Stream N of Waiotehue Road(79.9)-Mangamuka Dairy(100.1)
Campsite Elevation: 67ft/20m
Some are not a fan of the road walking, but I’m welcoming the breaks between the forests. It was a variety of gravel, dirt, and paved, so it wasn’t bad. I also think the Bibbulmun has changed my perspective on the road walks. I spent so much time on forest road track on the Bib that now I really enjoy it. It’s great for multitasking and for just relaxed miles and an audiobook or music. I know some of the road walks on the TA can be quite long, so we’ll see if that changes my post-Bibbulmun buzz about them. I was on the road for the first three hours of the day. A couple hours in, I went by an interaction with some cars and a school bus. Sitting there was another hiker named Sally that was part of the group I met at the hostel that had taken a shuttle to the trailhead yesterday. I was surprised to see her and immediately realized what had happened. She said that she and one of the other guys had a rough go of it in the Herekino Forest and came out pretty late. There was a farmer at the exit of the forest that let them stay in an unfinished hut he was building for TA hikers. This morning, he gave Sally a ride to avoid much of the road walk and took the other guy she was with to the next town. He is not interested in doing anymore of the forest and will continue his hike from the next town. As I mentioned yesterday, there is a ton of this kind of thing on this hike with many opportunities to skip sections or get rides on the road walks.I have to say that starting out with the beach and now these forests are like throwing new hikers into the deep end. This stuff isn’t easy and it’s tough on the body. The forests are especially challenging and slow going with few water sources or opportunities to camp. There are many first time thru-hikers out here, and seeing them as the first week comes to a close, I’ve seen many that are quite intimidated and probably wondering what they must have been thinking. This really is a tough start to a hike and really not something I’d recommend to a first time thru hiker. There isn’t really an opportunity to ease into the hike before the rough stuff comes. I walked a bit with Sally and was able to hopefully help with some of the mental obstacles she was facing. I was able to put in perspective that this hike is really difficult and that I too am finding it challenging. Just getting a 20mi/32km day is feeling more like a 30mi/48km day. I can’t even imagine how tiring and stressful it would feel to a first timer still trying to work out their routines and gear.
After walking with Sally for a bit, she stopped for a break and I ran into a couple from England (Lisa and Chris) who were doing great and had the most positive outlooks of anyone I’ve met it seems. They were fun to overlap with for a brief bit until we hit the forest and I moved on ahead. They didn’t have hiking poles and I’ve met many who don’t have them or just have one pole. I can’t imagine doing this without my poles. I am much more stable and faster with the poles. Just before we hit the entrance to the forest at 10am, we came upon the tent of an American guy named Brandon who was in no hurry to do the Raetea Forest and was planning on taking a day before going up and then hitching the roads between the forests as he’s already tired of them. Yep.I knew the Raetea would be slow going and taxing, but it was even slower than I thought it would be. It’s the most difficult of the three forests. Apparently, the ridge that is walked has some of the highest peaks in all of Northland, NZ. There were some steep climbs, and I was dripping sweat at times with the humidity, but it was only in the upper 60s/20C.
I was chilled at lunch when I stopped. It was concerning when I got to lunch and had only gone 1mi/2km per hour the first 3mi/5km.
I started to worry I might not make the next water source before camp, and was glad I had grabbed plenty of water. Shockingly, given an insane amount of mud, there isn’t a single stream or decent puddle to grab water. Good thing the trail notes mention it. I think many don’t make it through in one day and they have to carry 24hrs of water to be able to spend the night in there. I was more covered in mud than yesterday. This mud was quite deeper and more unavoidable in the Raetea. There were many times that it just sucked my full foot in with each step. Check out my Instagram or Facebook page for a good video of the mud that I took that I’m not able to load onto the blog. The links to those pages are on the top of the blog.
The novelty had worn off after lunch and I was just focused on finishing the forest. There was more downhill in the remaining 6mi/10km and I was able to move at a slightly faster pace. I hit an old road that was overgrown with grass and thought I was home free, but then the mud returned for about 40mins of the worst mud all trail that was really deep, thick, and just sucked my foot in with every step.
When I got near the end I came upon another hiker. A young 20yr old German girl named Becky. She had a great attitude about the whole thing and was a strong hiker with a fun sense of humor. We finished up the section that spit us out on a gravel road after taking us across some grass and right through someone’s property. They had a big gas tank and 8 leashed wild dogs that were foaming at the mouth and barking and leaping at us as we had to hike through them. Two were unleashed and thankfully just ran up and followed us a bit. It was insane.
We came to a nice stream down off the road and both got in the stream and washed the mud off the whole bottom half of us. It was great. It was a good 15mins of getting our shoes off and fully rinsing out the mud from the shoes and socks. I even took my pants off and got them fully rinsed and they dried as we did another 3mi/5km of road walking through a farmland to a local shop.
We arrived at the Mangamuka Dairy by 6:15pm (they closed at 6pm). We had heard through the TA 2016/17 Class FB Page that the Maori owner offers a room to stay in for koha. Since the next section is mostly highway walking, we decided to go with that. The owner Eliza was super nice and we made our dinners at the picnic table and chatted with her. The accommodations are very basic in a minimal room with outdoor public portable toilets. There is no electricity or water, so I was glad I filled up for overnight at the stream. It is right on the highway so we can hear traffic. Eliza was super nice and gave me her iPad to use for over an hour to watch the election unfold. She also found out I liked pasta and randomly brought me a big slice of homemade lasagna that was awesome!
Eliza had a trail register we could sign and we could see who came through. I have a thru-hiking acquaintance that started a week ahead of me with his sister that I thought I might eventually see out here. He and I started the PCT from the same shuttle, both our first long hike and he is from a small town in Illinois not far from where I was raised and next to where I went to college. Both of us went on to become avid long distance hikers and have hiked many trails. He got the name Softwalker because he wears those shoes that are minimalist and look like footprints. I saw footprints in the mud and realized only he would be crazy enough to do that and he must be nearby. Turns out he was here two days ago. Coincidentally, he was in the next town and I just got a fb message from him. We also overlapped for a moment in 2013 when we both did the CDT, so it will be fun to see him in the coming weeks. When we do, I’ll link those old posts as I have photos from those previous overlaps in 2011 and 2013. I love that I have those detailed older posts and can go back and refer to them this many years later and show how cool this little hiking world is.
After dinner I watched the election unfold with Eliza on the iPad. It was just shocking to me that Trump won and I was watching just as the tides turned his way and the final states were coming in. Really really shocking and crazy to think this actually happened! I may now claim I’m Canadian on this trail I’m so embarrassed to be from a country that this could happen. That’s all I’ll say as I’m sure some out there reading obviously voted for him. It just makes my stomach hurt to even think about it and what’s to come.
It’s now after 10:30pm. My body feels good and I’m not as worn out as I thought I’d be. The main part of me that’s sore are my upper arms from using my poles so much to stay upright. Somehow, I managed not to fall the whole time. The sounds here are not their fault and terrible. There seems to be a huge truck with cattle parked nearby or something that’s making some dogs on the land across the street go crazy. It’s a ton of noise with traffic, cows moaning, and the dogs. Seriously, it’s almost humorous how ridiculously loud it is. Earplugs are no match at all as it’s like it’s all right in the room with us. I don’t think this is normal at all and just bad timing. I have a white noise app on my phone and I’m going to wear that to sleep to drown out the sound. Man, what a day!