Day 86 The Mud Bites
Friday 3 January Somewhere in Tararua Forest Park to Poads Rd junction (near Levin) Start 8.20am Finish 4pm ish. I forgot to check. Distance 17.5km (plus 2.2km to bus and train stations) Total 1,536.5km Steps 32,834
Elevation: 550m approx
Weather: Drizzling and misty then fine Today dawned misty and ethereal. I was in such heavy canopy and the sky so dark, I didn't wake up until after 7am, and initially thought it must be about 5am. Never trust bleary eyes without their glasses. So a slightly later start than normal.
It rained through the night, and it was a wet start. Putting on soaking wet leggings first thing in the morning isn't so bad until you get to the waistband. After telling the internal Princess to suck it up, at which point the stomach did involuntarily suck in at the cold, wet contact, the wet socks were a breeze to put on. The tramping for the next few hours was my utopia. Lush bush, moss hanging from giant trees, prehistoric fern trees, numerous shades of green, mist swirling about, crystal clear streams and a muddy, slippery track that reminded me of real tramping.
The mud sent me constant reminders, upending me so many times I lost count. Up hill not an issue. Down hill good and proper, both feet in the air, landing on your backpack style of falls. 10 out of 10 for laughs if anyone had been watching, 0 out of 10 for grace. At one point, on righting myself, two steps later I was on my back again. It was a slow descent. When walking in the bush, I don't seem to get aching feet. Maybe too much concentration is needed to focus on them, or I'm just in awe of my surroundings. By late afternoon I arrived at the road junction that went either back into the ranges or out to Levin. For a number of reasons I have decided to come back to the ranges in a few days. Primarily the weather. Gale force winds forecasted for the country. Not conditions I want on top of the Tararua Ranges. I am meeting my daughter in Wellington on Tuesday so don't have time to wait out the weather in a hut, and finally I'm pretty tired. It's been 7 days and 175km since a rest day. I want to be well rested for what is a tough section.
So I came out at Levin, and faced one of my fears - hitch hiking. There was no cell phone coverage and I was facing a 7km walk to Levin off the official trail. I heard a vehicle. I stuck out my thumb and OMG they stopped. A lovely old guy in a beat up ute. I was grateful it wasn't a posh car as I was seriously muddy and smelly. So I have finally hitchhiked and lived to tell the story. Took me half of the journey to do it. My ride only lived a couple of km up the road but took me to where there was phone reception and I decided not to push my luck with possible serial killers and ordered a taxi to take me to the Levin train station. Internal Princess won on this occasion. The Princess was on a roll so she also forced me to decide a motel was in order. I soon discovered there were no trains but a bus for Waikanae was leaving in 25 minutes. So it was a very quick 1.2km walk to the bus stop. Waikanae is where the Tararua Range section exits hence I wanted to be there to start walking the next section.
On the bus I tried to find accommodation. There was none, of any kind. While on the trail I loose track of what day of the week it is, and suddenly realised today is the last Friday of the holiday period. So casting the net wider I found a motel 10km away at Paraparaumu Beach. As luck would have it, there was a train in the station at Waikanae where the bus dropped me off, and it was leaving in 2 minutes. So $4 and 6 minutes later I was in Paraparaumu. Arriving at the motel I was reminded of a lesson I have learnt many times over but keep ignoring. If all accommodation in an area is booked out, but you happen to be lucky enough to find a vacancy, be concerned. Be very concerned. Let's leave it at saying there was no way I am going to have my rest day here. So new plan. Tomorrow I will go back to Waikanae, walk the trail to Paekākāriki and take a rest day there. I have booked what looks like a lovely motel with a spa bath. Bliss.