It rained on and off last night and was really cold. When I woke up it was still cold and I started the day sleeves down, zip up and my jacket on with hood cinched tightly around my face to keep the wind off. I was near the stage of needing gloves as my hands were numb.
The day started on roads. First a lovely gravel road with views down to the Kawhia Bay, looking over the Tasman Sea for the first time since Ahipara.
After 3 km out was onto the SH 31 for 2.7 km and then onto another lovely gravel road for 7 km. I enjoyed this road because there was no bog and it had native bush for most of it and great views over green farmland for other bits.
The sun was occasionally making an appearance and I finally warmed up enough to take my jacket off, only to have to put it back on 5 minutes later when a heavy shower come through. The day stayed like that with blazing sun one moment then the sun disappeared behind a massive grey cloud which caused the temperature to plummet and icy rain for 2-15 minutes and then repeat.
Once off the road the trail followed farm tracks for 3 km then into the bush on an old logging road that was now a lovely wide single track through the bush. There has obviously been significant maintenance on this trail recently and judging from the amount of cut vegetation on the ground it was very overgrown before this. The trail was quite flat for most of it and near the end it climbed up to another farm trail. The trail had a few small bogs which I sloshed through but not too bad.
Often I could hear something moving in the bush and I assumed it was goats. Shortly after the strong aroma of Billy goat would waft past to confirm this. I saw a few glimpses of the goats but they were pretty quick diving off the track when they noticed me.
The farm trail led to a farm road and onto a gravel road for 1 km before heading back into the bush on a very strange trail. Most tracks in NZ travel along a river/stream, along a ridge or are in transition between these. The reason is this is the easiest way to travel in the bush. This trail seemed to be contouring around the hill, occasionally going up and over a ridge. This meant there was a lot of sidling which is the must difficult type of travel. I find it much easier to go straight up or down rather than trying to move along the side of the hill where you have to work harder to keep your balance and stop your feet sliding. The theory of sidling around a hill is to have less climbing but you still have ups and downs getting around the reentrants (gullys where streams go down).
This track was all over the place and I lost my sense of direction which doesn't happen often to me in the bush (in a city is another matter).
Finally (only 1.5 km later) the track got onto a ridgeline and stayed there for some easy travel for a whole 5 minutes. I crossed a farm track and then the trail notes said follow markers over the high point but keeping to the strange nature of the trail we actually went around it and ended up at a fence line which we followed down - straight down very steeply. From the top I could see where the trail was going to go following a ridgeline with lots of big ups and downs. Unfortunately a particularly heavy shower had just passed over so this made the trail even more slippery. At times I was lowering myself down by the fence posts. This was a big descent and I was happy to make it through without slipping.
The trail now followed the fence line. Once again there had been some good trail trimming of vegetation but the pigs were making a mess rooting up the ground near the fence. On the other side of the fence was a lovely dirt road but I resisted the temptation as there was obviously a reason we were on a track between the scrub and fence rather than on the road.
After some ups and downs we crossed the fence and at the bottom of the hill was a stream to cross. I took this opportunity to wash out the last of the Pirongia mud from my shoes and socks and soak my feet in the icy water.
The trail then headed up and up and up steep tracks to the ridgeline where the trail entered the bush on a track with no name.
I really loved this track. It was dry, open, not many roots and did I mention DRY! This track was only 1.5 km before joining up with a very old vehicle track which was really just a wide single trail. This was also really nice for a while until the junction then it started going down and got a little slippery but not to bad - nothing is too bad after Hihikiwi Horror Trail. The trail then followed a small river and then crossed it. It was only mid shin deep.
The orange triangle markers stopped at the river making me wonder if this was the route. I looked at the only other possibly but it ended in a campsite. Normally there are clear markers on both sides of the steam.
The track was then a clay track with horse and mountain bike tracks on it. 10 minutes later there was an orange triangle and I felt better for the confirmation of being on the right track. Because of the speed I was making I thought I may be able to make Waitomo but I made a deal with myself that if I did not make the track end by 2000 hours I would be camping. Subsequently my pace picked up and I was racing along.
I thought I was covering the km quickly but my morale took a dive when I saw a DOC sign saying 5 km to the track end when I thought I was 2 km away. I hadn't really been following my map so I then thought I might be on the wrong trail. I stopped and checked my map out and everything seemed to align so I kept going though a little faster. I made the trail end at 1955 so soft bed and good meal here I come.
I raced over the last 4.5 km on the road in 45 minutes and went straight to a cafe for dinner. I got lucky as the cook was working later than usual so the kitchen was still open, normally it closes 2030 and I was 10 minutes over this. I had a Porterhouse Steak with fries, eggs and a lovely salad. Great meal. Conveniently the backpackers leave their keys at the bar so I was able to get a room sorted there. I got a twin for $32 which I was happy with and settled down to a lovely sleep.