As noted in yesterday's blog, we had been convinced by Carol the manager that we could tramp the next stage to Ngaruawahia with light packs, leaving most of our stuff at the camp, and catch a bus back to Huntly afterwards.
We set off around 0710 from the campsite for a 2 km or so walk to rejoin the trail proper - back across the rail bridge to the Huntly West shops. Today's GPS track is here.
We ended up doing around 22km - again I managed to pause my watch to talk to people at the bottom of the track and forgot to restart, missing around 2.5km!! The first 8 km of the trail itself was on road to the start of the Hakarimata Walkway.
We reached the carpark at the northern end of the Hakarimata Track - which is a 12km or so hike, more or less southwards, along the Hakarimata Range. Just as we were about to set off from the carpark, someone appeared out of the bush walking down the track towards us. The look was unmistakeable!! Garry is an American who is hiking TA nobo - now only 766km or so to finish at Cape Reinga. It was great to catch up with a fellow TAer and we had a good chat for 30 minutes or so. Garry's gear was showing signs of the long hike, with shoes very worn and a walking pole repaired with a rough metal sleeve and lots of duct tape!!
After that unexpected rest it was time to hit the Hakarimata Track!! The first part of the track starts on a realtively well-used Kauri Loop Track. Locals obviously use this part for exercise and the track is well formed to start with, up past three lookouts - the lower, upper and southern. The track is quite good and includes a reasonable number of steps - the gps track shows its a quite steep climb in places. Near the start, DoC offer you the option of picking up a 10kg bag of gravel to take up the hill for track maintenance - a great way of getting fit, but we declined as we didn't want to kill ourselves (and we were treating ourselves to a "slack pack" day)!!!
Once we passed the lookouts, the next 8km or so was then through bush on a tramping track along the main part of the range itself. This was not too strenuous - a little up and down but in the range 200-400 asl. At one stage we crossed an old 4WD track and stopped for some lunch. A couple of day walkers came past us and stopped for a brief chat - they were in training for a local walk later in the month.
At the end of this 8km tramping stretch, and with around 3km still to go to the bottom of the hill (and onto the streets of Ngaruawahia), we came across a sizeable viewing platform and several locals who had walked up from Ngaruawahia. The views from here were pretty good and we stopped for a while to take it in - especially as the weather was quite nice and we could see a fair way.
From here we headed down on what turned out to be (by TA standards) a "Rolls-Royce" track. The track was well formed and gravelled, but the most impressive part was the elaborate steps on the way down. It is pretty steep in places and there were literally hundreds of steps. Someone suggested 500 or so - not in the league of our steps up Saana Fell in Finland, but a lot nonetheless!!!
It was also great to see so many locals out climbing up the steps on a Sunday - from young kids, through teens to adults. We even saw our first person carrying one of DoC's bags of gravel up the steps - looked like hard work. Also saw a fireman in full kit who was training for the annual Skytower climb - really hot in full firefighting gear, including oxygen tank on his back!!
We eventually reached the bottom on the outskirts of Ngaruawahia and made our way through town - could also clearly see Turangawaewae Marae (seat of the Maori king) on the other side of the river. Ended up at a bus stop on the old main road out of town to catch the bus back to Huntly. This was achieved successfully (at the cost of $3.60 each)! We stopped at our cafe in Huntly for an early dinner (from memory about 1700) before walking back to the camp for the night.
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"!!