Left camp at around 0820 knowing we had a good climb ahead of us up through bush, up through 445m, and then all the way back down to the swingbridge across the Mangatawhiri River, at which stage we would only be about 6km from SH2 - nearing civilisation again!
Today's GPS track is here.
The first bit of the track, still in the Hunua Regional Park, was OK with some sections of boardwalk and some steps in places. Then it was out of the Park!!
The track then turned into a usual tramping standard, so not fast, and to get to just past the swingbridge over the Mangatawhiri River (8 km), at the end of this bush section, took us a whole 4 hours!!!! That gives some idea of the terrain we were faced with for the bulk of this first section of the day's walk.
Nearing the high point, we heard what we thought was machinery - assuming work on a trig or something. What we found was a logging operation on the boundary of the bush. We had to walk right past the back of the cable hauler in operation. We had to shoot out into the logged area for a short while and it took a couple of checks to make sure we found the right place to re-enter the bush!!
We carried on up and then down until stopping just past the swingbridge, adjacent to farmland, for some lunch and a bit of a rest.
From there it was out onto roads near what I believe (from Google) is the Dilworth School Rural Campus. Then it was 6 km or so on road, including a short stretch on SH2, before turning SW under the highway and onto the Mangatawhiri River track.
This started of with 6 km of stopbank walking. This is OK walking except where it is heavily rutted by animals - as you can imagine there isn't much shelter on a hot day either! All this area used to be wetlands and right at the end of this stretch there is a parcel of land owned by Fish and Game that shows what the original landscape was.
After another couple of kms on road we had to head under SH1 to get on the west side into Mercer. Had a small brain fade here by trusting the gps track instead of (or as well as) reading the notes - so had about 400m of unnecessary road walking before discovering the track that took us under the road. From here we headed south down the side of SH1 - sometimes in scrubby grass/trees a little away from the road and sometimes right beside the highway. In fact we eventually settled for walking most of it beside the highway!
The only exciting thing here was that I almost stepped on a wasp nest right in the middle of the grassy track! Luckily I add been watching wasps (lots around) and noticed a congregation of them. No photos as I barracked pretty fast (!!) and suggested to B (following) that we took a small detour.
Arrived in Mercer to book in at Podges Place - a small bar with motel attached. Sandra is famous for chasing down any TAers she sees and getting them to stop in - Podge also picks a few up as he is driving around in his truck! They offer free camping for TAers, which is really generous. B and I decided to shout ourselves a small motel unit - our justification was that we should support local businesses who support Te Araroa!!! We also needed to spend some time repairing B's pack. Some webbing had frayed and one of the supporting rods was working lose - very uncomfortable. We went back next door to the bar for a feed and a few beers / ginger beers. Sandra is larger than life and really lovely - the pizzas are superb and the size of the meals is old school. We couldn't eat everything but were stuffed completely full! Our shrunken stomachs did suffer a bit of overload - especially mine as it also had to make room for a few beers along with all the other fat and carbos!!
All the patrons were very friendly and Sandra and Podge provide a great service for the TA. If not for TA we would probably never have stopped in Mercer - it's just a reminder that there is so much of NZ that we miss out on as we zip through on the main highways. The motel unit was great and we got a good night's sleep - with no concerns about having to put the tent up and down!
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"!!