Day 35 – Orewa to Mount Eden

Date: 30 October
Distance walked: 49.6km
Trail covered: kms 534.7 to 584.7
Weather: jacket goes on, jacket goes off, jacket goes on, jacket goes off, jacket goes on, jacket goes off, jacket goes on, jacket goes off
Number of records broken today: 5

Wow! I’m finally home!

Back when I wrote this post, I said that my first goal was to make it from Cape Reinga back to my place in Auckland. I’ve managed it! There were two times that I thought I might not make it – namely both times I had to take rest days due to injuries. But here I am.

I’m going to keep walking. I want to make it to Wellington. Hopefully by Christmas, which seems possible but a bit of a challenge – it’s about 1000km away and I have about 50 days to do it. That’s an average of 20km per day which is certainly achievable, and if there are no injuries or holdups at all then I’ll do it.

Today Guthook said that the distance I had to complete was precisely 50 kilometers. It’s a shame that ultimately my GPS watch said 49.6km even though I ended up doing the river crossing three times and detoured twice off the trail to get food. The GPS watch always under-reads though. You can see on the map how it cuts across corners which explains why it always reads under.  So I know that I managed to do a 50km day today – so that’s a record for the number of kilometers done in one day.

Some other records I managed to break today are: first time walking at night, first time walking past midnight, and the largest number of steps done in one day (again) – 72,635 steps!

The day started off with my sister dropping me back at the south end of Orewa Beach, precisely the same spot where she picked me up from yesterday. I still had no pack, my Mum took it off me yesterday so I was only walking with a phone charging cable, my rain jacket, my crocs and a couple of other small things. I was dropped off at 9:30am, and it was 18km to the low tide crossing at the Okura River. I needed to be there at 2:30pm for that even though low tide wasn’t until 3:47pm. I had planned to meet Louise, Benjamin and Paulina there so that I didn’t have to do the river crossing alone. This is one of the deeper rivers so I wanted some people there for support. 18km in five hours should be easy since it’s almost entirely road walking and I’m by myself. They talked about potentially crossing an hour before low tide if it was possible so I wanted to get there in plenty of time so they didn’t go without me.

One of the first things I saw today was this cool bird:

African Collared Dove (if you believe Paul V, which I do)

At first I thought it was a pigeon which the nearby school had doused in blue paint as a joke. But as I got closer it appeared to be naturally that colour. I love the colourings on this bird.

I walked along the Orewa Estuary, and after a very short time I reached this point which locals in the area will recognise as the turn-around point for the Millwater Parkrun.

Turnaround point for Millwater Parkrun

The Millwater Parkrun is a 5km run which is free and starts near the Millwater Shops:

Start of the Millwater Parkrun is just down at the right of the picture

It starts every Saturday morning at 8am. If you register at the site above and take a barcode, they will record your time. I used to do the five different parkruns around Auckland quite a lot before I hurt my hamstring two years ago and mostly stopped running.

Next step is through Silverdale where there is a decent sized mall, containing a large Countdown and a Kathmandu store. There were heaps of other shops too, including four different bakeries. I bought this thing called a “lolly cake”. You can find this in pretty much every single bakery in New Zealand and it’s worth trying. Although this one from Wild Grain Bakery on Silverdale Street was sadly not very good. It was just too buttery.

Lolly Cake

Then, you have to cross the busy road known as Hibiscus Coast Highway. Good luck with that. At least there’s a refuge in the middle of the road.

EDIT: apparently there is an underpass under this road! Look out for that instead!!!!!

Make sure your timing is right…

The road walking from here was not great. You turn into East Coast Road which, while busy, largely has a bit of a shoulder to walk on. You then turn into Spur Road, which has less of a shoulder. You’ll soon come across this sign:

Welcome to Stillwater

I get confused. Having Stillwater so close to Millwater confuses me. I am easily confused though. At this point I wondered if there would be any chalk around, but I figured there wouldn’t be any or else everybody would be writing their silly little messages on the board (I know what TA hikers are like!). Then, I saw the other side.

Who doesn’t love Simone?

Now I’m not a fan of “trial by social media”, but, Jaguar Driver FAN301, if what’s written here is true, then shame on you.

I came across this too. I’d seen this many times on Instagram, but before now, didn’t know where it was.

Interesting sculpture on Spur Rd

The lady who owned the house was there and seemed intrigued that it was being photographed so many times by people.

At 11am, I was at this intersection:

11am picture – where Spur Rd becomes Duck Creek Rd

From here, the road walk is really bad – one of the worst. There’s no shoulder at all for a lot of the time, and the cars go quite fast. I really would not recommend walking this road in the rush hours, especially not at the morning rush hour. At least at 11am it was doable.  This is the kind of road you will be walking down most of the time – windy and with no shoulder at all.

Duck Creek road walk

Another “record” broken today on this road… the first time I had seen deer.

Stillwater deer

Found a geocache which was at a random intersection. While I was signing it, there was a lot of barking. Either there was a dog boarding house across the road, or the woman that lives here just loves dogs.

That’s a lot of dogs!

Finally, once you arrive into Stillwater and the speed limit drops to 50km/h, there’s a footpath. And also this:

Stillwater Community Pantry

It says: “Community Fruit and Veg Stand. Free produce provided by our local community. Feel free to take what you like and drop off anything you have spare”. I opened it and there was a fair bit of canned goods in there but also five apples. I took one of the apples, which tasted really good (as fresh fruit always does). Thank you, Stillwater community, if I’m ever in the area again, I’ll be sure to put something in there to replace the apple.

I really needed the toilet by now though, which doesn’t usually happen in the middle of the day. As luck would have it, there’s a toilet block just as you come into the town.

Stillwater public toilets

Without going into too much detail, my body seems to have got into the routine of needing to go number two once in the morning when I wake up, and then I don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the day. Today was different for some reason – not sure why.

Here is the Stillwater Holiday Park:

Stillwater Holiday Park

Apparently almost all TA hikers stay here – and apparently hikers get to stay for free. In fact, the owners even let you sleep inside if they have a spare mattress, still for free. This was confirmed by the three others who I met up with at midday.

Good timing!

The entrance to the camp has a big gate so it was very good timing that I turned up at midday to see the others walking towards me.

Next was a walk through the Okura Bush had some nice views of the area.

View from Okura Bush walkway

And not long before we arrived at the Okura River crossing. We had arrived at 1pm, and low tide was 3:47pm – nearly three hours early. We could see that we definitely would not be crossing any time soon.

Okura River mid-tide

It was a good chance to just sit and chill out for a while. The rain came and went while we were here, but the wind was ice cold at all times. I made a joke earlier that I hoped the water would be warm. We laughed, but it turned out to be actually true. It was nice walking in the water, but the wind sent a chill through my spine.

One thing I learned during these few hours resting was that the All Blacks were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by England a few days back. I hadn’t heard this piece of information until now. Another thing I learned was that the other three had all missed the bright blue Community Pantry fridge on the way into Stillwater. None of them had noticed it.

At about 2:30ish, Ben went out to test the waters.

Ben being a guinea pig

He got most of the way out to the other side, but it got deep at the other end, and also started to rain again. He returned and said that it wasn’t time to cross yet. So we just hung around a bit more.

At 3pm, the sun was out, so I went out to try the water, leaving my pack and everything else with the group. There are big white markers on poles along the river, and I went to the fourth one which is where the trail notes suggest to cross. It seemed okay, but you couldn’t see the bottom, and the water was moving relatively fast. I walked out into the water, and before I realised it I was on the other side, and the water had only reached the top of my thighs.  Excellent!  I’d just made it across the Okura River… however now I had to go back again and get my stuff and the rest of the group.

So I did the crossing a second time, went and got the group, and we all walked across the river together. Everybody managed to keep their stuff dry, which I think everyone was happy about. Others changed into a different pair of shorts, which I didn’t do – so they had become very wet. However with the wind still howling, they dried out in no time.

A look back at where we had just crossed

Walking through Long Bay regional park, the weather cleared and the water looked a lot bluer.

Long Bay Regional Park

And I got to see Rangitoto Island for the first time since I started the trail. This volcano is an iconic Auckland Landmark and it can be seen from all over the city. Many Aucklanders see it on a daily basis.

Rangitoto Island

Once you reach the south end of Long Bay beach, you’re into the North Shore of Auckland, which is just walking through beachside suburb after beachside suburb. Often along the beach, but sometimes up into the suburbs around cliffs.

I met my Mum again at Murrays Bay, and she walked with me 1km to Mairangi Bay where we had dinner. I also got my pack back off her. It was nice walking without a pack up until this point, but at least now that I have it back I’m refreshed and it wasn’t too heavy to carry. It helped that it had no food or water in it.

Halloween is tomorrow. There were a couple of houses which had halloween decorations up, like this one.

Halloween decorations… either that or nobody has entered this house for a long time

I also saw these two tuis hanging out in a tree, having a beautiful conversation.

Two tuis

It was starting to get dark by this point. This was the last photo I took before the sun went down.

Rangitoto Island as seen from Milford Beach

Once it got dark, the walk along the beach became interesting. There is one section after Milford Beach where you have to clamber around rocks, and in the dark at high tide it seemed a bit dangerous. There was one small section that I didn’t attempt and went around the road as it just seemed too dangerous.

Once that was over though, there’s Takapuna Beach which is an easy beach to walk down. At Takapuna Beach, despite there being no light, there were lots of young couples walking down the beach. I wonder if I cramped their style walking along the beach with the light on my phone shining brightly.

I was starting to get hungry now though – the dinner that I had with Mum in Mairangi Bay was nice but not big enough… and I knew that there was no more food between here and Devonport. The last ferry from Devonport on a Wednesday was 11:45pm and I didn’t want to miss it, so I didn’t divert into Takapuna to get food.

There were the typical footpaths that didn’t go anywhere.

I guess this is the end of my Te Araroa journey. There is no way to get around this thing in the middle of the footpath.

The last beach was Cheltenham Beach. My understanding is that this is the last beach you walk down on the trail until you get to Whanganui in a month or two’s time. It was nice and quiet and there was nobody around. From here it was up into North Head. It was nice walking around North Head at night. I couldn’t see any Te Araroa signs though, so I had to follow Guthook closely. There was one point where there was a fork in the path, where the left path went steeply down some stairs and the right path went up some stairs. I walked down the stairs before realising this was the wrong way. Hint – take the right fork and go up the stairs.

View of Auckland City from North Head

I arrived at Devonport ferry terminal at 10:33pm – more than an hour to spare before the last ferry. The Devonport ferry terminal is a confusing place. The signs say to have your ticket ready before you board the ferry, but there is no place to buy a ticket. The announcements say that the ferry will arrive at Pier 1 but yet it arrives at Pier 2. I don’t understand why these things are so hard to get right. I guess you don’t have to be a genius to work at Auckland Transport.

If you don’t have the Auckland Transport “HOP Card” (a prepaid travel card), then you buy your ticket at the Auckland City end once you get off the ferry. It cost me $7.50.

Ferry arriving at Pier 2, not Pier 1 like the announcement said

I took the 10:45pm ferry to Auckland. They sold some food on the ferry, which was fantastic. Although, they’d locked the doors to the upstairs area so I couldn’t get a decent view of the city from the ferry. This was the best that I got.

View of Auckland City from the ferry

I did notice that the Sky Tower was not lit up like it usually is. I wonder why that is? Is it because of energy savings? Because of the fire at the Sky City convention centre last week? Because the All Blacks lost a few days back?

Once in the city it was 11pm. It’s about 5km to my place so I might even manage to get home by midnight. Walking down Customs St I went into a convenience store to get some more food. I was surprised anything was open to be honest. Auckland isn’t known for being a late night party town on a Wednesday night. The guy behind the counter asked what I was doing and when I explained, he wanted to get a picture taken with me and then he offered me a free pie.

I walked through the Auckland Domain. The trail map has people taking a really ridiculous route through the domain, up one of the steepest hills in the domain and then through the middle of the sports field. If it was during the day instead of late at night, the grounds would most likely be full of people playing sport. It was alright tonight though. The only people around were two people sitting on the seats at the grandstand smoking.

Then it was just a short walk down Mountain Road and Clive Road and I was home. I walked in the door at 12:05am. I plonked myself down on the couch and reflected on what had just happened, and watched a bit of TV. I then realised I could hardly move and even could hardly breathe. I think it was because the wind was so cold for half of the walk but I didn’t actually realise until I stopped walking and started to cool down. Luckily a hot shower helped with that. I was in the shower for a long time.

Got into bed finally at 1:30am. What a long day. I’m going to be sore tomorrow no doubt. I’m going to take a few rest days at home to let everything heal a bit and to go and visit my friends. And also contemplate the next goal, walking to Wellington before Christmas.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 34 – Puhoi to Orewa

Date: 29 October
Distance walked: 12.5km and distance kayaked: 7.1km
Trail covered: kms 516.1 to 534.7
Weather: short periods of rain
Number of family members that came to visit me: 2

We only had three beers each yesterday but it must have been a while since I had that much to drink because things were a bit strange this morning.

During the night I had three really unusual dreams. In the first, I found myself in my tent and when I looked to the side there was a huge gaping hole in the side of it. In the second, I was on a plane on the airport taxiway waiting to take off. I was with my friend and my other friend was the cabin crew. But the large plane taking off on the runway in front of us took off and crashed into the ground seconds later in a massive ball of flames. In the third dream, I was in a bar and everybody wanted lemons for their Coronas. I had to fight for the remaining two lemons with Tag from Friends and the office lady with the crazy haircut and dress sense from the movie Liar Liar. The office lady seemed popular in the bar so everyone seemed to be on her side and so I ended up with no lemons.

