We have been reunited with our Italian friend, Matteo! While we were in Waitomo playing tourists, he did some big-mile days to catch back up. We've been hiking/camping together in this whole section. Now we just need our French Canadian friend Marilyne
to complete the group.
Hiking with international peeps whose first language is not English is perfect for me because I love to correct people's pronounciation, grammar and finish people's sentences (one of my worst traits). Matteo's English is quite good, but it is amazing how many slang phrases J & I use without knowing it.
2) Imminent Death on the Trail
Dare I say that this past section has had mostly fantastic user-friendly trails (i.e., the Timber Trail). There were still steep sections and mud, but nothing too horrific. However, this blog wouldn't be as fun if I didn't find something to grumble about, right?
Why can't the whole trail be like this?
As usual, there are always steep descents and ascents
For this section, we did about 77.5K of road walking, 15K of farmland and 78K of forest. This time around, it was the farmland that almost killed us.
In particular, when we left Waitomo, we walked through a 15K section that not only got us lost a few times, but also included a nice, long tunnel of thorns. I am still picking prickers out of my skin 6 days later.
Then, we walked through Mangaokewa Reserve and it sounded like it could be a leisurely 15K through a picturesque setting. Instead, we crossed a lot of farmland and were often walking slanted on the hillsides hoping not to plummet to our death below in the Mangaokewa River. Besides the slanted trail, there were also divets in the path covered by the long grass, just in case we were interested in unexpectedly rolling an ankle. Oh, there was also a huge gaping hole in the path that has definitely claimed a few hikers.
This picture really doesn't do the slanted walking justice (we couldn't safely photograph the situation). But, you can see the river below me and use your imagination.
What Lassie? A TA hiker fell into the well? I'll go get help!
J's new trail name is Legolas (Lord of the Rings reference).
We absolutely needed our new gift of the monocular when we left Waitomo for that first section of farmland. The trail was nonsensical, switching directions every 5 minutes. J is really good at spotting markers!
The scenery and views just keep getting better. We again climbed a few mountains, such as Pureora at 1200 meters (4,000 feet?) where we had fantastic views of Lake Taupo and snow-capped Mt. Ruapehu. Also, as we get up higher and higher, the tree and plant life has changed. No more kauri trees. There were eucalyptus, totara, kahikatea and lots of pines.
Rolling green hills and rivers around every bend
The view from on top of Pureora looking out to Lake Taupo and Mt. Ruapehu
Justin and Matteo heading toward a eucalyptus grove
Also, we went through Te Kuiti, the shearing capital of the world!
Did you know there are more than 48 million sheep in NZ (about 10 sheep to every person) and the country is the world's largest producer of strong wool?
5) Great Campsites
We have started encountering some of NZ's 900 DOC huts! I love knowing where we are going to camp, that there is water there and that there's a toilet. This is in contrast to the 2 days this week when we were walking on roads for 25K+ and had no choice but to knock on someone's door and ask if we could camp on their farmland. Both times the homeowner said sure, but one time we were warned to get up early because he was going to be herding sheep. Sure enough, at 6am, we heard the "baaahhhhs" and hurriedly packed up our tents before getting run down by the sheep!
These farms have the best views!
Bog Inn Hut - our first hut in NZ. There is a reason we are sitting outside ... This one was a little less desirable
Waihaha Hut - our second hut ... Much nicer than Bog Inn Hut!
You already heard about J's broken pole and broken air valve on J's sleeping pad (new pad arrived!).
Well, on this leg, J and I both left gear at the hostel in Waitomo! J left the monocular, but realized when we were only 1K away from the hostel, so took a morning jog back to retrieve it. I, on the other hand, realized I left my headlight at that same hostel that night when we were setting up up camp. Grrrrr.
Anyway, we are planning to do a proper gear review soon, but we already feel very lucky with our gear. We've had a few issues, but have heard of SO many others switching out their gear for lighter options. Our base weights (without food and water) were 13 lbs (me) and 18 lbs (J), so we felt good about those. Things are also breaking/ripping on people left and right. The more money we save on gear (which is crazy expensive here), the more money we can spend on food!
So that sums up our week. We are getting organized for an upcoming section of trail that requires you to rent a canoe, but first, more hiking!