Today 22 km (+ 2.5 stupidity extra km). Total 694.5 km (+8). 10 hours 30 minutes (0730-1800).
I woke a little earlier than I planned but was happy to lay there listing to the sound of the falls and birds. I opened my tent flap so I could watch the falls thinking this beats working for a living.
Eventually I started my morning routine and left at 0730. The track was easy though stairs first thing in the morning is not my favourite way to start the day. I was definitely the first one on the trail as I was breaking lots of Spiderwebs and getting them all over me. I had visions of the silk threads flying behind me like Prescilla Queen of the Desert.
I was also amused to come around a corner to see two Ducks waddling up the track.
After 40 minutes I came to an intersection. The way I was on was marked Massey Track and the other had no markers. I checked my map and this other trail seemed to head in the direction I wanted to go whereas the main trail seemed to be in the wrong direction. There were no TA markers but there were lots of footprints so I decided to take the track. It was interesting that the track markers were white triangles rather than the usual orange. It was a lovely track and I was making good time. The track started to go down steeply which I thought was a bit strange but I was distracted by the stairs and ropes for the descent.
Then to my surprise I came out to farmland. I realised what I had done, I had come off the ridgeline on a spur on a track not marked on my map. I briefly looked at the road option to meet back with the trail further on but decided to go back up to the junction. It only took me 20 minutes to get back up as I was so mad at myself. When I got back I saw I had wasted an hour by being stupid.
So take 2. I arrived at the intersection and checked my map which confirmed that I was meant to be on Massey Track and despite the direction seeming slightly off I continued on the main track thinking who would be stupid enough not to go straight.
The lovely wide and well maintained track continued another 15 minutes to an intersection that clearly showed the direction to the Wairoa-Casseys Track to the right. On the orange marker someone had written in pen TA directions.
The sign said 3 hours to the track end. The track was quite boggy and slow going so thought I might take the full time but then I reached the half way marker in 1 hour and realised it would be much quicker. It was a novel thing having a half way marker.
The track then improved and I was able to pick up the pace and quickly reached the track end after 1 hour 45 minutes.
The main trail went straight and the other was for "Suspension Bridge Loop". There were no TA markers or comments in the trail notes so having learned my lesson I kept on the main trail. At the lookout I climbed for a look but the trees had grown too tall and you could not see anything. I kept going for another 5 minutes then realised I was heading away from the Dam. I had another look at my map and could just make out the track I was on which was the wrong track - Grrr. I now turned around and climbed the stairs and hill again all the way back to the track junction. Another 10 minutes wasted. I wrote in the moss on the sign "TA" and an arrow pointing to the right track. It was a quick descent to a much better lookout and then to the bottom where there were picnic tables where I had lunch.
The track then crossed the dam and continued on a gravel road to the next track up the Wairoa Track Loop. This was a lovely track which climbed steadily up to the Cell phone Tower.
There the trail followed a gravel road out to the Mangatangi Hill Road. Here there was a discrepancy between the trail notes and the map. The trail notes took the road down to the valley and then followed roads to the valley to the end before heading up to the ridge to join the next track. I had done most of these roads before so I decided to take the route marked on the map which followed the DOC track on the ridge. This track was of variable condition. Sometimes awful and sometimes ok. It was a lot of up and down and the other way was probably quicker but it was nice not being on roads.
The weather continued to be low cloud with the tops in mist. Despite this I was hot and drinking heaps. I was nearly out of water for the last track of the day which meant I had to get through the track to the Swingbridge where I could refill my water before camping.
The two tracks met up and then the next track started. I had read a lot about this track on people's blogs and the warning sign at the start confirmed this would be a challenge. It was for the first km and a half. The track was well marked but overgrown, slippery and rough and I had to take it really easy. There was lots of Supple Jack Vine which doesn't like to be ignored and has this magical property of jumping and attaching itself around your leg or pack when you are sure you were clearly past or had loss of space. Anytime I felt the slightest tug I stopped and cleared it. I tried to move with the bush rather than try to fight it which while slow and deliberate was probably quicker than if I tried to rush.
The good news is that the track, while muddy and slippery, was not boggy. The second good news is that the track did improve steadily and for the last km before the descent the track was great as it went through beech trees. The final good news is that the downhill was dry and easy going. About 1/3 of the way down it became a wide track which zigzaged gently down the hill.
I made it to the Swingbridge after 2.5 hours from starting and found a nice campspot to pitch my tent.
Before the tent though was filtering some water as I was desperate for water by this time. I has rationed at 1 sip every 30 minutes and then had nothing for the last hour.
I had a coffee and then a hot water and electrolyte drink before dinner of Sweet and sour lamb freeze dri followed by Butterscotch Instant Pudding which is still my favourite.
I went to sleep listening to the wierd noises of the bush at night. You definitely don't want too active an imagination when camping by yourself.