Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
Day 37: Taupo to Pureora Forest
So far hitching a ride has been incredibly simple and quick, but getting out of Taupo this morning was another story. I’ll admit, we were probably more frustrated than we should have been having to wait for almost 2 hours before someone picked us up, but we’ve been so spoiled! I’ll remember not to take people’s kindness for granted in the future. Fortunately a few kind souls including a young Kiwi guy, an adorable Kiwi couple Robin and Lindsey, a kind of awkward but very sweet middle-aged woman, and Peter the truck driver. I’ve been wanting to get a ride from a semi since I got here and today my dream came true! Apparently Peter’s truck was technically a trailer-truck, not a semi, but still it was big and red and I was so stoked climbing up into the super high seats. Totally worth the wait. We arrived at the start of the Timber Trail around 2pm, and honestly were feeling pretty exhausted from staying up super late soaking in hot springs and eating stir fry. The weather was absolutely PERFECT today too, warm temps, light breeze, cool shade. We were faced with a very serious, very intense, very difficult decision: start a longer, 20 kilometer trek to the Bog Inn Hut that would get us to camp pretty late, or take a fat nap in the amazing sun, eat candy and casually stroll 8 kilometers to a random shelter. We most definitely chose the latter. We got to the shelter in a little over an hour, ate dinner and chilled out in preparation for a super long day tomorrow. Today kind of felt like another rest day, but at least we are back on the Te Araroa! The last week was kind of a crazy, exciting, random adventure being off trail and doing our own thing. The only struggle with going so far off route is that commuting in between sections can suck up a significant chunk of hiking time, especially when you are relying on the kindness of strangers for transportation. I am looking forward to crushing some high mileage over the next few days and getting back into the TA groove. AND Clea is meeting us in Taumarunui on Friday! It’s pretty weird and awesome that I’ve just been roaming around New Zealand with this dude I met randomly on the trail. Honestly it’s worked out pretty fucking well when you consider how bad things could have gone spending 24 hours a day for 9 days straight with a total stranger. But Matt and I get along really well, move about the same pace, have compatible backpacking styles, share similar mindsets, and are both weird. I’m probably the weirder one but anyone who can tolerate me and not think I’m a total freak is definitely an oddball. So yeah! Life is good, stoked to be back on the TA and super stoked to have Clea back in a few days.
Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
Day 38: Timber Trail to No. 11 Camp, 48 kilometers
Dayuuuummmm we grinded out almost 50 kilometers today on the Timber Trail, which honestly was a pretty appropriate distance considering the bike trail was basically flat the whole way, and my legs are becoming noticeably stronger. The balls of my feet eventually started to ache, along with my shins and hips, courtesy of pounding level ground for 9 hours straight. I was reminded of 90 Mile Beach at times, but cruising through the forest today was perfect for headphones and I thoroughly enjoyed the grind. After a few low key days, Matt and I both sent it hard this morning. We had a little bit of uphill to the mysteriously cloudy summit of Pureora Mountain before beginning the windy, level path. My legs were dying to move and the next thing I knew we were both running down the hills and into the flats, packs and all. As annoying as 30 pounds bouncing on your shoulders might be, I felt like a god damn machine mobbing down the path at a healthy pace, jamming to some sick EDM and shitty rap. After about 5 hours and 28 kilometers of heavy crushing, we pulled over at the Piropiro Campsite for an indulgent lunch. When you start eating the same thing everyday, eventually you want to start branching out. The problem is that it’s easy to go overboard, which is how Matt wound up eating 10 pounds of burrito material, and I devoured a garlic naan wrapped with pumpkin kumara hummus, avocado, cucumber, cheese, apple and pepperoni salami. I think maybe the overload of food was responsible for what turned into a 2 hour lunch break, but whatever it was so good. Another 20 kilometers later we got to the 11 Camp shelter and guess what we did? We ate again! Backcountry stir fry is fire.
The bright side is that when you’re walking all day you can kind of eat whatever you want without consequence, and the more you eat, the lighter your pack becomes. We also have another 50km day coming up tomorrow so it’s really a win win for everybody. Stretching was absolutely essential for a full recovery of the flat grind, and I’m ready to hit it hard again tomorrow.
