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  • Writer's pictureDermot O'Brien

Day 44. Dec 18. Piropiro Flats to Ōngarue. 45km (bike).

It was a slow start to the morning, grey skies and still raining. I cooked in my tent. Porridge, baby food fruit purée and coffee. We packed up soaking wet tents and made our way to Epic Camp to collect our bikes. A salty group we were this morning, thinking that Epic Camp wasn’t actually full, that they were keeping space for premium paying glamping groups, with us being denied the most basics of hot shower and shelter. In truth, in was probably just the emotional strain of doing a lot of kms over the past week, mostly in the rain (120km in the 4 days prior, another 45km today). We set off and the saltiness lifted. Soon we were having a blast again hurtling down the narrow trail without regard to the danger of it all. Feeling so alive. At around 6km from the end, a slow puncture turned into a full flat tire. I nursed it by pumping it up for a bit until I caught up with the others. We had a go at fixing it but it looked like it was a tubeless tire. The others went on to the trail end. The idea was that they would get someone from the bike hire to come back to pick me up while I walked my bike along the gravel road. But I figured out that the tire was not tubeless after all and changed the tube, so was able to finish the trail section. Started pouring rain again after being mostly clear for the afternoon. The guy at the bicycle hire offered us a lift to Taumaranui. The others accepted gladly but I decided to camp at Ōngarue and walk to Taumarunui tomorrow as planned. I’ve realised that “walking every inch possible” is my TA. It’s the personal challenge, both physically and mentally, that I enjoy. Nice scenery or non-road walking is a bonus but not the main purpose for me. There was a nice shelter at the tiny campsite at the end of the Timber Trail. A Japanese TA walker turned up as well as two cyclists from the US. Had a nice chat with them as they smoked their weed. One of them had a ukulele and played some sweet tunes. I slept in the shelter, snug and out of the rain.

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