Happily in Hamilton
We got going from our campsite in a cow pasture today to continue our walk along the Waipa River. After crossing over one of NZ's iconic one-lane bridges (over the largest river in the country, no less) we walked south along another berm, yet again encountering LH and SK, before passing through the town of Huntly. The trail then climbed a the Hakarimata Range, which our guidebook had called "steep and arduous", but luckily was a relatively easy climb in good weather. The forest atop the mountains were peaceful in the breeze, but the descent down somewhere around a thousand steps (not kidding) lef our legs feeling like jelly. We came into the town of Ngarauwahia, where the trail crosses another river, and picked up a few more supplies. Our intent was to camp at the golf course, but a local named Peter found us wandering and brought us back to his house, where he frequently lets hikers camp on his lawn, aware that there isn't a great place to pitch a tent between here and the next town. We got to know him and his insanely inquisitive cat, Bella, before turning in to sleep for the night.
The next little leg of our journey brought us to Hamilton, a decent sized town on the banks of the Waikato River further south where we planned to take a bit of a rest day as the preponderance of road walking was taking a toll on our feet. The path mainly followed a bike trail along the water, so it was a pleasant stroll for several hours that brought us here in to town, where we decided to stay at the Eagle's Nest hostle and get our errands done, including some shopping at the local Asian grocery store for some much needed variety to our food supplies. The path heads on towards the mountains of the central plateau next, so we'll finally get to experience some higher altitude walking. We're looking forward to the next step, and can't wait to have more to write about soon!