Herekino track trailhead (km109) to 580 summit at start of Raetea (km140.5)
Aside from hearing cars drive by all night (because I was camped near a road), I was treated to a chorus of Moreporks. This is the New Zealand owl, named such because its call sounds like it is demanding: more pork! I was hoping to hear one, instead I heard about a dozen. I didn’t sleep very well because my mind began fixating on the variance in their calls. There was one that sounded like someone clearing their chest. I then woke up early to a pheasant crowing and then flapping up into the air, doing a mating dance. I’ve spooked a few pheasants along the roadsides, too. I assume they are introduced. Then I had the pleasure to see the New Zealand Pigeon right at the start of the track. They have beautiful blue, green and white plumage and are quite large, probably good to eat too.
I started the day with a steep climb, one of many to come. This is the first of several rugged forests the route passes through, called the Herekimo forest. These forests are notoriously steep, muddy, and overgrown. But I didn’t find it too bad. Immediately I recognized something familiar about this trail and then it dawned on me that I’ve hiked very similar trails in Hawaii. The vegetation, many roots, mud, and steep ridge scrambles are all very similar. I loved hiking in Hawaii and this reminded me so much of those times that I enjoyed this difficult trail very much. There weren’t too many views unfortunately but I loved being in the jungle and the challenge of weaving along the vines and mud.
I managed to keep my feet fairly clean and did the entire 15 kilometers in 5 hours, even though it is stated to take 9 hours. Coming out of the forest, I passed by the “tramp inn” which is a hut built by a local farmer to provide much needed respite for tired trampers. I was not one of these so I moved on. But I did glimpse a guy standing outside in nothing but a speedo…all the more reason to move on. I would learn later that he’s an Italian TA hiker that was taking a break to heal blisters…why not pass the time in your budgee smugglers (I just learned this is the kiwi saying for speedos and it my new favorite kiwi term).
The rest of the day was walking on dirt and gravel road through logging areas and later farms. It was pleasant because there were hardly any cars and I was able to move easily, though my feet hurt pretty bad by the end. I pushed hard too get a few km into the next forest, Raetea. I finished how I began the day, with another steep, muddy climb. I found a just-big-enough campsite at the top of the first peak, 580 meters in elevation.
Just as the sun set, the wind really picked up. It kept me awake worrying it would get worse or be too cold but the winds actually blew some drier, warmer air in around midnight. It was a pleasant night, with no condensation and no noise, save for the wind.