• Jenny

Days 95-98 Mercer to Hamilton

Day 95 ~ Walked: 26 km ~ Start: Mercer ~ End: Rangiriri (km 721)

We departed Mercer on another hot sunny day. Who knew they had a museum here??

Then we were straight into the Whangamarino ‘track’.

It was only 3km but took us over an hour. It was hilly with head height grass and a bit of bush but the main issue was finding the track.

Very tall grass

There were a lot of arrows but they often had their point pointing the wrong direction and there looked to be a path in that direction because others before us had tried heading that way. Only when the path comes up against some obstacle and the triangles have been absent for some while you realise it wasn’t the path and have to backtrack. Eg above arrow pointing right but should have been pointing up to indicate to follow fence line. (Didn’t get lost on this particular one)

Then we had to cross the swamp - the north islands second biggest swamp and bog complex apparently! It actually wasn’t as bad as I expected thanks to the lack of rain over the last month or so. And there was lots of trampled vegetation we were able to walk on. We had the same signage issues with exiting the swamp and went further through it than was required. We were covered in dirty specks but that may have also come from the high grass.

We did have some nice outlooks at various points though.


And thankful the track through the gorse had been cut for us.


We met two brothers doing some native tree replanting at the end of the track and got chatting. Their third brother lives less than a km from us - small world. Great to see them happily and productively spending their retirement.

The rest of the days walk after passing the Meremere dragway,

was along the river on stop banks.


It was extremely hot again and promises of fresh water ahead meant I didn’t hold back on drinking what I had.


I’d got through almost 3 litres when we got to the pump house. So thankful for it being there with another 2 hours walking ahead of us.

We didn’t waste the first minute of running water with both of us washing the swamp mud from our legs and I took my top off and washed that as well. It got rid of all the splatter marks and then kept me cool for about half an hour until it dried.

Finally reaching Rangiriri and still thirsty we were able to have a beer or two at the pub. The pub had been newly and impressively renovated. We’d originally wanted to stay there but when trying to book they said they were full with Fulton Hogan staff. So we’d arranged to camp at the famous Cathy’s house - right next door. She is very welcoming to TA travellers and a wealth of information for us. She’s famous for her pies which unfortunately we didn’t have this time as we had already planned to eat at the pub.

Classic shrimp cocktail entree and generous size

Anyway turns out Fulton Hogan weren’t there this week so we did stay there after all. And having dinner at the next table were the two brothers from earlier in the day!


Day 96 ~ Walked: 21 km ~ Start: Rangiriri ~ End: south of Huntly (km 742)

We woke to a bit of early morning fog over the river

Then yet more stop bank walking following the river.

There’d been warnings about aggressive jersey bulls in the paddocks on this section, especially if they were in with the cows. We did indeed come to the paddock with them and they were in with the cows. They were at the far end as we entered the paddock so we came off the stopbank and followed the fence line instead, mentally preparing ourselves to jump it if need be. Thankfully we got through the paddock safely without incident. I think it was to early in the morning for them and they were still a bit sleepy.

The track then cut through the side of the Huntly golf club so we wandered over to the club house to see if any food was on offer. We timed it well as was able to buy a cold drink and chocolate bar or two for our morning tea, before the staff/players all headed out for their 10am round.

It was then a bit of a road walk into Huntly itself but we found a few treats to keep us going.


We lunched at the sculpture park opposite the power station. Very pleasant spot.



Heading through Huntly after lunch we called in to a dairy for the obligatory chocolate milk. The first thing I noticed was the signage advising that fog horns were installed here. Inside the shelves were virtually empty and a massive cage type screen shielded the counter and area behind. Almost half the shops product was behind the screen. But then amazingly they had Puhoi chocolate milk on offer in the fridge - my favourite (along with Lewis Rd). They even had one bottle each of the three different flavours! Of all the dairy’s we’d called into from Northland and through Auckland none had this on offer. And even not every supermarket had it either.

