Date: 6 November
Distance walked: 61.3km
Trail covered: kms 642.3 to 703.2
Weather: a weird cloudy haze
Number of bees that hit my face: at least 15
Guy Fawkes fireworks last night didn’t bother me much, although I did wake up in a bit of a daze needing to pee. Looked at the time on the way… 1am. Phew, I still have four more hours of sleep.
Alarm goes at 5am… because the first train to Papakura is at 5:48am from Newmarket which is a 25 minute walk from my house. That’s ok, I actually got about 7 hours sleep and I was looking forward to walking so it was easy to get up. Although by the time I actually got up and messed around and got my pack I had to go straight away and didn’t have time for breakfast. I guess it’s gonna be breakfast at the Mobil gas station in Drury.
I got my small pack and it seemed heavy. I weighed it and it was actually 8.5kg. All the fruit in there and 3 litres of water obviously weighs something.
Ok next challenge. I can’t be bothered walking the 2 or 3km to Newmarket Train Station when I have such a big day ahead. Lime Scooter it is. There was only one around, and it was 5 minutes walk in the wrong direction, but it’ll have to do. At 5.30am there will be nobody on the streets and so I can ride it at top speed.
Got to Newmarket at 5:42am – six minutes to spare. I thought, if only there was a coffee shop open at this ungodly hour, I could grab breakfast quickly. And, once again, Auckland surprised me.
Wow, coffee! The barista told me he opens at 5am. Amazing. I got an almond croissant too.
Great – once at Drury I can start walking straight away. I have a lot of distance to cover today. I have pre-booked with the Rangiriri Hotel because they were the only place I could find which had accommodation in that area for someone without a tent. The only AirBNB in that area had their calendar open but when I tried to book, they declined saying that their mother was using the room. SO BLOCK OUT THE CALENDAR THEN!!!!!
All public transport ran on time today and so after transferring to the 376 bus at Papakura with two other guys who looked like they were off to work, I started walking at 6:45am. Although it became very clear that I’d tied my shoelaces far too tight and they were cutting off the blood circulation to my left foot. I’d done that on purpose to not disturb a small blister on my heel but I needed to loosen them a bit or my foot would fall off. I had to find the right balance between blister irritation and blood circulation.
I saw a cute sheep. I couldn’t tell if it was frightened, or trying to look cute, or scratching itself.
And I passed right beside the Drury Quarry where lots of road building is going on.
It’s probably a good time to point out that in previous years, the trail never went this way, it went through the Hunua Ranges instead. However, both Kauri Dieback and slips have closed parts of the ranges and so the trail now goes down roads instead. And that means lots of road walking today… and they were rural roads. Each bit of road that I walked along was about 4km long until an intersection or something else happened (which wasn’t much). When I went around a corner and saw a really long stretch of road, all I could think was “ay yay yay”.
A lot of the walking at first was parallel to the State Highway 1 motorway.
I tried to make good time while I could. I had told the Rangiriri Hotel that I would be there between 6pm and 7pm, or was it 7pm and 8pm? I couldn’t remember. Either way I had 61km to walk and getting there by 8pm required 5km/hr if I was to have any lunch at all. And while I was walking along the road, I was averaging 6km/hr. That was good, because it wasn’t road walking all the way and I didn’t really know what type of terrain was coming up today. Some was farm walks, but not all of it.
I didn’t want to use headphones because of the road, and the song I had in my head this morning was Milk and Alcohol by Dr. Feelgood. After a while that got replaced with the theme song to the 1960’s TV show Get Smart. I don’t know where that came from, I never even used to watch that show. I needed to put the headphones on to get some better songs going through my mind, and since the roads now weren’t too busy, that’s what I did.
Although one thing I did notice about these roads is that despite not a lot of cars when I went through, there were a *lot* of dead birds, which wasn’t nice to see. A lot of other dead animals too, but heaps more birds than usual.
When you drive from Hamilton to Auckland you always know when you’re in Auckland because you drive up the section of motorway that goes up the “Bombay Hills”. That meant that at some point I was going to have to walk down some kind of big hill, but obviously not on the motorway. And when I came across this road, “Pinnacle Hill Road”, I figured this was probably it.
It was another long stretch of road.
But I did see this helpful sign:
A short way down here I found a good place to have a snack. The border of the Auckland district and the Waikato district. I spend the first 23 years of my life living in the Waikato District so it was a nice feeling crossing the border.
Here’s another reason it was a good place to stop.
I had one of my favourite snack foods which I hadn’t had for quite a while.
It was a long and continuous descent down this hill, but the views were nice.
On the way down I started to feel a tummy rumble and then it suddenly dawned on me that the 35km between Drury and Mercer is noticably devoid of any toilets, or any shops at all. So that meant I was going to have to hold on. And from where I was it was still 16km to Mercer. This is going to be a long and uncomfortable 16km.
At the bottom of Pinnacle Hill Road you come out onto State Highway 2 which starts very near here. I hate driving down this road because it is busy and full of slow trucks and mostly only one lane in each direction. So walking down it is going to be even worse. I definitely stopped the music for this bit.
