Meet the cows

Thursday 7th December 2017
After a little road walk, we started hiking on a small path near the river. It was well hidden and full of herbs. I guess not so many hikers walk on this part of the trail...
We arrive in farmlands where young cows are grazing. At first, they seemed to be nice and friendly, following us through the field. But after a while, they started to be pushy, trying to lick us and jumping everywhere around us. We didn't feel confident, so we crossed the fence in the hope that we would escape them. But it wasn't any better. We had to walk between the electric fence and a steep slope that plunged into a muddy river. At the end of the fence, we ended facing trees that we couldn't pass and had to cross the fence again, in order to reach the adjacent field. But cows were still there and our hiking is sticks would barely impress them. Finally we made it. We started laughing as soon as we were on the other side of the fence : what a great story to tell to our readers!
The path became very beautiful, with kind of a mountains feeling. Grass, boulders, cliffs,... Beautiful landscape with sights on all the surrounding.
We reached eventually the valley and after a few kilometers on a road, we reached a beautiful stream where people were bathing. Time for a break! I went swimming in my underwear while Marie-Laure layed on the green grass. That's so refreshing.
From here, we had 2 options : either stay at the campground that is 2km away from us, either continue our way to the top of Pirongia where there is a hut. It would be 8 more kilometers and 900 meters elevation more... OK, let's go!
Between you and me, it was hard. And long. The path was steep and quite muddy, more than what we expected. The sights were great when we reached the top, but then, we realized that we had to walk 45' more to reach the hut. Eventually, we made it and joined other TA walkers that were already there. We knew 2 of them, they come from South Africa and Finland and we started hiking from Cape Reinga the same day. So good to catch up with people we know!

Friday 8th December 2017 
This is a cloudy day. The advantage of this is that it's not too hot for hiking. Still, the 5.5 km in the forest feel far too long. Muddy, steep and slippery, like yesterday... No, more.
Eventually, we reach the gravel road. After 16 more kilometers without a car that could take us, we go back in the woods. That's where we'll have to find a campsite. By 5 PM, we reach a nice spot with enough place to pitch our tent and a stream from which we can take our drinking water. There is even a small waterfall under which I take a nice freezing shower.

Saturday 9th of December 
Less than 20 km, but all of them in the forest. It takes us quite a while to reach the road.


We arrive in Waitomo in the early afternoon, eager to see the renowned caves.
The particularity of the caves here are the glow worms. Beautiful. Too expensive however... But well, we're still happy of our touristic afternoon. We go to Huhu Cafe for our evening meal (at 6 PM because we're hikers, used to sleep at 8). And wow, it's brilliant! The lamb is maybe the best we've ever tasted. And the side dishes are awesome. Everything is delicious. We walk back happy.

Back at the hut of the local caving club, we meet Judith. She's the moderator of Te Araroa 2017-2018 Facebook Group and she posts a lot of advices and information. So it's really nice to meet her for real and discuss with her. She confirms that the stretch after Te Kuiti is really dangerous. Our friends Craig and Adriana, that are 2 good hikers, also sent us a SMS a few days ago to warn us about this section.
We decide that we'll make it to Te Kuiti and then find a way to reach directly the start of the Timber trail.

Sunday 10th December 2017 
Another short day in kilometers than ends up taking more time than expected...
 But our efforts aren't vain. The sights are beautiful, we can really see 360° around us. When we are in the bush, on the clay path, it starts raining. Not that long, but still, we're wet.
The second half of today's trail has a reputation for being difficult to navigate. It goes up and down through farmlands, but apart from that, it's not complicated and we easily find our way.
We reach Te Kuiti by 4 PM and go for resupply. Don, the owner of Casara Mesa backpacker, comes to catch us at the supermarket and drives us to his place. Laundry, good dinner, nice time on the terrace. And Don gives us the the name of Val, that can drive us to the start of Timber trail for 70  dollars for both of us. Fair price.
Tomorrow, we'll be on the trail again!

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