Ahipara(63.6)-Stream N of Waiotehue Road(79.9)
Campsite Elevation: 209ft/64m
It took me awhile to weigh all the options of waiting to hike out with Arisa and Felix or hiking out on my own. There are many factors, but at the end of the day, the weather is good for a tough section and my body wants to hike. By 9am, I said goodbye to Arisa and Felix. We will keep in touch and possibly still be able to hike together further down the trail once they get their trail legs. Particularly Felix, who is a seasoned long distance hiker and just needs to ease into the first week or two. I have a feeling he may fly past me in a few weeks. They plan to leave about a half day after me, which isn’t far at all, so we’ll see how it all pans out.
One thing I have yet to talk about out here is how often people have an opportunity to skip trail or find another mode of transportation. There are some specific spots where kayaking or a shuttle is needed to get over or around a waterway, but that isn’t what I’m referring to. I found out yesterday that many hikers today were taking “the shuttle” out today. There is a 4.5mi/7km road walk from Ahipara to the trailhead of the first forest today, the Herekino Forest. Apparently, there is an opportunity to get a ride to that trailhead instead of walking the road section. This is unfathomable to me as a purist, and my way of thinking is more of an American way of approaching a thru-hike. Which means you hike through and don’t cherry pick. It is actually quite common out here to skip portions of the trail that are road walks. It is crazy to me that it’s gotten to the point that the ride to the trailhead is known as just “the shuttle.” I really can’t say more on this topic as I equate it to people in the real life talking about politics or religion. I just can’t relate to what they may be thinking and I’m sure they feel the same way about me walking the road. I will say that it’s extremely rare to find a hiker that doesn’t either hitch or ride a bike on the longer road walks ahead. I can understand the concept of covering the same ground, and seeing the same scenery, while it’s thought of as just another mode of transportation. They didn’t miss any miles of the trail, they just used a quicker form of transportation, and I can totally see why that would seem ok to people. Not my thing, but I guess I can see the reasoning behind it. I know it is not my place to make any judgment or even comment on this aspect of the trail, but it is part of the trail and something that I should mention because it is such a routine part of it.I started walking just after 9am. The 4.5mi/7km road walk went by pretty fast and was scenic. There was some traffic on the road with a car or two coming by every couple of minutes. It was uphill, a bit windy, and there wasn’t a shoulder, so I was sure to walk on the side facing traffic and was alert to the sound of oncoming vehicles so I could step off road. After 1hr 40mins, I was at the trailhead for the Herekino Forest.
Over the next few days, I will pass through three very hilly, brushy, and muddy forests that seem more like a jungle at times. Even on good days with a string of dry weather, it is quite muddy, so I was expecting quite a bit of mud with some heavy overnight rain two nights ago and a fair amount of rain yesterday. I think the Herekino is the tamest of the three.
With two hiking poles, and a fairly light pack, I was fortunate to stay on two feet in the muddy, rooty slip n’ slide. It varied and changed moment to moment. Going from dry packed trail to shoe sucking deep mud, and everything in between. I expected more brush and was quite happy that it seemed to be recently cut back, so at least I wasn’t also pushing through brush and I could see the trail. I saw five other hikers today. First, I ran into a young guy from Holland who had broken a hiking pole the first day of the hike, so he had one pole and was understandably taking more time to keep his balance. After I passed him, I one by one came upon the four in the group I met yesterday that got a ride to the trailhead this morning. There was a clay-like road stretch that was less muddy, and I came upon Suvi (Finland), who was the front of today’s hikers that left from Ahipara this morning. We ate lunch together and Anthony (U.K.) and Fritz (Holland) came as we were finishing.
Again, the international aspect of this trail is amazing. I’ve only met three American guys so far. After lunch was a climb up to the top of a viewless mountain and then quite a steep and muddy downhill. By the time I exited the Herekino forest, it was nearing 5pm. Between the forests are much welcomed road walking stretches that provide a break from the taxing muddy forests.
I knew there was a logging road for a few miles before I’d hit a busier road. There were many spots I saw to be able to squeeze in a tent along the road and decided to go as far as I could along the logging road before stopping. About a half mile before the more paved road that would have more traffic, I came upon a good sheltered spot I couldn’t pass up. Just before a stream was an old wooden fenced in area that must have held horses or cattle at some point. I could tell people had camped in the tall grass before with a distinct path leading off the road to the old fenced area, a banana peel, and a flattened out spot in the tall grass.
I stopped at 5:30pm and had a relaxed time doing my nightly routine since it doesn’t get dark till 8:30pm out here. I made dinner on the logging road (that the trail notes say can still be in use at times) and was able to rinse all the mud off my pants and socks and lay them out to dry. I enjoyed the time to myself and feel like it’s been an eternity since I’ve been able to have this kind of space and time at camp.
I was finally in the mood to sew up my pack’s hip belt pocket that holds my snacks. A possum got into it about a month ago on the Bibbulmun and I’ve never gotten around to sewing it. A bar managed to fall out of it this morning. I figured it was a sign that I should finally repair it. After going over maps and trail notes for tomorrow, I started writing the blog a bit late, and must have fallen asleep sometime around 9:30pm. I awoke just after 11pm sweating quite a bit all over. My pajamas were wet and I think I was too bundled in my bag and beanie. It’s now very mild out and shockingly, there is no wind. I finished writing for an hour or so and went back to sleep at 12:30am. There is a significantly sized animal moving around that seems to be a wild pig (if that exists here). It just squealed pretty loud. I hope it doesn’t become an issue…tomorrow is the US presidential election and it feels really weird to be so removed from it all. Here are a few more from today.