It’s 6:30 am on December 27th, 2017.
This is the very beginning of our 13-day, 270km trek across a section from New Zealand from the filming location of Hobbiton in Matamata to one of the filming locations of the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit trilogy.
This location is also known as Mount Ruapehu in the Tongariro National Park.
If you hadn’t guessed yet, this trek was very much inspired by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
This was the second time that my friends and I had done something similar to this in New Zealand.
Across the 2015/2016 Xmas/New Years period, we did what Frodo and Sam did and hiked from Hobbiton to Mount Doom aka Mount Ngauruhoe.
Rather than the three months, it took for the Hobbits to complete their journey, it took us just 10 days and 240kms (including a rest day) to complete ours.
For the purpose of this blog series, I’ll be documenting everything we did on that journey 12 months to the day, but in 2-day blocks.
Nothing But Roads
So, as mentioned at the start, we set off on December 27th, 2017, at 6:30 am from Hobbiton with the goal of reaching Mount Ruapehu on January 8th, 2018.
The great thing about the first two days, as well as days three and four, of this trip, is that we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.
This was nothing but road walking as it was the most direct route to get from Matamata into the first section of forest terrain and beyond to our final destination.
Retrospectively, if we had a few days more up our sleeve, we may have followed more forest trails – including the Waikato River Trail – but alas we weren’t able to.
The advantage of going about it this way is that should shit hit the roof on any day, we were never too far away from a town to get help or resupply.
In fact, our destinations at the end of day one and day two were towns themselves: Putaruru and Tokoroa. And in motel and caravan park accommodation respectively.
How Far Did We Walk?
Again, given we had travelled this way two years earlier, we were well prepared for the 52 kilometres we had to cover.
But nothing can really prepare you for New Zealand weather and we knew it was going to be stinking hot on both days.
Our strategy? Leave early in the morning and aim to be done anywhere between 1pm-3pm depending on the kilometres we had to cover on that day.
For day one, we had to cover exactly 30kms in 25-degree heat (high 20s in comparison to Australian temps) walking on the side of busy highway roads with little-to-no shade.
However, by leaving Hobbiton at 6:30am, and breaking our day into 2-hour blocks, we were done by 1:30 pm. And that included an hour-long lunch break in Tirau, as well as a couple of smallish breaks in amongst all of that.
It was a good solid day’s hike in decent conditions, but we were able to complete it without very few issues. Keep in mind that we were also carrying semi-full packs too.
And Where To For Day Two?
Day two was much the same in terms of terrain but not nearly as many kilometres as the previous day.
We left the motel in Putaruru at 7 am and arrived at the Tokoroa Caravan Park at 11:30 am covering 22kms in just four-and-a-half hours.
This left us plenty of time to relax, source dinner from the local Countdown, and suss out what was in front of us for day 3.
While walking on the road was monotonous as all hell, it was the most direct route to take to where we wanted to go and it also allowed us to pass through some of the rolling green hills of the New Zealand countryside.
What Did We Learn?
Coincidentally as I’m typing this, we’re experiencing quite the heat wave here in Melbourne where many outdoor enthusiasts are wondering what the best way is to enjoy the outdoors without suffering from heat stroke or dehydration.
During our time in New Zealand, and particularly on these two days, our strategy of starting early and finishing during the beginning stages of the hottest part of the day really paid off.
Given we were walking on a path that was exposed most of the time, minimising our time in the extreme heat was key for that particular day and our energy levels for the following day.
We also made sure that we had excess water with us. Personally, I completely filled my 3-litre bladder and also had my 1-litre bottle with me as well.
The other strategy we implemented was having our food pick-ups well in advance than we did the first time we hiked through New Zealand.
At the end of day two/start of day three during our first trip, we had picked up our food box but still carried plenty with us during those initial stages.
Learning from that first experience, we planned out our food supplies for our days much more meticulously and decided to only carry snacks and lunch with us for the first two days we would be able to get breakfast and dinner in town.
You’d be surprised at what this does for your mental and physical state when you know you have to get up the next day and smash out another 20-30kms, but without a full pack weighing anywhere between 15-20kgs.
In the next 2-days, I’ll go through what we did, where we went, picking up our first food drop, and the generosity of New Zealand locals.
Google Maps: Day One – Matamata to Putaruru – 30kms
Google Maps: Day Two – Putaruru to Tokoroa – 22kms