When I left the backpackers this morning I finally had to realise that even in New Zealand the summer does come to an end…

I went to the next cafe on the trail and got myself a decent breakfast: eggs benedict with salmon and a big fruit salad. And then the trail magic in Hamilton kicked in again: I ordered the largest possible flat white and had a quick chat with the waiter about hiking poles and why they are useful. And this is what she brings me five minutes later… “Since you like mountains…” ?

The trail continued on the waterfront on a wide and paved walkway. What a beauty! I really enjoyed it and the views of the Waikato river and the impressive houses was a welcomed change of views to the farmland of the last days. Looking at all the gorgeous houses made me think about my future home. I am sure at one point of time I want to have financial independence again to buy or built a home like this (and keeping a nice tent for the weekends and vacations ?).

Also I passed some of my favourite places again. The interested reader knows what I am talking about – do you see the red pole in the front of the picture…

I also got some inspiration for what to possibly do with my hair after the trail. What do you think?

More road walking. I sat down at the side of the road to rest my foot for a few minutes when a guy in his electrical wheelchair turned up. We chatted for a while about Kiwi hospitality and how to integrate the Syrian refugees into German society. Even Kiwis in the middle of the country are interested in world politics and know what is going on in the world. Full respect! More road walking until I finally arrived in Ngaruawhia. I had the feeling of it being a sad town. A lot of overweighted people running into the few shops along the main road buying unhealthy food and alcohol for Saturday lunch. A little bit sad… Especially since Ngaruawahia is a significant place for Maori. It is the home of the Maori King and the magnificent Turangawaewae Marae. The marae is open only once a year, during the annual regatta, which is held on the nearest Saturday to the 17th March. Ngaruawahia is located at the junction of two great rivers – Waikato and Waipa. These rivers were once important canoe routes; later they served European settlers. Taupiri Mountain, which watches over Ngaruawahia, is sacred and contains the Waikato’s most significant Maori burial ground (Copied from the TA trailnotes – just making sure I do quote correctly. We all know what happens if you don’t. Not that I will be striped of my TA finisher title at the end because of it… ?).

I continued after having a bad lunch break with fatty chicken and chips (buaaa). Ah, very nice thing happened while I was sitting in front of the all-in-one “cafe-bakery-lunch and dinner take away-sandwich” place. A Maori came into the shop and asked me if I like fejoa (a special Kiwi guava/fig) and just handed me a handful. Possum (was his name) had just picked them in his garden. Very delicious!!

Back on the road for the final 15km to Huntly today. I did a bit but had to give up after a while. The concrete and my ankle did not become good friends today. And I did not want to risk it to be worse tomorrow. So I hopped on the local bus for the last two stations. Doesn’t feel right but I guess was the better call. In Huntly I went through the city centre and organised a coffee.

Another two km north to the camping ground right next to Lake Hakanoa. Watched a little bit of the local soccer game and enjoyed the sunset afterwards.

My shoes are great! But they wear down quicker than expected on the street. Most of this rubbed off today ?

I also chatted with Warren, the guy I met in the Greenstone hut close to Queenstown. He had invited me over and when I did my trail planning yesterday I realised that he only lives 10km away from the trail which basically circles around his house. So I will probably stay two nights with him. Looking very much forward to catch up with him!
Good night…