Tuesday, November 29, 2016

29 November

29 November

With the weather no better and gale force winds forecast, we all decided to head to K and P’s place in Lower Hutt and so we have spent this last while parked in their driveway. We went for a few scenic drives and checked out Mt Victoria and out to Eastbourne. Warren and I spent an afternoon in Wellington city on foot. It’s a city we are not at all familiar with as to us it has been a place to either catch or depart from the ferry on our trips south. We strolled around the city centre very conscious of the narrow streets and high-rise buildings. Seeing several cordoned off as deemed unsafe after the Kaikoura earthquake it felt a bit unsettling as there is no escape from falling rubble if another quake, or a strong aftershock should occur.  We caught the train back to Petone where Peter picked us up. I see why commuters would appreciate the train ride, as it was easy, quick and relaxing.

We had no enthusiasm to walk or ride any of the TA trail here in Wellington, maybe because of the weather and maybe due to diminishing enthusiasm regards the walk and so our next thoughts were to head south earlier so yesterday Warren and I boarded the Bluebridge ferry for a very pleasant crossing to Picton. 

We have been concerned with the bike rack on the back of ‘Dreeemer’, our new camper as the weight appears to be pulling on the rear wall just under the back window so we spent the afternoon in the Bunning’s car park in Blenheim yesterday and reinforced the back wall with a 2 metre strip of box aluminium. We also unloaded Porsha’s bike which we had carried down from Tauranga and so now we are much more confident that the bikes and the camper are safe.

We stayed in Blenheim last night, had a nice dinner out with Bruce and today we’ve come via Havelock to Kenepuru Head where we are tucked in to a lovely DOC camp with a couple of pukeko’s and weka’s. I think we will be here for a few days it is so nice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Update to 21 November

14 November 

From Rerewhakaaitu we moved south to 5 Mile Bay, Taupo for the night and then into Taupo and we spent last night on the lake edge there. We went for a walk around the shops (Sunday) and then spent much of the afternoon reading and resting. Today we had the tyre pressure in the motor home checked and all pumped up to 60psi. Then we headed to get the stone chip in the windscreen we got two days ago fixed.

We met up with K and P in Turangi at lunch time and then we all made our way to Waiouru where we plan to spend tonight behind the museum. The weather was settled today but the mountains covered in cloud and as the weather report still tells us that bad weather is moving in we have parked the Tongariro crossing to do another time. 
It seems we are moving further south without getting any walking or biking in based largely on the current weather situation.  I am keen to check off some more of the trail but not so keen to be miserable with rain, wind and cold conditions. 

We're also moving closer to the South Island where overnight a 7.5 magnitude earthquake created some significant damage to infrastructure and sadly caused two deaths. We felt the quake in Taupo and the motor home rocked as though it were being shaken by a group of people outside. It is likely to affect the route we can take once we get across the strait. Currently ferry crossings are cancelled due to damage on both the Picton and Wellington ferry terminal areas. 

15 November 

Leaving the very windy Waiouru this morning we continued south, this time looking for a camp site that is quiet and sheltered. We found it just out of Taihape, at the Mokai Gravity Canyon. This is a bungy site in an incredibly deep and narrow canyon but at this time of the year it is deserted. The DOC camp was totally overgrown and so we parked up in the Bungy car park which is also a POP (Park over property for NZMCA members). 

This area is protected from the wind and despite occasional showers we were both keen to get out and go for a walk. We followed a walking trail here to a couple of lookouts and took some photos of the canyon below.  The bush walk was superb, despite being overgrown. Some areas the grass was over our heads! I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the bush, the ability to stroll, take photos, notice what's about and not be pressured into walking a pace that is really a bit too fast and just seeing where the next footsteps go on the ground ahead. 

We have missed out the Tongariro crossing and the Wanganui river as the weather has been terrible and both of us are getting a bit frustrated at not getting on with parts of the trail. Not that we could have last week through being still tired from the previous month and buying the camper and setting it up. These last few days though we are feeling fit again and have made decisions based on weather and a time frame to cross the ferry to the South Island.  All being well we hope to do some biking out of Whanganui tomorrow.