I don’t normally remember dreams so vividly but last night they were really vivid dreams.

Then once I actually woke up I realised I had left my little bag of toiletries outside, so it got drenched from the overnight rain. All except my toothbrush which I found under my sleeping mat. How it got there I have no idea. I knew I could feel that I was sleeping on something hard during the night but I figured it was just a stick.

Anyway because of all this I woke up at 6am and was packed up by 7am. I went and relaxed outside the Puhoi General Store which had just opened. I got my coffee, just in time it seemed because after the very busy long weekend just gone they only had one litre of milk left. Lucky I got in early, I guess!

The Puhoi General Store is also the pickup point for all the region’s school buses so a lot of schoolkids started hanging around. One kid in particular, a 12 year old boy named Dylan was very chatty and wanted to sit next to me and tell me all about his experiences hiking the Tongariro Crossing. Then other subjects he wanted to talk to me about included how beneficial the new motorway being built will be for Puhoi, details of the new Waiwera motorway interchange, and which music was currently number one on The Edge radio station. He also said that the schools in the area were several schools in Orewa and Mahurangi College in Warkworth which is where he was going.

The Puhoi River this morning. This is what we were going to be kayaking through today.

Eventually Louise, Benjamin and Paulina came to join me and just before 9am we wandered just down the road to Puhoi Canoe Hire. Despite the fact the town is tiny, we were told that the canoe hire is opposite the church and so it didn’t take long to find.

Opposite the church

There is also a big kayak right above the entrance so you can’t miss that either.

Puhoi Canoe Hire entrance

First we had to do the necessary safety briefing and sign the piece of paper saying that if we get eaten by piranhas then the Canoe Hire company is not responsible. The owner had pre-written Paulina’s name as Paulini so we had a laugh and tried to decide if Paulini sounded more like a type of salami or a type of pizza.

Then we had to pay our money.  The two single kayaks were $55 each and the double kayak was $100. We wondered if the two other canoe hire companies in the area would have been any cheaper.

It started to rain just as the kayaks were being launched. But once we were in the water, the weather gods did their thing again and it didn’t rain for the entire trip.

The technical way of launching the kayaks – just hurl them down the hill

It was very nice being on a kayak. We launched at high tide and so the tide was going out, which made for an easy ride (in fact an outgoing tide is necessary to do the kayak in the first place). In the few days before, people weren’t able to hire kayaks because high tide was too early. I missed the kayak from Paihia a couple of weeks ago so I’m glad I didn’t miss this one too.

Paulini in the kayak

The river started off fairly narrow but it was so calm there was never any point where we felt like we could get into trouble.

The first part went under State Highway 1 and you could see where they were building the new motorway.

Then the trip went along State Highway 1 for quite a while, and you could hear the roar of traffic the whole time, which wasn’t too pleasant.

Another part of the new bridge

We passed some cows, like every other day…

Latest cows

And there was even time for a selfie.

The water wasn’t as green as it looked here.

Anybody that can’t do the kayak has to walk down the side of State Highway 1. That was bearable when it was way up in Northland but I can’t imagine doing it here just before the motorway. Then you have to walk down the road to Waiwera which was the old State Highway 1 and is still the route to Auckland if you don’t want to pay the $2.20 toll for the Johnstone Hill Tunnels. So glad we didn’t have to do that.

The Northern Motorway starts over there

Once we were away from roads the journey was a lot more pleasant. It was very relaxing and a chance just to chill out. The river got a lot wider too so you didn’t have to be so careful about running into anything. We saw this little building, which turned out to contain nothing but gym equipment.

Mystery “middle of nowhere” gym and picnic table

Louise took these next three photos. Thanks Louise!

We were told to look out for a big Norfolk Pine tree. This was where we were to aim for. I thought “how on earth will we be able to find one particular tree” but it was pretty obvious once you saw it.

The Norfolk Pine, our destination

And soon after, there it was.

Boo, the ride is ending. I wish it was longer.

We arrived at Wenderholm Regional Park at 10:30am which meant the ride was only 90 minutes. I was disappointed, I wished it could have been a lot longer. Could I kayak all the way to Auckland?

Wenderholm information

We spent a bit of time getting our stuff together at Wenderholm and just hanging out. Ben left his water bottle on the kayak so he had to wait while they brought it back to him. I even snuck back over to the boat ramp and found a geocache there during this time.

Picnic table by Wenderholm ramp

Just before 11am my Mum turned up like she said she was going to yesterday. It was the first time I’d seen anyone from my “old life” since I saw my friend Nick on Day 19 in Kerikeri. Hi Mum!

11am picture – all of us including Mum at the table except Ben in the background who just got back his water bottle

Next step was over this hill at Wenderholm.

Our only real elevation change today – up and over this hill

The red line of the GPX file showed us just going straight up the side of it, which wasn’t the case – it took us a while to locate the correct path up the hill, even though I had walked this path before.

The four of us just before getting slightly lost

We could see the river we had just kayaked down. I still wished I was still on it!

Puhoi River from Wenderholm

Then it was out of the forest and time to cross the bridge into Waiwera.

Waiwera Bridge

Two exciting things happened at Waiwera. The first is that I managed to offload my pack onto Mum – because she was going to meet me again tomorrow and could bring me my pack back then. That was awesome because it meant that I could walk the next 24 hours or so with only a very small amount of things in a plastic bag. The second thing is that my sister arrived to greet me with her dog Alice.

Me with my sister, and with my new “pack”

Mum said that if I could walk this far with the pack on, she didn’t mind carrying it 100 metres to her car.

Mum is all ready to go walking

After that the next stage was walking around the rocks from Waiwera to Hatfields Beach and Orewa. This can only be done at low-ish tide. It was high tide when we started the kayak but because we messed around a while at the end of the kayak trip, the tide had gone out a fair bit by the time we started this bit.

Off we go

Having a plastic bag was a bit annoying because it was hard to hold my hiking poles and the plastic bag at the same time. Although it was still really great to walk without my pack for a while.

Rocks galore
It felt weird without a pack

The rocks were fairly jagged in places and you did have to watch what you were doing.

Then onto Hatfields Beach, which to be honest didn’t look very beautiful at low tide.

Just before Hatfields Beach

Then a big walk down Orewa Beach. We stopped in for a bit of food at McDonalds. It was just going to be Paulina and I getting McDonalds but of course the whole group decided to get it once we were there. How can you resist?

I had organised to stay with my sister tonight. She was going to pick me up from wherever I was at 4pm and take me back to her place in nearby Whangaparaoa. I hoped I would have made it to Silverdale by then or at least to Millwater but it turned out that I’d only made it to the south end of Orewa Beach by then.  So that was as far as I went today.

Tomorrow I plan to make it all the way to Auckland City and starting from Orewa Beach is going to mean a 50km day. But I’ll be without my pack for the first half and I can start early so I wasn’t daunted. The only two time factors tomorrow are the Okura River crossing which needs to be done at or very near low tide (which was 3:47pm tomorrow) and the last ferry from Devonport to Auckland which was at 11:45pm.  Yep, I decided it was all doable.

Orewa Beach at low tide

My sister drove me out to her place and I got to see my niece. We also saw Mario on the side of the road, and another odd character that I didn’t recognise (clearly it’s not Luigi).

Hey, Mario!

I got a wonderful home-cooked chicken dinner and then we went for a drive to get some dessert at a fancy restaurant in Manly. It was a great day today, quite relaxing with no feeling of exhaustion, and despite the huge day planned for tomorrow I’m really looking forward to getting back to Auckland and finally back to my house – where my first goal (get from Cape Reinga back to my house in Auckland) will be complete.

Whangaparaoa sunset from the car

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 33 – Kaipara Flats to Puhoi

Date: 28 October
Distance walked: 17.8km
Trail covered: kms 498.1 to 516.1
Weather: hot again
New card games learned: 2
How bad did I suck at both of them: immensely

Last night the barking dogs or the partying people weren’t a problem… but this morning I did wake up to “nature”. Cock a doodle doo! Squawk squawk squawk! Bllebekldldrbghj! Nature is nice but it sure is loud.

On the plus side I did have a dry tent. It’s weird, when I camped in the gorse the other night the weather conditions seemed exactly the same but my tent was saturdated. This time it was dry. Maybe it rained during the night the other night and I just didn’t realise.

I really wanted coffee even though I haven’t had any coffee for a while and most days now I don’t feel like I need it. I woke up feeling a bit under the weather today.  Maybe I’m getting scurvy from eating no fruit or vegetables. The coffee helped though.

I had my breakfast next to this bunch of goats.

Goats!!

I sat there eating my porridge and I did get a fright when I heard a noise above my head. It was a goat trying to eat a bamboo stick which was up high. And when each goat had finished its turn, the next goat would have a try. And the goats all had scary looks on their faces.

Goat 1
Goat 2

Even though I’ve had a shower, my blue shirt is getting to the stage where it looks wet before I’ve even put it on, and it smells disgusting. Each day I sweat so much because of the heat, and my shirt ends up completely drenched because of it. Over a week this adds up to a really disgusting shirt. I am really looking forward to washing my stuff, but that won’t be for a few days yet until I get to Auckland.

Very soon after we left the farmstay, it was the 500km mark. It was on a gravel road that seemed uninteresting at first, but it had a very cool name.

Matthew Road – woohoo

We marked the occasion by arranging our hiking poles creatively. Louise has cool yellow ones which fold into three parts like some tent poles, so those made great zeros. Luckily no cars came while we were doing this.

500!!!!

We thought today was going to be relatively straightforward, but as has been the theme recently, there was quite a steep uphill forestry road at the start.

Aargh not again

At the top we stopped to admire the view.

Louise and Benjamin admiring the view from the top of the road. I noticed Ben’s little pet sheep attached to his pack. That’s definitely a luxury item!!

And shortly after we came across a little horse with the coolest haircut I have ever seen in my entire life. I wish I had my hair like this.

I <3 this horse.

This point marks the actual top. Once you’re here it’s easy going.

We stopped here for some lunch. Time for the final cheese check. Day 5 and the cheese is starting to sweat a bit but there’s no sign of mould and it still tasted great.

Cheese report day 5

Also the chocolate report. They were fine too, but something has been eating them. Must be possums.

There were definitely more than this yesterday.

My 11am picture was walking up this bit of farm track which I would have missed the turnoff to as I wasn’t paying attention. Paulina is looking at me wondering what on earth I’m doing taking a photo of such an uninteresting piece of the trail.

11am picture

This farm had some big bulls. Some of the group were a bit nervous of them, but I went forward and pushed past them.

I didn’t really want to mess with these guys…

However in my efforts to lead the group away from the bulls, I did accidentally lead us over a stile which didn’t have an orange marker on it. This meant that a bit further on we had to climb back over the fence which had barbed wire on the top of it. I nearly ripped open my pants on this wire. Don’t climb the stiles if they don’t have orange markers!

Easy farm walk

This farm had some of the most chilled out cows I’ve ever seen.

These guys didn’t move.

Just past this farm was this campground – the “Remiger Road” Conservation Area. This was a full DOC campsite complete with a toilet and a great bit of flat grass to camp. This didn’t appear on any of the apps, and I don’t believe it was on the trail notes. I really wish I had’ve known this was here.

Remiger Road Campground

There was also this sign. Word must be getting around that I have a fetish for strange speed limit signs… because this is just taking the piss.

16km/h speed limit – very specific

And we saw this sheep which looked like it had escaped mid-shearing.

There was a swingbridge soon after which took us into the Puhoi Track. I think the French couple hadn’t seen this type of bridge before, judging by their reaction and their excitement walking over the bridge.

Puhoi Track swingbridge

There were a few other people on this track, which you don’t see a lot of. There were a lot of stairs here, and it was quite a long track. It was generally a well formed track but there was the usual gorse section at the Puhoi end.

I didn’t know what sort of town Puhoi was, but I definitely thought it was bigger than this:

Puhoi Village

Coming into the village it was straight to the village store. I seem to have forgotten my time at Matapouri Dairy a week or so ago, where I said I would always get fresh fruit and one treat. This is what I got instead:

1,050 calories of goodness. And that’s just the milk! No joke!!

It tasted so good.  We all sat down and ate some food, next to the Puhoi River which is what we would be kayaking tomorrow. Although at low tide, it looked quite unimpressive.

Our food spot on the right there, next to the Puhoi River.

We were looking forward to going to the pub across the road, but it was only 2:30pm at this time and we were worried that if we arrived at the pub this early, we would be drunk and broke by the end of the day.

Puhoi Pub

It was very busy at the pub today because it was Labour Day, and a beautiful sunny day again.  We waited until about 5pm before making our way over, and at that time most of the crowds had left. But not before I changed my shirt – no way was I going to wear my stinky and gross blue shirt into this place. I introduced the group to Monteith’s Black, which is one of my go-to beers if there are no stouts.  Unlike my Auckland friends, they were all willing to give it a go!

Cheers to Te Araroa!

We had three beers in total, and we each had a burger. We also got wedges and a bowl of fries to share. And then the people at the next table also gave us the remainder of their fries, which it looked like they had barely touched. So this was definitely one of those days where I consumed more calories than I used up walking.

To fill in some time Benjamin taught us all two card games. I thought I was good at card games but I sucked badly at these two games, even though I enjoyed them.

The pub was almost empty by 7:30pm and despite saying that it opened until 10, the manager (who was very friendly by the way) said he was closing up at 8:30.

In the evening, I went back to the river which was now at high tide. It looked a lot more impressive. I couldn’t wait to get in the kayak tomorrow morning to do the 7km kayak to Wenderholm. We were due at 9am at Puhoi Canoe Hire which was just a few minutes’ walk from here.

