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Punishing Precipitation


11/13

Our tramp out of Hamilton was swift and easy. While the trail had markings at most intersections, some deviated from the map/GPS and ended up leading the wrong way. So far, we've learned it's always better to doubt check than walk the extra mileage searching for a sign. As we left the urban sprawl, we ran into a walker who chatted with us and told us about the arboretum that we would soon be passing through, which actually houses some Californian trees! It was a lovely walk with patchy morning sun shining through the tall trees and hens nesting along the way. After this we had some more road walking to do as the trail led past a limestone quarry and we were reminded of our times at Rock of Ages in VT. Our next turn was EXTREMELY easy to miss, seeing as someone has simply drawn a triangle with sharpie on a fence, very small, and written TA in it. Once again, had we not checked the GPS we could have been kilometers off course. From here though, the trail traversed some lovely sheep pastures that were stunningly lit and we even got to witness some sheep dogs in action. They were herding with a man on a four wheeler. We speculated as to the fitness of shepherds before such things were around. After the hilly pastures we were led down to a bit more road walking and off on a short trail down the river that led to a well kept campsite. We are sharing the spacious grounds with a family and fellow thru hiker, Paul we think, who is a kiwi from Dunedin. A spicy dinner from our provisions from an Asian grocery will help keep us warm during this cooler night. 11/14 Crisp morning with our first frost of the trip! Didn't anticipate this, but luckily we had a climb to look forward to. We packed camp swiftly and headed toward the Mt. Pirongia. As we left camp, Jeff noticed someone sleeping in a Bivy bag, this was a new concept to me. Basically you zip yourself into a body sized tent... Not really something I want to try. At the beginning of our Climb we got a bit lost and had to backtrack through some bush (this is what they call forest in New Zealand). Once we relocated the trail, it was a swift ascent to the over 900 meter summit. We made it by 9 am and there were stunning 360 degree views. We also got to see our first DOC hut. (Department of conservation) these huts are much more frequent in the South Island and are all lovely bunks for hikers to make use of. Generally $5-$15 on the honor system. Unfortunately, the descent was not as graceful. It was extremely steep and full of slippery mud. Basically you take one step, put your trekking poles into the muck 4 feet below you and brace yourself to put the next foot in place. I fall.... All the time. I'm perpetually covered in mud throughout these forests, and yet you grow to appreciate the moments of brief cleanliness that much more. Once we finally got down, it was lunch time and a group of 8 hikers were enjoying their meals at the base. We ended up walking the roads (20 km- eek!) with them afterwards and turns out one of the girls, Sarah, was an art teacher in Australia! She was great to chat with and it helped the miles go by quickly. Jeff walked most of the way with Stew, a native kiwi who had done TE Araroa and also completed The Great Himalayan trail! I told him that was one of the tables at our wedding. He was very knowledgable and answered many questions as we walked. Our day ended in some pastures and along a ridge around a valley. We camped amongst some goats and slept well.. Even though there was much rain in our future. 11/15 There are some days when you simply hate the trail. You just want to cause physical harm to its creators and you curse every orange, triangle you encounter. Today was one of those days. We counted our blessings upon waking up, seeing as it had been pouring all night and yet the rain gave us a glorious 20 minutes of dry skies in order to break camp. Then it poured. And the wind blew so fiercely we could have leaned to one side and not fallen over. There was mud everywhere and the trail was terribly marked. As the this torrent whirled around us we staggered through stormy winds down a road, hopeful of meeting up with the trail. THANKFULLY we did. Despite the weather, it was quite a lovely section if track, leading into the woods on a nicely cleared path and then through horse, cycle and foot paths in brilliantly colored clay. The rain began to subside a bit and we walked roads into Waitomo, which holds such tourist attractions as glowworm and caves! We stopped at the tented glow worm attraction and dried ourselves with coffee and hand driers in the restrooms. We had lunch and continued the trek into Te Kuiti, our next resupply town. Despite being mere 16 km away, we were once again faced with some of the worst track on the trail. Recently shoveled into clay, switchbacks with cliffs on once side and extremely slippery, 1 foot (if that) widths, led us a punishing 100 meters or so down a mere hill. After this we crossed nearly 20 styles over various fences and tripping over cow plops and uneven turf. Luckily, we were both in good spirits and managed to get into town relatively dry, albeit muddy from multiple trips and falls. We resupplied and demolished a whole chicken for dinner. Then slept in a park and drank beer. The perfect end to a pretty crappy weather/trail day.


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Jeff & Kate Bernardoni

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