Date: 7 December
Trail covered: 3.5km of trail plus at least that again walking around town (kms 1532.8 to 1536.3)
Weather: definitely deteriorating…
This morning the sandflies were extreme. They don’t seem to be affected by the Goodbye Sandfly product that I use. Ethan gave me some of his stuff that he has. It seemed to work better although they were still quite persistent. I haven’t written much about sandflies so far, despite them being a pain almost everywhere, because usually they are easy to control. Not so today for some reason!
At least sandflies seem to die when you just touch them. They’re not particularly hard to kill.
I also had a thought that maybe I could get new boots in Otaki. Ethan said they have a Kathmandu there. Today is kind of a rest day so we won’t be doing much.
This morning the owner of the Outdoor Pursuits Centre where we camped for the night said he would give us a ride to Levin. There was the inconvenient technicality that while Levin is not on the trail, the next 3.5km of road after the Outdoor Pursuits Centre is. I of course didn’t want to skip this 3.5km, so I left at 9:30am to walk this small section and then the others would pick me up as they got their ride into Levin from the centre owner at 10 or 10:30am.
Alex was even more pumped and decided to go for a run to Levin instead and the others would bring his pack for them. I might have considered that option if I didn’t have to run in hiking boots or crocs.
So I started my walk to the intersection with Poads Road which was the spot where we will start hiking once the bad weather passes.
I got offered a lift quite early on by people coming out of their driveway, shame I couldn’t accept it.
There were a couple of long one-way sections where, as a driver, it would be hard to see what’s coming.
This one had a particularly bad rockfall.
And some interesting messages written on the barricades.
Plus an anti-1080 message. 1080 is a poison that DOC use to control possums and other pests. I don’t know a lot about it but I understand it is fairly toxic.
This was actually one of the things that Glenn, they guy who stopped and talked to me at the shelter two nights ago, talked about. He said that he and some of the locals have done their own predator trapping and control, and someone he knows even released the North Island weka into the bush around there. DOC haven’t released the 1080 poison since 2003, he said, but if they decide to do it again then the locals will have no say and their efforts at repopulating the birds here will be wiped out. It’s a shame I didn’t see any weka here, they’re cool birds. They’re normally seen way up north and also in the South Island.
Looking back at the landslip, it was clearly quite bad.
When I knew the intersection was approaching, I had a look to the left to see if I could see what we would be walking through next.
This doesn’t look too bad, but I know there are a couple of big summits coming up.
After a while, when I saw this weird building coming up…
And poultry on the side of the road…
And in the middle of the road…
I was at the intersection, and it comes complete with a big warning to be safe and responsible if you’re entering the Tararuas.
I arrived here at 10:05am and I was going to just keep walking to Levin, knowing that they would pick me up as they went past, but I was worried that maybe there wouldn’t be a safe spot to pull over and so I waited here for them.
I saw this car drive past a few times. In the end she pulled up here to walk her dog. She told me that cars often get broken into around here. I think she was driving around a bit at first waiting for me to go away before parking because I looked dodgy and a bit like a car thief.
At 11am, I was still waiting to be picked up. Each time a car came around this corner I hoped longingly that it would be them.
A guy on an e-bike came past. It looked very easy to ride, he wasn’t even pedalling at all and I could hear the whine of it as it went past.
At 11:30 I decided to keep walking as perhaps they’d taken another route into Levin, and there was no mobile coverage here so I didn’t know where anyone was. There had been a post by the Pursuits Centre on Facebook two nights ago implying that some hikers had been taking advantage of them. So the post said “1 night maximum” and “no we won’t do your shopping in town for you”. So I already felt like I was pushing my luck by getting them to pick me up from an arbitrary spot on the side of the road. But at 11:45 I came into phone coverage and Ethan said they hadn’t left yet so I found a driveway where they could pull into easily and waited for them.
I got to see what the weird building from before was… the Greek Orthodox Church.
Once in Levin we walked to the nearest pub to fill in a couple of hours before the reception at the holiday park opened at 2pm. On the way we got asked some questions by one of the locals. What time zone is Cape Reinga in, and what time is it there now? And did you guys walk all the way here from the United States? I struggled with the answers to some of these.
We made it to O’Malley’s bar, which despite sounding Irish and having shamrocks everywhere did not sell Guinness… or any other decent beer for that matter (the woman behind the bar said they’re Irish in name only). The choices on tap were Tui, Export Gold, Lion Red or Speights. Crikey. I got a Jim Beam and Cola and we all sat down. It was a real dark and dingy place – and there were pokie machines one side and the TAB on the other side.
While everyone chatted and recharged their phones and considered betting on the horses I made enquiries to see if Kathmandu in Otaki (20 minutes by car down State Highway 1) had a replacement pair of boots that exactly matched the ones I already had. Turned out they did… I just needed to get down there. I could have used this as my first hitchhiking practice – because if you can’t hitchhike down the busiest road in the country on a Saturday afternoon then there’s no hope for you. But given the dismal weather forecast for the rest of the day I decided to pay $26 for the bus instead, so that I didn’t get caught in the rain. I mean, check this out:
And this, for tomorrow:
Two o’clock rolled around and we walked over to the Levin Holiday Park and booked a six-bed studio for $35 each per person per night.
The studio unit has air-con, a private bathroom, and a TV, but with only basic cooking facilities. The best part was I could leave my pack there while I got the bus to Otaki. Once I’d checked in I briskly walked to the bus stop back in the middle of town.
The bus arrived, and I could see the Tararua Ranges to the left. The weather didn’t look flash up there.
I saw on Instagram that Rhydian had made the trip up to the first hut today, Te Matawai Hut. He said he was greeted with hail. Seems like we made the right decision to stay in Levin.
It took less than 20 minutes to get to Otaki. There are a lot of outlet stores in this town, I’ve never quite understood why. Maybe cheap rent? Maybe the traffic is often so bad here that people feel like stopping and shopping instead of sitting in traffic?
A quick walk down to Kathmandu, and I now have shiny new boots!
It’s hard to throw out my old ones though. I only got them halfway through October but they’ve been really good, which is why I wanted to get exactly the same ones again. I’ve got no choice but to throw them out though… I can’t exactly go around carrying two pairs of boots.
We got a chance to do our laundry too. I changed into my emergency clothes so that I could put everything dirty in the wash. I definitely look like a Waikato supporter, wearing these colours.
The others went out for dinner but I didn’t join as I’d already had McDonald’s once I got off the bus. It gave me a chance to just relax by myself in the unit. I was going to join the others in a bar after dinner but they said they couldn’t find anything. Apparently Levin is not a young person’s town.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):