Puhoi River in the evening at high tide

Although I did hear that my Mum and my sister were going to meet me tomorrow after the kayaking. How embarrassing, am I right!!!  😂😂

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 32 – Omaha Forest to Kaipara Flats

Date: 27 October
Distance walked: 27.7km
Trail covered: kms 469.2 to 498.1
Weather: not a cloud in the sky
Number of times i had to unstick my walking poles in the forests: dozens

This morning I woke up in my makeshift camping spot in Gorse City and my phone wasn’t charging. That was weird. In fact, my charger was on the other side of where I was sleeping from the phone. Even weirder. I find that I toss and turn many many times each night. Perhaps last night I snagged the charging cable and pulled it over to the other side of the bed.

And I also found this guy on my tent. I named him Wally – Wally the Weta. I called him that because he really is a Wally if he thinks he is going to be hitching a ride with me over the next section.

Lucky this weta wasn’t joined by his grandad. These things can grow massive.

Today was a big day. I had to make 28km today and I know it included the rest of the forest I was on plus the Dome Forest which I thought was fairly challenging based on having done part of it before. I wasn’t sure if it was doable. I told the Nanekoti Farmstay where I had booked in that I would be there by 7pm. So, if I could average 3kms per hour plus an hour for breakfast, an hour for lunch and filtering water, and half an hour for leeway, that would mean I need 12 hours. Yes, that sounds like a doable plan, although I will be sore and exhausted by the end of the day. So at 7am I was off, with only a muesli bar for breakfast. Straight into the gorse, of course.

Starting out

Walking up the rest of Mt Tamahunga didn’t take too long, although there was one big rock to climb over.

I was at the summit just before 8am. And the sun was just coming up, so it was the perfect place to have some porridge for a proper breakfast – even though I didn’t have much water left. Eating porridge as the sun was coming up over the trees felt perfect.

At least I was still smiling at this point

I’d been to this summit before, back in 2016 with my friend Charlie, and I remembered the walk to this point not being too strenuous. So I didn’t rush with breakfast, and I even found the geocache at the summit. I also found a ton of rubbish under the structure at the summit and also some feces. Gross.

Spreading out my stuff at the summit

Took a picture of the view from here. I believe this is Omaha, which a couple of years back I found to be quite a soulless little town, full of new houses which all look the same and were mostly unlived in. Again, probably the domain of rich Aucklanders who only stay here on holidays when they’re sick of being in their boat in Westhaven Marina.

View from Mt Tamahunga summit

Then there was the weather station…

A very space-age structure

The descent down Tamahunga took a different path to the one I took three years ago, and it was a bit more strenuous, but the worst of the mountain’s challenges were over by now, apart from maybe this bit towards the end of this section.

Thanks to Jess & Ella who kindly pointed out that it was 64km to the next Dominos – which must be the one in Red Beach past Orewa. It’s not clear though exactly how far it is to “Bluf”.

Now I’m just hungry

It was a bit of a relief to reach the exit of this section. Although I still didn’t have any water, it was a very hot day and I had used all the water I had left. Because I had camped in the gorse field I couldn’t get any water from there. There was one very small stream towards the end but it would have been very time-consuming to get any water from it. Fortunately in about 7km there was a stream called the Waiwhiu Stream which, according to the Guthook app, was deep enough to take a hiker bath, so I really hoped I could get some good water from there. I could hold out that long… but not much longer!

The exit to the track (where I’d come from) – Te Hikoi O Te Kiri

The next section was “Govan Wilson Road to Dome Forest”. It was a walk down Govan Wilson Road which was a standard road and then a walk up what appeared to be somebody’s driveway.  I saw some goats here for the first time on the trail.

Goats

And then through a bit of forest which connected to the Dome Forest. It turned 11am at the first bit of this section so my 11am picture is just a standard bit of forest track.

11am picture

I did see a particularly impressive bunch of silver ferns. There are heaps of them around here, but I thought this one was particularly impressive.

Silver ferns – and I’m not talking about netball

I was counting down the kms to the Waiwhiu Stream where there was supposed to be water. I was feeling dehydrated and it got to the point where every corner I went around I got annoyed when the stream wasn’t there.  But eventually, there it was. It wasn’t very picturesque, it had all sorts of debris floating in it, but the water was clear so I was happy.

Not the most beautiful of water sources, but I’ll take it…

It took the usual ten minutes or so to filter three litres of water but given the long day and the temperature I was not leaving this spot without two full bottles.

I was much happier once I had these.

Since I’d stopped I might as well have a break. Better do the daily cheese report. It was still surprisingly almost like new.

Day 4 of the cheese – still pretty much perfect

And the daily chocolate report. All good as well.

Nothing melted

After this, it was up the very steep forestry road known as Fisher Road, and once I was at the top of there, it was a good spot to have a lot of water and a short break.

And there happened to be a geocache at this spot too, so I found that. Interestingly, in the description for this geocache were the words “fit people can walk from here to the Dome Valley car park in 2 hours”. Well that sounded like a challenge to me. I checked how far it was – 6km. That’s exactly the goal I set for myself earlier in the day – 3km/hour. So that was my next mini-mission – it was now 1:33 and I needed to get to the car park by 3:33.

The first part of the Dome Forest was not very challenging, it was a fairly easy pathway with little elevation change. The only annoying thing was that it was mostly tree roots and a bit of mud. So that meant my walking poles were constantly getting trapped between tree roots or getting stuck in the ground, and I had to keep stopping to free them. That was a bit annoying – but I still wouldn’t be without them.

I was getting a bit exhausted by now, even though the terrain here was moderate. I kept tripping over a tree roots. And at one point I did slip a bit, and ended up scraping the underside of my right arm against a tree. It was at this point where I thought if I’m going to get out of here on time and also alive, I needed to be free of distractions. So the phone went off, and the music went off. All I could hear now was the roar of nearby State Highway 1, and the voices in my head. I wish I could turn both of those things off too.

The Dome Summit is where it gets a bit more challenging. While there is always an obvious path, there are a couple of points where you have to pull yourself up or down rocks, and it’s quite steep which makes it exhausting if you’ve been walking all morning.

Near the summit

There’s nothing at the summit except a trig station. Not even a view.

Trig station at Dome Forest summit

And just after this is one such rock which you have to climb down.

The most challenging bit of rock so far

Not long after the summit though is the lookout. Surprisingly for Labour Weekend Sunday there weren’t many people – I only saw four others.

View from the Dome Forest lookout

And one you’re at the lookout you see this sign:

“The standard of the track beyond this point is ‘tramping track’ – for people with a moderate to high level of fitness and strong footwear”

The good thing is that this sign points the other way, so from here on it’s an easy pathway… I think! I only had 16 minutes to get from the lookout to the car park to beat the 2 hour challenge I set for myself. So I picked up the pace. And then I thought to myself… how can there be so many stairs going up from a lookout??

This is really hindering my “2hr to the carpark” challenge

Still, when I went through the Kauri Dieback cleaning station at the other end of the forest, and entered the car park, it was 3:31. Woohoo! I had done the walk in 1 hour 58 minutes – two minutes to spare! I qualify as a “fit person” according to that geocache description. Not bad going for someone pulling a 14 or 15kg pack as well.

Here’s the Dome Cafe at the exit of the forest… but it’s now closed, seemingly permanently

Now the next challenge was crossing State Highway 1. There was no walking along it, just crossing it… but the traffic was relentless. I bet if it was tomorrow, when everyone would be returning home from a long weekend, it would be impossible. It took about three minutes to get a break in the traffic big enough to dart across the road, and even then I had to run.

Cross State Highway 1 and go up there (Kraack Road)

Once I got across, I started up a steep gravel road with the wonderful name of Kraack Road. It didn’t have a street sign, I bet because people keep stealing it. When I used to live in Hamilton as a student, there used to be Holden and Ford Roads, and because these are both makes of car and Hamilton is a real boy-racer city, these street signs used to go missing all the time.

Some cows came over to see me. They got close enough that I could see the name Fletch on one of the ear tags. Is this cow’s name Fletch? Or is that the name of the farm, or the farmer?

Hey Fletch and buddies

After the unrelenting steep gravel road you came across a landmark known as Kraack Hill. I wanted to end here just so I could put the name Kraack Hill as the title of my blog post… but sadly I had to keep going. This is the hill right here. At some point I will have to find out where the name comes from. I bet this area has been inhabited by a long noble line of Kraacks.

Kraack Hill

From here though it was mostly road walking, forestry roads and gravel road. There were no cars, which was no surprise according to this sign.

Road Closed

And a short walk through something which at the time I thought in my head was “wasteland”. Full of gorse and impenetrable scrub. At least there was a nice view of the farmland.

A path through the wasteland

At the other end I found out this bit was called the Smyth Bush Scenic Reserve. Is “scenic reserve” just another name for “land which isn’t good for anything so just let DOC take it over”?

Smyth Bush Not Very Scenic Reserve

One last walk down a bit of sealed road. This short section of Kaipara Flats Road is nasty. It’s very short, just a couple of hundred metres, but there is absolutely no shoulder and cars go fast down here. Luckily in the time I was there, cars only came from the other direction.

Kaipara Flats Road

Since everything after the Dome Forest was easier than expected (i.e. it wasn’t forest), that helped me get to Nanekoti Farmstay quicker than I thought. I actually got to the farmstay just before 6pm – a full hour earlier than expected.  Although not before one final obstacle.

Ummm, ok…..

And I saw one of their water troughs.  Back at Helena Bay where I was so desperate for water that I drank out of the farm trough, I’m very glad it didn’t look like this.

It’s green, so maybe it’s good for you.

The farmstay was right on the trail, in fact you actually had to walk through their farm at the end, so I was surprised I nearly walked right past the entrance without realising I had made it. I didn’t catch the name of the owner of the farmstay but she was very “anti-1080”. 1080 is the name of a pest control that is used in New Zealand and it is quite controversial. When she heard I was drinking out of the rivers I got quite the lecture about how there is 1080 in the water and there is no antidote. And maybe she’s right. But when it’s been as hot as it has been and there’s no alternative, a bit of poison isn’t going to kill me. I hope.

She also had a “5G – don’t let it fry our kids’ brains” bumper sticker on her car… but interestingly I was told she thinks climate change is not real. She did also give each of us an apple and a banana, which is such a nice gesture when you haven’t had fruit for ages, and the place had a hot shower and for all this we were only charged $10 each to pitch our tent, which I thought was a fantastic deal.

There were three others with their tents out at the farmstay which was nice. Louise and Benjamin from France who had taken a rest day, and Paulina from Germany who it sounds like had been walking the same days I had since Waipu Cove, but we had somehow missed each other.

The tenting area at the Nanekoti Farmstay

I started on 26 September and the others started on 6 October. I started so far ahead… but they caught up because of all the rest days!  Regardless, it was nice to finally see some other hikers, it had been nearly a week now since I saw anyone else – way back on my second rest day at Waipu Cove.

There was also this dog at the farmstay. I didn’t get her name, but she sure knew how to do “puppy dog eyes” to get what she wanted, which was either to get you to throw a stick or to give her some food. I’m normally very good at resisting puppy dog eyes, but this dog was very good at it. And she hung out with us the whole time right until the sun went down.

Tomorrow the four of us (not the dog) are all going to walk to Puhoi together and then we will all take the kayak the next day to Wenderholm. I’m glad I won’t be doing that part alone.  I’ve had three relatively big days in a row now, so at least tomorrow is only 18km through terrain which I don’t think is too hard.  And we have all said we are looking forward to a drink and a meal at the Puhoi Pub.

We all had a good chat but once the sun went down we retired to our tents. There were lots of dogs barking around and somewhere nearby a few people were partying. Hopefully I will sleep well tonight, I need it that’s for sure.

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Day 31 – Mangawhai to Omaha Forest

Date: 26 October
Distance walked: 29.4km
Trail covered: kms 440.4 to 469.2
Weather: stunning
Number of horses in a line down the beach: 10

Well, today was the day I had originally hoped to be back to my house in Mount Eden in Central Auckland. I figured it would take between 26 and 32 days. Obviously I didn’t expect the 10 rest days I have had so far. Im still at least three days from the northern Auckland suburbs and four or five days from Mt. Eden. Oh well… at least I switched to the Auckland trail notes today, from the Northland trail notes. One region down!

I mean honestly, at this rate it is going to take 6 months to finish the whole trail. That’s a long time from what I’ve read. Maybe fewer rest days due to injury in future will mean it won’t take so long.

I woke up early because Mark’s cabin has no curtains and the light shines in. I didn’t mind at all, I had a great sleep in this little place.

Stu the rabbit was outside running round and round and round my shoes. Here’s a video of him doing it for 30 seconds, but he was doing it for at least 5 minutes. Is this some kind of mating ritual?

I went into town and of course the first stop was the chocolate shop – Bennett’s of Mangawhai. I was not leaving this town without going to this shop. The chocolate shop didn’t open until 9am and I left Mark’s at 8:20am but the cafe next door to the chocolates was open from 8am.

One advantage of being forced to stay in Mangawhai until 9am is that low tide today is midday and there are three stream crossings which should be done at low tide. What excellent timing.

Being Labour Weekend it was already very busy at 8:30. Although, my coffee arrived very fast, and since the cafe was owned by Bennett’s also, I wasn’t surprised to see my mocha came with an “insert-it-yourself” chocolate stick.

I love mochas served like this

And then straight after, waffles for breakfast.

