TA Day 57, Mount Lees Reserve to Palmerston North, 31 km

Many of the road walks on the Te Araroa provide little room for hikers and drivers don't "share the road."
Many of the road walks on the Te Araroa provide little room for hikers and drivers don’t “share the road.”

Well it was bound to happen – I wake up in pouring rain. I pack up anyway and figure, it can’t last all day, can it?

Of course the forecast is for the wettest Christmas in years. I’m in full rain gear and it’s just a drizzle right now. These days before Palmerston North are notoriously bad. It’s mostly road walk, but with the temperature cool and the sun hidden, I don’t mind it too much.

The beautiful Victorian house at Mount Lees Reserve. I camped on the manicured lawn.
The beautiful Victorian house at Mount Lees Reserve. I camped on the manicured lawn.
The roundabout in Feilding where I got a lot of looks – and "good on you's" – walking by with sticks and a backpack.
The roundabout in Feilding where I got a lot of looks – and “good on you’s” – walking by with sticks and a backpack.

Cows follow me again as I come close, inspecting closely this passerby . In the next field, it’s perfectly sketched The Far Side sheep. They take one look at me as I baa, and bound away on fat haunches.

I realize as I walk here that most of the hikers I’ve met will skip this section. They call me a ‘purist’ which I actually find pretty insulting. I prefer ‘thru-hiker’ to their some kind of ‘tour hiker’ or, truth be told, ‘hitch-hiker.’

The TA certainly challenges the concept of ‘hike your own hike.’ I realize we can choose to do what we want, but when I meet them ahead of me at a fabulous hut on a mountain and they talk about how fast they’re moving, I’ll try not to laugh.

I pass a lot of beautifully built homes facing the mountains in the high-rent district of Fielding as the rain eases up. Corrugated iron cows graze next to flesh-and-blood sheep.

In town, it’s a row of settlers’ homes with curved metal roofs. A little girl in a pink bathrobe carries a cat as big as her, it’s legs flopping in front.

A lovely local mowing the grass next to the highway near Bunnythorpe so walkers could stay off the road.
A lovely local mowing the grass next to the highway near Bunnythorpe so walkers could stay off the road.
I mostly just loved the name.
I mostly just loved the name.
Tuis painted on utilities.
Tuis painted on utilities.

Friendly Fielding welcomes me as ‘New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town.’ Oh dear, make that Feilding, the Scottish spelling.

Next, it’s Bunnythorpe, a name that sounds like a character from ‘The Great Gatsby.’ So far, it’s a big wide bike path. C’mon DOC, connect it to Palmy! At least the rain stopped and I’m back in my groovy hat.

Jean from two days ago commented I was quite ‘distinctive’ in my hiking outfit, though she assumed – by my hat – I was Asian. I am using the best sunscreen of no skin showing. Seems to be working – somewhat.

No such luck on the trail front, though. I’m on a busy road next to a busier road, no shoulder but a white line next to muck. Most people give me space – or not. At least they can see the ugly look of horror I make as they pass me in a massive hurry for Christmas cheer. I hold my sticks out and that usually encourages them. Who cares if they wipe out a middle-aged American solo hiker on Christmas eve, but god forbid the car gets scratched.

Windmills on the hills near Palmerston North amidst heavy skies.
Windmills on the hills near Palmerston North amidst heavy skies.
The Manawatu River which drains the Ruahine range to the northwest and runs through Palmerston North.
The Manawatu River which drains the Ruahine range to the northwest and runs through Palmerston North.
A shower, clean clothes and fur therapy at Tara and Rob's home.
A shower, clean clothes and fur therapy at Tara and Rob’s home.

I meet a really nice Kiwi mowing the side of the road for us walkers. He laughs when I tell him what I’ve walked.

I see a fair number of vintage cars and trucks drive by, especially Fords Chevies. The hill ahead is crowded with windmills. The trail suddenly veers into an ugly piece of forgotten property, but someone made an effort to clear it and place stones strategically at the creeks. At the public notice board, the official TA Association trail notes for this section are posted. It’s really nice to feel good vibes from the town.

A mass of stiles, a bouncy bridge and a clear path keep me off the road. A big Kiwi in gumboots and short-shorts stops his mower to wish me a Merry Christmas.

Finally off the road and on the Manawatu push bike way and in no time at Robb and Tara’s and welcomed right into the family.

Tara and her sister on Christmas Eve. I was welcomed right into the family.
Tara and her sister on Christmas Eve. I was welcomed right into the family.
Vintage Christmas tree. The weather was wet and cold, so Christmas Eve felt more like one in the United States and spent indoors.
Vintage Christmas tree. The weather was wet and cold, so Christmas Eve felt more like one in the United States and spent indoors.

