A rather late 9am start. Made even later by several friendly locals. For anyone who is not familiar with New Zealand or New Zealanders, let’s call them Kiwis. That how they refer to themselves. Named after a flightless bird that sticks its beaks into the mud a lot.
Kiwis are very friendly and very curious people. They often stop to talk to complete strangers in the street, grocery store or anywhere really. On the walk out of town several locals chatted about the trail, their travels around the world, their health, New Zealand rugby and why getting beaten by Ireland recently was a good thing. I’m learning a lot about New Zealand on this hike.
10am photo below
Leaving Te Kuiti the trail followed the swollen Mangaokewe Stream. Recent rains stained the usually clear water into the colour of tea. The trail was in great condition for the first hour or so then it fell into disrepair. Fallen down trees were the least of our worries. Many sections had narrow steep sections of trail that sloped in the direction of the river. The muddy sections made for some sketchy hiking as a fall might have me landing in the tangled mess of spikey BlackBerry bushes.
On one narrow section of trail I dropped one of my trekking poles. It slipped down the 45 degree slope into impenetrable blackberries. I thought it was lost. I climbed down 3 meters and tried to retrieve the pole but only succeeded in pushing it further down. I climbed a bit further down and was able to get the pole. Climbing back up was not exactly easy.
After about 5 hours Michelle and I exited the river trail and followed farm tracks. A group of about 20 bulls were in a field. Usually the bulls are a bit skittish and run away but something was different. These bulls didn’t move as I jumped the fence. One bull dropped its head, blew air through its nose with a hard snort and ran towards Michelle. I raised my hands and trekking poles and faced it. It stopped. Another bull nearby dropped its head and let out the same snort. We hiked close to a fence line. I told Michelle, if the bulls change, jump the fence even of it was an electric fence. For a few moments it was all a bit tense.
A couple of minutes later when we saw another group of bulls we gave them a wide birth, jumped a fence and walked through the long grass. Must be mating season.
Another kilometer later the farmer has set up a shelter with water and a toilet. I was exhausted and so was Michelle. Time for an early camp.
The 3 sided shelter had water, a sink, a picnic table, a long drop toilet, a laundry bucket but no soap and a clothes line. All this for a $5 donation. Camping on the farmers land was quite comfortable.
We were not alone. John, a Kiwi hiker and a Swedish couple were already there and set up. The 5 of us made for great conversation as we each told the tails of our mishaps for the day. Turns out we were the only ones charged by a bull.