We knew we had a lot of up and down today even though we were already over 500m elevation to start with. Turned out we ascended over 700m in total and descended almost 1200m by the end of the day. That 700m of up took around 3 hours. B is still better at the uphill stuff than me - it really pushes my skinny little legs - although I guess the muscles have to be building up!! Sometimes I find it hard to fully appreciate the natural beauty when the head is focussed a few metres in front and I'm willing the ground to flatten out, even if just for a short while!!
This forest is really rugged and quite beautiful to walk through (a theme I mentioned in yesterday's blog), even though it is definitely challenging, and you have to be careful every step of the way. Again, its worth mentioning that we were very grateful being able to select our timing of this section a little so that we had less muddy tracks than many others earlier in the season. Even in these conditions, it was pretty slow going for us. A bit later on, it did start to rain, so we did don our wet weather gear - but the rain never got too heavy thankfully.
Most of the time was spent in the bush (as, although it was only 11km or so, it was, as mentioned, slow going) but eventually we emerged onto a 4WD track which led onto farmland. Here we almost got a bit lost as the markers were not entirely clear and they disagreed with the TA GPS track on our navigation app. Eventually we trusted our guts and the orange markers we could see (got out the binoculars to scout for markers!) and were happy that we were indeed on the right track. We came down through what looked like someone's back yard but is apparently part of Makene Rd. From here it was 1.5km down to meet up with SH1 (civilisation, relatively speaking!!) and then 6km walking down SH1 to Mangamuka. On Makene Rd, we rang the Mangamuka Dairy (as you do!!) to find out that there was no pub or cafe now at Mangamuka. However, Eliza, the lovely lady that runs the dairy, is getting into supporting the TA community and said we could pitch the tent on her back lawn. This made it easier to decide to press on the extra 6km down SH1 rather than pitch a tent on the side of the road.
We got to the dairy about 1715 and bought a few treats - partly to celebrate my 59th birthday, which happened to be today! This consisted of a bag of chippies, a large bottle of Sprite and some chocolate bars!! We then set ourselves up out the back on Eliza's lawn and chatted with her while she and we were preparing dinners. Eliza very kindly found a beer for me in her fridge to help celebrate the birthday. She is such a lovely soul and will be a drawcard for TA hikers between the Raetea and Omahuta/Puketi Forests, where there is really no other opportunity to stock up on treats, or formally camp until closer to Kerikeri.
So overall a challenging walk for us, but with stunning scenery/landscapes to walk through and, again, another lovely person to add to the list of lovely people we have met on the trail so far. :-)
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!