Whatawhata 773.6km to Pirongia Hut 805.6km
Today marks 1 month of hiking on the Te Araroa Trail. I think it’s fair to say this is a young trail that will take many years to mature. In 10 years time much of the trail will be very different from today.
The roadwalking is a tad boring, potentially dangerous and not the making of a world class thru hike. Today, however, the trail truly showed its potential.
A dawn start, just how I like it. Swiss Michelle is still tagging along with me and doing well with the early starts and longer days. The first couple of hours were hiking on quiet roads before turning to trails through sheep farms. When I think of stereotypical New Zealand this part of the hike is what I picture.
Green rolling pastures were covered in little white dots as far as I could see. Beyond the rolling pastures lay the flatlands from where we came.
Hundreds of Sheep with their lambs were running around. Or as my niece would say, Lamby. The lambs stuck with with their mother. Some sheep had one lamb, some three but most had two.
We lingered in the pasture for an extended early lunch at 10am of cheese and pepperoni tortillas. 10am photo below.
After crossing the farm I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to route the trail to more places like this. I’m sure there would be many farmers who would be proud to allow their farm to be accessed by long distance hikers from around the world.
Second lunch was next to a river with large boulders and cool clear water. The sort of place you might see advertised on the label of a spring water bottle. Several carloads of young ladies came for a swim. The water was fresh, too cold for me to swim. If it was a little warmer it would be a great place to wash off the hiker filth.
With over 22km covered by midday we rested, drank coffee and chilled out next to the river. But a long climb lay ahead. We had to climb to the highest point on the trail to date, Mt Pirongia.
The first half of the hike to the summit was on a graded path that made for easy hiking. The second half was a slippery mudfest. At semi regular intervals the forest parted and revealed views of the plains and mountains.
The summit of Mt Pirongia is just under 1000m and was marked with a small tower. I stood on the summit and was struck with the huge distance we had covered today. It’s easy to read 32km (20miles) and think that’s a long way but to see the start point in the far distance brings a new level of perspective to things.
The nearby Pahautea Hut was home for the night. There are many of these huts in New Zealand. Most are covered by an annual hut pass or in my case a 6 month hut pass that costs $92. I picked up my pass from the Department of Conservation or DOC in Hamilton a couple of days ago.
The hut had 2 bedrooms, a place for dirty boots and rain gear, a couple of water taps, dining tables, toilets and a balcony. They work on a first come first served basis and we were the first ones there at 7pm. Nobody else joined us for the night.
We set about cooking dinner. In my case a large bowl of packet pasta mixed with pepperoni and cheese. Desert was a hot chocolate and cookies. I needed an extra hit of calories after the long climb.
Dressed in my cold weather gear I braved the back deck to watch sunset. Clouds were rolling in from the ocean which was visible from the deck. I’ve now crossed from the Tasman sea to the Pacific Ocean and back to the Tasman sea again.
I went to bed but it wasn’t long before the weather took a turn for the worst.