Sugar overload

They don’t sell any chocolates in the cafe though. So at 8:58 I went and stood forlornly at the chocolate shop door, sad that they hadn’t yet opened. They didn’t open until 9:01. Shock horror!

The front of the shop

The girl said she was a bit late because the people going to the market across the road park in the shop’s staff spots. Given how busy it was out on the street, I absolutely believe it.

Inside the shop

You may remember in yesterday’s blog post I estimated that I’d spend $50 in the chocolate shop. Well, turns out I’m a lightweight. I only spent $49.50. I felt like a failure.

My purchases and my receipt. You’d think I didn’t even like chocolate or something.

I bought a box of 20 which cost $40 and a slab of white chocolate with fruit in it for $9.50. I love the individual chocolates, they’re all on display and you can pick any 20 you want. And there are ten different varieties of alcoholic ones, as well as tons of non-alcoholic ones.

While I was there I also asked if I could buy a big bag of “seconds” – any chocolate that was broken or not perfect quality or anything they didn’t want to sell at full RRP because the chocolate wasn’t showroom standard. Her reply was “we get that a lot” followed by “no, sorry”. Oh well.

Outside the market was busy. I didn’t buy anything as I’d just have to carry it around.

Mangawhai market

Then it was time to head out of town on the road. The first potential obstacle was this.

Uh oh… road works on the bridge

But the construction had very helpfully included a pedestrian bridge up some steep stairs.

How kind

It was quite amusing watching a lady walking a dog towards me and watching the dog nearly pull her head first down the stairs. I shouldn’t have laughed but I did, inside of course.

And you know by now that I’m a nerd for speed limit signs. Here they have “fashioned” a 30 sign out of whatever was there before. I can tell because the digit 3 doesn’t normally look like that. Quite clever, I thought.

More speed limit sign excitement

The gravel road that came up wasn’t wonderful to walk down, despite this sign.

Stop being a nuisance!

But I did enter the Rodney district. Progress is being made!

This small gravel road was very busy. Again, probably all the holidaying Aucklanders going to the beach.

Busy gravel road towards the beach

When it gets busy like this, I like to hold both walking poles in one hand, extending one up high. Firstly, it makes the cars notice me more, so they slow down, and secondly, it makes me feel like Gandalf.

You shall not pass!

The gravel road did go through forest when I got closer to the beach, which was nice.

Just before I actually got to the beach, I stopped in the last bit of shade available to have some food, as I knew there was a lot of beach walking coming up. It gave me a chance to check on my cheese that I bought 3 days ago, and has been in my pack ever since. It was just like new. When I bought the cheese, I put it inside a zip-lock bag, which went inside a second zip-lock bag that some nuts came in, which went inside my rubbish bag, which went inside my food bag, which went in the middle of my pack. If that doesn’t stop the sun getting at my cheese, I don’t know what will.

Oh, cheese and crackers, how I love you so very much.

My precious

I gave my $40 box of chocolates the same storage treatment – inside two zip-lock bags inside two plastic bags inside my pack, next to the cheese. It’s so sunny today, I will learn later on if they will melt or not.

Now that I have my two favourite foods with me, cheese and chocolate, I feel ready to face anything. It was now 11am by this point, so my 11am picture is my little lunch station.

11am picture – my lunch setup

I also put sunscreen on as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I haven’t been wearing sunscreen because it has been quite cloudy and I’ve built up quite a “base tan” now, if that’s even a thing (I think it is).

Here’s the start of the beach – Pakiri Beach I think.

Walk this way

And there was a guy flying a kite. I tried to take a photo of how high it was. It turned out that I mostly got a picture of the sun… but you can see the kite there too.

The beach takes a short break at Te Arai Point. You go up and over this.

Te Arai Point

From up there, you can see the next bit of beach.

Once over the point, you could see where I came from…

Te Arai Point from the other side

And here is what is next. Hours and hours of beach. And despite the holiday weekend, there was absolutely nobody there.

Lots of beach now

There were three streams you had to cross. Because there has not really been any rain and because I started the beach walk half an hour before low tide, they were all 10 or 20cm deep, max.

Not very deep stream crossings at low tide

I took my boots off for each of the stream crossings, walked for a bit in bare feet until they dried (maybe 5 minutes) then put my shoes back on. I wanted to walk longer with bare feet to maybe give the sun a chance to even out my ridiculous tan lines.

Even the strapping tape has a ridiculous tan line

But walking in bare feet was painful, because of my previous foot pain. In fact, this makes me certain that the most recent time I hurt my foot was because of walking in my crocs all day. As soon as I put my boots back on, there was no more pain.

I didn’t want to walk across the streams in boots though, because apart from getting wet boots and socks, I want to keep my feet dry so that my toenails don’t fall out further down the trail. You hear a lot of stories about this happening. In fact, when Mark showed me the cabin last night and was telling me about his Te Araroa journey, he said he was actually happy when his toenails fell out, because then it hurt less. He was upset when they grew back. Maybe I’ll get into that frame of mind but I don’t think so!

Saw a few interesting buildings while walking.

This one didnt even look like it had windows. An old farm building perhaps?

It was a bit of a lonely walk today. At least four times throughout the day I looked behind me on the off chance that somebody was following me, but nope, nobody was. Once I got closer to Pakiri though, I saw a bunch of horses.

The horse at the front is like “look at me, I’m awesome”

I think there is a lot of horse riding in this area. I definitely saw a horse riding school on a previous visit to the area.

Getting closer to Pakiri, I saw a few people, but definitely not many.

Came off the beach at 3pm – nearly four hours of walking on the beach, although I did take my time going over Te Arai Point. Had a rest on this chair just off the beach:

Thanks Chris Parker, without you this chair wouldn’t be here

And admired where I’d just come from.

I paid a visit to the Pakiri Holiday Park which was just off the beach. I bought a Popsicle, some lollies, and one of these:

Whittakers K-Bar

I didn’t know these still existed. They were popular when I was a kid, and they were cheap. I think the dentists subsidised them because they were so chewy that they’d pull your fillings out. More work for the dentists then. And I had no idea Whittakers made them. That must be a recent development I’m sure.

I thought about staying here, but ultimately I decided not to. However the very friendly women behind the checkin at the holiday park were kind enough to let me go into the camp to fill up my water bottles. They also said I could use the bathrooms too. Very nice of them.

When deciding whether to stay or not, I used the logic I came up with on 90 Mile Beach. If nothing’s hurting, then keep going. My decision was also helped by the perfect weather, and the large number of people in the holiday park, and the fact that I’d read that the tent sites area is quite noisy and gets a lot of through traffic. So I continued on towards Omaha Forest, down a typical gravel road with some typical cows following me.

Round the next corner, I was fairly sure I could see what I’d be walking up and over. It doesn’t look too bad here, but I was fairly sure that Mt Tamahunga, which I think is behind these hills, has a summit of 430m.

Walking up there soon!

At this crossroads, you go straight ahead, because you aren’t going to Leigh or Wellsford. I wish I was going to Wellsford though. There is a McDonald’s there and also a place that sells Jesters Pies. Do I have time to hitchhike to go get a feed?

No I don’t have time for that sadly.

Once through this intersection, you start your ascent. It’s straight up through some farmland. Not too hard at first. And after a while, you can see the beach that you spent the day walking down, and also the crossroads you went through not long before.

I think this is a side entrance to the trail, across private farmland. Most of the way up the hill was this sign.

It says “Tamahunga Trail opened by Sir Edmund Hillary on December 15th, 2001”. Good guy, Sir Ed.

Even though I was quite high up now, sheep would still appear out of nowhere.

It was at this point that I took a wrong turn. If you look at the next picture, there is a stile to the left. I missed that. If you head to the right, and start walking to the structure way up on the hill on the right, you’ve gone the wrong way!

Go left here!!

Then it was a short walk through a nice forest.

And then after that, the intersection of gorse boulevard and mud junction. I was not expecting that. There was a lot of gorse, most of it unavoidable. At least the mud was not as bad as Raetea on Day 6. And someone has tried to help and put in these “stairs”.

“Stairs”.

But this was usually what it was like.

And this.

One advantage of this mud is, that up until now my boots still looked fairly new and unused. Now, they are muddy enough so that I look like a real hiker, but not so muddy that my feet got wet. It was the perfect amount.

Boots that finally look like they’ve been worn

There hasn’t been much rain recently though. If you come through here after a lot of rain I would be prepared for a lot of mud.

All this time I had been looking out for somewhere to camp. I thought there was somewhere before the summit, and one of the women at the holiday park supported my theory. But I couldn’t find anything. Eventually, out of desperation and low light, I just set up on a flat spot in the middle of the gorse. I felt okay with this spot. There are no animals, no Kauri (no plants except gorse), there is room for people to get past, and it’s sheltered.

Impromptu campsite for tonight

I had a Back Country Cuisine meal. I think I bought it in Kaitaia. Finally my food is starting to actually get low! I still have a lot of hot chocolate in my bag though. Since the nights are noticably warmer now than they were a month ago when I started, I haven’t felt like I needed a warm drink at night anymore.

My meal was Nasi Goreng – the same thinf I had at Utea Park on Day 3 while watching the sun set on 90 Mile Beach. It brought back good memories.

And then I went to get one of my Bennett’s chocolates. The sun had been shining down all day without a break. Had they melted?

That doesn’t look appetising…

Well, I didn’t expect that. One had melted completely – the Peanut Butter one. The rest were 100% intact… how bizarre. Only one thing to do – eat that one anyway! Still tasted great!

Got into my tent, and realised it’s the first time I’ve slept in it since Whananaki. I’ve actually kinda missed it. I spent a bit of time just admiring the spikey view from my tent door.

Then, after a bit longer, I realised how isolated I am up here and how pitch black it was once the sun went down. Definitely time for bed now – 9:30pm. I have a big day tomorrow. There isn’t much accommodation around tomorrow so I’m planning to walk 28km between here and the Nanekoti Farmstay which I booked with earlier today. They have tent sites for Te Araroa walkers for cheap. However 28km is a long day because I have to finish off Mt. Tamahunga and then all of the Dome Forest which I know is fairly challenging. Then I don’t know what makes up the last 9 or 10km. Better get some good rest.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 30 – Waipu Cove to Mangawhai

Date: 25 October
Distance walked: 28.7km
Trail covered: kms 412.2 to 440.4
Weather: overcast
Butts in the mud: 1

Today was really an emotional rollercoaster.

It started off well. I realised I could walk without any pain, at least for now. I went to the Waipu Cove dairy to get coffee, because the Cove Cafe didn’t open until 9 and I was there at 8:20am. The coffee from the dairy was not as good as the coffee from the cafe but that was to be expected, and it was passable.

Even though the ultimate goal today was Mangawhai Heads, a relatively large town, I still had to carry a full load of water because with my foot hurting as recently as last night, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually make it there. Just in case I was in for a night in the forest, I had to stock up on water. The Guthook app showed no water sources available between Waipu Cove and the possible camping spots so I took over 2 litres with me.

I returned the key and went north to rejoin the trail where it continued up Cullen Road. It was a 275 elevation change uphill but because it was over a long distance, it seemed easy.

Mmmm… Rogan Josh Architects *Homer Simpson drool sound*

After 6km, where I felt like I was largely at the top of the hill, I was happy because my feet didn’t hurt. The two rest days must have done what I’d hoped they’d do.

For lovin’, turn to the right

But then suddenly, at 6.5k in, I got sudden pain in my other foot. Not my right foot, which is the one that I’ve been resting for the last 2 rest days and the 7 rest days that I had the week before… this time it was the left foot. It hurt so much I could barely walk.

HOW THE HELL IS THIS POSSIBLE???? 😡😡😡😡😡😡😡😡

I have literally just rested two and a half days. I have never had any pain from this foot since the swelling I encountered after 90 Mile Beach on Day 4. This makes absolutely no sense.

Where my left foot started hurting

I sat down where this happened but it was very exposed and windy and unpleasant. So I hobbled down a further two kilometers into the bush, which seemed to take forever.

Apparently Auckland buses stop here, so I could have taken a bus instead. Seems unlikely.

The first part of the walk was called Langsview Track.

Langsview Track info

Passed a lot of private property.

Keep out!

And a lot of keep out signs.

Make sure you head to the right

And not long after that, probably two minutes into the bush, is where I fell flat on my butt. The first time that I’ve fallen properly. That really did not help my mood. I think I fell because 1, I was in a bad mood anyway and 2, I forgot to take the rubber tips off my walking poles once I came off the road and therefore on the slippery dirt I had less support and grip than usual.

So with my left foot in a lot of pain and having just fell on my butt, I nearly broke down and started crying.

The point where I fell

Fortunately I didn’t cry… I just sat exactly where I fell and had some food and rested. 11am passed during this time and so my 11am picture is the wrap I made for myself at this point. I’ve run out of pretzles now. Must get some more at Mangawhai Heads Four Square – if I make it that far and don’t die here in the forest on a track that is graded “easy”.

11am picture – my favourite wrap

After sitting here for 45 minutes, I got up and was happy to find my left foot was no longer sore. Just one of those things I guess. The universe trying to even things out? Or just tell me to go slow, perhaps? Who knows. But I did go slow from here on despite being an easy track.

Saw this in the ground.

Boundary marker

I looked at the map to see what it might be the boundary of. It could have been the boundary of the upcoming house’s land, or it is the boundary of the Whangarei District and the Kaipara District.

After a bit of gorse, which luckily I didnt have to walk right through:

Of gorse you have to go this way

I came across this. I really wasnt in the mood to go bush-bashing.

