Sep 7 day 7 free camp on ridge to Apple Dam Camp 25 km 7:30-3:00
Woke to rain and cold, packed up quickly, put on wet clothes and headed out fast. The trail down to valley (5km) was ridiculous– standing water, looked like ponds in the middle of the trail. Soon I was completely soaked and covered in mud. Finally got to bottom which was a bit of hiking through pastures, still soupy mud, but clumps of grass to jump from tuft to tuft. Lots of cattle and horses, so things became more pleasant, if not more dry. Soon hit the Makune road and started hiking fast just to dry out and get warm. Got out the the main road and continued fast hiking up to Mangamuka Bridge, where there was Tip Top fast food and store. Had egg and bacon sandwich, coffee, chips, and just reveled in being inside. The woman who ran the place was so welcoming and asked me to sign the register. Two other thru hikers had signed for this season, though I am sure there are several more ahead. The afternoon hike to a simple campsite was beautiful, sun came up, and the trail was a forestry road, so no mud, and gradual altitude gain. The campsite was adequate, had water and a flat spot for tent but really boggy, and no late afternoon sun to dry things out. Still, things are looking up, getting used to the rain, and the word is that the trail on into KeriKeri is not so bad. Spent early evening relaxing in tent (still raining) and reading a bit.