Hamilton to Te Kuiti
I was electrocuted 17 times in the past 4 days. Got charged by a bull. Broke another walking stick. My shoes are toast. Lost my pocketknife. I lost my maps. Oh yeah, one day I ran out of water.
And I’d say it’s all going pretty well.
Before leaving Hamilton, the night of December 5th I got a text from Jorg, who was in town to get his feet looked at. He and Marylene arrived in Huntly that morning and he took a bus into Hamilton. We caught up over a beer and a bite and he shared the news that he might lose 4-6 days dealing with the foot problem. Frustrating, for sure, but he appears to be taking it in stride.
On December 6 I left Hamilton bright and early as has become my habit. Walking away from the city through suburbs, on streets and parks before a peaceful early morning walk through the Taitua Arboretum, which is an amazing setting, home to myriad trees and a large free-range rooster colony. Beyond that was a lovely walk through the countryside on rural roads followed by a long upward march through high range sheep pasture that had spectacular views. At a high ridge here I stopped and sat alone, had a late lunch and a rest and soaked in the vista, the sheep, a beautiful blue sky and sheep on all sides. No people in sight. It was a real highlight moment that comes back to me vividly days later. It is also when I realized I didn’t have my pocket knife. This is also the day my backpack caught in a fence, causing me to fall onto my back and struggle through multiple shocks to free myself. I don’t recall the specific time or order of that event, perhaps some short term memory loss is an after effect of the electrocution. That might explain why I carelessly touched electric fences on three more occasions that same day. I think now, with the benefit of the 17 electrocutions, I have finally developed the appropriate cognitive awareness to avoid further self-inflicted electrocution. Finger crossed.
While I was on the hill enjoying my break I got a call from Yvonne at the hostel in Hamilton (she had generously offered to mail my bounce box to the next post office so I could leave early that morning). Yvonne had a question: Did you lose a swiss army knife? She mailed it the next day! The day ended at the Khaniwanwha campsite at the base of Pirongia mountain, where I shared the campsite with Nicolas (France) who is also doing the Te Araroa.
I headed off early the next morning (December 7) and charged up Pirongia. It was steep and wet from rain the previous day, but there were stunning views at the summit and just past that a well-equiped hut where I enjoyed my lunch before pushing onward down the other side of the mountain. That’s also where I left my map behind. The descent was much harder, wetter and muddier than the ascent. This is where I broke my walking pole. Tired but not broken I walked some roads til early evening before camping on a quiet forest road.
December 8 was great weather. A mix of sketchy forest, some ascents to high pasture ground, and a charming river crossing, followed by some mountain bike trails and a little bit of road to get to Waitomo mid-afternoon for a plate of fries and a cold beer and a stay at a backpackers. This was the day I ran out of water, anticipating there would be a later stream to draw from that wasn’t.
From Waitomo, I had a short half days walk on December 9 towards Te Kuiti and an opportunity to resupply that afternoon for an upcoming long forest stretch, print off some new maps, and get oriented to what laid ahead. Without maps I got lost and spent 2 hours wandering farm pastures, getting charged by bulls, tossing my backpack into a pond, and suffering further electrocutions before joining up again with the trail and coming across Chris and Tony (New Zealand) and Jean and Julliette (France).
At the end of the four days I got to where I wanted to, had printed new maps, found walking with one pole preferable, know where my pocketknife is, learned not to stare down a bull, and have developed a positive aversion to electrified fences.
The next post will cover the Pureroa Forest, 4 days in the forest without coming across civilization.