The Hillary Trail – Week 6: Achievement Unlocked: Camping

Friday Night

I think I packed and repacked 3 times over the night. I was excited, but I was nervous. I decided to have pizza and sort of carb-load. This turned out to not work out as much as I had hoped because I didn’t eat enough pizza. I still had some chicken sushi I had yet to eat as well. My pre-eating wasn’t going well.

(note: In Australia and New Zealand, they *also* have Chicken and Beef sushi. No, the meat is not raw, but cooked. Generally, you can get Chicken.Beef Teriyaki or Crispy Chicken, its strange to me as I had never heard of non-seafood sushi before moving here, but I dislike seafood, so it is the only sushi I eat.)

I ended up going to bed at 11pm, a little later than I typically do for a walk.


Starting off

Starting in the Garage. Gotta start somewhere. 

I woke up excited and nervous around 5:30. From there, I waited until 7:30 to leave home. From there, I headed to Huia. The ride was pretty nice, and starting right off by the ocean, I knew I would off for a big day.


I arrived at the car park at around 8:10 am, and the first thing I noticed was how many people were already there. Generally, when I get to a place, I am the first one here. Not today. I soon realised that a lot of people had the same idea as I had, and wanted to spend Labour Day weekend tramping.

I am actually excited to see people on the trail.

Fletcher Track  – So starting off on the Karamatura Loop walk. I see a sign for the Fletcher Track. And it is going pretty much going up. I take a look, and start off. Of course, the Track walk is well maintained. The Fletcher track. is. not. I head up the trail, and it is definitely a challenge. I am taking to it pretty voraciously, right up to where I needed to climb about 3-4 meters to continue.

I utter a phrase that I found myself saying often over the course of the next two days.


I look at it for a few moments and decide to give it a go. A few minutes, and some crafty sidestepping later, I was at the top. This is officially tramping, I feel super excited and if anything, I did some fucking climbing.

So, I immediately turn the wrong way.

The good thing was that it wasn’t the “wrong way” it just led to a lookout.

Fletcher Lookout

Lookout from Fletcher Trail

From there, I turned around and made my way to the next track.

Donald McClean track – Officially apart of the Hillary Trail, this was like night and day with the Fletcher. it was well drained, wide, and it was a nice walk. I got to point where I could climb Mt. Donald McClean Walk to the top, but in looking at my time, I figured I could save it for a future Saturday walk. I am very glad I made that decision.

Puriri Ridge Track – From Donald McClean, I took the Puriri Ridge Track. This was my first encounter with mud. Up to this point, there is a no rain, but a little wind. Having rained earlier in the week. I expected mud. But up to this point, the trail had been pretty good, or at worst, easily avoidable mud.

Also, I have decided that after this tramp, there need to be more words for “mud.” Like “snow for the Inuit, I feel that New Zealand need to have 5, 6, 45 words for mud. More on that later.

Puriri Ridge seeing the Omanawunui Track

On the Puriri Ridge Track, behind me, the next challenge. 

Anyhow, the Puriri had some majestic views, it was a good decent through the bush. It didn’t realise it until after I got home and looked at my elevation changes how much I initially climbed. I hit an open patch and I was able to see the Tasman Sea and the opening of Manakau Habour. Of course, I knew I was going to walk that ridge, hens the face.


Anyhow, this was a good walk, and it led back to the road a few kms. Now… I was ready for the big walk of the day.

Omanawanui Track – This is one of those tracks that people talk about on the tramping sites. It starts along the road (at least for the Hillary) and you start heading up the ridge. There are two big peaks in this walk, and they can be pretty daunting. By this point, I met another tramper, Emma. She was doing the Hillary so we were going to end up at the same campground. It was cool to know someone on the trail, but also know to look for them at the end. It was actually a bit of comfort.

The ascent was significant, but every time I stopped, I saw awesome-ness… Seriously.

Omamawanui Trail 1

Omanawanui Track – Before the First Peak

I made it to the first peak, and it was stunning to see. The only downside was that there was a large group of trampers who had stopped for lunch. And while I did not begrudge them (it was a fantastic spot), I moved on quickly. That, and the wind was picking up, so I moved on. There was a second peak a bit further on, so I decided to try and snap a pic there.