Steep and overgrown entrance

Luckily you don’t have to go that way. You turn left and go this way…

This is better

I started seeing these signs:

“The Heights Of Paradise”, apparently

Just before I took that photo there was a huge black blowfly on the “PA” of Paradise. I shooed it away before I took the photo but then I immediately wished I hadn’t because it really epitomized the mood up to this point. I really didn’t feel like I was in any kind of paradise.

I know I’m whinging a lot. The thing is I don’t want this to be one of those blogs that only show smiling faces and beautiful scenery and people who make heart shapes with their thumbs and forefingers in front of sunsets. I want it to be an honest recollection of my trip.

Things did start to look up though, when I saw this view of where I had been out one side:

Waipu Cove and Langs Beach

And where I was going out the other side:

Mangawhai Heads

Came across this house, and had to skirt around it to continue on the track.

I just couldn’t see how anyone accessed this house. It was so high up and into the bush. But it had trailers and vehicles and other big things that must’ve got up there somehow. I guess it should have dawned on me that once you’d gone around this house, there was a road that will take you all the way down to the main road. It was a dirt road at first, and then a sealed road, but it was surprisingly steep.

Looking back up the road

Just before the main road though was this little detour down a well-formed bush walk path. I say detour, but if you look at the map in the middle of the walk, it is actually “the way”. It must avoid something… maybe a dangerous stretch of Cove Rd? Trust in The Creators……

Mystery right turn

Once that was over, there was some more road walking, although the road just suddenly turned into a farm without really any obvious delineation.

Hi sheepies

This must have been one of those areas where the TA Trust negotiate with the landowners to get access across private farmland to join the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway.

Uh oh… those “incl bulls” are the most dangerous bulls of all.

There were a lot of cows, of course.

These cows moved quickly out of the way. Not like the Helena Handbasket Ridge cows.

And these ducks, which I felt kinda sorry for.

The ducks’ habitat slowly eroded by icky-pants red stuff.

The views weren’t too bad in places, and the usual stiles had been replaced by nice sets of stairs.

These stairs are great. Even the Queen herself wouldn’t mind walking over these.

I still felt like I was being watched.

Even from this massive distance, the cows still stare at you.

And then it got quite steep.

Where the hell is the next marker? Oh yep it is way up there, of course it is.

After this was forest. Some more unfinished stairs…

And some more unfinished pathways…

And finally I was out on the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway. I had done this walkway a few years ago with some friends. Back then we walked up to this point and then back down to the beach and along the coast, which can be done at mid to low tide.

I don’t understand how the sea is on such an angle but the edge of the sign isn’t 🤯

Te Araroa goes via the track, which means it’s shorter to Mangawhai Heads and also not tide-dependent. It’s a well formed track and stairs which for most of the walk looks like this.

Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway

And this, once you get closer to town.

There’s a short walk along the beach.

I looked at my GPS watch at this point. When it is on the “low accuracy” setting that I have it on to save battery, one of the quirks is that, while the distance is reasonably accurate (it often reads about 1 or 2% less than you’ve actually walked), the altitude is often wildly inaccurate. Which is kind of a shame because it would be nice to know sometimes how much further there is to climb or descend, but the Guthook app can tell you that if you switch to the “elevation view”.

Altitude 74m. At sea level. Riiiiiight.

At the end of the beach is the surf club. It was pretty quiet around here today – today is the first day of the Labour Weekend holiday, but not really until 5pm when all the Aucklanders start driving up here after they finish work.

Surf Club

I saw the mostly empty carpark. The few other times I’ve been here with friends, this carpark is absolutely chocka-block and getting a park here is like winning the lottery.

Car park

Thing is, if you can’t get a park here, and in summer you often can’t, you’re completely out of luck – the roads leading up to here are all no-parking zones. You have to park in the front yard of someone’s house, and pay them $5 or $10, or you go without. I looked in people’s front yards as I was walking, and didnt see any entrepreneurs today with their “park here” signs out today. I bet they’ll come out tomorrow when the long weekend officially starts.

Not long now and I had reached the entrance to the Mangawhai Heads Holiday Park.

The other day I said that you never see a speed limit sign ending with a 5. Now suddenly I’m seeing them everywhere.

Being Labour Weekend, I had to plan beforehand where I was going to stay. All cabins / rooms / backpackers were almost certainly full. So it was either holiday parks, which hopefully had some tent sites available, free camping in the bush, or something a bit more creative. I had heard of a “trail angel” named Mark offering accommodation in Mangawhai Village, separate to Mangawhai Heads and a further 6 or 7km away. Apparently Mark only offers it to hikers and not to the general public. Seemed almost too good to be true… but since nothing was really hurting, surprisingly, I figured I could walk another 6 or 7km.

I sent Mark a text message, to see if his generous offer was available on Labour Weekend, and continued down a bit of beach. Mangawhai Heads beach is weird. This bit of the beach is not a swimming beach, instead it’s a flat bit of water trapped between here and a large sand hill.

Up some big stairs and into the town, finally, I can get some food! I felt like a milkshake of course. Looks like I can get one at Stingray Matt’s.

No relation.

But first, even though it was further on, I wanted to go to Four Square because it was late in the afternoon and soon it would be overrun with Aucklanders doing their shopping. Although, judging by the traffic in the town, I’m too late…

Aucklanders everywhere!

The supermarket was pretty busy. Maybe it was just because I had my big pack on, or maybe because nobody would move the hell out of the way.

I survived, and I went back to get my milkshake. I chose Dizzy Lizzy’s instead. Stingray Matt’s had the same milkshakes you get everywhere, which are usually cold and nice and taste good, but I felt like something different. I hoped that Dizzy Lizzy wouldn’t let me down.

Dizzy Lizzy’s of Mangawhai Heads

This chocolate milkshake was creamier and richer than others I’ve had. It wasn’t very cold though, but I was happy.

Sweeeeeeeet

I got text confirmation that Mark’s place was available. Fantastic. So I continued out of town. I was apprehensive about the road walking, because again from past driving I remembered the road being narrow. But I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the shoulder.

Nothing wrong with this

And then there was a dedicated walkway once you crossed this bridge.

The walk was fine. I just hoped the weather gods would again be nice to me. I can see rain clouds in the distance. Would they hold off at least until I put my tent up? And would my tent survive the wind?

Well… I got to Mark’s place… and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw.

Mark’s place

There is actually a little cabin here. Not only did I beat the rain, but I get to sleep inside!

Inside the cabin

There is also Stu the pet rabbit, who has absolutely no problems coming right up to people. He scared the hell out of me at first.

Stu the rabbit

Mark uses the grounds as an orchard. They’re next to his main house.

Just don’t let the rabbit out

Mark came over a bit after I arrived and to make things even better he brought me a beer. We had a chat about Te Araroa. He and his wife did it last year and they made it 90 or 95% of the way but his wife was swept down a river towards the end and broke her arm, so she wasn’t able to finish. That sounds terrible, in fact it sounds like every hiker’s worst nightmare.

I got some Chicken Chow Mein from down the road and came back to the cabin. And only then did it start raining… but by now I was cosy inside and I didnt have a care in the world. Thank you yet again, weather gods.

I wrote my blog entry, and as you can see it is long and unnecessarily detailed, so once that was over there was just time to watch one TV show on my phone and go to sleep.

So after a bad start to the day, it ended very well. I don’t hurt too much, and my accommodation is awesome and I even have it to myself. No wind thrashing against the tent, and no Aucklanders clogging up the holiday parks. And in the morning I can have breakfast at the chocolate shop, called Bennetts of Mangawhai. These chocolates are sold in Auckland and I absolutely love them and I have been looking forward to going to the shop here for a long time… but it’s always been closed when I’ve driven through. Well not this time! I am not leaving this town until I enter that chocolate shop and spend at least $50.

Here is the link to Mark’s place on Facebook.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Days 28 & 29 – Waipu Cove rest days

Date: 23 & 24 October

On my first rest day I slept in as late as I could, which wasn’t really that late since I needed to pee and the toilet block is a decent walk from my room. Nick and Robert had of course left already. My foot was still quite sore… damn.

So I spent a few hours watching TV shows that I had copied onto my phone before I started the trail. The phone reception on Skinny/Spark isn’t good enough to stream videos and the reception on 2Degrees was usually zero so I didn’t have a lot of choice.

It wasnt long though until there was a knock at the door – it was Ralf. I immediately thought “uh oh” – Ralf was supposed to have left. He told me that he’d walked a fair distance up the hill, about 6 or 7km, then walked back to the camp because his calf muscle is really hurting. He is going to take the bus to Orewa tomorrow. Poor guy, I definitely know how frustrating it is to want to continue but not be able to.

At least I had a bit of company. Ralf said that out of the 11 people he keeps in contact with, only 2 have no injuries. That is a low number.

Later on in the day I was browsing Instagram and I saw that a guy by the name of Eirik had hiked into the camp. I contacted him and with Ralf the three of us went to have dinner at The Cove Cafe again, as it is the only place around. He is from a place 400km above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Sounds cold and dark.

Ralf, Eirik and me, having a fancy dinner at The Cove Cafe – well it seemed fancy to me!

The next morning my foot was a bit better but I could definitely feel some pain still so I decided to take another rest day. It was still windy so didn’t spend much time on the beach. However I did go for a small walk to the top of the little hill opposite the cafe and had a look down the beach. It did make me wonder, how come there was so much road walking to Waipu Cove when the beach here seems to go on forever?

Waipu Cove Beach, as far as the eye can see

But, like I said to Jeremy while I was walking with him the other day, I trust in “The Creators” – being the people who designed the trail route. I’m sure they have investigated every option to get the trail off the road where possible. Jeremy said at the time he didn’t have as much trust in The Creators as I did.

I spent a bit of time writing down in sequential order all the possible places to camp between here and Auckland. I felt this was necessary because starting tomorrow evening is Labour Weekend, the last major public holiday and three-day weekend in New Zealand before Christmas. Everywhere is likely to be booked, except I would say the holiday parks would still have tent sites. The good news is that between here in Waipu Cove and Auckland, the places to stay are the Holiday Parks at Mangawhai Heads, Mangawhai and Pakiri, and then there are places to camp in the various forests after that. So it seems that places being full won’t affect me over this long weekend… hopefully. And by the time I get to Puhoi, where I will need to rent a kayak, the long weekend should be over and they should have kayaks available.

On rest day 1 I had the Bunk House to myself as nobody replaced Nick and Robert once they left the camp and continued their walk yesterday. But on rest day 2, when I asked at reception to stay another day, I had to move from Room 3 to Room 2 because some people who are starting their long weekend early had booked that room.

Thankfully those people never showed up until 9:45pm so I could rest by myself most of the day. I didnt see or learn about any other hikers staying. I had some takeaways from the dairy and then slept relatively early.

I plan to continue tomorrow no matter what. If it hurts too much, then I’ll go back and rest in Auckland at my house until I recover as honestly these enforced rest days are getting annoying. Hopefully it doesn’t hurt and I can continue on as normal.

Day 27 – Uretiti to Waipu Cove

Date: 22 October
Distance walked: 16.2km
Trail covered: kms 399.1 to 412.2
Weather: variable
Milliliters of beer consumed: 328

Got dropped off by Brian back at Uretiti this morning. It was raining hard while we were driving there but literally as he stopped the ute the rain stopped also. Yet again, the weather gods are being nice to me. I feel like I owe them a sacrifice. When I got dropped off, I turned and saw Brian driving away. It felt like Day 1 where Tania dropped me off and suddenly I was in the middle of nowhere on my own. At least I’m used to that feeling now.

Brian driving away

I crossed through Uretiti campground to get to the beach. The ranger asked me if I was camping because she wanted to make sure I paid my $15 if I was. But I told her I was just cutting through as a shortcut and she smiled and pointed the way to the beach. And as soon as I was on the sand, I saw Jeremy walking down the beach who I walked with a couple of days ago just before the two river crossings. That day he had gone ahead with the river crossings while I waited until the next day… so I was very surprised to see him behind me. He’d done a short day because he too had foot pain. I’m hearing so many stories about foot pain.

And less than 1km down the beach was the 400km mark. Since I had somebody else with me this time, I could be in the photo!

400km! I love these milestones…

Jeremy said that he got the boat across the water a few hours after we did yesterday, along with Nick and Robert. And he also got accosted by the guy from the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Time to go this way, off the beach and onto the road for most of the rest of the day

It was nice to talk with Jeremy again but I left him at the main road into Waipu where he started hitchhiking.

Jeremy hitchhiking

And soon it was 11am. At that point I was at this narrow bridge that I had read about. It’s a typical “built for cars with absolutely no consideration given to pedestrians” bridge. So at 11am I was here at the start of it, waiting for a break in the traffic so I could race across and not die.

11am – This should be a riot

The strategy was to move to whichever side you could see cars coming from better, wait until no cars were coming on that side, then run for your life across the bridge. It wasn’t actually too bad today, a Tuesday morning. If it had’ve been a long weekend, it would have been scary. This is the main road into Waipu and a lot of the upcoming beaches from the north, so it can be very busy. At least after this there was a footpath, which was nice.

It wasn’t much longer before I got to Waipu. There is a big Scottish influence here.

What what what Waipu??

Not long after the entrance to the town, the footpath magically stopped.

Yes, walking into that hedge is exactly what I felt like doing today. How did you know?

I’ve been really surprised at the haphazard footpaths in New Zealand. They seem completely arbitrary and start and stop for no reason. If I were mayor, a footpath on all roads would be compulsory. At least within and near towns.

Never noticed the names of Scottish clans and their tartans before up on the poles

I stopped at the nearby bakery and stuffed my face. And as I was eating, the rain started pouring. Looks like I’ve avoided getting wet again. I am so lucky. I don’t know how I keep doing it.

