Sat 12 December – Day 28
Ngaruawahia – nine girls are running under a wharf and here I am. Dad taught us as kids this simple means of remembering how to spell the name of the town that appeared so long and incomprehensible. This morning I’m thinking of this as I scan the information boards at the point where the Waipa and Waikato rivers unite to become the Waikato river for its final escape out to the sea. There was once a flour mill across the river and the confluence of the rivers meant it was an important trading town. The Waikato expressway has seen traffic through the town dwindle but it will never change that this is the centre of Kiingitanga. The Marae of Aotearoa at Tuurangawaewae dominates the river here. I was rather hoping for a waka to be out on the river but sadly not this morning. Immediately after passing underneath the road and rail bridges, the Te Awa river trail begins. Te Awa – it may simply mean the river but as a means of exercising between Ngaruawahia and Hamilton it is so very much more. For 20 something km it provides an easy 3.5m wide concrete pathway right into the heart of the city while following the bank of the river all the way. I am impressed in Ngaruawahia by the heritage trees, large oaks and plane trees providing plenty of shade. Exercise machines are positioned along this section for use by the public. There are illustrated instructions on how to use each one correctly. Sign boards along the way provide information on the area and the river. Not only are they informative but also encourage a rest stop at each one. After the Ngaruawahia golf course the trail crossed the river on the Green bridge, noted for its colour. It was built on the adjacent ground then pulled across into position on wire straps. Each side has a colourful mosaic artworks signifying the river which were made by school children. This side of the river ride passes farmland and lifestyle blocks with impressive houses before returning across the river on the Horotiu bridge. Just before getting to the dairy factory there is a little park with picnic tables and fruit trees. The apples look small, they maybe crab apples and are too early to be ripe. The plum trees however are different varieties. Some are ripening now and others still green. I manage to knock off a few of the red plum fruit with my hiking pole and devour them. What a treat to have fresh fruit trees actually on the trail. I wish it was more common.
At Pukete the trail comes slightly inland for a few kms around private property then emerges at equestrian grounds and then into the urban area of north Hamilton. The area along Pukete and St Andrews was established long ago so unlike the opposite side of the river the houses and gardens are mostly not brand new. Often gardens come right up to the river ride offering up their colour and scent for walkers and cyclists alike. I pass under Pukete, Fairfield and Whitiora bridges enroute to the central city. There are very few people on the trail today which, to me, seems somewhat strange as I think it is such an asset that more people should be enjoying it. Maybe many do not know about the river ride trail or its just a day when it’s not busier. Approaching the cbd the council have many replacing a section of the river ride that had succumbed to slips. Large fencing and signage indicates the trail is closed but evidently the public do not agree as the fencing has been deliberately moved to allow access. So I walked through too. Until I reached the Claudelands bridge and the temporary fence was impassable. Fortunately there was a bank to climb around the fence. I’ve now reached Victoria Street and the time is 2:30pm. I’ve been holding out for lunch to get here although sadly the cafes are closing for the afternoon. A coffee can suffice. Punk music can be heard down the street and I soon discover its source in Riff Raff square where a band is playing to a colourful crowd. Colourful punks.. I know! The lead singer looks five foot nothing but she can sure belt out a tune. Even if it’s not Christmas music. My friend Heather collected me from the front of the closest Countdown, horn blaring – I would expect nothing less from my ex Skotel friend and colleague. If her car’s horn made farting noises I wouldn’t be surprised either. 📯🤣 I am in trail angel heaven tonight with Heather, partner Charlie, gran, Ben the dog and Ralph the cat. The only cat I know that can say his own name. Shower, tea with lemon, shakti mats, foot massager machine, delicious dinner, great company, strawberries, swimming pool – you get the picture. Bliss.