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Te Araroa: Day 21-24

Day 21: Hamilton to Free Camp Km 790.9 (31km)

The bus arrived in Hamilton at noon, I grabbed my backpack and headed for the trail. It took about an hour to leave the city, but I than got a few views on the surrounding countryside.

I had planned for a short day, due to the bus ride, but got to Whatawhata already at 3 o'clock. After a nice pizza at the place where I initially planned to stay, I moved on for another 8km.

It was again mainly roadwalk and so it took less than two hours to hike to the Karamu Valley Lodge. Unfortunately no one opened there and as I was already low on water, I had to move on to the next water source. That source would be a small stream 9km from the lodge. The gravel road followed up a mountain and changed into a dirt road after jumping a padlocked fence.

The evening light allowed for some great and lovely views of Hamilton and the overall landscape.

I got to the stream at about 7:30 pm and finally filtered some water from a little stream full of cow shit. Just a few minutes later I pitched my tent on a grassy area.

Day 22: Free Camp 790.9 to 820.7 (30km) A big climb was scheduled for today. 900m of elevation over several kilometers. After another roadwalk I started the 8km climb at 10 am and made it to the summit 3 hours later.

It was a gentle climb for most of the well maintained trail, just at the end it got quite steep and involved some rock climbing. Unfortunately it was rainy all day and therefore I didn't get great views.

At the top was a nice hut with probably 20 bunks, where I met Alexandra and her partner from Mozambique. Lovely people. I expected an easy 15km hike to this day's final destination, but would soon realise the opposite. The trail was extremely muddy and slippery on the other side of the mountain.

My biggest achievement of the day was not falling - even though i got close some 4-5 times. At first I tried to avoid the mud pools, but there were just too many.

After one bad step I ended up deep in the mud and stopped caring about getting dirty. Getting off that mountain took approximately 2.5hrs and for the first time on this trail, I was so happy to be on a solid gravel road again. It was a good test for my injured ankle, as I sometimes got stuck in the mud that it almost took off my shoes, when pulling my feet out.

That night I stayed at Jo's and Tony's place and camped on their lawn for 10 NZD. Upon arriving there, I was greeted by Pip, the german shepherd dog mix. She was super friendly and all over me. She even ended up in my tent, when I was trying to set it up. Day 23: 820.7 to Waitomo Holiday Park (36km) Motto of the day: "Come to New Zealand! We got dark brown mud, light brown mud, red mud, grey mud and black mud!". Well, I probably shouldn't complain as it wasn't a day of roadwalking, but this time it rained again.

And it rained a lot. Usually rain in New Zealand lasts exactly as long as it takes for me to put my rain jacket on, but that day, I got soaked several times. Luckily, my rain pants and jacket kept me warm. It was a gnarly day and even some chicken were hiding from the rain. Not even Johannes Oerdings "an guten Tagen" could cheer me up, but I reckon it helps to be stubborn and a bit simple minded to make it through these days. As Darwin-on-the-trail said: "Embrace the suck!"

The hike itself was easy for the most part, just the mud made it a bit tricky and I really had to stay focused to not miss the trail, or slip. If this goes on for much longer, I'll surely break my trekking poles. They sometimes sink some 30cm into the mud and get stuck there until I pull them out again with all my strength. The trail crossed an airstrip and several farms, one with hundreds of sheep that kept running from me in a small enclosure.

I arrived at Waitomo at 4 pm. 36km in 8 hours, a good pace so far, but the trail was mainly flat today.

Chicken hiding from the rain...

The Waitomo Holiday Park was the most expensive so far, but after several hours of heavy rain, it was nice to have a shower and some town food. In the night it rained again for several hours and my sleeping mattress got deflated, guess I got a hole in it. Might have to replace it, when I'm going back to Auckland to pick up some parts for my drone tomorrow. Day 24: Waitomo to Auckland by bus Uneventful day. I took the 11:35 bus from Waitomo to Auckland to pick up a controller and some spare propellers for my drone. Controlling the drone with just my smartphone got a bit dicey, as the display cover doesn't allow precise flying, which almost led to some crashes and loss of control.

Due to Amazon believing someone had hacked my account, they didn't process the order to New Zealand and so it arrived a few days late, which forced me to travel back to Auckland by bus. It was actually not too bad, as it rained again all day. I picked up my package and went to the local Macpac outdoor store to buy a better pack liner, gas and some new merino underwear, as well as a repair kit for my air mattress. Hope that will work, will find out soon.

It just needs some soap to find a hole in the air mattress...

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