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Running Mt Karioi

I laced up my trail runners, shrugged my pack on my back making sure it was fitting snug and grabbed my iPod untangling my earphones as I walked out of the wooden bungalow studio and down the gravel track to the road that would eventually take me to the Karioi Track turn off. My plan that morning was to run from Whale Bay, Raglan to the summit of Mt Karioi and return in time to catch some waves; a mere 13km uphill run that was easy on the eye in terms of scenery and a nice challenging lung buster and thigh burner in terms of everything else but she had been beckoning me the whole summer I had been in Raglan so today was the day. I was thankful for the cloud cover – it was high enough not to block the views but thick enough to protect me from the intense attention that the sun offered you in these parts of the world. As I hit the pavement and started the immediate climb towards the single track, I enjoyed a quick glimpse of the swell lines breaking at Whale Bay, hoping I would be back in time to catch some surf action; noting that the car park was nearly full also meant the surf was clearly on that day. After about 500m, the pavement finished and I enjoyed the sweet sound of gravel crunching under my shoes. Houses were soon replaced by paddocks, livestock and gurgling streams and the smell of the pine trees mingled with the smoky smell of wood fires. The gravel road meandered along the side of the ridge, climbing steadily higher, giving me more increasing views of the ocean below and to the north. I had settled into a nice rhythm of pacing and breathing, when I passed a heavily but brightly painted van with a group of about half a dozen folks hanging out the front, listening to Dave Matthews Band, drying out mattresses and clothes and the smell of sausages cooking meant also enjoying a bbq. With a wave, I ran onwards and upwards through the yellow gate that signified I was in the national park and close to Te Toto Gorge. Watching the swell lines of the ocean below brought me easily up to the stile and I took a minute to have a drink and enjoy the solitude at the lookout. From the stile, it was all uphill, the iPod was turned on and the run became all business. The track at this point became a mixture of kanaka forest, crossing small streams, running up through open grassy slopes, over rocky outcrops, up ladders, navigating step ups with the help of chains while the scenery grew wider and wider with spectacular views of Raglan town, Raglan harbour and an ever-expanding coastline. The wind was starting to increase when I hit the summit but the beauty, the achievement and fatigue held me there for more than a few minutes and then it was time to start the trip back down towards the Te Toto gorge car park. Then the wind really roared, the clouds descended in to shroud the view and the rain started to fall – easily and first and then in a torrent of water causing the trail to become a small stream. Refreshing could be one word to describe it all as the Hill Top Hoods banged out ‘I love it’ through my headphones while I munched my way through a Carmen’s muesli bar. The stile finally appeared and it was over quickly and onwards down the gravel roads, ducking away from the wind, and pulling my running cap down low over my face to protect it from the splattering of rain drops. The travelling van had vanished taking dry clothes and sleeping bags with them and the sun was long gone replaced by some very dark and stormy black clouds. As I crunched down along the gravel track, listening to my near drowning iPod, the studio, warmth and a hot shower couldn’t come soon enough.


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When not working on international adventure trips as a guide and medic, Rachel spends her time surfing, trail running, learning spanish, indulging in her passions for photography and writing and planning her next expeditions. Life is all about every beautiful sunrise and sunset!

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