There was both a road shoulder and a grass shoulder at all times, so it wasn’t too bad…
Except of course for two bridges which had no shoulder and you had to wait for a gap in the traffic and then run across. Yep what I remembered about this road was true. State Highway 2, where the trucks are large and the roadkill is so flat you can’t even tell what it used to be. There was actually a post on the Te Araroa Facebook group saying that somebody saw two people walking on SH2 today who were walking with the traffic flow as opposed to against it, and they couldn’t be seen easily. I know that wasn’t aimed at me, because I always try and walk against the traffic flow if possible,and I had my walking poles in the “Gandalf” configuration – holding both poles in one hand with one of them sticking up high, so they could be seen for a long distance. Just be careful, I guess.
My 11am picture is here. When you see this sign…
You only have to cross this evil narrow bridge (good luck with that)…
And you’re here.
I read here that walkers on this section average 2.5km/hr. Uh-oh, that’s really going to interfere with getting to Rangiriri by 8pm. For some reason I had it in my head that if I didn’t turn up by the time I said then they would give my room to somebody else, as I hadn’t paid for it yet. Maybe I’ll be sleeping on the pub’s couches once it closes.
First you go under the bridge that you just ran across:
Then it was pretty much this for 2 hours. And I managed to keep up a 5km/hr pace here too, it really wasn’t that hard. Suck on that Mr. Sign From Before.
The only semi-exciting thing I saw along here was these horses.
And my dodgy tummy seemed to have stopped. If the trucks hurtling down SH2 didn’t scare the literal shit out of me, I guess nothing will.
Next was under the expressway, which was kinda weird. But first, even getting to the expressway was difficult. I saw on the map that you also had to cross the railway lines… although that was the easy bit.
Now both Guthook and The Trail App have the line going to the right at this intersection. However the more observant of you may have noticed above two orange markers directly below the street sign, pointing into the bush. Yes, that is the correct way to go, and yes, it appears the apps are both wrong. A little bit of bush bashing and you come across this.
But where is the path now? Is it here?
I got sick of trying to find the path. It is not well marked. So i just walked along the side of the SH1 expressway. At least there was a barrier to stay behind, so it was a hell of a lot safer than SH2.
For the record, it is legal to walk on expressways in New Zealand, but not motorways. SH1 in Auckland is motorway north of Bombay but at this point it is expressway.
WARNING – the next bit does talk about bodily functions. If you don’t want to read this bit, then skip forward to the next picture. Don’t worry I don’t go into too much detail! 😁
Here I did have to decide how much information to share, and hopefully it is not too much. At this point the dodgy tummy reared its ugly head again and this time there was no holding it back. I wasn’t gonna make it the final 2km to Mercer… so I dashed off the expressway and into the bushes. Luckily I added toilet paper to my pack since the last day I walked.
Now people… maybe this might gross some people out, but consider taking your used toilet paper with you. Put it in a zip lock bag and dispose of it when you can, like I did here and took it to Mercer. Or if not, then at least bury it. I haven’t seen it personally, but the Facebook posts of people finding used toilet paper at campsites makes me really sad.
And while we’re on the topic of bodily functions… there is only one thing brighter and yellower than my bright yellow crocs, and that is my pee. I looked it up, and while it wasn’t exactly clear what causes it, I do know that if you’re severely dehydrated, it comes out a very dark colour, even brown. I learned that from Survivor. That’s definitely the opposite of what’s happening, it is almost flourescent yellow.
Okay now that that subject has had enough said about it, and I’ve done my business, it is time to rejoin the expressway. Half an hour or so of this, and suddenly, Mercer. Only one important thing to do here.
And it was onto the Whangamarino River Track. Guthook says it is an easy walk through farm and bush.
How wrong Guthook was. It started off okay (ish)…
But soon it was up and down very steep hills, through swamps, and sometimes you couldn’t find the path at all.
It was one of the worst-marked paths I’ve seen so far. I should have read the trail notes which described it as a “basic” path for trampers of reasonable fitness.
I was getting angry quite fast. I was making excruciatingly slow progress. And no sooner did I trip and fall at one point did I then see Mark and Jolanda from two days ago. How embarrassing. They were on the other side of a swamp, and Mark was trying to yell something at me but because of our proximity to SH1 I couldn’t hear him over the roar of the traffic. Given that he was walking in the opposite direction to the trail and that the trail simply sucked, it appeared that they were abandoning it. But where were they going to go? Down the side of the expressway, I assume?
Bruised and battered I eventually emerged from the river track, and looked at the map. Okay, appears I am headed under the expressway again. I did think that this view of the expressway was cool though. It goes right over the train line, and a train was passing.
The headroom here was extremely low. One of the very small number of times where being tall is a disadvantage.
And then, yep, more walking down the side of the expressway. At least it was marked this time, so I knew I was actually supposed to be there.
A short walk along the river and you come out at the end of a road called Dragway Road. When I was a kid the road was called Drag Way which I thought was an excellent name but some buzzkill obviously changed it. It still shows on the Guthook topographic map as Drag Way though, so I know I’m not making it up.