The descent from the first peak to the second peak was surprisingly hard. At one point, there was a chain bolted to the rock, and you had to use that to lift/lower yourself to the next level. When I saw that, I did my now trademark, “Seriously…”

Finally, the second peak was mine. I sat down at the seat at the top, drank some water, and took an amazing pic.

Omamawanui Trail 2

Omanawanui Trail – Second Peak

From the second peak, I descended quickly to the Whatipu car park area. That was when I encountered my first Black Sand in a while. While I only had sand on a tiny part this time, I have to remind myself that future sections of the Hillary will have more sand.

After taking a brief break, I then headed off towards my campsite.


Gibbons Track – The Gibbons track is one of those tracks that are amazing after the first third. The ascent was pretty challenging, but it was dry. I did a steady climb, but I started to notice my right knee was starting to give me trouble. With a tinge here and there as I was climbing, I wasn’t sure what was going on. The trail was steep, and surprising a lot of people were on it. I had to stop several times to let people pass. I actually enjoyed it. I wished everyone well, and it was great to see so many people and so many types of people enjoying rural New Zealand. Throughout this experience, I have mostly been a solo hiker, but today, I got to meet a lot of people and it was really nice to see. I also found Emma a time or two as we were travelling. I was really excited because she was an experienced tramper, and I am such a noob, so I felt that I could be in the ballpark of decent tramping speed.


When I got up to the top of the Gibbons trail, I was treated to a spectacular view.

Gibbons Track 2

The trail then evened out and walking was good. Finally, I hit the last track of the day.

Muir Track – At this point, I was almost to the campground. I am feeling my right knee, and it is not doing the best. I have never hurt my knee before, but generally, I know that things are not going perfectly. While I was walking on a level surface, or ascending, I was fine. It was Descending that was the issue. And my campground, Pararaha Valley campground was definitely down.

So, I descended.

Muir Track

Muir Track Descent

The good thing about the Muir Trail is that there are a lot of steps. Normally, I hate steps but today, they were the perfect thing. I could put weight on my leg, it would just hurt if I put weight as I was stepping down with my other leg. Steps made this process easier.


The downside of the Muir track is that it is steep, and the step down was a bit rough. At one point another Chain bolted tot he rock appeared, and I had a little harder time traversing it. But I managed. In the back of my mind, I am worried about tomorrow morning, as I am walking up this very same trail. but that is for tomorrow.

With my final steps, I make it to the campground. Emma was there, smiling, and welcomed me. She was very positive the entire trip, and I was really happy to see her.

Pararaha Campground


My tent! I put it up myself!

The campground was pretty amazing. Nestled in the valley next to a stream, it was pretty epic. I set up camp and my tent, and I felt that I was very successful. Next, after setting set up. I made dinner in a small shelter (at 5pm, but I don’t care), and met the other people coming in. It was kinda crazy how many people showed up. The campsite can hold 40, and there were like 25 people there easily. I saw a family with two kids there, they were like 8-10 years old. There were duos and trios and singles as well. It was a nice group of people and talking about my

Aaron dinner.jpg

Making Dinner

training, and their experiences… it was an amazing time to get to know them. I was worried about the social aspect of camping, especially because I figured I would be kinda introverted. But it was a positive experience… and I also crashed early so there was that.


Now, onto the stats of the day.

Overall, I walked 18.91 Kilometers on the trail. I did the walk in 7:27:22 which means I did an average of 2.5km per hour for the day. I did four peaks during the day, though my first one was the biggest by far. I actually thought that the ridge peaks were taller, but I was surprisingly wrong. I did get down to just around sea level at Whatipu, which was expected, but the second ascent from the Gibbons Track was surprising for me.

Day 1 Map

My Day 1 Hike on the Map


Day 1 Walk

Day 1 Elevation Map




Pararaha Campground – Waking up at 5:30, I felt good. The place I put the tent was really good… with the exception of it being on a slight angle, so I moved around a bit during the night. Otherwise, the wind stayed down and I got a good nights rest. Also, Emma gave me some nurophen (aka Tylenol) and some tape for my leg. Also, my leg felt almost perfect! I got changed, ate, and packed my stuff, and I was off by 7:15. This was a good move on my part because the weather began to set it. While I was packing, the rain started, so I was lucky that I was able to pack up before the rain set in. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t try my knee in wet weather.

