Today 24 km. Total 517.5 km. 7 hours 15 minutes (1010-1245, 1630-2115).
I had a sleep in today knowing I did not have far too go before having to wait for the next part of the trail to open after 1600. I was packed up and ready to go by 1010. Just as I finished closing my pack the rain started. I donned my jacket and rain skirt (drawing rubbish sack just long enough to keep shorts dry as wet weather trousers are too hot). The trail started with a steep uphill on forestry road before turning right onto the Dome Forest track. The rain was a steady downpour by this stage but at least being in the bush the wind was not a factor. The trail was in okay condition but rooty and the roots were slippery with the rain. There were a few Tuis keen enough to be making some noise even in the rain but that was it in the bird department. The only noise was the steady drip of water, the wind in the trees, very peaceful. Once you accept the rain it is actually quite enjoyable in the wet bush. The colours are different and the moisture makes things sparkle. It also helps knowing it was only for a few hours then I would be at a cafe. I spent a bit of time thinking about what I was going to eat at the cafe and this lead to my first mud bumslide. My train of thought was "I think I would go for a full breakfast option but what about the drink -woah this looks slippery- should I have orange juice first or go for coffee first-aargh crap". I think I slid for a meter on my bum on the wet cold mud. So much for keeping my shorts dry!
I passed the 500 km mark as well.
After 2 1/2 hours I finished the track and arrived at the wonderful Top of the Dome Cafe at 1245. After taking off my muddy shoes and changing into dry trousers I settled down to orange juice and the full breakfast which was big and went down quickly. I sat with a guy from Wellington who is section hiking Te Araroa Trail. He aims to be finished in 4 years. Section hiking is where you do bits of the trail spread over time. It is a way for those who can't get 4 to 5 months off to do the trail to complete it. He had attempted the next leg through the forest (he did not know about restricted time zone). He said he had to turn back because the logging was impossible to get through and there were no markers and he couldn't find the trail. Hmmm. The lady working at the cafe said he was not the first. I ordered a coffee and then later a post lunch slice, tea and just before I left a big soup. It was nice being warm, dry and well feed looking out at the driving rain. At around 1445 3 more hikers arrived. they were Rebecca, Graham (not sure if this is the right name) and Nicolas. I recognised Rebecca from her blog. She is raising money for Oxfam and is the most active I have seen in doing the fundraising. They were going to spend the night at Sheepworld 2 km down the road and bypass the forest section the next day. It was nice talking about the trail and good to see some kiwis doing TA as we are in the minority.
I started getting ready and left at 1630. By this time the weather had cleared which was fantastic. I felt really full after everything I had eaten but rather than slow me down my body must have stayed converting the food to energy as I felt great and powered up the steep road. The road then changed to the perfect forestry road that was nice and soft on my feet.
The junctions were all marked and I quickly arrived at the place where the trail narrowed.
I was able to use some of the fallen trees as bridges across the debris. The trail notes said cross westwards to the DOC track which didn't make sense. I looked in that direction and in the more logical East direction for markers but couldn't see anything in the destruction. Straight ahead was bulldozer tracks which looked easier travel than scrambling over the logs and branches. After 40 meters I got to the brow of the hill and looked down at a gravel road. After a couple of easy scrambles over debris I followed the bulldozer tracks the last 100 meters to the road. The whole time to cross the logging area would not have been much over 5 minutes. I ended up coming into Smyth Road a few hundred metres higher than the official track did as after turning left and staying down the road I saw the proper track come out. I think the proper route should be as you enter the logging area keep following the edge around to the left and you should see the track again. On the other hand I am not sure how hard it is to go around the edge and the route I took was quick and easy.
As I headed down Smyth Road it stated raining again but this only lasted 15 minutes. From the bottom it was a short right then left and onto a quiet sealed road. Along there I met a man and girl walking their dog. The girl had a push scooter and she came racing up to me and proceeded to talk non stop except for breaks to pepper me with questions, she was entertaining- in a short dose. She also was insistent I went to their house but I could see the man was not keen so I kept telling her I had to keep going. I walked with them for nearly a km with the girl taking nonstop before saying goodbye and continuing. By this time I was too hot again so off came the jacket.
It was a further 4 km of road walking to the forest where I intended to make camp. Only one problem. Someone cut down all the trees!
I decided to keep on walking until I found something. I could see a house light in the distance and thought about knocking on their door but the house was a long way off. I then saw a DOC sign for the Moir Reserve so I turned down and was into the shelter of the bush. I walked 5 minutes along the track, passing lots of glow worms on the banks before finding a campsite. I quickly set up and was warm and toasty in my wonderful tent.
On reviewing my maps I realised this wasn't the trail but I decided to leave that for the morning and went to sleep soothed by the sound of the trees being battered by strong winds, rain hammering on my tent, rustling of mysterious things going about their nightly business and one Morepork calling out. Life is good.