The Tararua mountains are feared by most Te Araroa hikers. The worst weather on the North Island of New Zealand resides in these mountains. Over 200 days per year of storms and over 6 meters on annual rainfall drowns the area. Experienced and novice hikers alike have died in these mountains. There is a small weather window, actually a very small weather window to get through these mountains safety, but I must leave now. I have my fingers crossed.
It would take two days tramping through the foothills before the climbing would begin. I’m excited at the possibility of hiking in such a notoriously bad area. The unknown, the potential for things to get bad and having to rely on myself and my outdoor knowledge to make the right decisions. Hiking in New Zealand is a little different from most other places in the world.
Two Aussies and a German hiker joined me for several hours hiking though the farmland and rural areas. A white sign was posted on the side of a small road that encouraged hikers to sign their name. It also mentioned that it was the halfway point of the trail. Halfway, I’d just hiked half the trail. We congratulated each other, left our graffiti and took silly photos. The actual halfway point would be another hour or two further along the trail.
It wasn’t long afterwards the trail left the quiet roads to enter mountain bike trails and quiet forest trails. Several cyclists flew past me on the gentle uphill climbs. Some of the forest was quite dense and at times it got quite dark. Rain clouds were moving in. Another more official sign on the trail said I reached the halfway point. But it was also off by a little ways. The Te Araroa trail has been rerouted twice since I started hiking. The actual and official halfway point is sure to differ for many years until the route becomes more fixed.
As the afternoon progressed the skies darkened. The smell of rain filled the air. Small flurries of drizzle came and went, though it was not heavy enough to warrant wearing rain gear. After 30km of hiking the rain came. Light at first then the skies opened up. Miserable conditions for hiking.
There was a portable toilet next to a picnic table at a very random spot in a pine forest. The heavy rain did not flood the ground so drainage appeared to be good in the very small flat area. I raced to put up my tent but the rain soaked the inner section before I could get the outer fly on. I mopped up the water with my small hand towel that I carry to use for a towel.
The rain eased as I cooked dinner but this rain looked like it was settling in for the night. But I wasn’t too worried. I knew there would be bad weather before the improvement in a couple of days. Or so I hoped. I drifted to sleep while writing this blog post. The rain still falling.