16 November

Peter had another flat tyre today – the third so far this trip so he and Warren changed that and we headed back into Taihape to get it fixed before leaving for Whanganui.

In Whanganui we parked in the Victoria Park where there is a beautiful winter garden and lake with ample photo opportunities. We went for a walk with cameras and snapped heaps of lovely photos of the bird life here and the trees and flowers.
What lousy weather we are having and it looks like it’s only going to get worse, which doesn’t bode well for walking or cycling.  Today there are postings in Facebook advising TA walkers not to proceed right now with the Richmond Nelson sections of the South Island, the Bluebridge ferry is not taking bookings, the Paekakariki Escarpment trail is closed and it’s considered too dangerous to walk SH1 around it while the heavy machinery is clearing the slips on the road there.
There is a lot against us continuing this trail at present and we are undecided what to do.

18 November

Yesterday was forecast for thunderstorms and the rain threatened all day then let go late in the afternoon. All day long the wind blew a gale. We wasted time in Whanganui getting a few non-essential items from the shops as well as an inverter. Although not essential right now we need it to charge laptops and other sundries and so a miserable day is a good day to deal to things like that.
Later in the evening I found that we were parked up in a free wifi zone at a sports club and so took the opportunity to book our ferry crossing for the 6th December. K and P also booked for the same crossing. We booked this day as it tied in well with their commitments in Wellington the week previous.

Today dawned fine, although with still a stiff wind. We needed to get going and so headed to the Powerboat Club to start the next section of the trail. We would ride to Bulls.  The trail followed SH3 for the first 20kms before heading down to the Turakina beach where we joined up with the forestry road that runs parallel to the beach. K and P drove the campers and met us just before the forestry section for a lunch stop. By the time we got to Bulls we had done 59kms so a good day and it certainly feels good to be on the go again.

20 Nov

Yesterday we biked from Mt Lees reserves just out of Bulls to Palmerston North and really enjoyed a flat ride with a tail wind. We followed the trail as much as was on the road but were disappointed not to see trail markers along the way. The first were those on the Palmerston North river trail that is a walking and biking path. TA walkers don't rely on seeing markers; you will struggle without the map as a guide.

We're feeling good and so we decided that we would attempt the three-day walk from Palmerston North to Levin. K and P are happy to move the campers so we got busy and repackage our packs for another long walk. 

Warren didn't sleep well last night. He woke this morning a wee bit disappointed that the day was fine because if it had been wet we could have called it off. I was keen though and we got up, showered, had breakfast and were on our way by 8am.  Today's walk was nice despite a fair portion being on the road. The nicest part was on an old road no longer used by vehicles but maintained for walkers and cyclists. We saw heaps of mountain bikers today. I guess a fine Sunday brings them out and there were mountain bike trails everywhere. 

The last hour and a half was along a forestry road and we pushed on to get through this section as they are still working this piece of forest and we didn't want to be there on Monday morning. The signage also said it was a daylight area only. This last bit we were really tired and pleased to find a campsite at the start of the next section of track, Burttons track, which we will do tomorrow. 

21 November

The day started early as Warren didn't sleep well again so we were up, dressed, fed and camp dismantled before 7.30am. 

The tracks today were nice tracks although with all the recent rain there was plenty of water in the rivers and frequent stream crossings. While crossing the first river my walking pole collapsed and I found myself sitting in the river so it was wet boots and wet pants for me for the rest of the day. It did help us decide not to bother changing into sandals for each water crossing and it would have been impractical with so many today. We stood twice to empty our boots and wring out our socks but in the end we just squished onward. 

Burttons track was part of our walk today and followed an old path that Mr Burtton had built by hand 100 years ago. We passed the spot where he had spent 40 years of his life living so isolated. He had a suspension bridge across the river to his hut and after 10 years of use it collapsed one day. He fell 8 metres into the river breaking a leg, ribs and suffering internal injuries. It took him 12 hours to crawl the 6.5kms to his nearest neighbour. I just can't imagine how hard that must have been. He certainly must have been made of sturdy stock. As it is reported, he died from his injuries at the age of 60 years old. The track we followed he had built by hand and was benched into the hillside above the river on what is in many places very steep country. There is no room for error on the track with the edge dropping very steeply down to the river below and also with many streams crossing the track as water tumbles down the hillside. 

