Day 63 – Makahika to Te Matawai Hut

Makahika to Te Matawai Hut (Tararua Ranges)

17kms

Total 1543kms

Last night John came down to our campsite with a large and detailed map of the ranges and fully briefed us on what to expect and things to be mindful of. In the morning he gave me a weather update but it hasn’t changed much and we should have good weather as long as we are coming down by Monday morning. Caroline and Karina both decided they did not want to go up so have opted to get a ride into Levin and walk the road to Waikanae where they will rejoin the trail. Caroline’s parter Freek will still do the ranges and Katrina who arrived last night after doing the same long stretch we had done the day before. Only Katrina is not able to stay for a rest day because of the VIP guests coming.

We left the OPC at 8.30am and walked 4.5kms down the road to the track entrance. Freek had gone before us but was waiting at the carpark when we got there. Katrina had to go into town to pick up a delivery of supplies from the post shop that she had sent herself so wont hit the trail until later in the morning. We were expecting to be at the hut by 5pm and we got there by 4.30. Only 17kms but it takes a full day because of the difficulty of the steep terrain and poor track conditions.

The day was everything we expected it to be. Heaps of sloppy mud, wet boots and climbing up some major elevations. The first climb was nearly 1000m abs (starting at 150) and was a serious workout. Then we dropped down 300 and then back up. These are not distances but elevations. For example Mt Manaia is about 420m abs and the track is about 2kms to get up there.

There are already some amazing views looking down to the west and looking around at all the other ridges. The tallest we are yet to climb. Tomorrow morning we will continue our ascent to nearly 1400m abs then back down to 1000m then follow a ‘saw tooth’ ridge line before climbing back up to 1200m to Nichols Hut where we will be staying for the night.

The forest up here is beautiful and the old trees are covered in bright green moss. I hope my photos do it justice but it is really amazing to be walking through it.

I had a separate mission today to deliver a GPS/communication device to a group who went up yesterday and are using different tracks and huts to us but our track will combine for a short period at the top. The guy we picked up along the way yesterday had forgot to take it. He has a group of young teenagers with him. They need it to check in and communicate with John. I intercepted them just in time at a junction point. They were sitting and having a break luckily otherwise we would have missed them. He was very grateful and surprised I had got it to him.

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Day 62 – Rest

John gave me and Jesse a ride into Levin this morning. He was going in for a few hours anyway. John had printed the weather report for the next four days and we picked his brains. John runs Duke of Endinborah courses and spends three months of the year in the bush, so he knows it well.

We stopped at the entrance to the track we are entering tomorrow to pick up a guy that John was taking into town. We saw Jason and Caroline there so we had a quick catch up with them too. I last saw Jason in Waitomo and Caroline on the Timber Trail.

We sat at McDonalds for an hour or so and had breakfast and coffee. Then a resupply at Countdown and back to McDonald’s for another coffee. Jesse picked up some pizzas to bring back with us. I should have plenty of food now to get me through to Waikanae.

The marquee is being set up for tomorrow with tables etc so we have moved out onto the paddock for tonight. There is a rugby team coming but they can not tell us who.

Day 61 – Toko Corner to Makahika OPC

Toko Corner to Makahika OPC (Tararua Range)

33kms

Total 1526kms

Totally exhausted after today! That was much tougher than any of us expected. 13 hours of hiking through mostly bush. There were lots of steep climbs and one up to 690m abs towards the end of the day. Heaps of mud and several stream crossings and at times walking up the streams. It was an awesome day and beautiful, but very tough. I drank about 5 litres of water during the day. It got very hot after lunch and I was sweating a lot going up the hills. Nothing tastes better than cool fresh water on days like these. There was no shortage of streams for water supply. Jesse and I left at 7.30am and arrived at the outdoor pursuits centre at 8.30pm. Josh caught up to us at around 4pm. He must have been really going for it! Jesse and I had stopped for lunch at an abandoned shed which has been recently rebuilt for TA walkers. This was at the half way point at around 1pm. We dried our tents out and had a good feed to refuel and check our maps to make sure we would be able to make it through. There was still a long way to go at that point but we know that we are capable of going all day if we need to.

John greated us at the OPC when we arrived. He runs the place with his wife Sally. The first thing he did was get us a beer. That went down really well. He gave us a run down of the weather and recommended how we tackle the next four days up there. There is mostly good weather but some rain and high winds are forecast so we will need to push a bit further on one day to get off the top of the mountain before it comes otherwise we will be stuck up there and have to ride it out sitting in a hut for a day. But our timing to start is perfect as the conditions have not been good up there for the last few days even though it has been fine down here.

The OPC have set up a marquee and outdoor kitchen for TA walkers to use. There is also use of the hot showers, toilets and laundry at the lodge right next to it. Usually they would give you a bed in the lodge but they are expecting VIP guests this weekend so we are sleeping under the marquee instead. I had one of the best showers of my life and then a big feed and chilled for a while to unwind before getting into bed.

