Distance today: 34.5km
Distance total: 1176.8km
Time hiked: 11h 55min
Time total: 351h 23min
Copy-paste of yesterday - well most of it.
The track starts as it ended a few hours ago. A pleasure to hike, initially along the river with some side stream crossings inbetween. Some of them are dry feet crossings, others are not. Eventually, the track climbs super steeply, sometimes nearly vertically up and away from the river. From 600 meters to over 900 meters. Grippy, tough, fun.
It gets muddier on the ridge, though. Especially close to Hauhungaroa Hut. As it's shortly before noon, I eat my lunch (peanuts and currants) at this small, cozy hut, enjoying a very rare panoramic view of the area around. The sun still shining brightly.
It would be a lovely place to stay - but it's way to early to call it a day so I continue along the ridge before dropping down steeply to the valley road on a mostly really annoying track. Mud. Mud. Mud.
I nearly can't stand it anymore...
The remaining 3 hours are road bashing and finding a suitable spot to camp. Not easy at all. Mostly paddocks left and right of the road. I check the map and notice a small forest adjacent to the road a few kilometers ahead. My legs are aching - after more than 11 hours and 30 kilometers.
The road is passing the forest. I'm hoping for a forestry road. But there's nothing, only dense bush - the end of the forest already in sight. I start to worry.
Then, shortly before a bridge, I spot a clearing. Visible from the road, with high grass some scrubs. Less than perfect but I take it.
My camping spot brings me into a good position for tomorrow. Only 20 kilometers to Taumarunui and another 4 to the Holiday Park, where I will probably stay 2 nights.
After 17 day and 450 kilometers "non-stop" hiking, my brain and body are screaming for a Zero Day ;)