I’m really starting to think I should buy less junk food.

The Waipu birds here don’t mind getting up close and personal when they think you’re going to give them something.

I’m talking about sparrows of course…

After lunch I spent over two hours writing up blog posts while waiting out the rain. Next stop is Waipu Cove, 8km away, and I bet I’m going to get wet at least some point on the 8km. The rain is really start-stop-start-stop today, but when it starts it rains hard.

But right now the rain has cleared. QUICK MAKE A RUN FOR IT!!!!

A pptentially brief period of blue sky

I quickly grabbed my stuff and said goodbye to the Scottish bagpipe player and headed out of town.

I really don’t have a good answer to this question.

I wasn’t looking forward to walking on the road. From memory having driven on this road, it’s narrow and fairly windy like other roads I’ve walked on, but quite a but busier. So I was pleasantly surprised there was a pedestrian walkway to the left of this narrow bridge just east of Waipu.

Glad I don’t have to run the gauntlet across this bridge

And then that turned into a fully-fledged cycle trail.

Waipu cycle way, but only a very small portion of it is built

However of course, the nice cycle trail lasted only 20 minutes or so, then it was back to narrow road walking and moving to the side and waiting for cars to pass.

And, more silly footpaths that go nowhere.

This sign lies. The footpath can’t be closed if it doesn’t exist at all.

I didn’t stay completely dry. There was a little bit of rain, enough to make me stop and put my rain jacket and pack cover on, but not enough to get too wet. Given how much it actually rained in total today, I consider that a success.

Got to Camp Waipu Cove eventually. It’s a bit off the trail but my foot is hurting a fair bit now.

Tonight’s accommodation

I checked into something called the “surf club bunk house”. It’s a little building which has four rooms, and each room has one or two bunk beds (two or four beds). Given that the actual surf club is right next door, I guess that this is where the off-duty lifeguards stay in the summer when the club is manned. The room is very basic, but I have it to myself and I should be protected from the high winds and stormy weather scheduled for tomorrow.

My room

As well as the four rooms it has this miniscule common area. A two-seater couch for a building sleeping 10 or 12. Not very luxurious.

Bunk house common area

And wouldn’t you know it… Nick and Robert were here too! And Ralf nearby in a private cabin, and Frederick in his tent. Now we have all the crocs together.

Crocs party

But, shock horror, Nick’s and Robert’s crocs arent genuine crocs! I only just worked that out! Theirs are cheap knockoffs, they said. Although they work just as well apparently, and in fact they’re lighter than my genuine crocs, so I can’t really blame them for choosing those.

Ralf and I went to have dinner at The Cove Cafe, and a drink as well. I love my stout beer and they had two to choose from which is rare.

Then I grabbed a cronut for dessert, as they were recommended to me by someone on Facebook.

More junk food

Now for bad news again. My foot hurts again, quite a bit. I’ve booked in for two days at this campground so I will have a least one rest day. It hurts quite a bit less than last time when I had a week off, and a different part of the foot hurts this time, so hopefully these are good things. But it means I need to take it easy for a bit. You would think I would have learned the first time.

All the others are moving on tomorrow. Maybe some other hikers will show up. If not, then with the bad weather and the crappy phone reception, I could be in for a boring day…

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 26 – Taurikura to Uretiti

Date: 21 October
Distance walked: 19.7km
Trail covered: kms 381.6 to 399.1
Weather: perfect again
Cost of a very expensive lamington: $4.90
Was it worth it: damn right

First thing that had to be done today before anything else was call the owners of the AirBNB I was currently in and ask them why there was no hot water. This was as soon as I woke up at 6:30am. She said she had just read the email I sent her last night and her husband was on the way to change the gas bottle for one that actually has some gas in it. So 10 minutes later I did have hot water. It was good that it was fixed so fast but annoying because it was an entirely preventable problem. I spent much of the day deciding whether to give a 4 or 5 star review, because she was very nice and apologetic, and the food last night was awesome but I really feel like hot water is a necessity. But in these days of the internet, anything less than a 5-star review is basically a scathing indictment. I once left a 3-star review for an Uber driver in London and I got a phone call from Uber themselves apologizing profusely and telling me that the driver had been “dealt with”.

Anyway, the time was approaching to continue on. I had a shower finally and some breakfast and left at 8am to get the 9am boat across to Marsden Point. The boat leaves from Reotahi Bay at the end of Beach Road which according to Guthook was 3km away. However it ended up taking a fair bit longer than that, because the line on the map is a straight line but it didn’t accurately represent the path which went in and out from the coastline.

On the way I did see some more cool views in-between houses.

Love the rock formations

I also saw the name of the town on a street sign. So even though Google said it doesn’t exist, this was proof enough for me that this is the name I should be using in the title of my blog post today.

Taurikura it is

I also saw this. People dumping rubbish does indeed suck but I really loved the detective work going on here.

CSI Whangarei Heads

Here’s the bit of water we would be crossing on the boat shortly. Unfortunately I don’t know anything about the installation that is right in front of me. I was worried I wasn’t going to make the 9am boat so I didn’t stop to read any information.

Whangarei Harbour crossing

I got to the spot marked on the map to see Tina already waiting there… hooray at least I have the right spot. She and Kay and Agneta had stayed in their tents the front yard of the people who live right across from the boat ramp. The name of the owner of this yard was Graham. He, like Kay was also from the small town of Putaruru. Small world.

At 8:45 Kay received a text message from Ralf who said that he and Olivia had already met up with Peter, who was the owner of the boat. Oh no, does that mean they left without us? Surely not! Peter wouldn’t take two across when he knew that six wanted to go.

But soon enough we looked down the other end of the bay and saw a hand waving. And not long after the boat came around the corner. Olivia and Ralf were in the front seats of the boat. I hope they’re not driving!

Boat’s on its way

We all got on the boat. We did notice the lack of life jackets. But all part of the fun, right?

Thanks to Olivia for taking this picture and to Ralf for sending it to me

I did learn later that there were life jackets there if you asked. I probably should have.

On the way over, Peter told us all about the area and detailed the various options for how to progress from Marsden Point. He is clearly used to taking people who are section walking – I didn’t pay any attention because the trail is the trail, and I don’t deviate from it. I was also a bit concerned at the amount of time he spent talking to us as opposed to the amount of time not watching where he was going.

Unloading from the boat was an interesting chance to see who has the heaviest pack. Surprisingly, it seemed to be me. But I did have 3 totally unnecessary litres of water and some food in there.

Unloading

The boat left us…

Bye bye

… and not long after we got accosted by some guy. He claimed to be from some ministry, the Ministry for Primary Industries or Fisheries or Silly Walks or something like that. He wasn’t even in uniform. But he demanded to know who brought the six of us across the water and his number because whoever it was was operating illegally. We all exercised our right to remain silent.

From here, even though there were six of us I was the only one that started walking down the beach, everyone else went down the road. Tina was hobbling so I think she was going to hitchhike somewhere and the others were going with her to make sure she got a ride, or perhaps they were going to the cafe in the Oil Refinery.

There were a lot of quite vicious seagulls at the start of the beach. They were flying at me and squawking at me. Luckily I could wave my walking poles at them and that kept them away a bit from me.

I wanted to go down the beach because there was another unfound geocache about 2km down the beach. It had been placed five days before and nobody had found it yet, which would be unheard of in Auckland. I dropped my bag off where the Internet said the geocache was and headed up into the dunes. After 15 minutes or so, I found it.

Tammy the Tyrannosaurus

And the little logbook inside was blank so again, I was the first one to find it! I signed my name and the date and time, and replaced it where I found it. Interestingly, there is another dinosaur-themed geocache just a bit back up the beach which I was also the first one to find a few months back, which meant that I had already walked this bit of the beach before. So that meant this was the first section of the whole Te Araroa that I had already walked before.

I later found out that two people visiting from Wales were also hoping to be first to find on this geocache, but I beat them to it by an hour.

While I was walking I had a look back behind where there was a clear view of the mountains that I walked across yesterday evening.

Climbed these yesterday

There was also a stream to get water from, if you were desperate. I wasn’t desperate, in fact I was carrying far more water than I should have been.

Not long after it was 11am so time for my 11am picture. This girl had just gone past me. She is the only person I’d seen so far who had brighter shoes than my yellow crocs.

11am picture – Pink shoes… although they’re hard to see here

Soon there was a river crossing coming up that was only crossable at low tide. Since it was almost right on high tide, I had to detour off the beach and walk through Ruakaka. That suited me fine as again I wanted a coffee and a good lunch. I looked at the map and exited the beach at what looked like a path, but I ended up at the back entrance to the “NIWA Northland Marine Research Centre”, and whatever that is was clearly top secret as there was a huge fence right around it. Obviously I wasn’t the first one to make this mistake as the workers who were inside pointed out that I could walk around the perimeter of the fence to get back to the road. Just go around the big rusty gate, apparently.

Not long after I spied a cafe – the Country Bake bakery in Ruakaka. I was very hungry and ended up getting a coffee, bacon and eggs, a lamington, a Blue V and a caramel tart.

Yumm

The coffee was large and good, and the bacon was high quality but the lamington was $4.90 which I thought was pricey. While I was eating, Kay and Agneta turned up. We all had a bit of food together and then they spent some time deciding what to do next.

Round 2… with Agneta and Kay in the background. I love blue V but don’t normally drink it because of its high sugar content.

The other two were going to hitchhike to Waipu because I think they were meeting someone. That meant I couldn’t walk with them because I would cramp their hitchhiking style, apparently. I think that’s fair. I wouldn’t pick me up either!! So I left them, and walked down the road a bit to cross the river and rejoin the beach.

High tide river. Wouldn’t want to try and cross that right now.

There were lots of fish bones in the water. Another reason I am glad I am not walking through here.

Ewwwww

I thought this house in Ruakaka was worth taking a picture of. I can’t decide if I like it or not.

Would you live here??

And as soon as I got onto the beach, I saw this girl who I thought was taking a selfie. But she was actually doing a video chat with someone. Of course I walked right through the middle of it, and waved.

Video chat is going on

And there were more oystercatchers.

And these birds which I don’t know the name of.

What are these?

Down the beach I saw vans with dogs running alongside. I figure this was just a very Kiwi way to get your dogs their daily exercise. I saw the same thing on 90 Mile Beach a few times.

Eventually I got to Uretiti campsite. I was going to try and make it to Waipu but my foot was hurting a bit after yesterday, so I decided to end the walk here for today. I was less than one kilometer short of the 400 mark. Too bad, that will be something to look forward to tomorrow.

I didn’t actually stay at Uretiti. Someone I used to work with has in-laws who live not too far from Waipu and they kindly offered to pick me up from there and host me for the night. I’m glad I took them up on their offer because they were very kind and welcoming people who took me in and showed off their wonderful hospitality. They had a party in the weekend and so had lots of great food in the fridge also. And from their house I got another view of Bream Head.

View from where I stayed

It was nice to be able to rest my foot a bit and enjoy a wonderful meal and some nice chat. Thank you very much Ginny and Brian.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 25 – Nikau Bay Campsite to Taurikura

Date: 20 October
Distance walked: 41.4km
Trail covered: kms 340.9 to 381.6
Weather: pleasant and then cloudy and cold
Number of TA walkers walking together at one point: 9

This morning I had set my alarm for 4:20am because we were scheduled to leave Nikau Bay Eco-Camp at 5am exactly. This is the only way we would be able to do both of the two upcoming river crossings at low tide. I also didn’t want to hold up Nick and Robert because they start early on a normal day and I didn’t want to be doing these crossings by myself. I’ve never done a “real” river crossing before, one that needs to be planned, and I won’t lie I was quite nervous.

I woke up at 1:30am, then again at 2:15am. I managed to sleep right through until 3:55am when I saw the light on in the main kitchen area and also needed to pee.  So I got up.  Had a small breakfast of muesli with milk and a muesli bar, because that required only minimal cleaning up.

We left at 4:50am since we were all ready ten minutes early, and made our way out in the dark. The other two had quite powerful headlamps but I only had my $4 KMart headlamp. It was good enough though. The path to the river was mostly a gravel road and as long as you could see the path then there wasn’t anything to trip over or watch out for.

Although at one point we did detour 400 metres in the wrong direction. We followed the markers but didn’t realise they were leading us down the detour path (the path you would take if the tides are wrong which adds at least 11km to the journey) instead of the main path. So we had to backtrack. That cost us 10 minutes, and I thought that wasn’t ideal but low tide was around 6am and we were okay to walk the 5km to the first crossing in that time – the Horahora River.

It was hard to see much in the dark but we did start seeing “private – Maori Land” signs around. Luckily we were okay as we had each paid our $5 for the right to be there. At one point we did also walk very very close to a house, “Violet’s” house, right down the side of it. But she knows why we’re there.

There were no photos up to this point because it was so dark. But I did get to see my second sunrise of the trip so far – the only other one being the morning of Day 2 of Twilight Campsite where I had oriented my tent towards the sunrise without even realising.

Only my second sunrise

A short walk through a tiny bit of bush and a bit of mud and here we were at the Horahora River. I started to get nervous at this point. I remembered back to when I first considered even doing the trail and I had said to myself “I’d do it if there weren’t so many river crossings – I don’t like the water!”, well here was the first real test.

Locating the marker that indicates the shallowest point

I’d been preparing for this – I had even rearranged my pack differently so that if the water turned out to be chest height, which apparently was a possibility, that the things in the bottom of my pack wouldn’t get too wet. But honestly, the river didn’t look too bad once we found the marked place to cross.

