10/28 Mangamuka

Farm Camp to Pullout for Giant Stump

18.6 km

Glorious sleep-in morning! Everything is soaking wet from condensation, as we slept in just the screen tent last night, but once the sun pokes through the clouds, everything dries quickly and the air gets hot. Irresponsibly, Prana and I did not wash the mud off ourselves last night, driven under cover early by the sand flies, so our sleeping bags and floor of the tent are covered in a fine settling of dried mud flakes.

Parker goes from hard asleep to ready to hike in short turn-around, as there is a dairy two hours ahead and he is dreaming of burgers. (Verdict: the OSM bars are tolerable as a full-diet replacement for only about seven days.). He had lost his water filter last night, and had decided not to go back for it; Prana took a sunrise jaunt, and presents the recovered filter to Parker, who is very grateful.

We set out not too far behind Parker, hoping the dairy has some kind of quiche-like hand pie (we have only found one hand pie without red meat or poultry) and scoopable ice cream. We arrive at 12:09 to learn they close at 1:00 on Saturdays, rather than 5:30 as the track notes report. We hustle through ordering lunch and crunching numbers and notes to determine the amount of trail food to replenish with until town. We manage to balance our armfuls of groceries and sandwiches and melting multi scoop ice cream cones and pay for them as all the workers close up shop, doors locked at ten minutes til.

After fish burgers (with sliced beets as a garnish!) and shrimp twisters and chips, we check the weather. Rain starting Monday evening, five days of rain following. The track notes, maps, and website are peppered with warnings about flash floods, and the upcoming gorge is a hot spot for them. We will push through it tomorrow, and then the rain will be no concern, just inconvenience. We reload our food bags and start road walking away from the dairy. A wrong turn adds an extra kilometer on a busy state highway, but once we are on track the gravel road crunches and passes pleasantly underfoot, and the forest bracketing the road grows taller and shadier. Parker and I talk for awhile about thru hiking and all the trails that exist, and then I plug in to my current audiobook, Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. A wonderful story by a wonderful writer, about the power of healing from sharing one’s own story. The time and miles glide on a steady but gentle uphill for the rest of the day.

There’s a side track marked to view a giant kauri stump, with a little parking pullout. This is decreed camp. The stump is close to 20 feet across, coated in mosses and tiny ferns, which only accentuate by counterpoint the huge relic they cover.

Prana and I are still full from the heavy rich lunch, but Parker enthusiastically cooks his first meal of the trail: inside out samosas. Sub titled: just-heat Indian food with instant mashed potato flakes and rice crackers. Whichever you call it, he is pleased. Prana and I do a little operating on the tent to tighten some sags and take some stress off the zippers and hopefully prevent full breakdown; the one broken zipper has been sewn closed, meaning one side of the tent has a full service door, and the other side has, well, a cat door. Whoever gets that side can just squeeze under it for a middle of the night pee without taking the whole tent down.

There’s enough service to check the weather one last time, and the forecasted rain has moved up to first thing in the morning, followed by 6 days of rain. I lay awake and try different visualizations of vanquishing the cloud of anxiety that arises from this news. The anxiety as a thick dark cloud removed from my brain. Lasers (pew pew)! Light sabers (wow wow)! A golden ray of hopeful sunshine (hummmm!) I fall asleep and tomorrow will bring what it does.

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