The 5km road walk south of Huntly wasn’t very pleasant with a continual stream of trucks heading to and from the quarry. At least the roads were fairly straight and enough verge for us to get out of the way.

We were welcomed by trail angels Lorraine and Gary with freshly chilled spring water and delicious plums. We then spent an hour or so with them chatting on their front deck and enjoying the view out over the valley, river and the old SH1 which still looked fairly busy. We learned their whole family history in this time and also got to meet daughter in law Steph and granddaughter Evie. It still amazes me the kindness and generosity of complete strangers towards us TAers. It’s so humbling to be taken in by them.

View from our campsite on their lawn with swallows on the line

Day 97 ~ Walked: 20 km ~ Start: Huntly (south of) ~ End: Hamilton (north of)(km 762)

Finally a bit of relief from the heat with a slightly cooler overcast morning and even a few drops of rain as we set off. Also as we were heading into the forest I decided to hold back on the sunblock to give my skin a break for a bit.

The Hakarimata forest seems very popular with locals for exercise. It starts off with 1500 step climb straight up to a lookout back over Huntly and the river winding north. The exercisers reach the lookout then head back down again.

Then it was a very pleasant 10km or so of undulating forest tracks. We didn’t see a single other person on this stretch and it didn’t seem as though any had been through for some time due to the amount of cobwebs we were collecting on our faces.

We were extremely careful not to get off track as apparently it’s a popular location for cannabis crops. I’m sure it was a coincidence but for the first time ever the gps locator on my phone was playing up and showing our location to be 10 or more km away on more than one occasion. My paranoid mind was jumping to conclusions about interference from electronic equipment setup nearby for monitoring plantations.

Then we reached the southern lookout over Ngaruawahia towards Hamilton

and all the locals from there were exercising on the 1500 or so steps straight down the hill of the southern end of the Hakarimatas.

These steps had a few motivational quotes along the way. This was my favourite:


Finishing the hakarimata trail

We were then straight onto the riverside cycle/walkway Te Awa that led through Ngaruawahia towards Hamilton. It was very pretty.

The hakarimata range in the background




The Perry bridge

We’d biked this trail before so after we’d re-seen the more interesting bits and having walked for more than eight hours we decided to call it a day and get a ride for the final kms into our accommodation in Hamilton.

Day 98 ~ Walked: 0 km ~ Start: Hamilton ~ End: Hamilton (km 776)


A welcome rest day to restock, plan and sort out a few gear issues. We now both had leaking mouth pieces on our water bladders. Also we both had the same issue with our poles where the handle separates from the pole when the bottom is stuck in something (eg mud, tree roots - which unsurprisingly is fairly often). We’d been frustratingly living with this for a week or more and a bit of duct tape was helping to a degree. Trek n travel were fantastic help, going direct to the pole wholesaler to try and get them to agree to a replacement under warranty so we could be on our way with new poles. They also offered loan poles when the wholesaler insisted on seeing the poles for themselves first. The wholesaler agreed it should not be doing that and already had photos of it from when it first happened via the retailer we bought from. It was quite annoying as logistically sending poles away, getting fixed or new ones back again and returning loan ones when we’re on the move everyday and often in remote areas is near impossible. Our only options were to outright buy new ones or persevere with our diy fix of superglue and duct tape. Neither is ideal but option b it is. At least the bladder mouth pieces were a straight forward replacement part.

The best part of our day was having Craig and Caroline take time out from their holiday in Rotorua to come visit us. Such a treat, and a nice link to home. We had a delicious long lunch and a good catch up. Thanks so much for coming guys.



Day 95 ~ Walked: 26 km ~ Start: Mercer ~ End: Rangiriri (km 721)



Day 96 ~ Walked: 21 km ~ Start: Rangiriri ~ End: south of Huntly (km 742)


Day 97 ~ Walked: 20 km ~ Start: Huntly (south of) ~ End: Hamilton (north of)(km 762)


includes ride into Hamilton as didn’t stop recording when we stopped walking. Map above shows where we stopped.

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