12/26 A Bull Market

Koitiata Campground to Mount Lee’s Reserve

40 k

We all have the hiker hobble this morning, and gimp through our morning chores. The sky is threatening rain, and the water that is available tastes like rotten algae, but I’m grateful that it’s not raining this moment and that there is drinkable water at all. There is a take-a-book leave-a-book shelf above the sink, and I carefully select the smuttiest bodice-ripper I can find and present it to Ellie, who just finished her current book, but she slyly insists that it is simply too heavy to carry, even though she reassures me she is certain I chose well. Well played, Mouse. We fill our water bottles and head into the morning. Our day starts with a gorgeous black sand beach, strewn with abstract sculptures of driftwood, and the turquoise and grey-blue waves roll in in long regular rows. The golds and blondes of the grasses ripple in striking contrast.

We leave the beach far too soon as far as I’m concerned, but the forest road we follow is lovely in its own right. The tall planted pines stand at attention in precise rows, the air is still and muted. We pass several branching gravel roads and a pond with Hornrwort in it. From the warning on the map I had assumed it was a toxin of some kind, but a sign explains that it is an unstoppable invasive weed, viable even when dried out for a long time.

When we reach the highway, there is a choice to go an old route that the arrows are still posted for, or the way that our track notes and GPS track show. I have had about all I care to have of paved road walking, and want to take the old route. This is vetoed by Prana, and even though I could go the other route on my own, I can’t stand the thought of inconveniencing the crew to wait for hours if for some reason it doesn’t go through and I have to backtrack, so I resignedly follow along.

There’s not much of note on this roadwalk other than the half a kilometer long art fence, made of repurposed trash and crafts, which is pretty darn sweet. At the town of Bulls there are indeed large metal bulls displayed throughout town. One is right across from the dairy and we take a break, delighted to see the store is open. Prana and I go for the triple dip ice cream cone, and the clerk scoops on a holiday fourth before handing it over. The route out of town is a little hectic, dodging across the industrious four lane highway. There are a few charming details to redeem it.

The pavement is taking a massive toll on all our feet, and even though I’ve been making a sustained effort to walk in the grass next to the road rather than on it, my feet still feel mangled. I walk with Mouse most of the rest of the way; it helps the time go, and it’s one of our last days together for awhile. She is skipping ahead from Palmerston North to meet her boyfriend in Wellington on the 30th, and heading south with him from there. She figures she is more likely to come back to do a mountain track than a road walk, so she is only leaving the Tararuas undone. I will be sad to say goodbye, but I expect and hope we will catch her on the South Island.

We finally arrive at Mount Lee’s Reserve. Our notes tell us we can camp here, and Prana and Mario go to find someone to confirm it is allowed. The person they find not only confirms, but welcomes us to make ourselves at home in the little summer kitchen. It’s a beautiful little place, with lillies and a mess of other colorful flowers blooming.

We find a pamphlet for the Coromandel area on a table, and Prana and I page through it. Will we have extra time? What will we do with it? The Coromandel is definitely high on the list. So much to explore!

There are several others camped here as well, and Prana and I cook our dinner of rice noodles and chana masala at our tent, oversaturated with socialization for the day. Try as I might to type before bed, I can only stare in dumb fogginess at the blank screen.

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