Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Half way

We are in Wellington, the unofficial halfway point. Unofficial, because we are in fact over half way, but we've reached the end of the north island.  It was a long last few days with lots of road walking and a very steep, surprisingly difficult last 15 km through Wellington.  Our plan was to be on the 9am ferry this morning, but after a mix up with the post office, our box with shoes, maps, stove, etc didn't arrive, and today is a holiday in NZ, so we're in Wellington for another day and hoping our package will be here tomorrow morning.
Yesterday we completed the North Island!

TA plaque at the North Island terminus

  When I last posted, we were just heading out for 5 days along the Whanganui river.  The trail is officially marked along the river and there are different options from 1 to 7 days along the river by canoe or kayak.  We chose to canoe about 170km, and we had a fantastic time.  The river was faster and stronger than I'd thought, and quickly discovered it was much more difficult than I'd thought to canoe down rapids.  We never tipped over, but there were several close encounters with rocks, sticks and trees.
  Part of The Whanganui river is considered one of NZ's 'Great Walks' so for the first two days we saw lots of people.  The last few days however, were much quieter and we had the river pretty much to ourselves. The river is beautiful and rich in history.  It winds its way through the remote landscape, emptying into the Tasman sea in the city of Wanganui.  It was significant to Maori and early settlers as a main transport route, but now much of the area is completely uninhabited as the landscape is too steep and rugged to be farmed.

Paddling down the Wanganui

A bend in the river

Taking a break from paddling
   After 5 days in the canoe our legs were well rested and ready for several long days of road walking.  We knew the Tararua mountain range lay ahead but we didn't know how difficult they were. As we were finishing our road walk, just about to head to the trail head and into the Tararua range, a car came flying around the corner, and before it had come to a full stop a woman got out- "Are you girls doing the trail?!" We said yes, and she said she'd seen us walking by and was in a meeting so she couldn't leave, but did we want a place to stay for the night, a hot shower, laundry and some wine? Well, did we! We got into the car and went back to her house, where we received the best trail magic of the TA.  Sally and her husband John live at and own the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Center which the trail passes by and they often take in hikers for the night-or two or three.  We enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal, lots of wine and great conversation with them that evening and the next morning before heading back to the trail.  It was a wonderful surprise and very hard to leave when we finally did.

Thank you Sally for the best trail magic!
We spent the next two days tramping through the beautiful and steep Tararua range. The range is know for its incredibly high winds and very few days of sunshine each year, and we couldn't have asked for better weather while we were passing through.  It was steep, difficult, and tiring, just the way hiking should be.  The views were spectacular, and the range has an amazing hut system which was a great way to end each day. These pictures are from the Tararua range:

At a hut with Julia who is hiking the TA in sections

Swing bridge over Otaki River, exiting the Tararuas

View to the South Island from beach campsite north of Wellington
  We are both very excited for the South Island. Everyone we talk to says just wait 'til you get to the South Island.  Hopefully our box arrives tomorrow morning and we will be on our way to Picton in the afternoon!
Happy hiking!
-Jetpack and Brazil Nut

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