We spent a couple nights in Havelock, stuffing ourselves with luxury food items at the pub. It was a little complicated splitting a bill 2/3 (me+B) and 1/3 (Oscar). Bethie and I got a burger and fries each and a pizza to split three ways. Then Oscar went to order his burger with fries and the pitcher of beer. 'You know your friends already ordered two burgers and a pizza?' inquired the bartender. 'Yes, I know. We're backpackers.' was his simple reply.
As we headed out of town, we ran into yet another Te Araroa hiker named Spencer, a self-proclaimed tramping 'expert' from North Carolina. His looks belied his age, though, and he was not the 16 year old we thought he was. And I was very grateful for his advice to hang our food in the huts because of mice.
Or rather, it turns out, because of rats. Oscar saw it first and, when he moved the box it was hiding behind to show it to me, it ran strait towards Bethany's bunk where she was reading, unawares. My shout of 'It's by your head!' shook her out of her reverie and half out of the bunk. The rat then proceeded to climb over all the bunks, up into a loft, and out a hole to freedom while we chased after with whoops and hollers armed with a frying pan, a hammer, and a hand broom.
We placed a pair of rainboots someone had left behind across the hole in a vain attempt to shut it out. A foolish hope. The first loud crash of that rat scurrying across our dishes woke us all up. Oscar was up in a flash, armed with a flashlight, trying to catch the culprit without success. After the second crash, he jumped up a little less quickly, and by the third one, he had given up altogether. There followed a night of scurrying noises and Bethany's light intermittently turning on to make sure it wasn't chewing a hole through her backpack (the only one that still had food not hanging up). It definitely climbed across my bunk at one point, parallel to my tightly zipped sleeping bag. In the morning, we took stock of the holey rubbish bag, the chewed soap and dish scrubber, my missing toothbrush (it was under the bed), and, horror of horrors, my destroyed water bottle! We boiled all our dishes before breakfast, then set off after making a nice pile of the plastic scraps in a box. Hopefully, it will be pleased with it's nest and not feel the need to attack other backpackers.
The track itself was beautiful. Getting from Havelock to the trailhead was a bit tiresome, 30 km through cow fields (and electric fences, which did zap me when I wasn't careful enought). Once we got into the mountains though, it was lovely. It's truly amazing how different the different parts of New Zealand are. It can change in a flash. At one point, there was a pine forest on one side of the track and a fern forest on the other. I particularly liked hiking along the tops of ridges, knowing that I had done the uphill bit and could enjoy the view as I rambled along with forests sloping away on either side of me.