It rained all night.
Maybe it got it out of its system.
I slept well behind Cathy’s Pie Shop even though we shared nearly an entire bottle of chardonnay. She’s a well off Kiwi who lost most of her wealth, but has found her own ‘trail’ after leaving a cheating husband and buying up property to rent.
She loves us trail walkers looking for answers as we walk day after day. She instilled confidence in me that whatever it is I’m seeking would work out and that – like Dorothy – the answers are probably already inside me.
Of course that remains to be seen.
Steak pie with hot chocolate and steamed milk. Life is good! The morning is cool, fog lifting on the Waikato, rain expected all day and into the next. But this is the wettest region of the North Island. Irene tells me the upcoming forest makes Raetea look like a walk in the park. And I plan to camp in it.
The trail is road walk to Huntly. I suppose I could walk in the fields but it’s really wet and bumpy. Unless a car passes, it’s quiet here. The Swiss arrive and pull me into the wet grass and the proper trail, and truly bliss for the feet. In this field it’s Holst St. Paul’s Suite.
And now I have one of them singing the tunes with me. The other is silent and wears a Vikings cap saying he likes the idea of football. What have I learned? That grass walking is more fun than road walking, that looking for cool things is better than building k’s, that every step takes you to something new, that eating an entire bag of candy per day on a thru-hike is di rigeur, that falling in the mud is not a sign of weakness and that 9 am is Znünipause, time for a mini-break.
“The TA is not for fun,” says Cyrill. “It is for the character.”
Suddenly I come upon beautiful grass and loads of camping – I’m really thinking like a thru-hiker. No camping allowed here. It’s a golf course. Up ahead are mountains, frothy cotton candy clouds pasted to the summits. Before them the massive twin towers of Huntly’s power station.
I told Cathy last night that the first month of this tramp pulled out all the emotions, the old gunk of the past that I needed to deal with. It feels now as if this second month is about discovering who I am now and – now that some of the dark corners have been scoured of their cobwebs – to decipher what exactly I’d like to bring into my space.
I stop at a dairy (convenience store) just out of town and buy a Jolly soda. It tastes like candy. Maybe I’ll take another for the road.
Huntly is busy with trucks hauling two quarry cargoes and houses pressed right up on the main drag, wild roses, junked cars and lawn ornaments commingling. Two friendly Kiwis stop to talk with me. This stretch has a sidewalk, but not for long.
I’m soon back in the bush, the Hakarimata Reserve, another shoe scrub and – for starters anyway – easy tramping.
I stop for lunch at a giant 1,000 year old kauri that somehow escaped the ax. I learn only redwoods have trunks this massive, that this tree is as old as the dinosaurs and its resin was prized for making jewelry, right as I back into it and take a resin sample on my shirt.
In Puketi, the signs indicate kauri love swampland, here there’s a picture of a cross-section of roots efficiently sucking up liquid from dry hillsides. One of my followers corrected me that gum trees are a type of kauri and yet this sign says only what I am seeing – Agathis australis – is native to New Zealand. I am confused.
About twenty raindrops hit me. If the weatherman says 60% chance of rain, did that count? I hope to keep walking this splendid forest all afternoon. A giant rimu peaks out, gnarly and shaggy, taller and more slender than a Kauri. Captain Cook made beer from the Rimu’s bitter gum.
There’s rain in the distance from the first lookout, but no lightning yet.
Back to advanced tramping track of steeper than you can believe ups and down, roots and mud. I think of Brenda when we hiked the Border Route wishing for ‘100 feet of joy’ on the Border Route. I’m trained now to walk on roots, so this goes fast.
This walking feels out of body; my mind is totally focused but my legs and arms float over the obstacles like someone else pulls the strings. I lose the GPS briefly likely due to think canopy and clouds. It’s weird not knowing where you are, though there is only one path and I’m all alone.
Eventually I come to a lookout and the GPS picks up in this grassy spot. I decide I’ve gone far enough so I’ll stop here and camp on flat grass looking out to the Waikato.
A few campers have been here before and left their toilet paper strewn around. Lame. Hadn’t they heard of ‘leave no trace’ or is it more they just don’t give a damn? I hope I don’t step in someone’s poo. I’ll try to ignore the last hiker’s bad manners and relax in this lovely spot high above the farmland where no rain has come yet today. I am very blessed!