We met up with Ben in Te Kuiti at the library. His foot was sore but he was adamant he wanted to walk with us in a few days.
That night we had chip butty’s and some fish and corn dogs. I just realised I have never explained what a chip butty is to the people not from New Zealand. Basically, it is the most delicious and fastest way to get a huge amount of chips in your mouth at once. Just get some cheap white bread, spread some butter on it, unless you are on a budget of course, then cover it in tomato sauce, pile a stack of chips on it (I’m talking about hot chips that you get from fish and chip store) and voila you got a chip butty. A delicious, fatty, beautiful meal, roll it up and stuff it in to your face and be happy. It is by far our favourite cheap meal.
Oh, the roller-coaster that is Te Araroa. We left Te Kuiti in good spirits, late in the day but happy to keep going in the nice weather. The track took us along a river side with green meadows and cliffy hills. Sheep were running around us and grazing in the shades of the luscious trees. It all felt like a fairy tale. Soon enough the fairy-tale took an evil twist leaving us breathless on goat tracks scaling the sides of steep hills. Despite all our efforts we were going really slowly and although we went all the way till late evening we did a depressingly small amount of KM’s. I was getting emotional again. I felt so unbelievably tired and winy much like a child that has stayed up past their bed time. I was desperately trying to come up with ways of going back to Auckland for a rest or somehow thinking of ways I could afford to go to a resort for a week or two. It wasn’t just me this time, Arthur was feeling pretty unmotivated too. Ben’s foot wasn’t getting any better so sadly he wasn’t going to be able to come with us either.
Once out of the hellish farmlands we hitched a ride back to Te Kuiti to resupply before doing the 4-5 day Pureora Forest walk. Just to add to our already sad moods it started to rain.
With our shopping done we started hitching back to the forest entrance. We managed to get a ride with a nice man going all the way past our turn off and I settled in for a nap. Just a second after leaving the car at our camping site I noticed a horrible thing; there was nothing in my hands. I had left my hiking poles in the car and the man was long gone. I want you all to understand something here, my hiking poles are my lifeline I don’t go ANYWHERE without them. I kiss them good night and they had names. So for me to have lost my best hiking companions was indescribably tragic. I was ready to give up but I knew my poles would have wanted me to go on.
The next day we packed up our wet tent and walked in to the bush. It started out on a cycle way and was absolutely stunning. The forest had a fairy-tale feeling with very green and mossy old trees and large bird populations. It wasn’t until the end that it started to rain again but we weren’t too far away from our hut. How exciting it was to be able to sleep in the hut and what a cosy little hut it was too. It was a pretty old small quirky building with four bunks and a fire place. We got the fire going and hang all our wet stuff around, cooked our meal and played some cards before retreating to our beds. Our sleep was interrupted by rats running around on the roof and in the walls. After being awake for a while I decided they were friendly and hoped they wouldn’t run across my face.
We had planned an early morning the next day but managed to snooze until 8am, I guess the rats kept us awake half the night. I was worried and excited about the day ahead. Our terrain was a bit daunting but we were hitting the 1000km marker and that was another big goal for me. You see in the days of doubt I make small goals for myself to reach. Auckland was one and 1000km was the other so I was extremely excited to be able to cross another one off my list. I guess the next one will be the 1500km, marking the half way point in our trip. But before that we had to climb a summit only to steeply descend and then walk up and down steep climbs. It wasn’t too hard, maybe because I had imagined it being worse, but it still left us pumped and tired. I really liked that forest though, it was nothing like the Northland Forest at all and even though it got hard I never felt the need to get out of it. The sun was shining through the incredible green mossy trees. The birds were flying around us and I kept finding cool plants and mushrooms. There were these insanely bright coloured mushrooms, just like out of a Tim Burton film. My mood was so much better and I felt like I was ready to keep going once again. When we finally reached the orange marker with our 1000km drawn on it, it seemed unreal. I couldn’t quite grasp it. I spent the next 3 km thinking about all the things that had happened in the past 1000km, how much I have changed, grown, seen and how much stronger I am both physically and emotionally and how fast time goes. It was pretty huge.
Our next hut along was a very fancy one. It was big and pretty new with 10 beds, a fireplace and a big table. It even had a swimming hole, mind you it was the coldest water I had been in for a while, refreshing though. We also met another couple doing a hike in the long weekend and a lady and her French au pair. It was very nice, we shared stories, cooked our meals and ended our evening with a game of scrabble (I watched as my English scrabble skills aren’t the best).
The times on our trail notes and on the sign posts on the track were very different so we weren’t sure what our day would be like. The terrain on our map didn’t look too daunting but somehow the TA notes stated that 11km would take us 10hrs so we were freaking out a little bit. Turns out we did it in 5hrs. It was hard. There were a lot of steep up and downs, some small river crossings and we did stop to sing and dance a bit. I think we really out-did ourselves on that one. If Ben would have been with us he would have been very proud. I was sad we weren’t going to stay at the third and last hut in the forest as it was super cosy and had a spectacular view but it made sense to get down the mountain, getting us a day earlier to Tamarunui – to our rest day. We had lunch at the hut before climbing down the somewhat difficult track on to a farm road. There weren’t many houses along the way and the ones we came across no one was home so we were forced to keep going even though it was getting late and we were pretty damn tired. In the end we got a space in front of a woolshed. We had managed to walk 27km. We were thrilled. On a road that would be good but through a rough forest that is pretty damn amazing.
We got up reasonably early as we had a long road day ahead. It was raining but who cares we were going to Taumaranui. It wasn’t raining badly anyway just spitting and it stopped eventually. Arthur was listening to his audiobook and I was learning Spanish. I got some weird looks from the cows and sheep on the side of the road as I was having loud conversations in Spanish with myself. The KM’s were flying by. Around lunchtime, a very kind farmer invited us in for tea and freshly made scones with him has his wife. Yummy. Turns out their son, Sam had made a stall on the side of the road where he was giving TA walkers lolly’s and water and had a book were they could write their stories. How cool is that. To buy the lollies he sells eggs from his chicken. He was unfortunately in school when we got there but we left a message in the book and were so impressed by what he did. Also his parents were amazing for inviting us in. It is so my favourite thing about this trip.
We made it in to Taumaranui in good time. We had some McDonald’s and did shopping for the nights 1000km super food. We even went so far as to get a cabin with real beds just for the occasion. I cooked us some delicious steak, mashed potatoes with red wine mushroom sauce and fresh garden salad with feta and basil and yummnesssssss. (Oh, yeah they have fresh herbs and veggies here, come to Tamarunui holiday camp!!!). We toasted on our 1000km and wished our travel buddies could have been here with us. Cheers Anton and Emma and of course to you too Ben heal up, we miss all of you!!!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!