By midday Warren was keen for us to leave the track and head out to Shannon and give tomorrow's walk a miss. It's just getting too tiring and tomorrow looks like another hill climb so we took the road option out. We called up Peter once we had cell reception and he came across from Foxton Beach for us. 

The walk from the trail down the road was steep and winding and I guess was about 8-9kms as it took us 2 hours to get down to the power station where we stopped and sat on the park bench and made ourselves a cup of soup. 

On the way to Foxton Beach we stopped for an egg burger and chips to finish off the day. 

Happy wedding anniversary to us!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Update to 12 November

31 October

The two days off were certainly good and I felt so much better for having lots of sleep. This morning it was off again  and we started out riding 8kms on the bikes to the start of the Wairoa river track which the joined the Hunua Ranges track.  The day started out fine and pleasant but by early afternoon the thunder started to roll and we had the most impressive hail storm which coated the trail in white. The temperature dropped and we quickly donned first our rain coats and then soon after our leggings to try to keep us warm. We needed to keep moving as the air temperature had dropped so much.  The trail had just turned to a tramping track when the storm set in and the surface became very wet and muddy and slippery. Gosh familiar walking surface.
There was no view to appreciate as the shrubbery had grown up and the weather was clogged in so we trudged on until we reached the Repeater road camp spot at 5.45pm.

We have had a quick cup of soup and some pasta and tucked into bed early to stay warm. Luckily the rain stopped before we had to set up camp and we managed to get changed into warm clothes and into bed without getting wetter.

Memories of the first month:
The regular call of the pheasant
Steep muddy narrow tracks
Superb views that are too big to photograph
Getting sick of nut bars, OSM's, trail mix
Thank goodness for Peter and Kath
Dogs barking when passing every farm gate
Trig stations
Sandy beaches
Rain showers so the coat is on/off and on again
Trail angel offering smoked fish, shower, camp site

1 November

Well it was a cold night last night and we were very glad to have our thermals and warm sleeping bags. Luckily there was enough gas to cook some porridge this morning as we had thought the gas canister was running really low last night.  After dismantling camp (read wet tent) we headed off down the road having decided that we didn't want to complete the Hunua Range after the cold wet and tiring day we had previously.

We walked the road out to SH2 allowing ourselves a few short rests along the way to relieve the tired backs and aching feet. Once we passed under the bridge of SH2 we were able to get cell reception and so called P and K. They were in Mercer and so as we were low on water and only 3 hours away from Mercer we decided to carry on and complete the stop bank walk to get there today.

It was probably further than we should have completed today but again sometimes the decisions are made based on circumstances such as facilities along the way or as it was today, water supply.

Interestingly today Warren felt the ping of a developing blister and so decided to stop and tape it up. Right there was a run down derelict shed on the side of the road with bench seats, old mattresses on the floor and a broken BBQ. On the wall was a remnant of a newspaper article on the subject of accidents related to hunting. The shed had belonged to Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game and the article was of real significance to us both as it was dated May 1988 and told of the accidental shooting fatality of David Halsey. David had been a good friend of mine and a school friend of Warrens. We both remember it well and what a coincidence to find it by chance.

We are starting to think that some parts of this walk are likely to be too tough for us. The tramping sections are taking their toll on us and today I have finished the day with many aggregated blisters and we both have very achy bodies.

After a welcome shower we headed off to the Mercer restaurant where we indulged in a nice dinner before bed.

2 November

We started the day with Panadol and Ibuprofen as both of us were feeling sore. Slowly we got organised and left K and P at 9am to head off to complete the walk from Mercer to Rangiriri. Why oh why do they decide to put you crook at the start of the day by having the street sign pointing the wrong way, and then once you get orientated you find the trail heads up hill and down dale, scrambling through rough scrub and wetlands. From there we popped out onto the side of SH1 and followed the track under both the railway and the two highway bridges then we followed the road edge, the notes said keep close to the river but you couldn't get close to the river, and then it was largely stop bank and farmland alongside the mighty Waikato river.

By the time we got to the point where the road and trail combined at 4.30pm we had had enough and so jumped aboard our reliable support vehicle to head to Te Kawhata for the night.

