The Te Araroa finally takes us back into the woods before we follow the Waikato River into the city of Hamilton.
Check out the latest video as we trek along the river into Hamilton:
DAY 23 – Mercer to Huntly
Tom and I woke up in the farm field where we had camped. He went on ahead as I was slow that morning. The trail crossed the farm fields and into some intermittent hills with marsh areas at the bottom. It became very frustrating as I constantly lost the trail, following other paths through the tall grass. I couldn’t see my feet as the grass and bush came up to my chest. My allergies were going crazy.
It was irritating to get lost so often, being pricked by thistle thorns, gorse, and other plants. I caught up with Tom and he was equally pissed. Then we saw a concrete sign commemorating the men who had made this trail. It didn’t feel like they had done anything…we were following an overgrown goat track up steep inclines and across marshes. They could have spent the money for that sign on actually making a better trail.
After our rough start we ended up walking along the Waikato River for most of the day. The highway followed the river for some time and we found that it was easier to walk on the road shoulder than in the horrible bush-whacking excuse for a trail. I’m sure you can sense our frustration.
Overall it was an uneventful day. There were some cute calves that came up to us at one point. But our allergies were horrible all day from the tall grasses and we were just trying to get this out of the way. We keep hoping that once we get past the big town of Hamilton the trail will get better.
We ended up camping at a park next to the power station outside the town of Huntly. Apparently the town is known for gang violence and we were told it’s not safe to freedom camp in the area. Per usual, we didn’t heed the warning.
Day’s Distance: 38km (23.6mi)
Total Distance: 717km (445.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,280km
DAY 24 – Huntly to Hamilton
We survived the night unscathed and left our discrete campsite near the power plant. It would be a long day into the city of Hamilton. We stopped at Maccas (Kiwi slang for McDonald’s) for breakfast and set off down the road.
It was easy road walking for a bit before we entered the forest. We were looking forward to this; finally some real trail in the woods!
The Hakarimata Track took us high up onto a ridge. The climb was steep but well maintained with heaps of stairs. At the top we were afforded some views and then continued into the woods to follow the ridge.
Through the jungle we went as the muggy heat made us sweat. It felt like a real hike for those brief 11km. Soon we reached the helipad and viewing platform. We encountered many locals on this popular track.
From the platform it was a steep descent of stairs down from the ridge. At the bottom there was a rather pleasant walk alongside a stream.
We left the forest and entered the town of Ngaruawahia. We stopped for lunch at a cafe. Tom had a vegetarian breakfast and I had a meat pie and some fruit; I was starting to crave fresh foods.
We walked through the town and ended up following the Te Awa walkway. Te Awa is Maori for “the river” and this walkway follows the Waikato River all the way into Hamilton.
Heaps of cyclists passed us and there were many walkers out and about. It was a wide and nicely maintained path all the way to Hamilton. However, our feet were feeling the pain from the hard pavement. We walked for hours until we finally hobbled into Hamilton.
We dropped our stuff off at a hostel and went to a Korean place for dinner followed by a gas station for candy and ice cream bars. We were wiped. Today we hiked past 750km so we’re now a quarter of the way finished with the trail!
Day’s Distance: 41km (25.5mi)
Total Distance: 758km (471.1mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,239km
DAY 25 – Zero Day
We decided to take a zero day in Hamilton. Tom and I slept in, did some laundry, and didn’t do much else. The hostel provided breakfast and then we ran a few errands. We each had a large pizza from Sal’s New York Pizza for lunch/dinner.
Day’s Distance: 0km (0mi)
Total Distance: 758km (471.1mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,239km
DAY 26 – Hamilton to Pirongia Forest
Tom and I both had a horrible night’s sleep. The hostel room was hot and it felt like we were getting bitten all night. Bed bugs?
We left the hostel and walked through downtown Hamilton before following the bike trail out of the city. We stopped at a grocery store for a resupply and I had Subway for breakfast.
Out of the city we did some road walking before passing through farmland. The trail took us through chest-high grass that did wonders for our allergies. My skin seemed to break out in a rash from all the plants.
We stopped for lunch at a nice cafe on the trail. I had the most beautiful vegetarian dish and a smoothie. Then I realized it was Thanksgiving. It felt like the appropriate meal for the occasion, although with the time change, my homeland wouldn’t be celebrating for another day. Tom, being British and uncultured, didn’t know what Thanksgiving was.
We walked along the road some more. Tom was sarcastically excited that we got to walk on two state highways in one day. He thinks we’ve walked on four state highways on this ‘trail’ so far.
Eventually we reached a point where the trail deviated from the road for a few kilometers before joining it again. Tom decided to stick to the road. I thought this could be a slippery slope of skipping sections; we may have cut a few corners here and there.
So I took the trail through some nice overgrown gardens before some farmland. I ended up stepping in ankle-high mud and also getting some new cuts from sharp plants. My legs broke out in allergic reaction to all the plants. Tom has a better experience on the road.
I rejoined Tom and we hiked up onto a hill. It was a beautiful mountain that had been deforested for sheep grazing. We enjoyed the spectacular views.
However, we did get lost and took the wrong track which ended with us on top of a ridge with a sheer drop. We backtracked and eventually made it through.
The descent from the mountain was extremely steep at times; it was very hard on the knees. Near the bottom I noticed my left knee was red hot with Inflammation. It had swelled up and was also covered in a red rash from the reaction to the plants earlier. I popped a pain killer and hoped it would get better. I injured my knee previously when I hiked across the Grand Canyon and it was a constant worry for me on the Appalachian Trail. I really hoped this would not be a repeat injury.
It was an easy road walk to our camp which proved a popular site with a school group and a few others camped out. We made dinner and relaxed a bit. My knee throbbed with pain by the time I went to bed. Ironically, earlier in the day thought to myself how thankful I am for my health on the trail this far. I just hope my knee will be better in the morning!
Day’s Distance: 40km (24.9mi)
Total Distance: 798km (496mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,199km
Whenever we want to see how far we’ve left to go we simply push a button on our phone GPS to see:
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