Day 3 & 4 of our New Zealand Trip was equally as long and arduous as it was exciting for a number of reasons.
To begin with, by the end of day 4 we would be off the road and into the forest sections.
As I mentioned in my blog regarding day 1 & 2, whilst taking the option of walking by the side of busy highway roads was the most efficient route, it was also the most monotonous.
In fact, day 3 during this trip and our last New Zealand trip were fairly tough due to the heat.
While we did manage to get away once again at 6:30 am, we weren’t finished until around 3:30 pm later that day due to the weather and the difficulty of the day’s walk.
I don’t know what it is about this 30km section of State Highway 32, but it just feels like it goes on forever.
For the first 20kms we were in and out of the shade, so finding spots to stop and rest for a while was fairly easy.
But the last 10kms is what really sucked the life out of us as it’s 10kms of exposed area with no shade whatsoever.
If you ever happen to do this trek, and go this way, make sure you have plenty of water with you; at least 4-5 litres.
There is an opportunity to filter water out of a lake that has a small stream feeding it. This is located before a bridge near the turnoff to Lake Whakamaru.
The upside of day 3 is, as mentioned, our destination for the day – Lake Whakamaru.
The best way I can describe this place is that it’s almost like one of those summer cabins by the lake you see in some American movies.
The lake itself feeds off from the Waikato River and is incredibly wide to the point that plenty of people use it for jet skiing, fishing, and more.
The campground is free to camp at if you are staying in a tent but you will need a permit.
The Kindness of Strangers
New Zealand people are absolutely amazing and generous people. I’ve always found that when visiting, the locals will go out of their way to help you out as much as they possibly can.
And a really good example of this was with our first food drop pick up.
The first time we walked across New Zealand back in 2015/2016, we had sent our only food drop box forward in early December to the Post Office in Tokoroa (day 2) which would supply us for the rest of the trip.
At the time, it made sense but in hindsight, I wished we had stretched it out another day or two, which is exactly what we did for our second trip.
The main reason was that it would mean that for the first 3 days, we’d only need to carry lunch and snacks the entire time, and dinner for day 3.
Everything else could be bought in the towns we were walking through until we hit the forest sections on day 4.
With this in mind, we went looking around for a Post Office in the tiny town of Whakamaru but weren’t having much luck.
In fact, there really wasn’t anywhere around that we thought would be able to help us.
So, thinking outside of the box (pardon the pun), we decided to contact one of the motels in the area to see if they would hold our food box for us.
As it turned out, they also owned one of the local cafes in town and generously allowed for it to be sent and kept there until we were coming through on December 30th.
Not wanting to accept cash, we decided to stay a little longer in the cafe and bought some breakfast, coffee, and snacks for later on as our way of saying thanks.
Into The Forest We Go
As previously mentioned, this was going to be yet another 30km day and the final full day of being on the road.
Yes, we were finally heading into the Pureora forest!
After filling up all of our bottles and hydration bladders at the nearby service station, we had roughly 9kms of road walking before we could make the turn off onto Arataki Road and into farmland territory.
The best part about getting off the busy highway road and into the farm roads is that it becomes quiet very quickly which was an incredibly welcomed changed of pace.
After following Arataki Road for some time, it runs out into a dead-end which then becomes a trail where a dodgy-looking swing bridge (think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) can be found.
Over the other side of the bridge is where the rest of the trail continues which was somewhat overgrown in parts but still very much walkable.
More Zigging, Less Zagging
This day was a little interesting for our group within the context of our previous trip.
You see, on our first trip to New Zealand we were all such ‘green’ hikers and thought we knew our shit back to front; including reading a map.
However, on this day back then, this proved to be our slight undoing (at least for three out of the four of us), as we managed to take a right instead of a left and ended up doing an extra 3-4kms on top of the 30kms we had to do anyway.
Add that to the 25-degree heat, and the fact that we became momentarily separated from a friend of ours in the process, and it proved to be a little stressful.
Fast forward two years where we were all a little wiser, and far more experienced, and we made a pact that at whatever junction we came to on this trip we would wait for each other regardless of how far behind anyone was.
So, Matt and I had got a little ahead of Keith on this day and waited for him at the exact location where we went right instead of left.
We finished off the day hiking into a really nice spot called Kakaho Campsite overlooking the Rimu Stream; a perfect spot for a swim or to help with recovery.
It costs $8 per night to stay there which includes your campsite and a drop toilet; so it’s much like the standard sites we have here in Victoria but somewhat cheaper.
What Was Learnt?
To begin with, if you can do what we did and stretch out your food box pickups as much as you can, then do it.
Whilst our bodies were conditioned for the 20-30km days we had to do in the lead up to the pickup, it certainly helped by having that day or two where we didn’t have to be carrying a full pack.
Secondly, I’m a huge believer in making mistakes in the outdoors as long as you learn from them.
We made a few rookie errors during our first New Zealand trip and ensured we would never make them again.
It seems obvious and fairly basic but waiting at a junction for a fellow hiker who may have fallen behind can prevent people from getting separated either momentarily or for an extended period of time.
Lastly, New Zealand people are without a doubt some of the kindest and generous people. The motel/cafe owners had every right to say no to our request but didn’t.
If they had said no, we would have adjusted and worked out another way, but because they didn’t it significantly impacted our adventure in such a positive way that I’ll never forget.