Up early just as the sun is coming up, it’s my favorite time of day. I’m conflicted about this group of hikers, but so confused about the coming days, I’m glad I found them. The weather is going to be awful and I’ll need to do sections out of order. Likely we’ll all canoe for seven days on the Whanganui together.
So many people speak about the incredible community that is backpackers. I did meet some nice people last night, but one American is a real downer. Actually I read one of his facebook arguments with the TA page manager before I arrived in New Zealand and was shocked by his manner. He was arrogant, dismissive and aggressive. I had hoped I’d never encounter him and here he is. Within a few minutes of meeting, he already put down what I was saying. Then it happened and again – and again. How do people like this survive? Hopefully others make up for such a jerk.
It was a beautiful place to sleep but the sheep cried all night long. Nice to be walking now in just bird sound, though the farmers seem to prefer American hits of the ‘80s, even at 6 am.
My mom used to tell me I expect too much from people. I probably could have done more homework before coming and not relied on others. The trail notes overwhelm me and I have tried to stay ahead by just a few days, but this trail is young and more a suggested route than path. So many decisions have to be made every day.
I pass a shearing operation. American hits cranked – of course – as four strong guys in ‘wife-beaters’ work on the sheep; smelly, messy, but they move in a kind of choreographed dance – the shearer leading and the sheep docile following. The next shed down the road plays Thin Lizzie.
I stop at Taane’s Manor for a rest, gnomes and little toadstool tables in a quiet garden. They’re closed, but a Maori gardener named Henry shares sweet coffee and his philosophy, a kind of mix of Christianity and matriarch-based wisdom. “Talk to the mother while you walk,” he tells me. I pass a cluster of neat homes festooned with lawn ornaments and Henry’s marae of which he is so proud plus a Monet-esque lily pond and bridge.
I finally arrive in Taumaruni and the first sign of civilization? McDonald’s. I come upon a lovely old kiwi who is so happy to have finally been able to ride his scooter to the golf course. As I walk up the street, several hikers call out – the ones I was walking with in Mangaokewa Reserve, but lost when I stayed with the trail angel. They have plans to walk, then canoe and I ask if I can come along. Of course! We set it up meaning we’ll walk for five days, then meet the canoes after the Alpine crossing.
Weather is very iffy, but I am giving it a try. I like these men – Croatian, French and Korean – straight shooters, no nonsense. The river is below this stunning canoe hire; we camp in a container with some mattresses and easy chairs. Not exactly a rest day, but after this complicated section that has to be tackled by a group, there will be time to rest. Fingers crossed it’s the right decision. I buy heaps of food and heaps of beer-to-share and load it all in barrels to meet us.
The adventure continues.