Rangiriri (km746)- Ngaruawahia (km781)
There wasn’t a firm plan today but I hoped to end up in the Hakarimata range for a nice, natural campsite. The morning was spectacular: cool, calm, and gorgeous clouds. We crossed over the large Waikato River again, which was glassy calm. Mike assures me it is rare to see it so calm. There was an outrigger canoe paddling under the bridge. It was so quiet that we had a chat with her. Everyone says hello to one another here. It was a very pleasant walk on the stopbanks today. We were in the town of Huntly in no time at all. We got off trail to go across the bridge towards the motorway, where there is a McDonalds. I’ve had more McDonalds in a month than I’ve had in the past 5 years. But a coke float tasted so good again. I’m addicted. This one also had free refills… most places in NZ don’t. After lunch and too much soda, we were on our way. But first we had to accept 2 more sodas from a kid who ran outside his house to offer them. How could we refuse? He was so enthusiastic after all. There is so much trail magic and the funny thing is, the people doing it don’t even know what that is. It’s just people being nice because it’s in their nature or custom to do so.
I felt a bit sluggish starting the Hakarimata Walkway, what with all the soda in my stomach. I knew there were LOTS of steps on each end. I was shortly sweating tons and falling behind Mike. It’s not often that someone outpaces me on an uphill. I had to kick it into high gear. I ditched my arm sleeves, buff, and undid my hip belt. Then I put on my running playlist for upbeat tunes. I believe I also tapped into my rocket fuel…all that soda. The path climbed steeply but also provided plenty of good views back towards where we had just come from. We could see all the way to the Hunua range near Auckland. Once on the ridgeline, the track did its usual up and down thing but this one was so much fun. There was no mud, so maybe that was the difference. There were also long periods where it leveled out. We came to an intersection with an old road, which would have been a great campsite. It was 5 p.m. and we both had plenty of energy left, so we kept going. We reached the summit and a viewing platform.
At that point we began seeing tons of runners out for their Friday workout. The stair climb is very popular. We looked out of place with our packs on. Someone asked if we were training and another where we had come from. People are confused when we answer Cape Reigna.
Going down all the stairs was fast and easy (we may have beaten some of the runners) and soon we were back in town. We went to the Arrow Lodge, which has $10 tenting on their lawn, plus a really nice hot shower. It was late by the time we got settled, so we just had some backpacker food for dinner.