Muir Track – Going up was much better than going down. The ascent was quick, and my knee was in good spirits. I think it had to do with being kept warm all night in the sleeping bag and not moving it too much. The Chain section was pretty easy on the way up, so I was happy with that. With lots of motivation, I met back where the Gibbons and Muir meet, and then went in the third direction.

Walker Ridge Track – Mud gets a new name on the Walker Ridge Track. While I had

Walker Ridge Track

This was the best of the mud situation on the Walker Ridge Trail

avoided mud for most of this hike, my luck ran out here. Walker Ridge was a mess. Going up, going down. It was slop from top to bottom. And worse, the rain had started coming regularly. While under the bush, the rain wasn’t too bad, it created a mist that hung over the trail. It was some serious Cursed Hallow/Blair Witch/Horror Movie vibes going on. But rather than being scared, it was crazy peaceful. I was chuffed that I did not have a better camera to capture the mist better. Next time… next time.


Anyhow, the ascent was decent, while windy and rainy over the exposed parts. The Descent was tough, my knee was starting to act up, and I knew this would take a while. It was this moment when my husband’s words of “pacing myself” popped into my head. So, I slowed down and took the descent conservatively. This slowed me down a lot, but overall, I think it was the right answer. The rain was making everything wet, from the ground to rocks, and one wrong slip could mean something worse. So, I took my time and came up finally to a big fork in the forest. I am nearing the end.

Karamatura Track – I thought Walker was a challenge. No. Karamatura is a bigger challenge. It was pretty much a pure descent off the mountain. That big mountain I walked yesterday? Yeah… that was the one I was now walking down from. Of course, I didn’t realise this until afterwards, so this descent just kept going… and going… and going. The mud was insane, and the decent so steep I slowed down to below 2kph. Again, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fuck anything up for the future, so I was ok with that. Slow and steady wins the race.

I didn’t get my phone out because I wanted to focus on the decent, but even in my state, I absolutely loved what was around me. The trees, the rain creating a mood (which was mostly good), and I could hear the stream getting closer and closer. Finally, I crossed the stream, and I knew I was nearing the end.

Karamatura Loop walk – This is the final leg. I only had to do half of the walk, since it is a loop, but since the ground was fairly even, I made excellent time. My knee was sore, but not hitting me with pain. I quickly made way back, and finally, with a steady rain on me… I made it back to my car.

Huia Lodge Car Park –

Overall, my second day was shorter than my first day. I basically took a more direct route from the campground to my car. Today, I did 9.84km in 4:37:10 which equates to 2.13kph, which while slower than yesterday, is considered good given my knee, the sharp descent throughout the day, and the less than great weather. Let’s look at the maps/stats:


Day 2 Map

Day 2 Map




Day 2 Walk

Day Two Elevation Map



Closing thoughts

Overall, I did 28.75km over 12:02:32. That is an average of 2.31kph, or about 1.42 miles an hour. When saying it in miles doesn’t sound so impressive though, but in saying that, the trampers I met over the two days all said I was doing really great, and gave me a lot of confidence. I think I did well, and I think if my knee didn’t act up, I would be at a solid 2.5kph, and I will be happy with that overall.

I liked this weekend. Knee and weather on the second day aside, I had a fantastic time. The people I met on the trail and campground were really awesome and so nice. At the campground, I met people tramping from all over the world, and to see so many people just enjoy the scenery was awesome. Throughout the trail, I saw Kiwis (the people) and tourist seeing the area, and again, it made my heart sing. New Zealand is an amazing place, and I am so lucky to get see it.

I consider this an achievement unlocked. I am going to take a few days to rest my knee and reassess on what I want, and then… make the final decision on the Hillary and planning the nights out. I may take next weekend off, but I am considering some other tramps in the Waitakeres, as well as the Hunua Ranges as Spring (hopefully), dries out.

I feel like I met the challenge, and I am looking forward to the next time I head out.


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