So thank you Te Araroa for delivering me the Timber Trail, an 80ish kilometre cycle track between Te Kuiti and Taumarunui.
Described as a highlight of Te Araroa, this is a beautiful, wide, flat, well maintained track (everything the Americans are looking for in a hiking trail).
The inclines aren’t too onerous, there is no mud, no tree roots to navigate, no overgrown foliage to whip at the face or legs. It presents blissful, mindless walking through native New Zealand forest.
The only thing you have to look out for are the cyclists that zoom past.
I decided to take the track easy and enjoy the stroll – four days of walking, while many TA hikers power through in two days.
Plus I could add in another volcano in my #40by40 challenge.
Pureora volcano marks a high point of 1165m and its summit can be tagged onto the first day’s walk along the Timber Trail.
I felt weary after my 38km exploit of the previous day but walking through ancient native forest, featuring awesome giant tree trunks, I began to feel rejuvenated.
I could just imagine the forest in a scene of Jurassic Park, and wouldn’t have been put out if a dinosaur had happened to amble past.
Even the Kaka birds, with their raspy cry, sounded prehistoric and dinosaur-like as they flew across the tree tops.
At times it was just me and the forest; at other times I had to stand well back on the track to let the many cyclists zoom past.
It was coming up lunch time when the turnoff for the Pureora summit came into view.
Now this track was more like what I was used to on Te Araroa – an uphill climb, a tangle of roots to navigate and a decent amount of mud (not too much or too wet but enough to make it interesting).
And enjoyably short – just an hour of power walking to get to the summit.
The cloud that had blanketed the sky that morning had burnt off to reveal a sparkling blue sky and, from the summit, full 360 Deg views of the lush New Zealand landscape.
Towards the north was what I believed to be forest-clad Pirongia, volcano number 21, while to the south the outlines of the volcanoes Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu were clearly visible; Ngauruhoe with its distinct cone and Ruapehu, snow covered and seemingly hovering above the horizon.
A bite to eat, and it was back down to the Timber Trail to continue my stroll.
For four days, I walked through a mixture of ancient forest and grasslands. Bright pink snap dragons stood to attention, while birds sung and cicadas chirped. The forest seemed alive.
I crossed massive suspension bridges over deep gorges. They wobbled unreassuringly when I walked them.
At night, I camped.
The first by myself outside the Bog Inn hut, due to rumours of mice.
The next at the Piropiro campsite, alongside some other TA walkers, and the third night, again by myself, at the #10 camp, where I got excited because the long drop toilet had loo roll and air freshener, and where the milky way came out in full force, dazzling the night sky with thousands of pinpricks of light.
On the last night, when the trail ended, I stayed at the makeshift campsite at the trail end.
I got in early afternoon, being an easy and short walk, so I sat and contemplated for a bit.
Yes, the Timber Trail was nice. The forest was lovely, the views lush and green.
And walking the track required no conscious thought. The gravel was a bit annoying on the bottom of my feet, but that aside it was straightforward and what most people would call pleasurable.
But there was a but.
I couldn’t help but feel, it was a little tame by Te Araroa standards.
It wasn’t a tramping track; it was a walk in the park.
If I wanted to be brutally honest, it was almost boring with no tree roots or mud to navigate, no GPS required to double check I was on the right track.
Goodness, what had become of me? Was I actually desiring tree roots and mud, the prospect of getting lost and danger?
This was a very scary thought indeed.
It was one I didn’t want to ponder so I cooked my dinner instead.