Nick preparing to cross

And, well, with all the anticipation it turned out to be a bit of a fizzer. The water barely even reached the bottom of my shorts.

This was about as deep as it got… (thanks Robert for this picture)

The sunrise across the water was beautiful.

A look back at what we just crossed

The mud at the south end of the river was quite intense. I couldn’t even see my bright yellow crocs.

Disappearing crocs

I was glad that the low tide wasn’t any earlier. It was only just getting light at the end and if low tide was 20 minutes earlier I wouldn’t have been confident that I could see – even though the bottom of the river was just sand and mud.

We started walking to the next crossing. It was 7km through the small settlements of Pataua North and Pataua South. There was a footbridge connecting these two places, so no risk of getting wet there.

Pataua North – South footbridge

While crossing the bridge, the sound of seagulls was deafening. Can you see the two “islands” of seagulls here? We could certainly hear them!

Devil Bird Islands 1 and 2

These were very small settlements. This series of signs does a good job at describing all the local landmarks.

Pataua Landmarks

The one behind says “nut house”. And I don’t think I ever saw the pub. But what I did see were Robert’s crocs.

CROCS

In fact crocs were a lot more prevalent than I expected – 50% of people seemed to have them. Although they were always grey or black or brown. I haven’t seen another yellow pair. Good too, because they won’t get mixed up.

Also, I think this settlement, or at least Pataua South, might be Maori land, because there were gates blocking the road:

Can anyone just close these gates? There’s no lock!

And this sign:

Private Access

Anyway, we pressed on. It was an hour and a half after low tide when we reached the second crossing – the Taiharuru River. Although James from the camp last night had said this one was real shallow. Of course his definition of shallow and my definition of shallow might be diferrent.

The first bit was muddy, and I took my crocs off and walked in bare feet, as did Nick. But Robert soldiered on through the mud in his boots.

The first section of the second crossing

This crossing was different. The first crossing was “walk 200 meters across this river and you’re done”. This one you had to walk in and out of the water and across bits of sand which were varying degrees of muddiness. The total distance of this crossing was about 2km.

Turns out that this crossing was even more of a fizzer. The water barely got higher than my ankles. In fact the deepest part of the whole crossing was the mud at the end. There was a lot of thick mud at the end of this crossing, as you can see.

Eww, this looks like I have some kind of disease…

I was worried for nothing about these river crossings! I had read comments on Facebook about people who experienced deep water. Obviously by following the advice on James’ big information board from yesterday, we had it sussed.

At one point we could see a group of people out in the distance, who were also doing the crossing at a different point. It was hard to see who they were, I thought at first they were a family playing on the sand but then they started crossing the water.

Turns out it was another group of TA hikers, who had stayed the night at Tidesong B&B, located between the two crossings. It was Olivia and Frederick, who I hadn’t seen since Russell Forest, Ralf who I last saw at Paihia, and three new people – Kay from Putaruru, and Tina and Agneta who I think are Swedish (apologies if I’m wrong!)

The other group that turned up, being led by the owners of the B&B (who knew a better way through the mud and they got a lot less muddy than us)

We walked together for a short time but it became clear that we all had different skill levels. Olivia is a speedster and she disappeared fast, however that was okay, Nick, Robert and I had already walked 19km by this point whereas the rest were just starting out.

Our little group of 9

Before she took off, Olivia mentioned that she had organised a boat between Whangarei Heads and Marsden Point for tomorrow at 9am. I really wanted on that boat so I didn’t have to organise my own crossing. But that would mean either a big day today, or an early start tomorrow.  Actually, an early start isn’t so bad. I actually really liked our 5am start, and hope to do it again sometime.

She also mentioned that all the accommodation around Whangarei Heads was full. She said that she and Ralf spent two hours trying to find accommodation for everyone in the group. Interesting. I’m not going to worry about that now. Surely there must be a place to camp on the upcoming Mount Lion.

We all went different speeds over something called Kauri Mountain. Interestingly, we didn’t really notice any Kauri. It was gravel road followed by a short bit through the forest. It was quite steep in places. Some of the group went slowly and didn’t speak as they were puffed.

Kauri Mountain Road

Nice views though. Although they would pale in comparison to the views that came later in the day, although I didn’t know that yet.

Views from up on Kauri Mountain

We finally got to Ocean Beach on the eastern side of the peninsula. Not a very imaginative name for a beach really, is it.

The northern end of Ocean Beach

Looks innocent enough, but after climbing over the first few rocks, the beach just seemed to go on forever.  We walked for a short while before deciding that it was time for a lunch break. The 11am picture is Robert and I having lunch on the only seat around, while Nick decided for some reason to have his lunch up in the dunes.

11am picture – early lunch

It feels weird as I write this that the 11am picture today features so far down the blog post. Obviously we had an early start. I had already been up for 7 hours at this point, and walked about 23km.

The beach is long, obviously nowhere near as long as Ninety Mile Beach, but long after you’ve already walked such a long way. The only other difference is that this time the water was on your left instead of on your right, which actually was weird and often made me feel like I was heading north instead of south.

Gah! The beach is on the wrong side!

The beach kept going and going. Twice you thought you were at the end, but each time it was just a bunch of rocks and then there was more beach.

Even though not much is around, I don’t get sick of seeing the oystercatchers.

Ma and Pa Orangebeak

While going down the beach, we all discussed what the nine of us were doing tonight. After this beach walk was Te Whara and Mount Lion tracks, which are steep and hard and go up to 475m in elevation in a very short time.

Te Whara Track information

We already knew that Olivia was off and going over the mountains. Nick and Robert said they were going to stop at Ocean Beach Campground for the night and attempt the mountains tomorrow. Frederick is going to hitchhike to Whangarei because he needs new shoes. And I was surprised that the other four are simply skipping the mountains altogether for various reasons – injury, lack of time, or they just look too hard. I still didn’t know what I was going to do.

I was surprised at the number of people who decide to skip sections. Jeremy from yesterday and then four of this group too. But I understand people have different reasons for doing the trail. However I am not skipping any sections – I told myself that at the start.

I walked with Nick and Robert up to Ocean Beach Camp. It was a nice little spot which just seemed to be somebody’s back yard, but it had an outside toilet and shower – didn’t find out if the shower was hot or cold. The cost for a tent was $15 paid by honesty box.

After resting a bit with them I decided I had the energy to go on over the mountains. I’d done 31km by now but because of the early start I was feeling good after a rest. So I pushed on. The first bit was up a particularly steep bit of sand:

The south end of Ocean Beach with the steep sand path up to the walkway. Doesn’t look steep here but trust me, it is.

There was a young girl on the steep bit of sand who was screaming at her Dad, who remained surprisingly calm. I’m not sure what her problem was.

Then the next bit was not quite as steep, but it was long.

Steep grass

I did get a good view at what was coming up though. I’d be walking right along the ridgeline there. The left hand side and highest point is Te Whara, otherwise known as Bream Head Summit, and the right hand side is Mount Lion.

Panorama of what was to come

Up here was a table next to some information about the World War II installation that was up here. The table had a painted rock on it. I had seen these rocks in Auckland – people hide them and then other people find them and rehide them. I like moving them on but this was not the right terrain for me to be carrying unnecessary weight.

Painted rock #mangawhairocks
WWII information

Not much further and I could start to see out the south side of the peninsula. It was very steep, like everywhere else in this area.

This was one of the parts of the WWII installation. I think it is what remains of the radar station.

Radar station – I think?

Then came the stairs – lots and lots of stairs. It reminded me of Puketi Forest and all its stairs. These were about the same difficulty.

Stairs!

Still, better than scrambling up a steep and muddy hillside. The difference here was that it was mid-afternoon and very hot and I was sweating buckets. I took my shirt off since there was nobody around! And I took a selfie at the summit. You can see how the straps from the bag were pressing into my shoulders since I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

At this point you could climb a bit further and grab a geocache at the top of the rocks. But it was a real climb. I didn’t trust that I wouldn’t fall, and anyone that did fall would almost certainly not live to tell about it. This is what you had to climb to get the geocache which was apparently under the shrub. Looking at it now it doesn’t look steep but it was windy and I was getting exhausted.

No way, Jose

It was hard to capture the sheer expanse of water that you could see from up here, because there was not a lot of space at the summit.

But I tried anyway.

What was easier to see is all of Ocean Beach that I had walked down, plus Kauri Mountain and beyond.

Where I’d come from

I continued on without finding the geocache.

View through the rocks

I did find this rock though, which if I’m honest is a bit suggestive.

Enough said about this picture…

Came to this intersection. This is where you can detour to the Peach Cove hut and campsite, but the problem is that it’s a 250m descent to it, and the same ascent tomorrow back to this point. So I didn’t go and camp there.

Peach Cove junction

From the summit down to this point then up to the Mount Lion summit was 475m down to 200m and then back up to 350m high, although the ascent this time wasn’t so steep. Not long after here it actually got quite cloudy and cold. It was a nice relief actually from the never ending sweating from earlier today. And it never rained.

I found a better spot to capture the big expanse of water that you saw looking south.

Great view from up here. Those guys who skipped this bit don’t know what they are missing.

The last section of this path had been closed until as recently as a few days ago. They were supposed to be doing Kauri Dieback prevention. It didn’t look like they finished – the stuff they put down to lay a new path was there but the path itself wasnt complete.

Diamond stuff

It was quite hard walking on this stuff, but people had clearly done it.

Down here I got my first glimpse through the trees at Marsden Point, which is where you start from after you get a boat from Whangarei Heads.

Marsden Point Oil Refinery through the trees

It was 6pm by now and so I really needed to start thinking where I was going to spend the night. There were a few flat spots along the way to pitch a tent but I wanted to wait until as far as possible through the mountain to reduce the earliness of my waking up tomorrow to a minimum. However the descent from Mount Lion was just stairs, stairs and more stairs. Not a single flat piece of ground to be seen. Plus I noticed once I got out of the mountains that camping isn’t actually allowed up there anyway. And once you actually came out of the forest, you hit farmland which had a surprising number of people walking on it, so it would be hard to stealth camp.

Looking back at the exit to the walkway

Because I heard earlier that accommodation was scarce I just went on Airbnb and booked the cheapest accommodation that was between my current location and where the boat launches at Whangarei Heads. It was a two-bedroom self contained guest house, but that’s all I knew, because I didnt even read the description. As long as it had hot water and a bed, how bad could it be.

I received an email shortly after acknowledging my booking which was nice. It can be hit or miss booking at such short notice on Airbnb but if you pick a “Superhost” then they are much less likely to cancel or have an inaccurate listing or calendar. It was in Taurikura, a place which didnt even seem to exist on Google Maps but I had the address and it was right on the trail so I just walked and admired the view. There are so many great views of mountains around here, they look amazing. You often see them between people’s houses.

It wasnt long before the sun started disappearing and the view changed. Lots of different views along the bays here of the oil refinery.

As I came around one corner, I had a feeling that I could recognize the Airbnb from the picture.

Taurikura Airbnb

Turns out I was exactly right. My GPS watch had not long before beeped at the 40km mark. That’s a lot to walk in one day, especially with the huge ascent and descent. Interestingly, today was the day of the Auckland Marathon which I did four years in a row between 2014-2017 before I injured my hamstring and wasn’t able to run much for 18 months. So I thought maybe today I should walk the marathon distance since I can’t actually participate. Sadly though, a marathon is 42.2km and I only did 41.4km. 800 meters short. However, I would have done 800 meters of ascent today… so I am very happy with the distance covered today.

Actually I may have overdone it… again… my right foot is starting to hurt again, although not in the same place that it hurt just before I took a week’s rest last week. I’d better go easy on it tomorrow.

And of course, I set a new steps record, eclipsing the record I set last week when I did 52,769 from Opua to Russell Forest.

I did 69,363 steps today – easily a new record

Another milestone was that I removed the “Kerikeri weather” bookmark from my phone and bookmarked the “Whangarei weather” page. Each time I do that I feel like I am progressing.

I got to the Airbnb and was sad that I didnt pass any kind of shop on the way. The “Taurikura store” was permanently closed – sad. But I got a surprise when I opened the fridge and discovered that they had left awesome food for me. A pot of yoghurt, a chocolate bar, honey, marmalade, milk and bread. It was great to see this kind of food after such a long walk. I didnt have to have another meal of Uncle Ben’s rice and a pasta snack.

I watched a bit of TV and wrote up a bit of this blog post but then I wanted a shower as I smelled bad. But oh no… no hot water!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh! How is that possible? I looked at the owner’s house next door and saw all the lights out, so I decided not to wake them, because I’m a nice guy. But I was gutted because all I wanted was a hot shower and a bed, and I only got one of these two things.

In a bad mood, I sent a quick email to the owners about the hot water saying that I would be calling them early and then I went to sleep all stinky. It wasnt a great way to end such a long day but ultimately it was a good day. 14 hours of walking and over 41km covered – can’t complain too much.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 24 – Whananaki to Nikau Bay Campsite

Date: 19 October
Distance walked: 25km, plus a bit on a boat
Trail covered: kms 313.8 to 340.9
Weather: pouring with rain overnight but sunny during the day
Milkshake satisfaction level: extreme

The wind and rain were very strong overnight and that made it hard to sleep. Nick and Robert left early again. But before they left we confirmed we would meet at Nikau Bay Campsite which was just past Ngunguru. The owner of the camp will pick you up in his boat and take you across the water.

I left a bit later so that I could catch up on blog posts and dry out the tent fly. Luckily the tent itself remained largely dry.

I walked with Jeremy all day, the other hiker who arrived at Whananaki late last night. He told me that he had also hitchhiked a lot of the roadwalking because he had a time limit which doesn’t allow him to walk every kilometer of the trail.