We decided to have a rest day tomorrow and get a ride into Levin with John in the morning. I need some more food. I have enough to ration but I could definately do with more to get me through to Waikanae. I have been very hungry the past few days and the next four days will be very tough too. I can’t wait to get up there though!

Day 60 – Palmerston North to Toko Corner

Palmerston North to Toko Corner (Tararua Range)

28kms

Total 1493kms

Jesse and Josh came over to catch up last night and we talked about how we were going to tackle the next six days. We all have a lot of food to carry so our packs are much heavier than we are used to. I am glad I have these two guys to walk with over the ranges.

Walking out of Palmy today I crossed the Fitzherbert Bridge and followed the walkway around to Bledisloe park and Massey University. The Turitea walkway crosses three footbridges and then open fenced farmland overlooking Massey Sports Institute. The next several kms were entering a valley and the foothills of the Tararua range. The trail went down ‘Green Corridors’ planted by the council that ran adjacent to streams. Then there was 7kms of metal road and the views were changing around every corner, from bush to open farm land and slowly ascending into the hills. I stopped at a nice picnic area for lunch. At the end of the road there was the parking lot and hub for the Kahuterawa recreation area. There are heaps of mountain biking tracks here. The trail takes the ‘back track’ which is an old road that was closed in the 60’s and is now surrounded by regenerated native bush. There were plenty of streams crossing the track so easy to refill the water bottle. The track finished and I entered some forestry land and not far along was the new official campsite. A shelter is being constructed and the builder was there when I arrived. I thought it had already been built and was expecting a water tank and toilet. The builder said they were three months behind schedule. There is a good stream that is easy to access and a portaloo for now. I had a wash in the stream. A lady from the UK called Karina was at the campsite already. Jesse turned up about an hour later and then Josh. Josh took a while to get out of Palmy because he needed to buy some gear that was lost to the Whanganui river.

Day 59 – Rest

Total 1465kms

Donna dropped me back at Countdown in Kelvin Grove and I walked 8kms following the Manuatu river pathway to the Fitzgerald bridge which I will cross tomorrow. I walked further down the river to the Palmerston North holiday park where I am staying tonight. After checking early, I walked into the city and spent a few hours in there. Palmy is a really nice city. I resupplied at Countdown for the next 6 days. There wont be any shops until Waikanae. I got a bit more than I probably need but that is ok because it might take longer than I have planned. My pack is going to be heavy though and the temperature is rising each day. Today was a scorcher! I went to the information centre and purchased some hut passes for the ranges then posted some post cards to the kids. I have been doing this along the way. Then I caught the bus back to the holiday park and am getting ready and planning for the next 6 days. The finish line is only 200kms away now, but there is a bloody big hill to get over first.

Day 58 – Bulls to Palmerston North

Bulls to Palmerston North

36kms

Total 1457kms

I did not need my pack today and was able to leave it at Donna’s place. It makes a big difference. I felt very light and had the wind behind me. It was a bit cold in the morning but the heat turned on by 12. I made it to Fielding by 1pm and had a good long break. I was starving and still feeling tired. Fielding is a really nice town and friendly people. I had a footlong subway with drink and then a large chocolate and cream donut from the bakery. My stomach was so full and sore when I started to walk again. Hiliare had popped out of Mt Lees reserve in front of me about an hour or two before I got to Fielding. We walked together and he carried on when I stopped.

There were more very long and straight roads today and at times the traffic was heavy. Just out of Bunnythorpe the trail went onto farmland that ran parallel to the road and there were heaps of stiles to climb over. I finished at the countdown in Kelvin Grove where Donna picked me up. I saw Hiliare there again. He was resupplying and carrying on for another 15kms.

I still have another 8kms to get to the palmy holiday park and will stay there for the night. I will meet up with Jesse and Josh before heading out of town and into the Tararuas. I will need to resupply with enough food for about seven days.

Day 57 – Koitiata to Bulls

Koitiata to Bulls

30kms

Total 1421kms

I did not sleep well last night in my tent. I was waking up to the wind and tossing and turning all night. Feeling tired and drained made the whole day a bit of a struggle. I was taking it 5kms at a time but they each felt like 10. The first 8kms were along the beach which was nice for a change but the westerly wind was still coming in strong and pushing me around. I came off the beach and on to forestry roads which were long and straight but sheltered from the wind. The last 15kms into Bulls were plain old road walking. I was tired and cranky from the relentless wind pushing me around and my feet were aching again. I put some music on for the last 5kms. That took my mind off it and helped me push on. I like Bulls. It is a cool little town. Any town with a supermarket and a McDonalds rates pretty highly though.

Donna picked me up from Bulls and has kindly offered to have me stay at her place for the next two nights as I pass through the area. Donna is the manager for Alzheimers Manuatu. We went out to Donna’s friends house, Jo and Carmel, for dinner. We had fillet steak and salads! They were very nice people. I had a shower, a few beers and even got my washing done. I left with a block of chocolate too. Now I am at Donna’s and have a self contained sleep out which is like five star luxury.