11/29 Hamilton

Hakarimata Forest Track to Hamilton

28 k

Well, that didn’t end up being the quietest night ever.

Around midnight I heard the scuttling and scratching noises

of…something. When I came to, there was a possum against the screen, doing some serious investigating of the pot I had lined up with my shoes and the stove for the morning. “Aaggh!” I squawked, startled more than anything. It sashayed away, unperturbed and unhurried to find its next item of fascination. A possum! It’s the first one I’ve seen alive. Unfortunately the rest of the night was plagued by dreams of being surrounded by advancing wolves, being the only one to notice them, and unable to cry out. Around 3:00am, I try so hard to warn Tim in my dream of the wolves, that I woke myself and Prana up by yelping in this dimension.

Nobody seems miffed that I was squalling last night, thank goodness. We pack up and continue our climb to the summit of this forest track. I feel good this morning, rested and healed, and the uphill feels close to effortless. There’s a lookout tower with views over the valleys cradling Hamilton and the Waikato River. On the stairs, this plaque is mounted:

Important to remember, easy to forget.

At the top I receive a message from Teresa, co-camp counselor of 16 years ago, sender of tent and chocolate, and dinner date for tonight. “I see you,” she types under this picture:

I know nothing about her current life. Does she work for search and rescue? Google maps? Is she a spy?

It’s stairs and boardwalks down the back side, and the stairs are perfectly spaced for running down- what Prana has taken to calling as The Way of The Light. Photons-Light or Empty-Food-Bag-Light, I’m not sure. The forest is gorgeous; Bro, Prana, and I catch our breaths at the first place the creek crosses the trail.

The funniest thing about this trail is the frequency of women bearing babies in different carrying packs- at least 8 on the stairs coming down, and now on the flats there’s a veritable conga line. 12, 14, 16, 18. “Is there a baby-walking club?” I ask one of the mothers nearest to me. She laughs, “I was just wondering the same thing!”

The dark creek winds through the mossy glen, stairs paralleled by small cascades.

The forest track politely spits us out on the edge of a town with so many vowels I can’t even begin trying to pronounce it. The three of us wait in the park for Ellie and Parker to catch up, and start calling around Hamilton, finally making reservations at the Backpackers Central simply because it is the cheapest, although not by much and they are all expensive. Tristan and Jennifer catch up as well, and are staying in the same place! I’m looking forward to more of a chance to chat with them.

The pathway from Vowel-town is along the river the whole way to Hamilton. It’s wonderful walking. There are stately old trees along the route, arms draping outward, as if frozen in mid-waltz. We cross a merrily painted foot-bridge, and a woman mosaicking a design into the new portion of pathway.

On the river next to us, sculling crews are practicing their drills. A small fishing boat follows behind each one, a coach or captain, or maybe just opinionated bystander, shouting encouragements and corrections through a megaphone.

Each kilometer feels like it gets progressively slower, a blood blister inexplicably forming between my toes, and Ellie and I sink down onto a bench with only 1 k to go. 1 K, so close and yet so so long. 1000 meters. 2000 or more steps. I semi-seriously ponder what it would be like to simply sleep right where I am. Would I sleep on the bench or under it? Probably on it simply because it would require less moving. The desire for a shower is neck and neck with the desire to rest, so I rouse myself, and imagine a fishing boat following me upriver, barking encouraging platitudes through a megaphone.

We make it. Upon check in, it’s apparent why it’s the cheapest place in town- it’s barracks like, with questionable washing of the sheets since the previous occupant, and our window opens onto the porch of the fire escape, which is also a rowdy gathering spot. But we are here, and sometimes, especially when you are walking, that is the clinching factor.

Prana gets the laundry in and showers while I pierce my blister and try to make up a list of all the things that need done/figured out while we are here, shopping lists for multiple resupplies, and emails and phone calls, but mostly sit staring into space. I take my shower, and after a triple lathering, I step out to find the other four ducks at work on the plan for the next section. The idea has shifted from a layover day here to leaving tomorrow mid day. Hmm. There are certainly positive reasons for this, so I agree with all the graciousness that befits one agreeing to something they are already outvoted on.

Teresa and her boyfriend Scott pick us up at 7:00 and take us to a place that has BBQed jackfruit sandwiches. First jackfruit ever. So good. Teresa is a flight instructor, which is how she got the aerial pictures this morning. Aha! It’s fun to see her, and talk about the summer camp we met at and parts of our lives since then. Too soon we are all tired and call it a night. They drop us off back at the hostel, and Teresa hints that she might be interested in some canoeing. I plot how to get her to join us on the Whanganui.

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