Oct 27 day 57 James Burtton Whare site to Levin Campground 30 km 6:45-4:00
It rained a bit in the night, but morning was fresh and misty. Slept well listening to the river and a quiet breeze. Wasn’t sure what to expect today– just knew there wouldn’t be much road walking, which seems to have been most of the last week. It was thought provoking in the first stretch. James Burtton spent more than 30 years in the first part of the 20th century not only clearing his land, building a small house and bridges, he also built the road that is now the trail. It runs out along the river, so you have to wonder how much has been washed out, but there were stretches you could see the careful construction. It was humbling. Of course, there were many stream crossings and I got wet feet early on. Hiking with wet feet is not too big of a deal except when you start out soaking and have a lot of kms, particularly a lot of up and down (which describes my day). Came out of Burtton’s track, short gravel road walk and then up on the Mangahao-Makahika track, which was all NZ tracks in microcosm. First a fairly steep up to a couple hours of ridge hiking, classic up and down in some amazing trees that were completely sheathed in ferns. As the trail wore on, and the rain increased, it soon became a classic muddy root hike. After passing the top peak which had an overlook, but given the weather there was nothing to see except a tent pitched at the top, containing I guess hikers avoiding the rain and mud for a little longer. After the peak, it descended rapidly and I was ready for some farm road hiking, but no luck. The second part of this all-terrain trail was classic swamp hiking, shoe-sucking mud, crossing streams and rivers every five minutes. Completely lost track of how many times I crossed the river, but there were no dry shoes, that’s for sure. My final destination was open as I thought if it were an easy day, I’d try for the first hut on the next track, a long day, but possible. Well, after rain, mud and rivers, it was not a possibility. Instead, on coming out of the M-M track, I took the TA overlook track to Levin, which is either on the trail or a detour, depending on what TA document you consult. Found the Levin Holiday Park, pitched tent, did laundry (and put my shoes by the dryer vent–it is amazing how satisfying it is to find a simple effective strategy). While the clothes were In the dryer, I checked email in the TV room. A mother/daughter pair came in (Maori) who were on a short vacation from their home in Taupo. They wanted to watch an Australian soap opera, which brought high drama through a kidnapped young woman held in a remote area, but she was able to get her captors phone and email her coordinates to the one man who would walk through fire to save her– and he did (well, not the fire part). We all laughed, ohh’ed and ahh’ed through it. Was great fun. I then ducked out for dinner at Fat Boyz pub, read a bit, then crawled into my trusty tent for good sleep, with only the faintest patter of rain in the night.