Trip Report TA: North Island pt5

Anticipation Building

Today is a zero day. I manage to convince my group to hunker down for a day as it is predicted to rain hard. We spend the day watching movies and Jo even makes us watch a JFK assassination conspiracy documentary! It's a special day since Mikki is turning 30!!! Jo bakes a pavlova alongside the massive dinner feast again. A few more people join by the end of the day: Isabella, two British brothers, Hannah and Dan and Laurel. The rain pours all day.

Everyone is excited to get back on trail. The track provides an equal balance of road and trail today. With all the rain it is quite muddy but after the first few sopping steps I stop worrying about avoiding puddles and march straight on through. There is a decent river crossing that we come upon that is flooded but still thankfully very manageable.

We emerge from covered forest trail unto wide open farm pastures and beautiful views. The sky clears and the sun beats down as I navigate fence lines, stiles and livestock. To my dismay my other shoulder strap breaks on the way into Waitomo. We take a short break in town as I try to sew it back together but this time I have no luck. I break all my needles in the attempt and have to resort tying it to the main body for the rest of the day. My luck isn't completely out as there happens to be a local in the next town who offers some gear repair services and she's willing to see me this evening!

Small peak outside of town

A bit disheartened but anxious to get the repair done I blast off to the town of Te Kūiti. I catch up to Arjuna and Thomas who had left the day before in the rain. Rushing across town I meet up with Sue and she sews both my straps up with an industrial machine while I go and resupply. I try to pay her but she politely refuses. I join the boys on the other side of town at another local's(Steve) spot. He let's hikers sleep in his garage for a fee. Lee, Tam, Draggin, Emma, Jeff, Hannah, Dan and a new German hiker Leonard are here for the night.

Today is a zero day. With a bit more convincing we are taking another day to hide away from the rain. After a quick trip to town for breakfast supplies, Morgan and I cook a family breakfast for everyone. We pass the day playing MÖRK BORG and Dungeon and Dragons into the night. It's New Year's Eve so we drink a bit and stay up late. The rain comes down all day and Steve worries at one point that the nearby stream might flood over onto his property. Despite being extremely swollen and about to flood the rain stops just after midnight so we are spared the evacuation.

Leaving early with Morgan we begin a 52km(32mi) road walk. We take a detour to avoid the trail directly out of town since we are warned that it will be in a sad state after so much rain. The day is uneventful and we arrive at a campground at the start of the Timber Trail. I chat with some other campers and a Swiss cyclist, Katrin. Eventually the boys and Draggin's crew pile in.

I wake just before sunrise and begin to hike the Timber Trail. Many hikers opt to rent bicycles for this section and cycle it in two days. Instead I plan on just doing two big days of hiking. Draggin on the other hand is attempting to do the whole thing in a single day! Thankfully since it's meant to be biked by beginners the track is fairly mild and well graded.

The TA takes me off the main Timber Trail for a moment to climb Mount Pureora. The highest peak yet and my first time having a clear view on a summit! I bask in the early sun and my heart races as I catch a glimpse of the Tongariro range off in the distance. The descent is thick bush and barely visible trail that I must force myself through to reconnect back to the boring Timber Trail.

Mount Pureora Mount Pureora

The rest of the day is passes slowly. I chat with a few cyclists along the way, there are cool suspension bridges connecting the trail over raging river canyons, a cyclist stops to give me a Werther's Original, and Felix and Chris(on bikes) catch me around midday for a chat. I end the day inside the only enclosed shelter on the whole trail. I can hear the scratching of animal paws throughout the night and am awoken briefly by Draggin stumbling down the trail in the dark with his headlamp.

Suspension bridge Timber Trail

The morning is quiet as I finish up the Timber Trail then hike almost 30km(19mi) of gravel road into the town of Taumarunui. I meet a hiker taking a break under some trees on the side of the road, Dash, a Canadian from BC. Eventually arriving in civilization I rush to the McDonalds and begin carb loading. I link up with Draggin who tells me he hasn't yet slept from the day before having some 106km(66mi) straight in under twenty-three hours!!!

Eventually Emma and Jeff arrive so the four of us split a motel room for the night. Emma and Jeff had taken bicycles. Emma was not feeling so great since she was having digestive tract issues as well as having fell off the bicycle twice.

Today is a zero day. I head back to the McDonalds and wait for my group to arrive in town. The boys show up around midday and we take a shuttle provided by a local canoe hire company to their property. I book a canoe and campsites for five days down the Whanganui River. They give us a briefing of the river route as well as handling basics. We are treated to freshly baked bread and lattes while we sit and listen. We pack seven days of food into water proof barrels that will be delivered to us at the start of our river journey in ten days times.

I spend the night sleeping on a bunk bed inside a shipping container with Michael. One of the perks of being a TA hiker and booking with this canoe company.

Today is a zero day. I spend the day hanging around sitting in McDonalds eating obscene quantities of burgers and lounging on free Wi-Fi.

I manage to get a spot again on the bunk bed for the night. It is a mini reunion as the day ends with the following hikers hanging around: Clay, Brandon, Morgan, Michael, Arjuna, Nathan, Steph, Isabella, Mikki, Rachel, Pascal, Felix, Chris, the British brothers, a new Swiss girl and a new German girl.

We attend the briefing again in the morning and get more fresh bread. The shuttle operator is kind enough to bring us over to the next town of Owhango. This allows us to skip some 20km(12mi) of road walking and puts us on a better weather schedule for Tongariro National Park.

We follow gravel tracks all day along the 42nd Traverse, avoiding mud pits and stagnant water. I meet an Australian hiker, Ella, on the side of the track. She's an animator and I get a quick peek at her sketchbook. The day is uneventful and we end at the Tongariro Holiday Park. The looming mountains stare us down all evening. Another hiker reunion commences as I reunite with Dale, Josh, Iris, Lucas and Lara, Mari and Andre. Almost everyone decides to leave at 0300h tomorrow to catch the alpine crossing with the morning sun and avoid crowds.

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