November 19, 2016
km traveled today: 28
total TA km: 793 (sleeping ~20 minutes off trail)
Today I woke up a bit early, headed into the kitchen at Judy’s awesome place, and got started on making a hot breakfast to send us off properly into the cold, wet forest. I cooked up some grits using the milk, butter, onion, garlic, and cheese made available to us in the kitchen. We were looking at a totally full pot topped off by 4 of Judy’s huge Indian Runner duck eggs. Sure enough, as I was walking outside with the grits pot in my hand, the lid on the pot shifted and I lost my grasp. Pot goes down, grits go flying. Luckily, we only lost about a quarter of the pot. After cleaning up Judy’s wooden deck, we got to eat the eggs and grits, pack up our gear, and head off toward the Hakarimata Bush Track.
The bush track starts steep, and stays steep. The forest contains a couple of popular day hikes for locals, so the track has plenty of established steps. In total, the trail plaque advertises over 1,500 stairs in the initial climb. How exciting. We set a goal for ourselves to complete the estimated 7 hour track in under 5 hours, so we had to get cranking.
Stopping only for brief water breaks and to enjoy some clouded but beautiful views, we were making quick work of the morning’s walk.
The track was steep with plenty of PUDs (Thanks Penny for the sweet new terminology, PUDs: Pointless ups and downs). At each peak we were teased by potentially incredible views shrouded in mist. At one of the high summits of the walk, nothing but cloud was visible. Pretty cool getting walled in.
After 3.5 hours, we had reached the big descent down toward the town of Ngaruawahia, where we were planning to top off our lunch supplies. We said hello to plenty of exercising locals on the way down, learning quickly that jogging up the Hakarimata steps is all the rage in these parts.
We linked up with Jason, a kiwi TA tramper who was headed to the New World grocery store as well. We talked about plans for the upcoming days, what our next moved are as we approach heavier bush sections. We bought a meatstick to pair with lunch, and soon headed off toward a road section of the day. In the trail notes we found the number for the Smith family (Alice, Andrew, and Chris). They are a trio of grade A trail angels, but more on that soon.
The highways are by far our least favorite parts of the trail, but I found today’s highway walking quite enjoyable. Jack and I did plently of trekking pole dancing while singing loudly “Punch You In the Eye,” one of our mutual favorite Phish tunes.
We arrived at km 793 at around 4:30 pm, from whence we began heading off trail toward the smiths. When we arrived at their awesome home, they told us we could set up for the night on their living room floor, and they had dinner cooking that moment.
We talked to Chris, Alice and Andrew’s son, about his experience hiking the trail last year. Got some good intel for planning the next couple days. The Smiths prepared a wild dinner, complete with plenty of veggies and even more meat. We hung out in their living room and talked about all sorts of things to pass the time. Alice handed each of us an orange trail marker patch she had made so that TA walkers could don a sweet merit badge for their efforts. Awesome.
Now, we are curled up in bed in this awesome place, awaiting the sunrise to take us to our next destination, one step closer toward Mount Pirongia!