Laughter, music, all kinds of off-limits topics, food and more food and drink – and I only asked if I might camp on the lawn tonight. “You’ve come a long way from the lawn,” I was told as we watch a video of grandpa backing up and tripping on a tombstone – don’t ask – then danced our hearts out to Gelantis ‘Peanut Butter Jelly’ (twice) and watched National Lampoon Christmas.

It was a perfect Kiwi Christmas and I feel so blessed.

I hope you and yours enjoy this special day with traditions – and maybe make a few new ones.

I share this blessing with you from Robb –

Kia hora Te Marino
Kia whakapapa pounamu Te Moana
Aroha atu aroha mai
Tatou ia a tatou katoa
Haumi e Hui e Tiaki e

May peace be widespread
May the sea be like greenstone
A pathway for us all day
Let us show respect for each other
To one another
Bind us United

Dancing on Christmas Eve with Rob, Tara and their family.
Dancing on Christmas Eve with Rob, Tara and their family.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. And a very Merry Christmas to you too, Alison. I got to hear Richard’s carol at last Thursday’s Songs of the Season concert. And it was nice to see him too.

  2. Ah, the Bunnythorpe Tavern. so, it’s a Tavern for Bunnies. Dutton will be even happier to have his street next to one of those!

  3. Hi Alison….. Out of concern a word of caution concerning the road walking here in NZ. Some motorists could take exception to a hiker waving hiking poles around on a busy highway, expecting them to make room for said hiker when for safety’s sake hikers should make room for the vehicles when encroaching in their domain. Please think about the consequences if you either accidentally or deliberately scratched a passing vehicle. I would encourage you to also wear a hi-vis vest as TA
    Trust recommends, to stand out more for the on coming traffic to be able to see you. A few small adjustments and your road walking could be stress free, I wish you well and have a safe hike.

    1. Thank you for writing, Wayne. I should clarify that I wave specifically so I can be seen as vulnerable human flesh sharing the road. Wearing a high vis vest would change very little the small minority of poor behavior I have experienced during the hours and hours of road walking on the TA. This is because all of my close calls with vehicles have occurred not on the busiest roads, but on back roads with fewer cars and loads of clearance. I see the faces of drivers as they pass and it is obvious what’s going on. It is not a matter that I am not able to be seen but more – as you put it – that some take exception to my being in their domain and do not feel they should be bothered to share the road. Most people are lovely and wave back as they give me space seemingly cognizant that the road is in fact the official TA trail and I often don’t have anywhere to move out of the way and ‘make room’ for them while they always do by simply veering a few feet to the far side of their lane or by taking their foot off the gas just a little while passing. I should point out that I stop and wait at blind curves and hills and never surprise a motorist, my waving is always on straightaways as a vehicle comes barreling right at me in a weird game of chicken, holding to their lane – and speed – as though trying to make a point that they will not be inconvenienced. Only a car can maim or kill, not my wee walking stick, but somehow seeing my stick shows the driver the six inches of clearance we both need to avoid a collision. My suggestion is to get involved with the TA Association to help reroute the trail off the road, and if not possible to build sidewalks or trails that keep the walker away from traffic and give them a place that doesn’t ‘encroach,’ and if road walking with no shoulder or verge to protect a walker continues to be the norm on the TA, then to talk to your friends and family about how easy – and welcoming – it is to share the road space with walkers who have every right to be there.

      1. Further to our discussion and with respect I do find it odd that with you having been in NZ only around two months and using the road walking tactics you have explained, that are clearly not working for you, that you wouldn’t perhaps try something that works very well for us as Kiwis, very familiar with NZ roads both as hikers and motorists. We have walked Te Araroa to Km 733 thus far including all the roads and have not had even the slightest problem with any vehicles/motorists and the reason is hi-vis and moving off the road for every vehicle. Just over 3 weeks ago we came into Stillwater down Spur & Duck Creek roads “starfishing” against the bank for over 60 vehicles and got complimented in the Boat Club that night by the locals that had passed us, for making the effort and for being so visible. Two weeks ago we walked the new bypass to Mercer, moving off the road for dozens of vehicles, with absolutely no problems….. sure it takes longer to reach your destination, but it makes for a stress free and more enjoyable road walk. As for involvement with TA Trust, Mark does occasionally run stuff by me for an opinion and did send the bypass to Mercer for me to check over before mapping,I was also responsible for organising the accommodation at Ramarama on that section and also got the trail changed at Stillwater to stop hikers trying to cross the Weiti River. Please be patient with the trail ,it is very young and has limited funding/resources but be assured that the best is being done with what is available. As a Hiker your right is to be as far off the road as possible for oncoming traffic, (NZTransport Association road code) the road itself is for vehicles and bikes. As for what I tell my friends and family…. the same as I have suggested to you, if you are hiking the roads wear a hi-vis vest and move off the road for every vehicle. Please stay safe Alison and enjoy your hike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.