Got up early (around 0530) and had our first ever cooked breakfast (courtesy of Back Country Cuisine!) - apparently beef bacon, eggs and hash browns with baked beans!! Not all that bad when you are used to a regular diet of muesli!!
B took some early morning photos of the facilities and we got underway just after 0700. Today ended up being around 25km - more than the Suunto says because I turned the watch off for about an hour (maybe 2km) on the way down from the summit. I blame the stress of the descent :-) !! The day's GPS data is here.
As you can see from some of the early photos, it was a fairly moist start to the day, with wet weather gear required. It reminded us how lucky we were to have had such a brilliant weather day yesterday. Then it was off on the descent!! We were not buoyed by the fact that Kirstine Collins, whose blog had provided us with so much useful info, had labelled this almost 6km trek to the road at the bottom the Hihikiwi Horror Track!! Anyway, it started very nicely with the Noel Sandford boardwalk for about 750m or so to Hihikiwi Peak and lookout - that was the last we were to see of any boardwalks or steps!!
Then it was on down the next 5km or so of track, with the occasional "up" thrown in as well - the nett effect was that we descended from around 900m to around 520m on this section. Suffice to say it was a challenging track with lots of mud thrown in at times and some hand over fist climbing - both up and down. We achieved it in 3.25 hours with a short break near the 2 hour mark (when I forgot to restart my Suunto!!) which we thought wasn't too bad overall, given the 3-5hr that DoC suggest. We were rather pleased to finally hit Pirongia West Rd at the bottom where we stopped for a break. Note that we had a few issues with the camera today for some reason so apologies for some of the photos being a little out of focus! Also, when you are battling the terrain, sometimes the last thing you want to do is get the camera out and document it!! We certainly didn't take as many photos as usual on this descent.
From here, the next 19km or so was on backcountry gravel roads, with the very last bit being on a farm track (although apparently it is officially Gayne Rd - you wouldn't take your Ferrari up here, trust me).
I'm not sure if it was just happiness at being off the Hihikiwi Track or not, but it was positively enjoyable walking through the countryside! The roads went through a mix of bush-lined sections and open farmland - the Pirongia Forest Park stretches a reasonable distance and, after a reasonable section of road through farmland, we did another stretch of 5km or so through bush which, according to the map, is still part of the park. I see from Wikipedia that the Forest Park is 135 sq km covering four separate blocks, which explains it!!
The scenery is beautiful to we country folk and it is at times like this that I wonder why it is that some hikers seem to dismiss all road walking as being unpleasant. Each to their own I guess. Don't get me wrong - there are certainly some sections of road walking that get us down a bit at times, but it is all part of the variety that is Te Araroa!!
The last 1.5km was on Gayne Rd which, as I alluded to before, was actually a grass farm track that took us up to a topdressing airstrip. We knew others had camped around here so thought it would be a good spot to stop. There was a cool SW wind blowing which made it a bit harder to get a good spot but we eventually headed just past the airstrip, through the next gate and into the start of the next bush section. This was an old grassy 4WD track so we decided (given there was no evidence of any recent use either by feet or vehicles) to pitch the tent in the middle of the track (not normally recommended!).
Again, given how early it is getting dark now, we were fed and in bed in the tent by around 1900!! You can only read e-books for so long, so often we are asleep by 2000 - which does cause issues when you wake up in the early hours expecting to get up, but knowing you will lie there until closer to sunrise before really stirring!
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"!!