12/29 Livin’ On A Prayer

ZigZag & Lee’s to Grassy Knoll on the Burton Track

30 k

The alarm goes off, and we manage to pack our backpacks full to the brims, and still close them. Miraculous! We are treated to another lovely breakfast, and while ZigZag takes Mario and Peach to the trailhead, Lee finds an old abandoned pair of hiking shoes that fit Bro perfectly. I don’t think we could be set up any better than

we now are!

ZigZag takes us to the trailhead in a second batch, and we hug all around. What a fun visit! We thank him, the words inadequate to express the depth. I hope we see them again!

The track out of town is pleasant, winding along the Turitea Stream, and then climbing some simple gravel roads. At one turn there are three big white sign boards proclaiming the halfway point of the Te Araroa. Whoa, we’re halfway there! There are some signed names we recognize, and someone has drawn a giant, smiling dick with a speech balloon on one of the open spaces. How discouraging, that this seemingly represents this year’s hikers. We sign our names and decide it’s as good a place as any to have lunch. “You know, someone should draw a picture over that,” muses Mario. He grabs a marker and gets to work on it. The end result is pretty good; you can’t even tell what it originally was.

The road leads us past a quiet, overgrown campground and to the parking area of a mountain biking trail system.

Across the river there is a ruckus of bellowing cattle, and a hollering dude on a four-wheeler trying to cowboy them, to apparent slow success. As we leave the road and enter the trails, there is a warning sign that toxic algae may be present in the waterways; one can get sick from even swimming in it. Toxic algae? That’s a new one. Damn. I ponder whether it is worse to come upon a dry water source, or a source with water that is completely unusable. I come to the conclusion I’d rather it be dry; I’ve drunk some incredibly foul water, and radioactive water, you just rationalize that the filter works, or one gallon of the bad stuff won’t kill you; but if it’s not there, there’s no temptation, and you just deal with it.

The bike trails have good tread, and strangely, an installed metal sign next to a picnic table recognizing the halfway point of the Te Araroa! Whoa, we’re halfway there! Well, we’ll celebrate again. Everyone is feeling the ponderous packs and long mileage of the day, and drops heavily onto the benches. A short break is all we can spare, and then we resume our southward march. The mountain bike trails eventually dump us onto a forest road, and the wind picks up. Oh my feet hurt. If I didn’t know better by now I would think they were crippled for life. I listen to music and try to pretend that my feet are nerveless and my pack is light, you know, try to test the mind over matter thing. It doesn’t really work. At least the world is pretty.

We finally reach a big enough grassy clearing above the harvested tree farm to put up the tents. Thank goodness! It’s tough to find a spot out of the wind, but we manage to find a semi-sheltered pitch. The other three are not far behind, and we all are desperate for bed.

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