December 8th
Mangaokewa River Trail(573.4)-Ngaherenga Campsite(602.1)
Mileage: 28.7mi/46.1km
Campsite Elevation: 1847ft/563m

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook Hikes Te Araroa App.

There was a steady light rain the whole night, so we all did not sleep well. I feel like I was awake hourly. The whole day was pretty much in a cloud with a light mist. It’s super humid and sticky out, so adding rain to the mix and camping by the river meant just about everything was damp. Becky is learning how all this gear works, including having a single walled tent and down sleeping bag. She had a lot of condensation and said it was actually dripping down on her sleeping bag overnight. Fortunately, that bag has features that allow it to get a bit wet without ruining it. She moves a lot in her sleep, so it was tough to tell how much came from dripping versus maybe rubbing along tent. It is my old Tarptent Contrail and may need new seam sealant on the seams if it does happen again. We got out of camp at 6:40am while it was still raining lightly. That’s always a challenge to pack up in rain, but this rain wasn’t going anywhere. I totally appreciate that Becky is motivated to get going that early in the rain after a full night of rainfall. 

The first 4mi/7km were really slow going and took us three hours. Good thing we stopped early at the nice campsite last night. It would have been rough to end a night by passing up such a great site and then entering such a terrible stretch of “trail.” We wore our rain jackets and I had my rain pants. We were immediately soaked, more by the brush than the light rain. 

There was a lot of slick sidehill hiking that was super frustrating. Just envision hiking through chest high brush and grass soaked in cold water. The grass was so thick that it was tough to know what we were stepping on, and sometimes, there was a hidden hole that would immediately have you falling over into even more tall grass or mud. I can’t even express the slow pace needed to even stay upright as it was often on quite an angle or a grass ledge just one foot wide. There was very little level path to walk along, and it was often angled as if a trail never existed and people were just walking along the hillside and that erosion through mud or grass was the trail. 

We both took so many slips and falls that we lost count. I had one slipping forward on a muddy incline where my shoes just wouldn’t grip. I was agile enough to catch myself in a plank position on my stomach and keep the mud off most of me. The other classic one was stepping into what I thought was shallow mud to suddenly find myself in mud almost up to my knees and I fell over because I couldn’t get my feet out and my momentum wasn’t expecting it. To add to the fun, there were thorn covered vines all over the place to catch gear or skin on. Yep, not our best morning. 

I do wonder how much our experience was tainted by the fact that it was sopping wet and we were in a misty thick cloud. I don’t know that anyone could have made it through there today without falling or slipping a few times. By the time we hit the gravel road at the end of the river track, we were ecstatic to know we had 25mi/40km of gravel and paved road walking ahead. 

There isn’t much to say about the rest of the day other than it was a slightly uphill cruise through a gravel farmland road. We saw just 8 cars until the final highway stretch at the end of the day. We saw the three hitchers that camped with us last night in one of the cars, which I still can’t get used to. We did see Tom a bit today and he too is walking the full trail. We had fun overlapping with him for moments and definitely appreciated having one another out there for moral support on the long road walk. We go at different paces, but knew we all were aiming to hit the same camp spot, which was the biggest day for all of on this trail. It was a 46.1km/28.7mi day for Becky and me, which is the biggest day Becky has ever done. 

We had lunch on a bridge where we laid out gear and hung tents. There was a light mist in the air, but it was more like being in a cloud than rain. This day reminded me of the Great Divide Trail with how overcast and damp it was all day. 

Trying to dry out at lunch.

In the wet bush this morning, my MP3 player got wet in my hip belt pocket and has stopped working. Since we were in a misty cloud all day, it couldn’t dry out and my fingers are crossed that it will in time. Terrible timing as I would have liked it for the road walk. I listened to couple podcast episodes of Sounds of the Trail instead. We challenged ourselves for stretches to not use headphone and had fun playing a name game and another movie game kinda like six degrees of separation where you name two actors and try to connect them using other actors and films they’ve been in. It is a fun way to pass the time. If anyone has fun road walking games or anything fun we can do together on the road walks, we are open to ideas. This “trail” is unique in how much time you get to walk next to the person you’re hiking with and that’s been fun. We may have to go online and find some good games or conversation topics to pull out to entertain each other. Btw, today was the first day there wasn’t phone reception all day. 

The day ended with a 7mi/12km highway walk. Becky put in the heavy metal music and set her fastest pace yet. The first hour, she pulled out a 6.5km/4mi per hour pace. I can’t walk that fast and she just cruises. I have a strategy of 5-10mins of walking and then jog to catch up. Then walk another 5-10mins before jogging again. 

Just before we got to the campsite, we ran into Victoria. We have overlapped a few times now and she’s great. She’s from Italy, is solo hiking all of the trail (including roads), is the one person out here so far shorter than me (she’s tiny), and the only person I’ve met that likes to get going earlier in the morning than me. 

Victoria from Italy.

It was a fun gathering at camp as we all made it in and made dinner from our tents while it drizzled a bit harder. The hitching group is here as well in another campsite. I mention it as a fact that this is the particular group that sat outside our tents a few nights ago doing drugs. I prefer to not have that around me, and the way I tend to hike, I can naturally avoid that crowd because we wouldn’t overlap. However, on this trail, since people can skip, I get to see them nightly and just hope that they can do all that privately. 

The rest of us all are that great tired that comes from each accomplishing our biggest day yet. It was nice to be able to celebrate it all together. Becky has the ability to fall asleep immediately and was out before 8pm tonight. A thick cloud has settled on the campground and I just hope the rain takes a break tomorrow as we have two summits ahead. 

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