The remaining two and a half weeks we spent traversing the Waikato, through Mercer, Huntly, Hamilton, Mt Pirongia, and through to where we would leave off the trail for winter.
The track took us along the banks of the mighty Waikato River, through Hamilton City where we stopped for a few days mainly to get a few town errands done. After leaving Hamilton the trail takes you up the Karamu Valley where we stayed a few nights at the lovely Karamu Valley Lodge. We stayed in the B&B here but the couple who own the lodge are hiker friendly and take people in their tents also. They do great meals as well.
From the lodge it was up the road towards the Pirongia Forest. It was a lovely walk over farmland and through bush before arriving at the forest itself. We spent the first night in the campsite a half an hours walk in before heading to the hut at the summit the following day. The summit and the hut are AMAZING 🙂 We had fantastic weather and we stayed up top for two nights.
From Mt Pirongia it was off towards Waitomo. After leaving the forests there was a lot of gravel roads to follow then through some DOC land. We had a campsite set up on the ridgeline at the edge of the DOC land but abandoned camp at dusk as a fire had lit on the opposite hillside. We reported the fire then left as we were understandably uncomfortable sleeping the night with a fire burning away beside us. It was a 3 hour walk out at the end of an already full 8 hour day, to the nearest roadside we could find on the map. We stumbled onto the roadside and knocked on the door of a local couple (to ask if we could pitch our tents till the morning given the situation) who kindly allowed us to sleep in there cabin on there property. Amazing people.
We took transport from here to Waitomo a short distance away and finished for the season with some time in Waitomo. Being so leisurely we had taken quite some time and were clearly not set to make it before the South Island winter. We left intending to set off from here in approximately October to hopefully finish the trail in the 2015 – 2016 season.