We’re almost at the 800km mark now! Half way down the North Island and getting close to 1000. Walking has become such a habit that a 100km doesn’t feel that far at all anymore. Hamilton is 100km away you say? We’ll be there in no time! This week alone we’ve covered over 170km. Already now it’s strange to think about finishing this trail. What are we going to do all day when we are not walking 20 something kilometres?
It’s been a pleasant stretch now from Mercer down to Whatawhata. Up to the 1000 steps to get on the Hakarimata Walkway the trail flattens out and follows the banks of the Waikato river. We easily made it up to 26km a day with plenty of breaks. The weather was nice, we plugged in some music and let our minds wander off freely as the landscape passed by.
We booked our Whanganui river journey now so we need to increase our mileage to make the date. Speaking of which, Eef highly entertained the people of Yeti tours by getting on their answering machine to book the canoes but as she wanted to state her number forget about it. It was a several minute long voicemail where she kept rambling numbers while PJ and Serina were laughing very hard in the background. PJ spelled the number out but got it wrong too – it was hard to focus in the moment. When we got a call back the woman on the other side went: “Hi there Evelyne, I got your number out… After laughing VERY hard!” It will be a wonderful week. We’re starting on December 28th so we’re having New Years on a tiny campsite by the river. Yay!
In Huntly we took half a day off to take care of our bounce boxes in Hamilton. We had to hitch in to the city as it was Friday and we did not want to wait the weekend out for the post office to open. Staying in Huntly was really nice as the camping owners Dave and Caroll are the first trail angels we met outside of Northland. They take excellent care of TA hikers and we got treated to a warm and dry cabin for the night.
We got a hitch into town with a tiny truck that was really not built to transport 4 people. Soon after we crawled onto each other’s laps to fit into the cabin it started overheating on the motorway. We had to get out 4km short of the city centre of Hamilton, from where no city people were eager to take us. and we had to take a taxi in. In the hours that followed we stressed to the post office to get our bounce boxes fixed, to Countdown for resupplies, Eef almost got hit by a car and we failed to find any cosy centre around. So when Dave told us about a bypass to skip Hamilton and go straight from Ngaruawahia to Whatawhata we happily, unanimously and without hesitation voted yes.
So a small deviation from the official route. In this way, we have some more margin for the more difficult parts ahead. It looks like it will be a couple of rough days coming up with loads of rains, Pirongia summit at 915m, stream crossings and bush walks. It’s nice to have some extra time for this and skip the city walks, which is not really the main point of hiking after all.
Once back in Huntly we had a wonderful evening with Marylène and Jörg – our fellow hikers and water saviours in Hunuas – and Dave and Caroll. The day after we had a wonderful walk on the Hakarimata ridge. It seems like summer is finally breaking through – although it might be going away again soon. Feeling a bit nervous about the next stretch but as with everything we’ll get through, and the hard days only make you appreciate the nice ones all the more.