Day 34 (Sun 13 Dec): Rest day
Word of the day: Sybaritic, self-indulgently fond of sensuous luxury
For our final day in Auckland, a big thanks to our parental personal Trail Angels, who have provided accommodation, food, transportation, laundry services, more food, housekeeping, toiletries, yet more food… We prepare to leave this sybaritic interlude and return to the rigours of pack carrying and self-sufficient living. After a thorough assessment of everything in my pack, I’ve abandoned my comb (never used – what’s the point?), gaiters (also never used, too hot; will just have to put up with stones, sand and grass seeds flicking into the boots), nail clippers (nail scissors do double duty as a personal grooming implement e.g. for trimming Tony’s nose hairs), icebreaker long johns (wet weather pants can also substitute as warm trousers), and light long-sleeved fleece (have down jacket and rain jacket – and if it really gets cold, i can wrap myself in my beautifully coloured Jag Bag silk liner and snuggle into my cosy Enlightened Equipment sleeping bag, which unfolds into a quilt).
But the most significant divestiture is the Bluetooth computer keyboard. Oh how naively at the start we shrugged off how much extra weight this added. Now I’m at the stage of eyeing up surplus straps on my pack and wondering how many grams that will save me carrying. The 800g keyboard is definitely going no further.
Pack weigh-in, loaded with water and about a week’s worth of food – 13kg.
Day 35 (Mon 14 Dec): Bombay Hills to Mercer
Started 7.45am, finished 1.55pm, 23k
Pain in the head status: Persistent headache all day but decided to just put up with it. I’m sick of taking tablets and it wasn’t getting worse. Neurologists always warn you about how important it is to abort a migraine quickly, before it escalates or establishes, but in the next breath they tell you not to use these medicines more than a couple of times a week or you’ll get a medicine overuse headache. What if you get more than a couple of migraines a week? You’re not supposed to do that – you’re supposed to take preventive medicines that stop them coming so frequently. What if the preventive medicines don’t work? At this point, in my experience, you’re on your own. Once you’ve got an established chronic headache, due to migraine, medicine overuse or otherwise, and the drugs don’t work, that’s when you have to find other ways to deal with pain. I find distraction good and walking is distracting.
Word of the day: Perambulate, walk or travel from place to place.
Early start – the parental taxi service left the parental hikers accommodation at 6.45am which set us back on the trail about an hour later, just in time for the PTS to join the horrendous queue of commuters stretching beyond Papakura to the city centre. We skipped the tiresome walk up the Bombay Hills and started at the top, with only vague views back over Auckland, the Sky Tower barely discernible in the haze.
We did have to walk some up Pinnacle Hill view road, from which we could peer down into the Waikato. Then we walked down, crossed SH2 and had a short, noisy and fume-infused traipse along the highway until we reached a dairy farm that encourages TA walkers to cross their land, to dodge the rest of the SH2 section. This did involve a waterway crossing deep enough to saturate the undies but I’d rather have soggy pants from a stream than from loss of bladder control due to fear of an oncoming truck.
Along the top of a stopbank, we ripped through long grass and collected the heads of paspalam in our boots until we reached a quiet gravel road, that led to SH1. Fortunately, we dropped onto a track beside the Mighty Waikato River, rather than having to walk along the highway. The Mighty Waikato was an unappealing shade of brown but this was not enough to deter the jet skiers. In no time, we were in Mercer, and it was definitely hot enough to justify an ice-cream. We tented behind the now-closed Mercer Tavern, and found that our tent had a twin, carried by a Dutch couple. First sighting of another Hilleberg tent (from a Swedish tentmaker) – we’ve tented in a sea of one-person Nemos (a popular lightweight option) but not with a fellow Hilleberg.
Roadkill of the day: Pukeko, hedgehog, swallow, blackbird.
Novelty of the day: Trying out the different varieties of Dutch licorice from the pick and mix at the Mercer Cheese Shop (there was no cheese pick and mix). Salty and strong. Like we aim to be, at the end of the day.