Day 65: Road Walk from Bulls to Feilding
Saturday, January 13, 2024 10:48 pm
Location: Feilding / Feilding Hotel (1492.7 km)

A 20 km road walk through cattle ranches and rolling hills took us from Bulls to Feilding.

Likely because we didn’t go to sleep until late yesterday, we overslept our 6:15 alarm, and didn’t get up until 7 am. That didn’t help with an early departure, but we still managed to leave before 9 am.

We needed to get to the next town, Feilding, about 20 km away. Ideally, we’d also make it to Palmerston North, another 25 km past that. Normally, this would not be a problem, but road walks in the heat are quite strenuous and weary, and CareFree’s feet were still hurting from blisters likely obtained from attempting to patch her ailing shoes with duct tape.

We set out down the main road, SH 1, first along a separated bike path that then immediately became a pedestrian segment along a narrow and quite busy bridge that took us over the Rangitīkei River.

Rangitīkei River
Rangitīkei RiverThe trail crosses the river on SH 1 just south of town.

On the south end of the bridge, we turned off the highway onto a smaller road which had a “Te Araroa Trail Users” sign. We wondered where that sign had been all of yesterday. A sculpture of a bull stood on a hill, welcoming vehicles to Bulls.

Bull Sculpture Outside of Bulls
Bull Sculpture Outside of Bulls

We followed mostly quiet backroads between cattle ranches for the next hour and a half. A farmer on an ATV drove up to us, and asked if we’d seen two cows. We hadn’t. (We wondered how he knew that exactly two cows from his herd were missing.)

It was overcast this morning with a light breeze, both of which helped keep the road walk more bearable. It was still very humid, though, so when we stopped for a break at the Mt. Lees Reserve, my shirt was already drenched with sweat. About 8.5 km from Bulls, this was our stretch goal for yesterday. We were glad we stopped in Bulls, but had we made it to the Reserve yesterday, we’d have gone into Palmerston North today.

We briefly mused on whether the TA would be a worthy peer to the Triple Crown of Hiking (the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails in the US), and came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t. The Triple Crown trails, while very different from each other, are still broadly comparable, and are (mostly) fully-realized independent trails. Te Araroa doesn’t yet meet that criteria; too much of the North Island is road walk, the trail isn’t maintained to a sufficiently high standard, and the inclusion of some parts of the trail as officially being on the water make the TA too different (or alternatively: too incomplete) to be considered a proper peer. But the TA is a young trail; give it another ten or twenty (or fifty) years, and maybe it’ll live up to its ideal.

It took us another two and a half hours to walk the rest of the way to Feilding, with a 15 minute break in to break up the monotony of the road walk. The latter portion of the day had more rolling hills and more cow pastures, but it was still rural country. Near Feilding, we passed a sculpture of three cows, made out of recycled corrugated iron from roofs. (A little surprising to find it there, rather than near Bulls.)

Rolling Hills on the Way to Fielding
Rolling Hills on the Way to Fielding

As we arrived in Feilding, greeted by a sign (partially covered with graffiti) proclaiming it to be New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Town. We were puzzled at how it got that distinction, especially after passing by a number of houses outside of the town proper that had really large, ugly privacy fences that nearly completely blocked the view from their first-floor windows.

We stayed at the Feilding Hotel, roughly located in the center of town. It’s an old building with what appears to be a fairly lively bar and sports betting area.

After relaxing from the heat and getting showers, we went out for lunch at a Thai restaurant just around the corner, got ice cream at the rather delightfully named “I Scream For Ice Cream” parlor, and got some snacks at the Countdown.

CareFree’s feet continued to develop blisters throughout the day, and she decided to remove all of the duct tape from her shoes that was holding them together from the inside. We think this will help, and since we expect her to get new shoes tomorrow in Palmerston North, and it’s just a road walk there, it doesn’t much matter if there are holes if the shoe stays together.

The rest of the day was just relaxing. The upcoming weather forecast is less so. The five-day nice weather window has turned into a bunch of rain most days next week, so it seems like we’re going to get wet in the Tararua Range no matter what.