Te Araroa: from Hamilton to Waitomo
After three days of walking, it was time for another rest day. Not really… The track has been easy going, that is not the reason we need a rest day. We do need to do some shopping as we won’t come across any shops in the next 5 days. But the main reason to take a day off is family. Marjon has far relatives living in Hamilton we want to visit. That is why we stayed two days in Hamilton. We had a great time together and it was lovely to share stories about our families.
Bye bye Hamilton
We won’t come across many towns from Hamilton to Te Kuiti. What we will come across is our first ‘mountain’ (Pirongia, 959 meter high). Sunday, it was our aim to get as close to Pirongia as possible. We left Hamilton in the early hours. While everybody else was still asleep, we walked through the quiet suburbs of Hamilton. We made a short detour via the Taitua Arboretum, a park with over 150 different trees and a tenfold of chickens.
Upon leaving the Taitua Arboretum, we entered a paddock. We walking over rolling hills. However, we both suffered terribly from hay fever. We just wanted to exit the paddock as soon as possible and therefore didn’t really pay attention to the scenery. To compensate for our suffering, we stopped at a gas station in Whatawhata and got ourselves an ice cream. We continued along the Waipa River. We had to negotiate dense bush and deep mud. Luckily, we safely got through the worst sections. Then, the trail followed several paddocks. Easy walking, until the very last paddock. We were greeted by a large group of cows that were standing right next to the stile where we had to enter the paddock. We asked politely if they wanted to move, but they didn’t. In the end, we climbed over a fence and walked through an adjacent paddock.
We followed iron and gravel road for several kilometers until we arrived at the Karamu Walkway. A track that winds its way through a breathtaking scenery: green hills as far as one can see, filled with sheep and cows. Altough beaitiful, it took quite some time. When we arrived at am idyllic stream, we decided to call it a day and set up camp next to the stream.
We don’t like to camp without permission. And as we were still on farmland, we wanted to leave our camp spot as soon as possible. After walking several kilometers, we arrived at the start of the Nikau Walkway, for us also the start of the climb to Pirongia. 2.5 kilometer further, we came across a beautiful DOC campsite with pit toilets, streaming water and a huge field. If we had known this, we would have continued.
We continued to Pirongia. The track quickly deteriorated. We walked on a carpet of tree roots. Because of the weather, most mud was rather dry, which made it easy to cross. After about four hours of climbing, we arrived at a look-out at the top of Pirongia. We had a panoramic view. Amazing.
Half an hour later, we arrived at the Pahautea Hut. We had our lunch and hesitated whether we should stay or continue. In the end, we decided to stay. Instead of spending the night in the hut, we decided to set up our tent.
Down we go
We planned to leave Pirongia as early as possible the next morning. We left around 6am. We followed a board walk to the Hihikiwi Summit. Due to clouds/fog, we had zero visibility when we arrived at the Hihikiwi Summit. We continued our descend: after every section where the track descended, a short ascend followed. This rollercoaster continued for quite some time. We even came across a section where we had to use fixed cables to make our way around some rocks. After 3.5 hours, we left the forest and arrived at a gravel road.
We followed the road for 17.5 kilometer, before re-entering the bush. This time, the track was quit level. However, there were some pretty wet/muddy sections. At one of the streams that we had to cross, we filtered water as we realized we would be spending another night in the forest. We had good hope to find a suitable place for the night as soon as we left the bush. However, we soon found out that all the land after the bush was farmland. We checked our maps on the side of the road, when a farmer drove by. He mentioned we could set up our tent at the airstrip nearby. That sounded promising, so we continued our way through more paddocks before arriving at the airstrip. To get some shelter from the wind, we pitched our tent behind the shed of the airstrip.
From our spot high above the valley floor, we had great visibility at a developing thunderstorm. We could see how the valley below was getting hammered, while we only suffered light rain.
The next morning it was pretty foggy. At least, that is what we thought. Later, we found out that we were surrounded by clouds. As the trail descended into the valley, it started to rain and the further we got, the more it rained. And looking at all the water on the ground, it rained for quite a while. Some sections of the Waitomo Walkway had turned into a river and were rather slippery.
Around lunchtime, we arrived in Waitomo. Although, it was still early in the day, we decided to stay in Waitomo. In the afternoon, we visited the world famous Waitomo Caves to see glowworms. Unfortunately, it was not allowed to take photos.