Sunset Soaps on the Hillary Trail

Peter had just about a week until he had to start his new job. So what did we do? We went hiking. And it was the most intense hike I’ve ever been on. This walk was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, a Kiwi explorer and the first person (along with his Sherpa) to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. A five-day, four-night trek, we set off with our backpacks full of instant food, warm clothes and our fancy new water filter.

Things are different in New Zealand; all butter is yellow, all cheese is white and all roads and trails are steep and curvy. Maybe one reason they are called tracks instead of paths. This track was especially mountainous and winding. Once in awhile it would become flatter, but with that came mud. The first leg of our trip was mainly tramping and jumping to avoid the really big mud puddles, but inevitably our shoes and ankles were covered by the time we reached the Karamatura campground after seven hours of walking. We bathed in the stream, pumped clean water into our bottles and settled in to our first night on the trail just as the sun was setting.

The next day was harder. More steep uphills, but many beautiful streams and waterfalls to enjoy along the way. Beautiful views of the west coast beaches along the Tasman Sea. Carefully watching each step we descended into the Pararaha Valley where we used our handy water filter to quench our thirst with water from the stream. Refreshed, we walked through shady Manuka forests and descended a steep slope covered in prickly, invasive Gorse bushes. Our camp that night was on the edge of a black sand beach near the Whatipu Caves. We watched Peter’s “soaps” the sun setting on the ocean as we supped on instant mashed potatoes with butter, summer sausage and canned mustard chicken.

Onward and upwards again the next day. But with the difficult trail came even more breathtaking views, and even colder water holes for Peter (Mr. Waterbath) to bathe in. Barefoot beach strolls broke up the intense hiking. We stashed our bags in a bush and took an hour to relax catch our breath. Rain was threatening, but luckily we set up camp in McCreadie’s Paddock just in time before it started to drizzle, and were able to use the shelter there to cook up some chicken flavored rice packets.

Slightly chilled from the damp night we ate hot broth and noodles for breakfast and set off early. When lunch time came around, we decided to detour to a delicious fish ‘n’ chips spot on Piha Beach. There’s nothing like the taste of a hot fresh meal when you’ve been sustaining yourself on “just add water” powdered foods and tin can tuna. An hour or so before sunset, we reached the Craw campground, the site of an old family farmhouse. It was to bed early after another episode of Sunset. The next day would be the longest.

Waking before 5 a.m., we took down camp by the light of the moon. The plan was to walk until it was light enough and warm enough to do breakfast. Our first section was crossing Anawhata Farm. This proved tricky in the dark. It was hard to tell where the trail meandered through the big open field where paths for sheep overlapped tractor tracks. We lost sight of the trail signs and plopped down in the tall grass to boil water for instant oats and coffee and wait for sunrise. After a bit of back-tracking we found our way and continued on. Climbing more hills, slipping through more mud, clamoring down steep clay slopes covered in roots for steps, we walked and walked. We tramped through the Upper Kauri Track, with great Kauri trees looming over us. Successfully making it to our public transport spot, our feet tired, our backpacks lighter, and our minds rejuvenated after a challenging five day hike. We ate burgers and malt shakes for dinner as the sun set.

Here’s a sunny song for you to enjoy as you watch the sun going down and coming up

Michael Franti: The Sound Of Sunshine

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About wanderingsoundtrack

I write about my travel experiences and relate them to songs I already know, or have just heard or learned on the way. Listen along!
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4 Responses to Sunset Soaps on the Hillary Trail

  1. The details of your hike, with Michael Franti playing on my computer, is making me so envious for travel and adventure…..I’m so happy you two are having such a grand time. We all missed you a few weekends ago at your Grandpa’s memorial but we could feel your strong presence in the room.

  2. kiell says:

    Oh, Mr. Waterbath… haha! Sounds like a pretty intense hike!

  3. David says:

    So glad we practiced on the “muddy trail” by the creek when you were young. You’ve come a long way from camping in the parking lot of the boundary waters with ten pounds of popcorn.

  4. Nancy Leussler says:

    You must be really bronze color from all your hiking outdoors..Sounds like a wonderful
    time. Sure do miss you. love….gram

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