Apologies to the Proclaimers! “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao Tzu. This signage; one of many on the beautiful Hakarimata Walkway, Ngaruawatia in the Waikato. These sayings lead our achievement so far. In Hamilton, John and I reached 800kms…500 miles on the Te Araroa Trail, the long pathway in New Zealand, from Cape Reinga and with each step, a step closer to Wellington!
Leaving the Auckland region at Mercer and entering the mighty Waikato River region. A mist shrouded landscape was ours walking to Mercer, the distant hills seductively draped. The mist giving way to a fine rain, the clouds low and everything grey, everything wet. By afternoon, the sun is shining and promising beach weather. We are trekking alongside the Waikato River and as we eat dinner, a beautiful sunset over Mercer is also ours.
Mercer to Rangiriri. The Whangamarino track leaving Mercer was rough, eventually giving way to overgrown, then swampy conditions. Markers were difficult to find. Views from the hill to the river were beautiful. Eventually, after much side tracking we climbed down to easier walking along the grass verge of the Waikato Expressway. Locating the track for the Whangamarino River Track was tricky . This trail was also overgrown, with creepers. Further, alongside farmland electric fences, negotiating overgrown gorse was also tricky. A stop bank that stretched for many kilometres was much easier walking but overall this days walk took longer than anticipated because of the overgrown conditions. All the while though, the mighty river flowed wide with a number of small islands to view. Very happy to reach Rangiriri. Stayed at Kathy’s B and B. Very comfortable and Kathy makes the most amazing pies…Roast lamb, Beef cheeks with caramelized onion, Pulled pork.
Rangiriri to the foothills of the Hakarimata Scenic Reserve. The Waikato River was stunning in early morning reflection. Easier day walking… along the road. Decided against the river walk as appeared to be similarly overgrown as the previous day’s river walk! The chimneys of the Huntly Power Station drew ever closer. Interesting Maori sculptures by artist Lyonel Grant in the shady park opposite the power station.
Hakarimata Scenic Reserve to Hamilton. Starting from Parker Road and finishing at Brownlee Road in Ngaruawahia, the Hakarimata walk is now registered as one of our favourite native forest walks so far. A spiritual, beautiful native bush walk and although the 6-7 hour walk is steep and hilly; climbing numerous steps, then up and down along the ridge line ending with about 1100 easy but steep steps down, it is a pleasant day’s tramp. Glorious views from various locations including the Hakarimata Trig point of 374m high. The walk into Hamilton was more tiring. No longer in shade, humidity high along with the sunshine made for sweaty walking along the highway until the river walk is reached at Horotiu.
The great NZ River Walk/Ride – Te Awa eventually will traverse 70kms from Ngaruawahia in the Waikato North to Horahora in the south encompassing communities and encouraging the people of Waikato to integrate exercise into their lives. The Te Araroa trail joins the riverside walk from Horitiu into Central Hamilton. A beautiful trail lined with a varied assortment of trees and bushes, passing numerous bridges and walkers and cyclists.
One group of walkers having passed us earlier were very friendly and Cathy, in typical kiwi friendliness, invited us to join the group at her home for coffee. Cathy and Murray have a lovely retreat, Te Awa Retreat which is available for bed and breakfast and situated on the river trail. Gorgeous riverfront spot. Their spontaneous hospitality and the friendliness of the group was welcoming. Rejoining the trail, post coffee and chat, we left the river trail entering the CBD at the corner of Alma and main St Victoria, where we reached our 800km point.
Leaving Hamilton CBD. As we walked around the Taitua Arboretum (approx 8km from Hamilton) a chorus of rooster crows filled the air and circled the valley. Meanwhile beautiful chickens, some with scuttling baby chicks, scrabbled, free to range wherever they pleased.
We talked to morning walkers who wanted to know if we were ‘doing that trail?’ then proceeded to ask many questions. We talked to farmers whose land we crossed. We talked to cows (or were they younger bulls) who were getting a little close for comfort and as we climbed the stile and rounded a lower bank, they lined the perimeter of the hill, held back by an electric fence watching our leaving. We talked to beautiful bald pie horses, to a roadside goat, a lonely cow that bellowed rather loudly after we had passed. And we puzzled aloud ‘ what are you doing here in NZ?’ to an overhead flock of white and yellow crested parrots, screeching alarm as we walked beneath their farmland trees.
We also talked to each other!
Notes From The Trail:
Mercer – Free camping for trampers at Podges Place. We were the 329th and 330th walker to arrive this season at Podges. Sandra took our photo to hang in this season’s gallery. We pored over photos from last year and this. Predominantly younger 20-30yos from around the world but numbers of 50-70s are increasing. Yay! Age is not a hindrance. Strength of body and mind, stamina, durability, determination, are the prerequisites. It is great to hear that more New Zealanders are also walking the trail, either through walking from Cape Reinga to Bluff or sections closer to home, as time permits.
Rangiriri – Cathy’s B & B is recommended. She also has camping spots and showers. Her pies are legendary
Hamilton – Thank you, thank you Trudie, John and Shannon Mackintosh. Family extraordinaire. We love you, your home and hospitality and your support in ways myriad. Our journey is easier because of you.
John has done an extraordinary job of planning our journey. From Hamilton the trail takes us over the Pirongia Mountain. Later we pass Waitomo Caves into Te Kuiti and Taumarunui, then onto Tongariro Crossing before tackling the Whanganui River. All exciting new ventures awaiting.
We are on a momentous journey; one which will stay our heart, our mind, in this land NZ. With wind in hair, sun on our faces. Not a guitar strapped to back but a strapped pack, to back our way. A song in our hearts. There are so many. ‘It ain’t easy,’ sometimes. ‘Here comes the rain again’ or ‘I’m singing in the rain’ until ‘Here comes the sun’. More recently, ‘I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more’!
The songs of the bush also gladden the heart. The warbling grey warbler, the melodic tui, the whoosh whoosh of the wood pigeon Kereru, the pulsating, rhythmical ciccadas, the rustling breeze, the click of sticks, the pound of heart, the tromping feet and sometimes, the silence…when you stop to listen. Joy.
With a prayer on my lips I give thanks for each blessed day in this amazing country.
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