Thurs – Fri 18 December – Day 33 & 34
I’m taking a day off in Waitomo as my right achilles is still sore. I’ll give it a good soaking in the pool and the jacuzzi. Jade is up and gone by 6am so Steve Neil and I meet for coffee at the General Store after it opens at 7:30. Steve sets off for Te Kuiti and Neil describes his walk of the camino in Spain last year. It is certainly something I will do in the future. We are sitting and chatting when Dean walks in (Puhoi). He’s been staying with his family in Te Kuiti and is doing the walk there from Waitomo today. He doesn’t have a pack, lucky devil. When he sets off it’s closer to 9am. The weather is sunny so I spend the morning in the pool and spa. There are no guests about so I have it to myself. For lunch I went next door to the Huhu restaurant and when I return to the pool for an afternoon soak there is a couple from a campervan. Soon after arrive four boys of about 15 years old who take over the pool and spa pretty effectively. They were having a great time and were actually really well behaved – makes me wonder what school they attend? In the end I jumped into the pool and not surprisingly they soon left. The America’s Cup World Series races commenced today. Fortunately I could watch them in the TV room. Saddened for Emirates Team NZ in their race against American Magic that they didn’t remain on foil as consistently as their first race. This evening I grabbed a pizza at the Tomo pub and a have an early night. Tomorrow is 17 km to Te Kuiti. Sounds short and quick but apparently it is a shit of a walk…
Dion (Puhoi) arrived late last evening. I was already asleep so didn’t know there was another hiker in camp until the morning. We had breakfast together and he’s decided to stay an extra day at the Holiday park. I set off and run into Jonathan, who has been at the Tomo hut and is also going through to Te Kuiti today so we fall into step together. Jonathan is from Christchurch and works the winters at the Remarkables skifield. So he has the summer to walk TA. From the village pub we climb a stile and are immediately in farmland. Limestone kasts dot the cliffs and we climb through them following the trail. After crossing a road a grass farm track leads down to flats that have been made into silage already. On the far side of the flats we follow a hand made track up and over the first of a series of 150+ metre ridges. The hand hewn track is narrow and so we are constantly pushing back gorse manuka branches and supplejack as we go. It’s only 17 km to Te Kuiti today however the going is slow in these conditions and we are expecting it to take five hours. The next farm flats lead us directly to the bull paddock. The bulls have a reputation for chasing hikers so we approach with some trepidation as there are two of them bellowing and they are standing right where we want to walk. But it’s all an anticlimax thankfully because the bulls trot away and we have a clear run up the next hill. From the top of the Pehitawa track would typically be great views but today they are ho hum due to the cloud so we don’t dawdle. We’re going down again, this time through new grass then we cross a stile into high grass up to our hips. We disturb two peacocks which take to the air. Neither of us had before seen a male peacock gliding for a hundred metres with its wings outstretched and colourful tail feathers shimmering in flight. Very cool. We followed a forestry track down the hill until we reached a herd of dairy cows. Their temporary electric fenced paddock was through where the trail ran. We didn’t want to go through them so headed off to detour on a farm race instead. Soon after we crossed the swing bridge over the Mangapu river which leads into the Pehitawa kahikatea forest reserve. There was once 41,000 hectares of kahikatea forest in the Waipa area, now there is only 158ha remaining. This reserve is therefore crucial to the legacy of these trees which can grow to 60m high and live for 500 years. It is a beautiful piece of bush – I feel privileged that it is on the TA trail as most of the public wouldn’t know it exists nor have access to the reserve. The next parts of the walk were fairly boring and just seemed to drag out the kms by following fencelines up down and around. By the time we got to the early exit sign at Gadsby Road I told Jonathan that I was taking this route. He would continue along the Pehitawa track up to the mast highpoint then down into Te Kuiti. On the outskirt of Te Kuiti I was enjoying an ice cream when along came Jonathan. He’d walked a wee way then saw how it dipped into a gulley then straight up the other side and decided he liked the route I’d taken instead.
In Te Kuiti, the Shearing Capital of the World no less, I went straight to the information centre to work out a plan for the Timber Trail as I want to get through it before Christmas. Now it is decided that I will cycle the Timber Trail so I arrange two day cycle hire and bag transfer there for $135. It will take two days to walk from Te Kuiti to the start of the Timber Trail. That sorted I see Steve outside so we grab lunch at the cafe in the railway station. The train doesn’t stop here anymore – we witnessed the Northern Explorer race through enroute to Auckland – the smirking driver blasting the horn as it passed by making us all jump. Next stop is at the New World supermarket to replenish for the next four days before walking to my trail angel for the night. Tonight I have the pleasure of staying with Dean’s niece. Tomorrow will be heading off towards Pureora Forest along the Mangaokewa River trail.