The Te Araroa takes us into the real bush of New Zealand as we trek through the Pirongia Forest.
Here’s the latest video from the trail as Tom and I hike into the Pirongia Forest and experience the real wild of New Zealand!
DAY 27 – Pirongia Forest
I woke up in the middle of the night to relieve myself. My knee hurt just standing on it. I went back to sleep until morning, hoping my knee pain from the previous day would dissipate. It did seem slightly better in the morning. I didn’t have much of a choice but to hike on.
And so I took a painkiller for breakfast and Tom and I set off to hike up Pirongia Mountain. It was a nice and gradual climb through the New Zealand bush. I quite enjoyed it and it finally felt like I was in the real forests of New Zealand. All the plants were native and it was such a jungle.
My knee seemed to be holding up well. I didn’t feel the same pain from the day before, though it still seemed swollen and inflamed. I couldn’t stop so I just kept hiking.
Near the top the climb became steep. There were several false summits with great views. At last we reached the summit and climbed the viewing platform. We were at 959m above sea level (3,146ft). From there it was a short walk to a hut where we ate lunch. Storm clouds threatened to blow over but it never rained.
Our descent proved more difficult than the climb. First we had to ascend several smaller peaks before steeply dropping through the forest. It was slippery and muddy. Tom hurled expletives as we climbed downward.
We had planned a big day but the mountain was eating up more time than we thought. Eventually we arrived at a gravel road which we continued on for a bit before it brought us into yet another state highway.
The road walking was short lived and we followed a dirt farm track through more of the Pirongia Forest. From there the trail entered an old timber track that wound its way through the jungle.
It was quite beautiful as we walked. Our day was long but the trail was pretty. Well, until we encountered some more mud and bogs. Rain clouds again returned, this time thundering at close range.
We were a few kilometers short of our goal but Tom felt we should stop before the rain. When at last we emerged from the jungle we set up camp on a beautiful hill overlooking grazing sheep. Once we were in our tents, only then did it rain for a bit. It was a peaceful end of the day as the sheep called out into the evening.
All in all, this was one of my favorite days on the trail. We got to experience a mountain, jungles, farms, difficult terrain, pleasant terrain, and some road walking. I’m starting to realize that every day on this trail will likely include some road walking but it was nice to have less of it today and actually see the forest. And my knee seems to be holding out!
Day’s Distance: 36.5km (22.7mi)
Total Distance: 834.5km (518.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,162.5km
DAY 28 – Pirongia Forest to Te Kuiti
This was an epic day…
We awoke to grey skies with fog everywhere. After our wet tents were packed up, Tom and I set off across the farmland. The land rolled will hills, irritatingly. The haze was heavy.
Tom was extremely sore but my body seemed to be in good shape. Soon we entered the bush and descended steeply. The trail was muddy and slippery and not well maintained. New Zealand is a temperate rainforest climate so the native plants grow like weeds.
At one point we had to cross a stream. I suggested we take our shoes off, though my socks were already soaked from the morning dew and overgrown plants. And so we crossed the frigid water barefoot. This proved to be a good idea rather than having soggy shoes for the day.
It was forecast to rain all day but the sun was out and it was hot and muggy. Sweat poured down our faces as we climbed and descended over and over. It was so damn hot! Tom’s legs were chaffing and I couldn’t drink enough water to keep a headache away.
But we weren’t far from the town of Waitomo where tourists milled about to visit the famed glow worm caves. We filled our water bottles and indulged on an over-priced lunch at a burger place followed by an ice cream bar. We also laid our tents out to dry and I charged my phone as best I could. Power and cell service are beginning to get scarce.
Then it was back to the grind for hours in the sun as the trail began to alternate between farmland and bush. We took a break on some hay bales in a field and lay there, not wanting to move. Heat stroke? Eventually we pushed onward.
At one point the trail through the farmland was so overgrown we were clamoring through chest-high grass without being able to see our feet whilst climbing downhill. It was dangerous.
Of course there were tunnels of gorse which is an extremely spiky nonnative plant. My arms and legs were breaking out in allergic reaction to who knows what plant. My allergies seem to be fine around the native New Zealand plants but not the grasses and such.
At last we left the farmland for a little forest reserve on flat land. It was so peaceful and well maintained. It felt like a forgotten park that only us TA hikers had the privilege of walking through.
Then of course we walked through more farmland before being unceremoniously dumped onto a road. It was so hot in the sun I could have died.
After a brief stint on the road we returned to farmland and subsequently got lost. Our GPS trail guides were wrong and the trail markers far and few. We did our best to trek across the sheep pastures but the steep hills were arduous.
Then the forecasted rain finally appeared. The clouds grew dark and the heavens opened. It was cooling and I actually welcomed it for a moment.
Stumbling around in the rain, we eventually found the trail. The rain stopped and we continued down into the town of Te Kuiti. It appeared that there was a famous rugby player from the town judging by the murals and memorabilia all over town.
We stopped at the grocery store for a resupply. We will most likely be in the wilderness for the next few days and won’t see any towns. We’d been getting spoiled with all the towns lately. We each downed 750ml of Powerade, we were so drained and dehydrated (the flavors are better in New Zealand than the U.S. ones).
In town we went to dinner at a takeaway place called Pizza Zone. It was sunset when we left Te Kuiti and headed past a quarry and lime plant. It was dark as we hiked the last few kilometers along the river to a nice campground. It began to rain a bit as we went to sleep. What a day!
Day’s Distance: 41km (25.5mi)
Total Distance: 875.5km (544.1mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,121.5km
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