Distance today: 27km
Distance total: 1822.3km
Time hiked: 11h 31min
Time total: 535h 36min
Today starts with a short, slow road walk to the Pukeatua Track trail head. The track climbs continuously to the 812 meters Pukeatua. It's a straightforward 3-hour ascend on a mostly well constructed track. No comparison to the crappy Waitewaewae Track yesterday.
After a quick break at the top (in the fog), I follow the ridge for a while before descending down. The pain in my shin gets worse again. It's so bad, it sometimes nearly makes me puke. Walking backward and sideward helps a little.
You can't imagine how happy I feel once I reach Waikanae River, marking the end of the descent. I take a long rest with my leg cooling down in the water, which really helps to ease the pain.
During my break Rose texts me that they will stay at a place called River Pa and I thought why not join them?!
The last 10 kilometers on the road are no fun either. Rick, who sees me limping by offers me a beer, which I gladly accept.
More or less well rested I continue to the River Pa. I don't know what exactly the place is. A chapel with heaps of mattresses in it, showers and a kitchen.
Overall, it's a great, cheap place to stay tough and sleeping in a chapel is a special, somewhat spooky experience.
I meet the other guys in the chapel and together we enjoy something like a farewell dinner as we probably won't see us again:
Hannah, who I first met in Ahipara 2 months ago, will hitchhike to Wellington tomorrow and continue on the South Island on Sunday. Same goes for Denis. Rose and Dylan, who bumped into me shortly after Auckland will hitchhike to Wellington as well and then tour around NZ with their dad before flying home for Christmas. They will resume the hike in January.
And me... I will rest a few days in Wanganui.
Rob and George offered me to drive down all the way to Waikanae (a nearly 2 hours drive!) to rescue me the next morning, so I can recover at their place. What an invaluable offer!
Well... The last few days have been... I don't know... something like an emotional rollercoaster. The often crappy, muddy tracks but most of all the terribly hurting leg that nearly drove me crazy. Buy then on the other side the fantastic scenery and the support of the other hikers, which always cheered me up when overtaking me on the trail or later in the hut, kept me going - according to the motto "What doesn't break you makes you stronger". A fortune cookie wisdom I usually don't agree with. For the last few days it was somewhat appropriate, though.
Maybe I should mention as well I didn't want to take any pain killers. Especially not while hiking. Surely, it would have made hiking less painful, easier. However, I like to listen to my body (e.g. take it slow when something hurts) and pain killers most probably would prevent me from doing so and I guess I could badly harm my body this way. Especially in the long term.
I don't want to bore you with daily blog entries of my rest/recovering days. Still, I want to mention that right now, while writing this, I'm already in Wanganui, where my leg has been x-rayed in the hospital (Rob fortunately convinced me to do this). Luckily nothing is broken. Probably not even shin splints. According to the doctor all I need to do is rest until at least Monday. What a relief!