Day 66: Feilding to Palmerston North
Sunday, January 14, 2024 8:49 pm
Location: Palmerston North / Palmerston North Motel (1515.9 km)

A day of roadwalk, unexpected trail, and bike paths brought us to Palmerston North.

We left our hotel later than expected, but with only 23 km planned for the day, we’d have plenty of time to get to our hotel and do chores. (And with bad weather forecast for tomorrow, we’re likely staying in town tomorrow anyway.)

We left Feilding’s center, walking along sidewalks until we reached a cycle path that (sandwiched between a frontage road, a railroad track, and a main road), took us in a nearly straight line to the next town over, Bunnythorpe. On the way, a few cyclists passed us in both directions. A short freight train passed; it honked back at us when we waved at it. We also passed a calf rearing business that seemed to only have sheep in their pen.

Campbell Road Cycleway
Campbell Road Cycleway

It was mostly overcast, with a light breeze blowing that made the otherwise exposed road walk more bearable. We’re really ready to be done with roads; except for the Whanganui River and the beaches a few days ago, the trail has been road walk since we left National Park.

Near Bunnythorpe, the cycle track ended and we followed a dead-end side road to a stile, which we crossed. We followed a rough trail briefly into a forest and across a small creek, using the broken remains of a concrete bridge as stepping stones. Once the trail emerged from the forest, we crossed the street and followed a sidewalk to the Bunnythorpe Mini Mart, where we got ice cream and soda for a snack.

We sat down on the front steps of the bakery next door, and chatted with an elderly section hiker who lives in Whanganui. She’s currently doing a section up to the start of the Tararua Range, which she’ll come back and complete with a hiking group next month.

Leaving Bunnythorpe, we started by following a sidewalk. Immediately after I said that it’d be nice if the TA followed a sidewalk the rest of the way to Palmerston North, the trail climbed over a stile and followed a rough dirt path to shortcut some road walk and follow a property line parallel to the railroad track.

We climbed over a few more stiles crossing a sheep farm, before we had enough and joined a road one intersection early. (CareFree’s blisters were making it hard enough to walk on the pavement; a rough trail was even harder.) A brief walk on a sidewalk brought us to another cycle path, and we followed that past the Palmerston North Airport and into the city proper.

Walking towards Bunnythorpe, and especially towards Palmerston North, we could see in the distance (and coming closer) the Ruahine Range, northeast of Palmerston North, and the foothills between that range and the Tararuas. The foothills even had wind turbines on them, something we haven’t seen much of in New Zealand.

Foothills of the Ruahine Range
Foothills of the Ruahine Range

The trail unexpectedly took us through a cemetery, along some more sidewalks, to the Manawatu River Walkway, a cycle path along the eastern and southern sides of the city along the Manawatu River.

The path took us through a park between the city and the river. A few cyclists and a couple of joggers passed us in the park as well, but for a Sunday afternoon, I’d have thought more people would have been out.

A display in the park described the nearby finding of fossilized footprints of a moa in 1912. The moa was a large flightless bird, up to 3.5 meters tall, that was hunted to extinction within 100 years of the Māori’s arrival in New Zealand. (Moas were preyed on by the Haast’s eagle, the largest known eagle. It also became extinct, due to the loss of its primary prey.)

We followed the cycle path for an hour. The wind picked up a fair bit from earlier today. It was fairly refreshing, but didn’t do much to dry out my sweat-soaked shirt.

Manawatu River
Manawatu RiverView of the river and the Manawatu River Walkway towards the south of Palmerston North.

Turning off the cycle path (and the TA), we walked another 20 minutes northwest into town to reach the Palmerston North Motel, where we’re staying tonight.

CareFree got a shower first, then went off in search of a shoe store to replace her very worn out shoes. I got my shower, then did an inventory of my food for when we do our resupply.

After she got back (with new shoes), we had a brief discussion, and decided to zero tomorrow. It’s been two weeks since our last break, and even though the last couple of days have been short, they haven’t been easy on the feet, and we’re due a break. (Plus, the weather forecast is still calling for lots of rain tomorrow morning.)

We got dinner at a burger joint, Burgerfuel, and stopped by the Pak ‘n Save to get breakfast for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we’ll actually do our resupply for the next stretch to and through the Tararua Range. After that, we’ll almost be to Wellington: with only 233 km left, we’re almost done the North Island.