A short day into Te Kūiti was unexpectedly lengthened by a rogue horse.
With only 16 km planed to reach Te Kūiti today, CareFree and I were fairly lazy getting up and getting started this morning, only leaving Waitomo at nearly 10 am. (We would like to go further, but there are no available camping opportunities within a reasonable distance from Te Kūiti.)
After a brief walk up a road, we climbed over a stile and headed across a somewhat hilly farm. We kept a reasonably good pace, despite the bright sun and no tree cover for about 15 minutes, until we were stopped by a horse guarding a stile that we needed to climb over to cross the next road.
We waited for a moment, but the horse didn’t budge. We briefly explored an alternate path up a hill to the fence line, but rejected it since there was no stile there. (In retrospect, we probably could have climbed the fence, since afterwards when we got closer, we saw where other people had climbed over.)
We advanced towards the stile a little bit, hoping that might cause the horse to move away. (After all, that often works for cows and sheep.) But the horse wasn’t the least bit intimidated by us. Instead, it ran towards us and parked itself in-between us, close enough for me to reach out and touch it. (I didn’t.) Then, it proceeded to munch on grass near me, while I tried to slowly back away, guided by CareFree so I wouldn’t have to look away from the horse.
Ultimately, what got us over the fence was teamwork: with the horse now distracted by the grass in front of me, CareFree was able to make a run for the stile, and got up and over it. I was a bit unnerved being so close to the horse, but CareFree was now in a position to distract the horse: she got its attention, causing it to run up to the stile, and then led it down the fence line far enough away for me to make it over the stile.
Now, we just had to enter the next field, with a very large sign warning that it was a bull farm. After our encounter with the horse, we had no interest in dealing with bulls. Consulting our map, we worked out a road detour around that entire farm, though at the cost of replacing 7 km of trail with 9 km of road. (Still, that might have been faster, since roads tend to be much easier to walk than cattle fields.)
While we were working this out, the horse stuck its hoof through the fence, seemingly probing for ways to get out. Not wanting to see if it would be successful, we quickly left.
A couple minutes later, a farmer on a tractor saw us going past on the road, and yelled out to us from across a field that “the trail is down here”. We yelled back that we knew, but that after dealing with that horse, we weren’t dealing with the bulls.
We followed roads for about two hours before we turned onto another farm track, leading us past a herd of cows and some sheep, up into some hills.
For a while, the sun was out, shining hot and bright, with no trees or clouds to cover us. So once we found a large tree on the side of a farm road, we stopped for a break. While we were there, it clouded up a bit, and a dark cloud parked itself directly over us. The shade was nice, though we crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t rain.
The trail continued through some rather hilly sheep paddocks. (While not a problem for us, at certain times of the year, this part of the trail is closed for lambing.)
Once the trail reached its high point for the day, we got a nice view of Te Kūiti, the self-proclaimed sheep shearing capital of the world. (We learned this once we finally entered town and saw a sign; it’s one of the few New Zealand settlements we’ve been through that has custom town signage.)
From that high point, we began a downhill to town, but wound up off-trail due to a missing marker. Once we realized this, we just cut straight downhill, going through knee-high grass on a steep hill until we got to where we were supposed to be.
The farmland gave way to a hilly public park with a disc golf course set up. Leaving the park brought us to SH 3, the main road through town.
In town, we stopped at a gas station to get soda and ice cream to celebrate making it another day down the trail, and checked into our lodging, the Motel Te Kuiti.
After showers, we went for dinner, only to find that the restaurant across the street from our motel was closed; apparently, they were only open for breakfast and lunch. This led us on an excursion through town to find dinner, taking us past a small produce stand, where we got some excellent raspberries and blueberries.
We found a restaurant to get food from, then went to the New World supermarket to get our resupply, for five days and 160 km to Taumarunui.
Due to lack of campsites, tomorrow’s hike is another “short” day, 20 km to a shelter provided by some farmers. I say “short”, because the trail reports aren’t looking good for a large portion of tomorrow’s section, which follows a river and has had at least one hiker this year report of a land slip while they were hiking, nearly sending them 30 meters off of a cliff. So we’re a bit nervous about it, but I think we’ll be ok knowing that we have to keep an eye out for sketchy parts of the trail.