By the start of day three we had already done 52kms and were only a couple of days away from getting off the road and into the forest trails.
At 9am we walked into the Tokoroa post office, grabbed our food parcel and loaded up our packs.
This was a significant moment as it was the first time since we started that we would be carrying close to full packs.
Couple that with the heat and the distances we would be walking over the next few days, and it was really going to test us all carrying 15+ kilos.
December 29th was very similar to our first day in terms of being exposed to the conditions on the open road of State Highway 32.
For the first 10 kilometres, we walked along the highway through what can only be described as a cut-down forest on either side of the road.
On the second 10 kilometre stretch, we were treated to a forest either side and plenty of shade.
After walking in exposed areas regularly for two days, it was nice to walk under long stretches of shaded areas for a change.
Unfortunately, the third 10 kilometre stretch of road was in more exposed area and got incredibly dusty due to a herd of cattle deciding to follow us as we hiked up the road.
One piece of advice for when you are walking on the side of the road: try and keep as far back from the edge as you possibly can.
The drivers in New Zealand are pretty good and appear to be used to hikers walking on the roads, so they keep their distance more often than not.
But, like anything, it’s a joint effort and as a thru-hiker, you need to do your bit as well.
Granted I can only go off my experiences in New Zealand, but I’d imagine it would be a similar situation in other countries where hiking by the road is common.
Whilst it was a long and tiring day, we arrived at our campsite for the day – the beautiful Lake Whakamaru (pronounced Fa-ka-ma-roo) Reserve – at 6:30 pm.
The reserve is in the middle of a clearing between trees on the banks of Lake Whakamaru, which forms part of the Waikato River.
It’s absolutely magical and reminds me of one of those places you see in American films where people go to stay by a lake for the summer.
If we didn’t have to keep hiking, I would have loved to have stayed there for a few more days.
There were people water skiing on the lake, kids running around having a heap of fun and plenty of campervan and tent owners sitting around relaxing.
In terms of what we learnt, I think the biggest lesson we learnt that day was that an abundance of water is so important.
Whilst my Source hydration bladder has a 3-litre capacity, I almost never fill it all the way to the top.
I did that on this day and still carried a full 1-litre Nalgene bottle that I had bought from Mountain Designs about a month earlier.
I made a point of buying several Topo Maps when I visited our trail on the reccy mission earlier that year and tried to find as many places to filter water from as possible.
Whilst I found plenty for this day, the hot conditions meant we were drinking our water at record speed and therefore meant we were running out well before the resupply points.
So, based on my experience here, I believe having plenty of water in reserve is important but also being mindful of your supply levels and where your next opportunity to resupply is equally as important.