Thursday, December 14th, 2017
Day 39: No. 11 Camp to Taumarunui, 50km
I cherish mornings like today’s when you can make coffee and eat brekky without removing yourself from your sleeping bag. Fucking clutch dude. A satisfactorily lazy start to preface our 50 kilometer journey on a flat, boring road all the day to Taumarunui. Is there much else to say about the walk besides it was very long? Uhhh not really to be honest. I did get a quick view of the snowy peaks of the Tongariro Forest for a second and felt my being fill with joy, but that was probably the most exciting moment of the day. I don’t think I’ve realized how much I actually miss the mountains until I felt such unbelievably high stoke and started smiling like a fucking fat kid getting a second piece of chocolate cake. We got ourselves a nice little cabin at the Taumaurunui Holiday Park, ate a tasty meal, and socialized with some other TA hikers. Boom. End of story.
Friday, December 15th, 2017
Day 40: Taumarunui to 42 Traverse, ADMIN DAY!
I wish I could write a super exciting story about today considering yesterday’s uneventfulness, but honestly we just took care of business until a very special thing happened. I actually managed to sleep in before we cooked a mean brunch of coffee, garden fresh spices with eggs, brown sugar bacon, toast, and fruit. We leisurely hitched our way into town around noon, did some mapping for the Tongiriro stretch, booked our canoes and bikes for the upcoming Whanganui River section, and stocked up on fuel. We wound up running into a bunch of our trail family from earlier on too! We had all parted ways a few weeks ago to do our own thing from Auckland, but somehow managed to be on the same corner at the same time this afternoon for a short hello. Matt and I cruised to New World to resupply food, and immediately left due to poor bulk selections. As we were walking to the bulk specialty store, the best thing ever happened. Are you ready for it? Can you even handle how exciting this next event was? CLEA CAME BACK!!! I spotted her blue t-shirt from afar as we literally ran into each other’s arms. I missed her so very much and now here we were, reunited at last!!!! YAYYYY!!!! The gang is finally back together! We were all feeling super stoked and super happy as we walked into the bulk store and maybe went a little overboard on food. I swear it’s so hard to not buy too much when you’re stocking up for 8 whole days in the wilderness! Your pack is going to be heavy as shit no matter what, but that’s just the price you pay for venturing off into a dope forest to climb volcanoes for a week. We easily hitched a ride to our trailhead and walked for about an hour before finding a flat spot to set up camp for the night. Everything just feels right. I’m with Clea again (her ankle is healed and she is happy), Matt has become a super awesome addition to our adventure (he somehow still wants to stick around even after 2 weeks of basically living with me), and we have the next 2 weeks totally planned to be an epic Christmas journey back cruising on the TA. Hellllllll yeah baby!
Saturday, December 16th, 2017
Day 41: 42 Traverse to Tongariro Forest, 38km
Apparently we walked another 38-40ish kilometers today?? I seriously must be getting stronger, at least endurance wise, because I’m really not even tired. I could have kept on walking but we arrived at our destination so there was no need. Turns out I also have two big, annoying blisters on each heel from all the flats. I had a pretty awesomely gross time popping them later at our campsite. The 42 Traverse was a super overgrown, incredibly rutted out 4WD track that felt like walking through a giant green toothbrush. We finally popped out onto a road that would have been just another road if it weren’t for the amazing, stoke-raising views of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe, and Mt Ruepehu. We have arrived in the land of mountains and I feel so happy!!! The actual summits of these massive volcanoes were hiding in the clouds, presenting themselves as powerful, mysterious beasts begging us to come and play.
The shelter we initially planned to camp at was too far, so we bushwhacked our way off trail until we found a relatively flattish area to stealth camp. I love when we become true people of the bush. It seems that the majority of people around Tongariro are of the tourist variety, we tend to get some weird looks when we’re mobbing up to a trailhead all dirty and weathered but I am all about it. I ate plenty of food and will be sleeping very comfortably tonight under this tarp with the white noise of mosquitoes and a nearby river.