Wed 16 December – Day 32
Tom dropped me off at the trail start on Honikiwi Road shortly after 8:30am. It has saved somw kms of gravel road walking which is superfluous in my opinion. There is nothing to indicate the start of the track. No sign nor marker. Yet my app indicates it is where we stop. Eagle eyed Tom sees where some have pushed through the foliage so I break through too. Almost immediately I hit mud and almost loose a shoe in a deep muddy hole. Fortunately it doesn’t go far and that is the worst muddy but today. I learn the following day that the trail entrance is over a stile in the opposite direction to what the app says. No wonder there were no signs and hikers had just followed the direction per the app. The trail emerges onto a farm and follows the farm track. At each fence there is the option to use the stile or go through the gate. I use the gate so I don’t have to heft over the stile. Newly shorn sheep run away as I walk the paddocks and I am enjoying the cloudy conditions to keep cool and enjoy the views. After an airstrip and further farm track the trail veers off onto a smaller track through the regenerating bush. It must have been an important track in its day as it is well constructed and provides an easy journey for 5 km until it finishes again in farmland. Now the views are to the east until I join a gravel road. Horses stop their munching to glance at me passing by and woolly sheep don’t bother moving in the heat as they too follow my presence. A wonderful trail angel has provided a drinking water hose which of course I drink from. Although it comes out with some considerable force so the first time I turn the tap I am drenched with the spray. Not to matter it is actually welcome and I will dry quickly in the morning sun.
Just after the chook house the trail recommences through a 3,000 acre farm. The trail follows the straight fenceline up down up down in true TA fashion rather than going around the hills. It ends at another airstrip and a highpoint of approx 500m with a transmitter and amazing 180 degree views of Waipa and Waitomo. I am disappointed that none of the airstrips are in use today as it would have been fun to see a top dressing plane in action. From here the trail descends steeply through bush however I can see that walkers have followed the fenceline down instead so I go that way too. From here the trail continues on a 4wd track around the ridges to the right of a fence. In the other side of the fence is a road. I don’t know why we are not on it but perhaps it is neighbouring property. It’s a pleasant walk through bracken manuka a little gorse and heaps of ground cover that looks like lemon verbena but has no smell. I see two deer in the open, one dark and one fawn coloured but they leap away before I can get a picture of them. At one stile I stop for lunch and to dry out my tent in the sunny breeze. It only takes minutes to dry. 3 km in we begin the descent through more bush which is filled with nikau ponga and silver ferns. It’s really lovely. At the bottom is a wide steam to cross which is deep enough that I take off my shoes to wade across. The water is so nice and cool on tired feet. From the stream the track up the hill is also used by horses. It’s deeply pock marked by hooves but fortunately it is completely dry otherwise it would be a nightmare to walk up. At the top the trail follows a DOC combined cycle and walk way. Horses are directed onto another track so ours is smooth and easy walking. Trouble is at this time in the walk I find it monotonous and blast along not taking much notice of the surroundings (mostly kanuka) in an effort to get to the end. It’s a little over 4km but seems interminable. Then there is a little gravel road walking to reach Te Anga Road into Waitomo. My right achilles is tender and walking is a bit sore so as I reach here a ute is coming down the road. I hitch a ride for the remaining 2km into Waitomo. Tonight I stay at the Top 10 Holiday Park. The $25 tent fee also includes showers swimming pool jacuzzi kitchen TV room and WiFi. I may even stay two nights and give my feet a rest. Steve arrived about an hour after me plus I meet another two TA hikers; Jade and Neil. Steve and I grab dinner at the store across the road before turning in. Which I would have done had it not been for a backpacking couple arriving at 9pm and with their car lights and noise until 11pm.