handsake of congratulations for making 1000 kilometres and we were on our respective ways.
The road was long and just a little boring. This is remote farming land with very little traffic. This was great. I was able to walk ithe middle of the road where the crown is highest and listened to an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland on my ipod. The surrounding views were great and more than made up for the road walking. Prime agricultural land with lush green, rolling hills. A mix of sheet and cattle properties. Young steers are hilarious. Very curious creatures. Whenever I’m walking past they all rush the fence line to take a peak at yet more tramper trash heading through their patch and then follow along until they reach a corner fence blockading their way. Different from the diary cows who either immediately run off or remain competley unfazed and focused on the next mouthful of grass.
I after quite a few kilometres of metalled road I hit the bitumen. I pushed as far as my feet would carry but didn’t have anywhere to stay. I was going to knock on the next door I came to and ask to camp in a paddock but on approaching it looked a bit dodgy as and I moved past. Luckly not far on I came across an unfenced section of forest, indicating it was crownland. Jumping off the road and into the scrub I scouted for a flattish spot. With some fern fronds thrown down to level the ground I had the perfect site. Up high, hidden from view from the road I was finished for the day. Tent set up and bed laid out I then cooked dinner, a thousand different bird calls the backdrop as they also settled down for the night.