‘You Two Are The Craziest People I’ve Met’ said Mark from Benneydale. Walking from Cape Reinga to Wellington on Te Araroa. 1700kms. Crazy? Well maybe he knows something we don’t!
At 65 and 64 we are older than most TA trampers we’ve met, by about 35-40 years. Has this trail, this adventure been more than we should pursue? Are there more lines to the face (sunburn an occupational hazzard) especially when our hats are frequently flipped by the wind and even though lotion is applied regularly? What about the daily demands on our bodies? Each km is a km trod over tree roots or mud, or sand or road. Gorse, blackberry runners, Scotch thistle; often overgrown and ready to snag, slippery grass and uneven farm clod. All challenges out of our comfort zone in varying weather of hot sunshine, humidity and rain; heavy and light and misty. Freedom camping is an interesting experience especially erecting and dismantling a tent in the rain. And each day there are many kms. Each day sees an average of 21kms. Not many for youthful bodes but how much for older? Time will tell the physical effects of such a long demanding trail. But for the soul. How do we go? Each day a venture, each day a trail that sometimes has its trials, each day an accomplishment that is soul and stamina building in this challenge of the distance; one step at a time. Each day a reconnection with the unique landscape of the Land Of The Long White Cloud, her wilderness remote areas, her splendid beauty in land, river, sea and flora and fauna. Each day meeting with lovely New Zealanders who do applaud our walk while some think us crazy. Crazy we are indeed! But so too is love and we love this land of rugged wilderness, of beauty. And we love, that thus far, we can walk, one step at a time.
Te Kuiti to camp spot near the end of Mangaokewa River Reserve. First 3-5kms after leaving Te Kuiti is a gentle lovely river walk eventually through native bush. However the going gets rougher along the 15km Mangaokewa River Reserve Trail. Track overgrown underfoot in many sections with grasping, tearing blackberry creepers, Scott thistle and some gorse. Face, hands, legs, clothing including hats were scratched and sometimes ensnarled. Annoying! Farmland interceded and we startled the sheep. Feral goats perched precariously on cliff faces or raced away over pasture, our trespass disturbing. Meanwhile beautiful virgin bush on the opposite bank was our view to wonder. Terrifyingly for this height challenged tramper the track left the river, leading up steeply, more steeply and more steeply. No comforting bush or tree to aid my way. Just more up! I froze at one point but John’s voice in my head saying ‘you can do this, the ground is firm’ plus my own voice encouraging ‘you can do this’. I made it but I could not look down the steep steep bank. The rain continued throughout the day. We camped short of our day’s expectation but glad to find a grassy area free of pooled water. My cautiously slow progress in the misty, raining, cooling weather found us grateful to shelter in our wee tent. Warm clothes, a cup of soup, dinner and a few mouthfuls of wine and we were snug hobos. Our habitat not quite waterproof but black plastic garbage bags fended the sleeping bags from the few drips!
Mangaokewa Reserve to DOC Camp Pureora. Downed the tent in the rain, managing to repack our packs without getting the contents wet. Good decision to camp there as large gorse and sodden areas for the last of the river trail before reaching the farm forestry road. Road walking for the rest of the day until reaching a destination pick up point. This area quite remote. The rain gradually gave way to a brighter day. Stayed the night at Benneydale Lodge and enjoyed a wholesome dinner and breakfast at the attached Heart Song Cafe. Coffee too! Washed the clothes, ourselves and dried out the tent. Mark, our driver thought we were the craziest people he’d met because we were walking all that way and because we insisted on being dropped back to the pick up point of the day before. Bright sunshine exclaimed the beauty of this farming countryside with its sometimes interesting hill shapes. Another night of mattress comfort at a DOC cabin which had a fridge and basic amenities.
Pureora Forest Reserve. Our Te Araroa trail follows the Pureora Forest Timber Trail for 17kms to Bog Inn Hut. Misty with light rain. Great track through avenues of native forest with vibrant ferns and ancient trees dripping with green moss. Ethereal and beautiful. We were sorry to turn off the timber trail to track 1.5 km to Bog Inn Hut built in 1960 with bunks for four. More beautiful bush to the Hut but the track now muddier, boggier, narrower and John slipped. Joined in the Hut later in the day by Jack and Alisa from USA, lovely young and very fit couple who often tramp 30-40kms per day. Nice to share stories.
Bog Inn Hut to Taumaranui. Enter Henry from the Isle of Man, a late entry to our Hut at 10.30pm last night who slept on the rough hewed wooden floor! Alisa and Jack were up and off to Waihaha Hut by 6.30am. Henry, in discussions about the TA trail so far and particularly the often difficult rough terrain, declared he was walking the rest of the 85km Timber Trail Bike Track to Ongarue then Taumaranui rather than the TA noted, more wet and slippery trail along the ridge line. ‘I’m doing this TA trail to enjoy myself’ he said. Heavy rain had fallen overnight which would makes this day’s walk more precarious for us. Henry left, we deliberated for some time and decided we would also walk the wonderful Timber trail bike trail rather than be frustrated battling with a wet, muddy and slippery few days. What a good decision. We loved the 85km Timber Trail which took us through many more avenues of beautiful forest which we could admire with ease. Information plaques telling the history of the timber industry and the building of the tramway to take out the timber (an astounding engineering feat) in the Pureora area were many and great to read plus 1km posts marked the 85km way. A great deal of money has been spent on this trail so we feel the TA trail should also use this track. Challenges for the height challenged are still aplenty with adrenaline rushes crossing 8 suspension bridges, particularly the longest at 141 metres. Camped at Piropiro camp ground where we celebrated passing 1000km point with free beer from nearby cycling campers. The next nights freedom camp was within view of Mangatukutuku suspension bridge. Remote beautiful and awesome.
Notes from the Trail: John has been struggling with his left foot. After a few kms the pain worsens but he has soldiered on. His boots do not appear to cushion rough stones underfoot. His size 14 feet means choice of footwear is limited. We’ve managed to find another pair of boots plus gel insoles his size in Taumaranui. Hopefully with extra rest and new better soled boots all well be better for John’s foot.
Taumaranui Holiday Park. Nice park with basic cabins, clean facilities and nice owners who discount TA walkers.
Next up: Heading to the Tongariro Crossing which all being well will take place on Tuesday. Excited to have Taranaki friends Dave and Kerry Lilley joining us for this Crossing.