Video taken by John from Mt Pirongia Summit
Our Te Araroa trail journey continues in the beautiful Waikato Region taking us over our highest summit so far, varied and trying weather and some minor discomforts to body and soul…testing the Comfort Zone!
The Good: Panoramic views, beautiful bush, lovely campsite, the joy of a wool shed shelter in stormy weather and meeting with a friend in Te Kuiti.
The Bad: Walking about 6kms off track over steep and hilly, albeit with panoramic views, following markers that were not going our way, a bee sting with reaction and and feet and ankle issues.
Leaving the comforts of NZ Hamilton family and their abode, with full provisions we set off in glorious weather to walk the Kapamahunga Walkway before tackling the Pirongia Range. Full packs always take the body a time to readjust especially when climbing steep hilly farmland. But the views and the weather spurred us on, so it was with dismay we discovered we were off track. To conserve battery power, we had followed orange markers (that unfortunately were not going our way) rather than rely on our downloaded app for verification of directions. 3kms off track is 3kms too many and double the off track distance with backtracking! A lesson learned. Check with compass and read the notes more thoroughly. A field full of cows and bulls seemed perturbed by our company and it was a relief to climb a style out of their field. (We moved slowly to not spook them further). Loved camping at Kaniwhaniwha campsite which backed onto beautiful native bush that we had earlier walked through. A stream nearby, toilets, camp table and benches and rubbish bins and we had it all to ourselves.
The climb to the Pirongia summit was via Tahuanui Track, a gradual steady climb through pleasant bush taking 5hours to reach Pirongia summit (959m) with a steep slippery climb over the last 1km because of recent rain. Awesome to finally arrive at this point and amazing views atop the standing platform. John had to coach me up the ladder; my head for climbing not always in a good space! Such a beautiful day to be doing this track and to see 360deg views of the Waikato King Country was spellbinding. However, I felt better when off the platform.
Pahautea Hut, is the only Hut on the Pirongia range and many trampers who had climbed other tracks were there. Most were exhausted and muddy from the muddy conditions on their tracks. We lunched then set off to descend via Hihikiwi Track, a 6km descent with the first km; down and steeply up, along a boardwalk, and which we expected to do in about 3.5 hours. We took 5 hours. We had not expected the awful conditions. Steep, muddy for about 4kms up to knee deep in places with some mud pools wide enough for a buffalo to enjoy. Almost dispiriting. With failing daylight, concern set in. However, we made the descent safely and with enough daylight to set up the tent (on a grassy car park strip at the base), wash the mud off ourselves in a nearby stream (thank goodness for the stream!) eat dinner and toast, with the last of our rationed wine, passing the 850kms mark…the halfway point on our North Island TA trail, before darkness surrounded.
Various road walking next up before farmland trails, then a beautiful old timber trail leading to another farmland road. The weather had been all sorts all day. Sunny and warm, cloudy, and drizzle before packing in completely. Mist descended, the rain increased and the wind picked up. Not the most inspiring weather to set up camp in the bush, our nights destination! However, a farm wool shed appeared out of the mist with a nearby 3 sided rounded barn housing a massive truck, swallows nesting in the roof, piles of timber and various farming material with just enough space for us and our tent. Perfect! Using one of the planks of wood, we leveled the ground for the tent, clearing wood shavings and bark and sheep shit. The wind howled and swirled more, the rain a flurry in the mist but we were snug hobos in a farm barn. John had walked a bit further to find a farm house with farmer for permission to camp but without success. We left the area as we found it, minus the sheep droppings and taking rubbish belonging to some very naughty ‘other’ TA walkers who also must have taken refuge there but had hidden their rubbish behind the timber pile.
Enroute to Waitomo. Mist painted the country side white. Poor visibility. How would we see markers? Rain and more rain. Full weather gear for us as we walked the roads to Waitomo rather than THE trail over hilly and slippery farmland. The weather cleared a little as Waitomo appeared. So good to reach Waitomo YHA where clean and comfortable accommodation and a delightful manager called Stephanie awaited. An opportunity to clean ourselves, our gear, our clothes.
To Te Kuiti, rain accompanied us most of the way. A good days tramp despite the rain, through native bush, farmlands with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from high ridges and lovely Pehitawa forest with beautiful Kahitawa trees. The farmland grasses are blooming with wild flowers and insects. Unfortunately, a bee did not like my passage and stung me. Poor bee but gosh the sting hurt and the wound area swelled. Antihistamine from a pharmacy in Te Kuiti and an icepack at our motel helped my discomfort. (I had applied Tee Tree oil asap) John also injured his ankle on uneven clods so it was two slightly sorry trampers who were delighted to see a friend in Ken Davies who had travelled from New Plymouth to spend some time with us. And he came bearing home grown vegetables. Yes!
Notes from the trail:
Over halfway, in fact we have now passed 900kms. Amazing. It’s surreal thinking of this distance but a ‘step at a time’ has brought us thus far.
Nutrition on the track. Interesting what food or drinks come to mind when far from amenities. However we do well on the trail. John compiles bags of oatmeal with various dried nuts, fruits and milk powder to which hot water is added, for breakfast. Evening meals are usually the freeze dried packaged meals to which boiling water is added and left to stand for 10 minutes. We add olive oil and bone broth powder to up the nutritional content. Lunches usually consist of capsicum, cucumber (for as long as they can be kept fresh) cracker biscuits, peanut butter and tin foiled packets of tuna or salmon. Scrogin and ‘one square meal’ bars for trail snacking. Often John will make chia pudding with honey and coconut milk powder. Delicious. As you can see John is chief cook. I ‘wash’ the dishes. Sometimes, if water is in short supply, toilet paper (unused!) wipes the worst and wet ones (the trail saviour) finish up. Amazing how ‘standards’ change!
No scratching the bee sting Nancy. Damn it. Where is the home made ice pack…
Ps John’s ankle is ‘all right’ at the moment.
Meanwhile, the terrible NZ summer weather wrecks havoc throughout the country. May we all be blessed with good weather. However, heavy rain is forecast for the next 3 days. And we are camping some nights. Definitely out of the Comfort Zone!
Next week’s trail takes us through Pureora Forest Park to Taumaranui.
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