I was in Whanganui, having said goodbye to Tim and Becky who were busing south towards the Tararuas and Thibaut who was doing similar to get to Wellington for his parents arrival, and my crotch was finally starting to feel normal again (the cycling, people...). Clayton (of my Hunua ranges adventures) had internet-introduced me to a dear friend of his Sarah, so with all my food, my humungus pack (it was not getting any smaller) and care package from mum, I was glad when she insisted on picking me up. We went back to her place where I got not only doggy cuddles but BABY RUBY cuddles!! Then she took me driving round the town showing me the sights and incredible views out to the ocean and the mountains I'd be heading into. Back at hers again I was spoilt with fresh fresh chicken burgers and beer and just chilling in front of a tv- hadn't done that in a while, and she even fixed my cracked phone screen cover ~ who IS this Wonder Woman?! 😃 thanks Sarah, Ray, Ruby and Peanut, the dog for the lovely time in Whangavegas! After a relaxing morning getting sorted and saying goodbye to MY shoes, we drove out to where I had left the trail and Sarah and bubs joined be on the road out of town. They turned off and it was just me again... to ponder the weight of my pack and realise that carrying a 500g gigantor of a PLB was just not worth it, so as I walked I researched, bought a new and sold an old PLB. The wonders of technology and being able to walk with my face in a phone... then came the stretch of trecherous road in the form of State Highway 3. And the stinky farm transport trucks!! This was definitely not a favourite walking section.
I was relieved when I got to step off the highway and head west towards the coast. Did a little over 30km, met fellow hiker Mikey from the Netherlands who walked with me for a bit (2 cars had stopped and told me that my 'partner' wasn't too far behind, so stopped and waited to see who this person was!) and stopped at the Turakina camp ground (for free!) for the night. The next day was beach again~! It was pretty hazy but beautiful and I really got a sense of walking 'south'.
My next trail angel came in the form of Kuru~ I had run out of water on the long beach then forestry road section and he gave me two glasses of ice cold raro (orange cordial sugary goodness that I wouldn't usually touch with a barge pole~ but on trail... man it was heaven!) He was working hard to renovate the house and somehow keep up mortgage payments with little money coming in~ a hiker camp ground perhaps? We brainstormed a few ideas then I went on my way on towards Bulls, past a house with loads of chickens and hand painted signs on the fence like"God sees All!" And "Let in the Light!" "And Jesus gives Life!" I was curious so I came closer to read the other signs when the door to the house opened. "Oh God oh God...!" I thought, (probably not in the way I was supposed to) "this is going to be interesting, be prepared to run!" A beautifully radiant old woman, crouched with age, with striking pale blue eyes and short grey hair comes towards me~ she flashes me a toothless smile and is clearly eager to talk ~ about her dogs, and a recently fallen tree on her property... she introduces herself as Heather... thank goodness she doesn't want to talk of God today. We chat for a while and I say goodbye, she had made me smile. Soon after I come to a sign, clearly for walkers and it leads to a water tank- just what I needed!! So close to Bulls, it was mid afternoon and I wanted to keep going. I walk past a man coming out of a dairy. "Jeez~ you must REALLY love what you're doing" it had been raining on and off all day and I must have looked a sight! We both chuckle and go on our way. The rain had come again so I decided to step into a cafe, charge my phone and have a refuel coffee and custard square (on the trail I can eat ANYTHING!). The rain clears soon after so I continue south, past the punny Bulls town signs, milk tin shaped rubbish bins and the cartoon bull murals~ even the Police station is painted in theme!
Bulls behind me, as was the camp ground, it was a little risky ~ who knows where I'll sleep?! but I kept walking. I had seen a reserve (Mt Lees reserve) on the map so that was my destination, making it another 35+km day. And when I got there it was wonderful~ turns out it's free campsite with toilets, water, a covered space for cooking and flat soft grass to camp up :) got all set up and chatted to people there till bedtime (about 7pm). The next day was a long walk and a quick stop in Feilding in intermittent rain, and onto Palmerston North where I would be invading the space of my cousin Nicky's 20 somethin' yo son and his army mates. I had NO idea what to expect! AND to make matters a little more complicated, when I rang the PLB distribution company it turns out that they had run out and were waiting for the next shipment~ having already paid and seeing as the next section was... the notorious Tararuas, I had no choice but to hang in Palmerston North..but would these guys put me up for that long? and could I put up with them?! 😳😂😂 So my first cousin once removed (no Tom, I'm not your Aunty 😂) and I had hung out a little previously, at some Christmases and family gatherings and there was a time I was going to take him and do the Round the Bays with him but the little buggar kicked my ass; he was like 10 and I was like , unfit. So really- we didn't quite know each other. And he was away when I got into town so I knocked on the door of a complete stranger (this was beginning to become a habit!). There was Jacob, with a dirty mo~ but pleasant enough. "Have a shower if you like... want a towel?" "Yes please!" "What?! You don't even have a towel, in that big pack?! What's in there...? Just snacks?!" Oh, the army banter- and I was thrown right into the think of it! So what they thought was a night ended up being 4 at the house of Jacob, Harry (also sporting a dirty moustache), Tom and Rupert the handsome dog. "So you and Tom are Asian, but not the same Asian. Explain that to me?!" "Well my mum is Japanese and Tom's dad is Chinese." "And you are the ONLY non- doctors in the family~? Jeez, you guys must be such a disappointment...." 😂😂 "so this walk, you're REALLY just hitching everywhere right? And photoshopping the photos~?" FOUR nights of this, people!! So much fun. Good food, great laughs, dog walks and the Harry Potter movie marathon; getting to know the block-heads was an honour. Oh and it turns out the dirty mos were for Movember. Hope for everyone's sake they're now long gone...
Km: 1377-1476km Zero days: 2 waiting for the PLB but walked to town and the supermarket a few times!) Fellow Te Araroa walker sightings: 2 Mikey the Dutchman and a kiwi who's name I forget! at the campsite.
Number of Olympic gymnastic-worthy tumbles: 0, not a challenging section😬
Kg of rubbish picked up: quite a bit on Turakina beach 😔😔> 1kg of bulky plastic bottles etc. Drop off points were: Bulls
Homes for the night: Day 53: Koitiata campsite in Turakina Day 54: Mt Lees Reserve, just out of Bulls Day 55: Jacob's house in Palmerston North Day 54: walking the 10kms of Palmerston North trail with Rupert- again with the boys ~2 zero trail km days~ Food highlights: Sarah's yummy dinner, and I have to say the spag bol and garlic bread made for the boys
General Highlights: the trail putting me in contact with so many people I would otherwise never had met~ from new friendships to chance encounters on the street the beach section was beautiful- black sand and shells, a different experience from the beaches in previous sections Tom giving up his bed for his ol' first cousin once removed~ super grateful!
General Lowlights: waiting for the PLB and having that slow me down~ but being able to wait it out in Palmie with the guys was a plus 😁 State highway 3. Scary and dangerous- and mind numbing lay boring at the same time: how is that possible?!
Things I learned: human interaction is precious to me- I love to chat, make contact and being let into the lives of others is an honour
Number of days with wet feet: 1 Weather: intermittent rain Body: Toes a bit tingly and feet, tired. Spirit: so grateful for being her
Question unanswered: what are the Tararuas going to be like alone?!