Mercer 678km to Huntly 720km (day 41-43)
After a lovely break with friends in Auckland, and before a long weekend in Wellington for a family gathering, we squeezed in two days at the beginning of the Waikato section of the trail. On paper a great idea.
We started with the public transport adventure, which we have done so often in our overseas travels. Waiting for connections in strange bus stations, never 100% sure they will arrive. Our weak point was the once a day bus from Papatoetoe to Mercer. The few minutes it was late dragged on, but it turned up, and we made our destination. Christine from Mercer Backpackers collected us, and we transported to a surreal replanted hotel, beside the Mercer Airport. The rain cleared, and we were on a lovely plateau. Magic spot.
The less said about the next days walk the better. Only about a third of TAers apparently do the Auckland to Hamilton section, and no one local would be mad enough to walk these tracks. Overgrown, lost markers, and hence our way, and gorse and grasses taller than me.
Still, Rangiri was a great stopover. Old school pub, with great people watching, and Cathy with her quirky cabin, and great pies. Award winning even!
Stopbanks, roads and stiles the next day to Huntly. Less of a struggle, but less memorable too. The mighty Waikato flowed on silently beside us. Essex Arms in Huntly for late lunch, and then maybe the nicest place in Huntly – the campsite for a lovely summer evening.
Possibly not our best 42km, but lovely people and quirky places to stay, made it all worth it.