3 November

The weather today was fine and sunny with just a breeze and we biked the 12 kms to Huntly when we met up with our support team for lunch, then completed the additional 18kms to Ngaruawahia where we stopped off for the night at 'The Point'.

Our discussion as we sat on the riverside was 'how/where to from here?'.  We are realising that this is really too physically hard for us but we are still keen to make our way to Bluff. The trail is hard work, particularly through the bush and mountains and there is plenty more of that ahead if we carry on as we are.

4 November

Our discussions last night finished with us deciding to replace Fries and do the rest of the 5 month period doing the sections of trail that we can, utilising a camper for us and still having K and P as backup to help out particularly where we will need to have transport from one end of a bike or walk trail.

I put an offer in on a Mitsy Canter in Kapati but missed out on that. We decided to bike to Hamilton and enjoyed that although still some very noticeable tiredness and sore muscles.

Then I tried for a Merc and missed that too. I scrolled for hours through Trademe and couldn't find anything else so in the end Peter phoned Boothy from Diamond Motorhomes and he said that he had a Merc available. We went to see him and it seems suitable but is in Kerikeri so we're arranging to be delivered tomorrow to Tauranga where we will pick up the car and head to Kerikeri to pick it up.

We will get a week or so off and so that should help us recover. Tonight we are parked up at the Glenview club in Hamilton where we have just enjoyed a lovely meal and hot shower.

5 November

We arrived back to Tauranga midday to some very surprised neighbours and family. We had a quick look around the local motor home yards but there was nothing there. We have since found another vehicle in Otorohonga and will go and look at it tomorrow.

6 November

We visited Mum and Lynda this morning (at Mums place) then headed to Otorohanga to see the Isuzu. We were a bit horrified at the state of it - very dirty and not at all well presented, but convinced that we could clean it up and be happy with the result so paid a deposit and hope to get it Tuesday or Wednesday. It's a 2003 Isuzu NPR 6.5 metre motor home for those needing details.

8 November

The motor home is still to get a COF and hopefully it's today so we can pick it up tomorrow. We've spent our time sorting gear, doing washing, enjoying the pleasure of a hot shower and our own bed. Today seems to be going slowly as we wait for word to confirm that we can head to Otorohanga tomorrow. I've spent some time at Mums getting her iPad working and in doing so I forgot about the Xmas cake in the oven at home. Enough to say it's well cooked. Dam!

Despite the frustration of waiting which we never do well it's good to be resting up. I'm glad we didn't need to go to Kerikeri.

12 November

The last few days have been too busy to even think about updating this blog. The COF for the motor home took a day longer than expected and we eventually headed to Otorohanga on Wednesday 9 Nov with Tom and Allie to pick it up.  Andrew had blown all the hay from the top of the motor, put there by the birds over time, and after sorting the final payment and insurance we headed to Te Awamutu for a well deserved coffee before coming home.

The afternoon was a cleaning frenzy with Tom and Allie providing huge assistance, not to forget Lance as well. The inside and outside had the best clean that this machine has probably ever had and it certainly came up looking much more respectable and ready for us to load up with our gear.

Then of course it needed the scrutiny of the neighbours and seemed like all considered it a suitable replacement for Fries.

There were also adjustments and repairs to be done and Warren and Tom got busy fitting a bike rack, resealing roof vents where the silicone had dried out and they were leaking, fixing the door step after it broke and replacing the alternrator belt which was cracked.

Final supplies were loaded and we managed to get away about 2pm yesterday. We stopped off briefly to say goodbye to Mum and then headed off to Rerewhakaatu where K and P were sitting by the lake fishing.  We didn't see any fish, apparently they caught them all last year.

Our impressions so far with the motor home are good. It is certainly going to be easy to spend the summer in and we are pretty happy with it all round. It's not as quick as Fries was but then it's not a race, so they say and a far cry from walking.

Now we need to star to figure out how to carry on with our journey.  What will be be able to manage and what can't we. It's a wet day here today and so we will be able to do a bit of planning ahead. We will now be able to make an earlier crossing on the Cook Strait Ferry and avoid the summer (school) holiday rush. At this stage it might be the second week of December.