It’s a lot easier to get up early in a hut but still not nice. Especially when it’s windy outside. Anyways, long day today.
First little stretch went to the actual summit of Mt. Pirongia.

I bet you can see Tongario in good conditions. The views were a little bit limited by the clouds but still impressive and a little reconciliation for the pain and mud yesterday.

After the summit I had to two options – either following the official ridge line continuing on the road with a little bit of farmland/forest or to take a ridge line further east with a more direct line on the road. Since the way down was painful enough with my ankle I voted for option 2 to save some time and not to take any additional risk on the usually bumpy farm ground. I have the feeling the shorter but steeper way down was actually not a wise decision but it gave me good views!

And I had a short stop on Mt. Ruapane.

After that there was a long, long stretch on the road. Unfortunately it was all concrete road which is also tough on the feet and my ankle. I actually hoped for a little bit more gravel. Not a lot happened to be honest. My thoughts wondered between thinking about my ankle and if it was a good idea to return already, being happy to be back on the trail and all sorts of other things. Finally somebody had mercy and pulled over to ask me if I am ok and if I wanted a little lift. I know, not the traditional way but I have to say I happily accepted and my ankle was very thankful (the rest of my body as well…). So he gave me a ten minute lift (doesn’t sound much but probably equates in 8-10km less road walking) up the road before he went off into a different direction. He was probably the most “Kiwi” I have experienced so far. I was close to cracking up and could barely hold it back. He was firing one Kiwi slang after the other. Hilarious!!! Just to make sure I never forget (more to come):
Sweet as, bro! – Cool / Awesome.
Good on ya! Congratulations.
She’ll be right. – No problem.
Good as gold! – Good job. Well done.
Cracker! – Very good.

So I walked the rest of the stretch into town which looked very different to the last few days…

And no surprise Kiwis are so tough! They start training for the “Tough Mudder” already in school! I am not kidding – this is the school campus in n Hamilton!

I definitely wanted to have a quick stop at Diana’s and Fred’s place, the couple who took so great care of me the first days after my injury. And I discovered that the trail just passes their house. The walkway which Inhad used quiet a few times when I was in Hamilton!

This is what I call a trail!

When I rang their doorbell and they opened it felt like the greeting of a family member with hugs and everything. Of course I had to come in and have tea, cookies, apples… And of course they wanted to have an update of the last two weeks. It was so lovely to be back and I was tempted to stay. But I knew I would get stuck and not be able to leave early tomorrow. And I wanted to continue a little bit further today. Every km counts and will be less tomorrow. Will have to do some trail planning later on to see where my last resupply points before Auckland are.