Oct 23 day 53 Koitiata Beach Campsite to Bulls 28 km 7:15- 1:00
Another very direct hiking day, though for some reason quite tiring. Might have something to do with my new shoes which are not yet rubbing blisters but my feet feel odd in them, a little more numb than usual. Guess I just need to break them in. It was high tide with more high winds (and some rain), so we walked down the coast trail a bit, then cut over to the forest road for the rest of the morning. Was a pretty walk, even though it was a plantation forest, as it was older growth and imposing. The road was well-graded, straight as an arrow, and the verge was covered with soft needles which make for such soft quiet walking. At one point it opened out onto a road crossing where I talked with two older Maori men picking puho (?) which are greens that resemble really tall dandelions and are eaten by boiling and mixing with meat. They were enthusiastic about their harvest– big smiles all around. After crossing a cutover, I found myself back out on a road, heading to Bulls, a town I have visited via bus with the Georgia Tech students on the way to Taupo. When passing a farm I was invited for a cup of tea by Heather, a farmer/orchard keeper with two dogs who is something of a trail angel. She told the story of just having baked a peach pie when some TA trampers appeared and happily devoured it. I had to forgo the tea because I needed to catch up with Cory which was disappointing as the farm was beautiful, and it would have been a nice stop. A bit further on, I was passing a small house near the road and waved to an older woman who was in the yard surrounded by a panic of small dogs. She waved back, then asked me to stop. Very Christian, she had prayed that God would send her someone to help move a chair she had just gotten from the charity shop. Not wanting to disappoint a prayer and seeing a chance to return in a small way some the generosity I have received, I dropped pack and headed in. Turned out to be a recliner with lots of steel. It was so heavy I could barely lift it. I managed to wrestle it out and up her front stairs. Have to admit I’ve never seen such squalor. The floor was rotten, and covered with dirt and I’m guessing dog shit. Bowls of pet food were spilled out every where, and the furniture that was already there was clearly rotting away. The 5$ charity chair stood out from the rest in its cleanliness. Apart from moving the chair, there was nothing I could do, so I picked up my bindle and headed back out on the road, arriving in Bulls an hour later. Met up with Cory who was eating a triple dip ice cream cone. Turns out he has a bounce box in Palmerston, and it’s Friday before Labor Day weekend. The only way for him to get it was to go there today by bus, so off he went, and I again find myself hiking alone. Cory is a great hiking partner but I look forward to hiking my hike for a bit. I grabbed a pie and some coffee, then headed to the backpackers place on the edge of town, showered, and wandered back to beautiful downtown Bulls for some quiet time and a good meal. I spent part of the afternoon in the Rat House pub, the only non-bull themed business in town. It came recommended by Heather as a place to get a good meal which makes sense as the rest of town is all takeaway. Still, I had hopes, as it was an old establishment in middle of town. Unfortunately it was dominated by racing and betting machines, and I found myself surrounded by people who seemed down on their luck, betting on everything they could. Got depressing so I just wandered town some more, got a falafel, then returned for that big dinner before wandering back to the Bridge Motor Lodge. There I had a beer sitting outside the bunkhouse, then checked out the television room–the set got two channels but one was CNN, so I got caught up with presidential politics. The rain continued to pour so I was glad I was in the bunkhouse and not my tent. Before long, the green lawns were all shimmering pools.