I decided to have a slightly earlier start as I wanted to reach Hamilton before the shops shut so I could get new inner soles. I managed to leave a whole 15 minutes before my normal time.
The track continued in the same way with lots of roots and I continued to enjoy it. After only one and a half hours I reached the lookout and was rewarded with fantastic views. I could see all the way back to the Hunua Ranges and looking South I could see Mt Pirongia which I was heading for.
From here the trail improved to Walking Track standard which means wide gravel paths and stairs. I remember doing this part of the track with my mother back when I was in high school. It is unrecognisable now with all the improvements. This has had a positive effect in opening up access to more than dedicated trampers. I saw 13 people heading up for some exercise which is way more people than I have seen on any of the trails.
After a quick descent I reached Nguarawahia and decided after that effort I deserved a coffee. I headed into the main part of town and spotted to take a photo of an impressive statue on the park outside Turangaweiwei House.
There I had the good fortune to meet Clem. He had just driven the Hamilton Mayor and some council members off for a meeting and was having a break. We started talking about tramping and the trail. He is also a tramper and shortly be will be doing the Hollyford Walk with his wife and daughter. He offered me some coffee and a lovely slice which I greatfully accepted. I sat down at the table and we talked some more. Eventually the subject of where I was staying in Hamilton came up and I said I was staying in a Backpacker. He instantly offered for me to stay at his house which was by the lake and not far from the trail. Once again I accepted, especially when he mentioned Spa pool. He rang his wife, Patrica, who agreed.
I said "see you later" to Clem and continued on my way. The trail followed the river going under the SH1 Bridge and past the Turangawaewae Marea, home of the Maori King and then cut back to SH1 for 5 km because the freezing works will not allow access to the river in front of them. Interesting the amount of road kill in front of the freezing works. Maybe animals sense the death there and get distracted. Also a bit mean for the cows in the paddock looking across and smelling the place they would be killed. The smell was not pleasant.
The trail heading back to the River Trail where it trail stayed apart from 2 km just after Fonterra (which smelled lovely with the milk powder processing) until Hamilton. This is an amazing trail that is nearing completion which will make it around 70 km long shared use wide concrete trail from Nguarawahia to Cambridge.
Fortunately the thought of a concrete trail does not make me wince anymore as my new shoes have much better padding.
Nothing particularly interesting happened but it was nice walking along the river looking at the houses and rowers. Eventually I made it to Hamilton and I went first to the DOC office to get a 6 month Hut Pass which for $92 gives me access to every Hut in NZ except the Great Walk huts. The first Hut of TA was on Mt Pirongia. Unfortunately they were closed for the next two days.
I then headed to Bivouac to explain my inner sole issue and they did not seem too invested in the problem and did not pose any solution. Their comment was they had not heard of this happening before. I was surprised as usually Bivouac customer service is excellent. I ended up buying some inner soles and after asking got 20% off them.
Next was back onto the trail through Garden Place that doesn't seem much different from when I last saw it 20 years ago.
Then it was on the road up and over the hill to the Lake trail. The Lake was smaller than I remember and I do not remember any Pukeko of which there were heaps. They were so used to people I could get really close. The were also some birds that sort of looked like Pukeko but were Black with a white thing on their head and cool blue feet.
I left the trail at the head of the Lake to make my way to Clem and Patrica's house and meet up with them on the trail as they were taking a walk. Instantly I felt comfortable with Patrica which was a relief. I knew I liked Clem but there is always a slight gamble in how one partner will react when the other invites a random smelly stranger to stay for 2 nights. I needn't have worried. Patrica is just as warm and welcoming as Clem and as a tramper herself, understanding of what I was doing.
They were fantastic. I was shown my room and it was like a fancy hotel with towels laid on the bed and even a Whittakers Dark Chocolate Bar presented beautifully. I was taken on a tour of the house which is beautiful and then given time to clean up. I loved the little touches they have put in when renovating their home. In the bathroom it had tiles and then some river stones in the walls that made me think of the South Island. I had a wonderful shower and put my smelly things into the wash before joining Patrica and Clem for a drink and some conversation. We had a lovely dinner and very impressive desert, regardless of Patrica saying it was simple. We then talked some more and I showed them all of my kit. Nice to have people interested and appreciative. Then it was bed time.