Whatawhata to Pahautea Hut, Pirongia -32km – (805km total)
The sun was shining through the clouds as we packed up our tents at The Backyard Bar in Whatawhata. As we headed out on to the trail it was a short road walk before turning to walk along side Waipa River, through farm land. This sounds idillic compared to roads, but these parts of the trail are often not maintained, so it becomes a bit of a bush bash. There was also a small marshy stream to cross. Al went first and ended up thigh deep in water, mud and reeds. We pulled her out and took the long way around.
We walked through a paddock with a lot of fresh young cows, who did not want to move out of our way. Growing up around cows I have no fear of them, but on this trial I am more cautious of them then I ever have been, because I have heard of a few people on trail being charged by cows.
We then came out on a road again and started a climb up before we cut across fields of steep, rocky, rolling hills, with sheep for days. Classic New Zealand. I heard that after Hamilton sheep out number people. It is something like 75% of New Zealand’s population lives north of Hamilton and south of Hamilton sheep are more populous then people (someone with google can check the exact numbers of that fact).
After that we had a short road walk to the start of the track that lead up to Pirongia Forest. We took advantage of the picnic area at the start of the track for lunch before starting the climb. The track up to the summit and hut was 10km long and predicted to take 4-5 hours. Pirongia is the highest point on the Te Araroa up to this point topping out at just under 1000m. I thought I was going great having covered 6km in under 2 hours, but then the track became a classic New Zealand tramping track, straight up the mountain with root and mud.
I completely lost my shoe in one patch of mud. The shoe stayed and my foot came out. Consequently, I had to fish around in the mud to retrieve my shoe and it was full of mud, when I put it back on and there was nothing I could do about it. The last 4km to the hut took me another 2 and a bit hours to do, with the final 500m to the summit being boardwalk. However, the boardwalk ended all too soon and it was back to rocks, roots and mud for the final km to the hut.
When I finally arrived at the hut, I washed everything from my knees down. However, it was too late for my one shoe. Walking for 3km with it full of mud, ruined it. The sole is now starting to fall apart and there is a large hole in the side. Luckily, I have new shoes ordered that I pick up in about a week and a half. Hopefully, my shoe can holdout until then. 🤞
Today I am thankful for boardwalks.