AES’EA – This Route Contains Unkept Roads

After some rethinking last night, we decided on a closer but more strenuous hike for today. We had some trouble with getting directions to our destination because the final leg of the route isn’t really a road; when we finally got our GPS to navigate to where we wanted to go, it asked us to confirm twice that we knew that some roads may be unkempt. Undeterred, we left our super posh hotel at around 10 and made our way to Ruahina Forest Park. After driving about forty minutes we turned off onto a fully gravel road and drove another ten upwards towards the park. We crossed through an unlocked fence designed to keep cows from migrating too far, parked our car in a small “parking lot” AKA flat square of grass and started up the trail.

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One or two turned to look as we pulled up but on the whole they couldn’t care less about us

This trail, the No. 1 Line, was marked advanced. After a few minutes on the trail we figured out why. Essentially the whole thing was at about a 45 degree incline, sometimes steeper. Additionally, recent rain made it all muddy and quite slippery. I think it takes the cake as my most strenuous hike to date. Both halfway up and at the top, though, we were rewarded with some pretty spectacular views.

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And to think, on a truly clear day you could see all the way to the ocean
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Everything is so green, even in the winter. Truly an amazing place

Lunch was once again a thick stack of peanut butter and apple slices between two (this time toasted) pieces of bread, devoured at the top of the hike. The way down was less strenuous but much more technically challenging; all three of us fell and slipped multiple times and covered our shoes and pants in mud.

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It’s hard to tell, but I was looking almost down at my feet when taking this picture

We finally reached the car, all quite happy just to have an excuse to sit down for an extended period of time. After dealing with the cow gate again on our way out (made more difficult by the fact that Ethan and I had both taken our disgusting shoes off), we drove back to our hotel, content to have the rest of the day be relatively relaxed.

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The view from the car on our way back. I think the crazy thing is how little forest (and how much grassland) there is. It all seems like a giant green blanket covering the land.

We tried the hotel pool but all found it a bit too cold to really enjoy. After showering, I watched a bit of New Zealand TV while Ethan napped and Aaron played video games. I got to see a bit of a strange quiz show called “Tipping Point” where the reward for answering questions correctly is getting to put coins in a casino-style coin pusher machine. You only win a prize if the machine pushes coins to the bottom. I think they’re on to something, because I was way more invested in the coin part than the question part of the game. There were also some reruns of really old nick cartoons playing on the kids channel like Danny Phantom and Drake & Josh, which was really nice and nostalgic.

Relatively recharged, we walked towards the center of Palmerston North to find dinner. Once we approached the city square things suddenly got nicer, and we walked across an interesting Cambodian restaurant that we decided to patronize.

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Ethan and I split their appetizer platter for 3, and it was just the right amount of food. Four of five dishes were (lightly) fried, but it was all delicious. The sauce in the back right in particular was wonderfully spicy and tangy.

From there we walked around the city center a bit, looking mainly for a bar. We went geocaching for a bit but I called it off after around ten minutes, mainly because I had to go to the bathroom. We eventually found a small bar/restaurant that looked both within our price range and decently nice and went in. Inside, we found the bar to be Texas-themed, with cowboy and animal bone decorations on the walls and old-timey rock on the radio. You never can truly get away from home, can you? I ordered an absolutely delicious chocolate based drink, and drank through it way too quickly.

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I have to wonder what the Kiwi was doing in this drink. It was all delicious though!

We all went home afterwards and reached our door, only to find that we couldn’t find our door key. We quickly hopped in the car and drove back to the restaurant we ate at. As soon as I walked in our waiter made eye contact with me and said “your key.” Relieved, we returned home, now able to access our lovely beds.

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