It was the birds that woke me. It was just after 5am. The 6am sunrise happened as I hiked through the industrial suburbs of outer Auckland. With a population of 1.6 million the urban sprawl and new industrial areas are moving further away from the city, just like every other large metropolis. Large warehouses and transportation companies that were strangely quiet. It was a Sunday.
The trail weaved it’s way through the Auckland Botanical Gardens which seemed to be the best place to walk dogs. There were hundreds of dogs playing and exercising. More of a parkland than the Botanical gardens that I know. But the dogs seemed to like the place.
I ran to the bathroom near the carpark at the exit of the gardens. Nature was calling very loudly. When I exited a man asked if I was ok. I must have looked like I was in trouble when entering which was not far from the truth. This led to a long conversation about hiking and camping. He told me about several friends that hiked the trail and camped in the grounds of the botanic gardens. Heaps of place to camp where nobody will find you is what he enthusiastically told me. I must say that I didn’t see any signs telling people not to camp. But suspect it’s not the done thing.
10am photo below
The rest of the day was a long and tiring series of roadwalks. Despite making good pace my body was feeling the harshness as the afternoon wore on. By 4.30pm I’d covered around 50km of hiking and fatigue was setting in. Just a little but further I kept telling myself. My rest breaks were getting longer and more frequent.
Around 7pm I stumbled into Podges Place, a bar in the very small town of Mercer. This place is as legendary on the Te Araroa Trail as Casa de Luna on the Pacific Crest Trail. Welcoming the dirty, smelly hikers into the bar and letting them shower and camp in the rear garden for free. This left room in almost everyone’s budget for a beer and a meal. I was chatting with the owner, she told me around 80% of the hikers buy a meal and beer when they arrive. Although she does this out of kindness, it’s good to see a bit of financial reward flowing her way. Now I rest my weary bones after 58km of hiking.