I’m camping at km 174 tonight at a campsite called Apple Dam 500m off the trail. I can tell you now it was not worth the additional 500m to get here, but considering the trail is a 4WD track through the Omahuta Forest, I’m happy not to be out there on the side of the road by myself.
After the horror of the mud this morning and then 6 painful and rather dangerous kilometres along the side of State Highway 1, I ran into some very unexpected trail magic. When I was on the beach on my third day resting in the shade, a car drove over to check if I was okay after I’d waved to it as an acknowledgement. In the car was a Kiwi called Jason, and when I told him I’d been walking since 2:30am he was astounded. I think his actual turn of phrase was “you’ve gotta be shittin’ me”, in a very thick Kiwi accent. He sat and chatted for a few minutes and then drove off, and after I arrived at the Mangamuka Dairy at 1pm today (a takeaway/corner store along the highway), Jason’s truck pulled in just after I arrived.
Now I must admit when I saw him and he said “hey you’re still walking”, it did cross my mind that maybe he’d followed me somehow or timed my arrival, and when he offered to buy me a cold drink I politely declined. But then after ordering a burger and looking around the store for a beverage, my travel Visa card declined, as did my Aussie debit card. I was forced to walk back outside to Jason’s truck with my tail between my legs and ask if I could borrow $10 for lunch. Without blinking an eye he stuffed $20 in my hand and told me to keep the change. I didn’t keep the change, but the $10 allowed me to eat the burger I’d been dreaming about for the last few hours, and drink a cold Gatorade after surviving on less than 500ml of water for 4 hot hours.
Jason and I ate lunch together and chatted about NZ and all the random businesses he’s involved with including Manuka honey, of which he insisted I take some. We had some pretty damn honest conversations, which I promised I would never share and I will hold that promise, but being able to speak to someone like an old friend after 2 days of solitude was just what I needed.
I declined Jason’s offer to drive me the last part of the highway, as I want to stay true to the trail even though the roads are KILLING me!! Once off the highway I thought I was going into forest again, but it was all gravel road for the last 10km getting here, and my toes are so sore they feel itchy and hot like they’re burning up or sunburned.
Where are all the hikers?? If the guys behind me skip the roads they might catch up, but I haven’t caught up to anyone else this whole section which seems really strange. I also thought I was arriving in Kerikeri tomorrow, but after checking my app I realised I still have 50km to go which will take me two days. Thankfully I have a ton of food still, but mentally I was already standing under a hot shower tomorrow afternoon. I reek of sweat and actually forgot how rancid one can smell after four days of sweating through clothing.
Time for bed now. Goodnight from the TA where the birds are still singing me to sleep at 8pm, and for the first time on this trip, it’s raining!