The cattle followed me, but weren’t too menacing. I am noticing though that the further south you go, the braver the cows are. Coincidence? I’m not sure.
And now, more walking along a stopbank. I thought this tree was worth taking a picture of. And it had a geocache in it.
Here is one thing I didn’t see at first. Can you see it?
I was busy looking down at the ground trying to maintain a fast pace and therefore checking that I didn’t trip. But soon I felt tap tap tap tap of large things flying into my face. I looked up and my face was less than a meter from this thing. Yikes! Thousands of bees or wasps were flying around! But I wasn’t getting stung… odd. Regardless, I got a safe distance away before taking that picture.
I spent time deciding if they were bees or wasps and thought they must be bees because there were beehives just a little further on. But I’ve never seen bees in that formation before. I had to ask my Mum, and she said it’s a swarm of bees. Interesting. Apparently when bees are swarming they are docile because they aren’t protecting a queen bee or any honey, and so don’t sting. Lucky me.
And another thing to defend myself from… some young bulls. I had also read on the Facebook group that there were young bulls in this area charging at people, so I was weary. Luckily waving my poles and yelling “Yah!” kept them mostly away. I felt a bit like Thor.
The stopbank came to an end and moved to a riverside path.
It was mostly easy to follow but I did go the wrong way briefly for about 50m. And there was one point where you go up a hill and then the orange marker points you here:
There was the tiniest of tiny paths there and I spent a bit of time deciding if I really do need to fight my way through that, and fortunately common sense won and I found the correct marked path a bit to the right. Long story short, don’t go through that gorse.
There was a lot of climbing fences and stiles, and a lot of walking through these yellow flowers.
This large field of dead gorse was a lowlight however.
And their signs clearly need replacing!
Just after here was a water tap, provided by the Te Kauwhata Water Association. I don’t know why Te Kauwhata needs a water association, but at that point I didnt care. It was super hot and I’d been outside all day and I grabbed 3 litres of the stuff, and drank another litre. Thanks TKWA!
From here you could travel on either the road or move back to the stopbank. The trail notes list the road as an alternative if you don’t like walking through cattle. Sounds good to me, and also it’s faster. It was 5:30pm by now and there was 9km to Rangiriri. Let’s walk, and walk fast.
Although, there is always time for the milestone photo. Let’s take that really fast.
By this time I was starting to get a bit exhausted. To keep myself sane, I found myself singing out loud to the music playing on my iPod, and I didn’t even care what the people around thought… not that there were any.
Soon I could see where Churchill East Road, the road I had been walking on, came to the expressway. It seemed strange to have a gravel road so close to the expressway, and with its own traffic lights.
And also these signs for the Te Araroa trail – which look as if they’re aimed at cars and not walkers.
Here was my first view of Rangiriri, and there’s the hotel in the middle (behind and to the left of the bowling club). I spent a few seconds working out what a EWY was. When I worked it out, I made sure I didn’t go that way. I’d had enough of walking on the EWY today.
It was great to see the pub finally. Looks busy from the outside. I had arrived at 7:20pm. Should be alright, I hoped. What am I gonna do if they’ve given my room away? Surely they haven’t. They never tried to call.
It took me a while to check in because they were so busy, but despite being so busy, the staff were all still friendly. I did get checked in just fine. And after that, I immediately got a cider and reflected on my walk for the day.
61.3km in one day. I really don’t see that record being beaten for a while now, if at all. Potentially when I get to Wellington I might make a final push to the North Island finish line without my pack, which might be longer than 61km. Or maybe the same at Bluff. Although finishing at Bluff without my pack would just feel wrong, I think.
And I got some food, which was huge. The food (not including the cider) was only $25, although the garlic bread was not particularly warm.
The floors in the hotel, in the upstairs area where the accommodation was, were on quite a big angle, and the room was very hot, although my sunburn might have had something to do with that. Whenever anybody used water, a loud noise would present itself which was annoying. The room was also quite pricey I thought – $90 for a twin room with a shared bathroom. I’m not sure I’d stay again, although it depends on the price of the single rooms which I never found out as they were all booked.
When I went up to my room and unpacked some of my stuff, I realised that the three uneaten bananas in my pack had essentially exploded. I guess 61km worth of rolling around in my pack wasn’t good for them. Note to self: Bananas are not good hiker food to travel with. I’m glad they didn’t destroy my electronics and the other things I had in my pack, or even the pack itself – I had my electronics all in the same bag when I walked Mount Eden to Drury. This time I put the food inside a separate bag. Smart idea.
I looked at the GPS line for this walk and it was largely accurate this time, except for two occasions where it shows me walking out into the river. That definitely didn’t happen! At one point the watch display skipped from 52.8 to 54 kms. It was like I’d gained a kilometer without doing the work!
A fairly early night tonight because I’m so sore, and another relatively big day tomorrow with a time pressure. Although I can’t have too many of these long days, because this blog post turned out to be so long it’s taken me over two hours to write it!
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):