Our first mission was across the southern hemisphere’s longest foot-bridge which I saw yesterday.

Footbridge information. Apparently it was built to allow schoolchildren from across the inlet to get to school.

It was interesting when you were right out in the middle of the water. I hope whoever built this had some qualifications.

Whananaki footbridge

It was narrow and so when people came the other way, someone had to wait in one of the little passing bays they had available.

Jeremy, my walking buddy today, on the footbridge

I liked some of the baches on the south side of the inlet. Some of them were quite rickety.

Baches on the south side

After the bridge was the Whananaki Coastal Walkway.

Coastal walkway

It was mostly through farmland.

The first section of coastal walkway

Here’s today’s cow picture. I don’t know if this will become a regular thing, but we did see this cow trying to stealth camp. We think he was trying to get out of paying the DOC camping fees.

Stealthy cow

Here’s my 11am picture – we were partway along the coastal walkway by this point.

11am picture

There were lots of nice views from here.

Jeremy and I talked a lot the whole day. He is from California and he went to the California Institute of Technology, which is the same place the characters in the TV show The Big Bang Theory work.

Panoramic view of the coastal walkway

Once off the walkway, I came across this interesting series of “road edge marker” posts. How clearly does one need to define the edge of one’s driveway? I assume it’s to stop people driving in the garden, but then it kind of ruins the garden!

Some kind of art installation, perhaps?

There was a bit of roadwalking to get to Matapouri, one of two towns with stores we would pass through. I was looking forward to getting a milkshake again. But first we had to get there down a standard winding road with no shoulder. At least we could pass some beaches on the way.

Beach

At a few of these spots you are allowed to camp for a maximum of one night. I had planned to camp in one of these spots yesterday but I was exhausted and stopped at Whananaki Holiday Park, I was glad I did, because I got to charge my devices, do my laundry and have a shower.

We even got to walk down two of the beaches. It was nearing high tide but that wasn’t a problem.

Beach walk

Matapouri was 12km from our starting point today so it didn’t take too long to get there. The milkshake was one of the better ones. I got orange today. It had the right amount of flavouring, was not too runny and was cold. Jeremy got a milkshake too and agreed with me. He also got a battered hoki which he said was great.

The only other thing I was looking forward to was some fresh fruit. It’s normally too heavy to carry and so it was a special treat today.

Fresh fruit on one of the kiwiana-themed tables outside the dairy

Their selection was limited so I got two bananas and a tomato. I’ve never eaten a big tomato by itself before, but it tasted excellent. I think I really need to make a rule that when I stop at shops, if I have food in my pack already then the only thing I’m allowed to buy from the shops is a drink and fruit. And maybe one treat as well – although no treat this time.

If you didn’t camp in one of the spots by one of the bays, then that was the last chance you have before Ngunguru, as this sign just out of Matapouri told us.

No camping from here on, lest you ruin the trail for others

Most of the rest of the way was a forest track. I did encounter this though. Normally the orange markers are directional and they point to where you’re supposed to go. So what do I do here?

Error. Does not compute

I guess the trail ends here for me then. Lucky Jeremy was there today, to guide me the correct way. Actually he was good at spotting markers while we were talking, whereas I am not good at doing two things at once.

A fairly typical forest track

The track was a fairly standard forest track, a little bit of up and down, up to a 130m elevation. I liked it, it was just what I felt like today. We also met up with a local at one of the stiles, who walked with us for a bit of the walk.

Tane Moana information

At one point it was a quick 30 second detour to see Tane Moana. There wasn’t a lot of information about this tree at the site but the local who was with us told us that it’s slightly smaller than Tane Mahuta, the largest Kauri tree in New Zealand. Although this one looked a lot bigger because you could walk right up to it.

Tane Moana – a pretty impressive Kauri tree

From here it was a nice easy 4WD track walk down to a gravel road.

It went through a bit of farmland before the road, where I saw a horse eating next to an interesting light fixture.

Another good looking horse, also worthy of a tax break

While walking down here we were talking to our local friend about how to pronounce the next town, Ngunguru. He wasn’t sure, he lived elsewhere apparently. My understanding is it is noo-noo-roo. At the campsite last night Robert called it nun-garoo, like a kangaroo but the “nun” version. I thought that was a very Aussie way of saying it.  Some signs in the area just shortened it to “Ngu”.

As we walked into Ngu-nungaroo, I was fascinated by this huge house up on the hill. I had no idea what sort of building this was or why they needed so many rooms and levels.

One very large house

The town had a fish and chips store and a general dairy. It even sold Lotto tickets which I haven’t seen since Kerikeri. Jeremy bought some cheese and some bread. I was very jealous, but I don’t want to carry those bulky and heavy items. All I bought was a Whittakers sante bar and a Blue V.

While he was doing that, I sent a text message to James, the owner of the Nikau Bay Eco-Camp which is across the inlet. He said if we text him when we’re at the store, he will come and get us in his boat at a spot 1km further down the road.

The boat launching spot (low tide)

It’s official, it’s even got the Te Araroa badge on the little jetty. The cost is $10, or for $30 you can get the transport and a room in a cabin. I opted for the second option as we have an early start tomorrow as the next section of trail is only passable at low tide, unless you want a massive road detour.

On our way

It was a short but nice boat ride across the inlet. I had to take a selfie to mark the occasion, however it’s hard to look good when the wind is blowing in your face and the sun is shining so you can’t see the phone screen.

The best selfie I could get

Turned up at camp at 5:30pm, and true to their word there was Nick and Robert.

Now on the other side

Jeremy left us at this point, he wanted to get some more mileage in. By 6pm Nick and Robert were heading off to bed. They had their tents set up so that meant I had the cabin with at least 8 beds all to myself.

This place is quite nice, it has a few buildings, a shower and toilet and gas for the kitchen, but no electricity.

Looking out towards the fireplace

There was also this cool dog whose name was Rusty. I tried to get him to look at the camera but he would not stop staring at this corner, for what felt like hours.

No idea what’s up there!

Here’s the little room with the beds:

And here are the beds themselves. It’s a nice little cabin but it’s very small and cozy so hard to get a good picture.

8 beds – all to myself

If you need to pee, you do it against a tree. Hey, that rhymes.

Hey boys!

Coming up tomorrow is a crossing that can only be done at low tide. It is 5km from the camp and low tide is 6am tomorrow so that means a 5am start… or we wait around until 5pm. I’m looking forward to getting some decent mileage tomorrow and Nick and Robert are early risers, and it would be good to have them there for my first real estuary crossing. So a 5am start it is.

There are a couple of other water crossings too. Luckily James has a massive wall of information covering all the crossings in great detail.

Here’s a closer version of the text if you want to read it. Click on the image for a larger version.

One thing that is good is that we’d heard that it costs $100 to get a boat to cross the upcoming bit of water between Whangarei Heads and Marsden Point… although that must be outdated because there are two guys who will take you across for $10-ish. They’re retired apparently so don’t even need too much notice. Amazing what a bit of competition can do, I suppose!

I didn’t sleep that well last night due to the wind and rain, so I better get an early sleep tonight. It’s now 9pm and I’ll be sleeping very soon.

 

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 23 – Helena Ridge Campsite to Whananaki

Date: 18 October
Distance walked: 15.1km
Trail covered: kms 297.9 to 313.8
Weather: hot
Calories from sugar consumed after a visit to the dairy: at least 1,200

I woke up at 1:30am this morning due to huge blister pain from my new blister. It was so painful and it felt like it had its own heartbeat. I’d never felt that kind of pain from a blister before. Fortunately I took some Voltaren and it calmed down after half an hour.

I don’t know if it was related to the blister pain or not but I had really bad dreams overnight. Firstly for some reason I was back in Kaitaia and there were a bunch of scorpions in my bed. Then there was a guy running around shooting people and I got shot in the arm. Then I rented an apartment which first caught fire, then got flooded, and finally to top it off the key broke off on the lock. Plus there were many other weird bad dreams that I couldn’t remember clearly.

Taco Terry, the toy my niece gave me so I wouldn’t be alone, hadn’t made an appearance for a while so I thought I better show him the view this morning.

Morning view with Taco Terry

I also checked the 5 day weather forecast. Apart from scheduled rain overnight tomorrow, it’s looking really good.  Excellent.

Nick and Robert left before 7am this time. I’m definitely not going to fit in with them since I’m hardly even awake that early. Oh well.

This morning there was lots and lots of condensation – the tent fly and all the ground around was absolutely soaking wet (but the tent was largely dry). So that meant packing away a wet tent fly and hopefully finding somewhere on the way to stop and hang it up in the sun.

Corner where the 300km point is

I passed the actual 300km point this morning. It was on the one small section of road walking required this morning. I thought about it – it took me 4 days to walk the first 100km, a further 7 days to walk the second 100km, and 12 more days to walk to this point. I hope this trend doesn’t continue! I did arrange a little pile of sticks to mark the occasion. I wonder if anyone else saw it.

300km down!

Coincidentally this was the spot where there was supposed to be a turn to the right, but I couldn’t see it anywhere.

A right turn that I can’t find

But the mystery was explained when I switched from Google Maps to the topographic map.

Mystery solved – there is no turn at all

Google Maps shows the wrong road alignment – the path follows the road and there is actually no turn at all. Rare for Google Maps to be wrong!

After this helpful sign…

Come on Whangarei District Council, you had one job…

It was onto the Morepork track. The sign shows it was 4km / 2 hours which surprised me because the notes say this is an easy track and an “easy track” shouldn’t take this long.

Morepork track sign

It only ended up taking one hour, though. It was an easy track.

Morepork track

At the end of the track I found this:

Morepork-themed geocache

It’s a geocache so you have to know where to look for it. It hadn’t been found in nearly two years.

A bit further on, it wasn’t too long before I found a place to dry out my stuff. Here is my 11am picture – having a snack and taking over the whole place with all my drying.

11am picture – me taking over this area

There was another easy-to-find geocache at this point too.

After the Morepork track was over, it became more like a typical tramping track – not too difficult though.

Next bit

However I think somebody was taking the piss with this huge number of orange triangles.

Are all these triangles really necessary?

This triangle was particularly inspiring, although I wouldn’t want to come here in the winter like this person. It would have made the tracks so muddy. There had been no rain so there was no mud in the forests today.

Inspiring triangle

Yesterday was uphill most of the last bit of the day and that meant that today was going to start off mostly downhill.

Hard to show downhill in a photo…

You had to cross this stream five times. I managed to keep my feet dry by crossing on large rocks each time – but the fifth of the five times required a bit of manouevring down a small but steep dirty riverbank.

How to get down here?

There were poles there in case you wanted to polevault – well that’s what I thought at first, but they were excellent for lowering yourself down the bank and not getting *too* dirty.

View from the other side – those poles certainly helped get down the bank

I encountered this amazing set of trees, but got a bit lost in the process. When you see this view, turn right!

Looks like it could double as a jail!

After this, it was up again. Up and up and up, an elevation of 200 metres in a very short time. Although being the start of the day and having just had a lunch stop, it was no problem.

Just as hard to show uphill in a photo!

I was still sweating buckets every time I paused though.

I’m a sweaty guy, it seems…

At the top of the hill were more cool trees. I really liked walking through here.

Awesome trees

And also another house which has amazing views.

I could wake up to this view every day.

Then you had to come down again. On the way down the hill the second time I was sure I went off the trail, because there were only pink markers and no orange triangles. On Facebook I saw that pink means “trap lines” and we shouldn’t follow them. So I turned back and went back up the hill a few minutes to the last known orange triangle. But it seemed to point into a fence and a big area of impenetrable scrub. You’ll know the bit I mean when you encounter these stairs cut out of the hill.

Helpful stairs

You can see from map at the end of the post that I diverted from the trail a bit. I continued down the pink markers trail even though I was certain it was the wrong way. I had the topographic map open and knew that as long as I kept on the left side of the stream, I would rejoin the trail at some point. Sure enough that is exactly what happened.  I never knew for sure whether I went the wrong way or not but I just couldn’t find the right way.

The sign at the exit to the forest. Apparently the Te Araroa hasn’t been built yet.

After this, a short road walk and then a short walk through a farm and along an estuary, and I encountered the Whananaki Foot Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in the southern hemisphere at 395 metres long.

Whananaki footbridge

I didn’t cross it today though. I was exhausted and there was a shop near here. They don’t do milkshakes, so instead I bought a Mammoth iced chocolate drink, licorice, peanut M&Ms, a V energy drink, a Calci Yum strawberry milk and possibly even something else I can’t remember. Perhaps I should have bought some fruit or something healthy. Oh well, what are you gonna do.

I decided I was too exhausted to go any further for the day. Right next door was the Whananaki Holiday Park where I set up my tent for $16. Nick and Robert were there too, and I saw from the visitors book that Frederick and Olivia, the two others at the Russell Forest Shelter two days ago, had been through yesterday. So they had done in one day what had taken me two.  Nice work, although Olivia is an experienced hiker who only carries the minimum of what she needs to, so I bet that helps. And Robert mentioned that he thinks Frederick hitchhiked yesterday’s long road walk.

Later on a new hiker called Jeremy checked in, who had also walked from Russell Shelter in one day. I’m impressed.

I finally managed to wash my clothes and have a hot shower – it was long overdue. The shower was 50 cents. The best 50 cents I ever spent. For that you got four minutes of hot water. Lucky I only had one 50 cent coin or I could have been in the shower forever and spent all my cash.

Sign in the holiday park. I found it hard to argue its point!

Two young German guys joined the campsite later who had a car and were doing a road trip around the upper part of the North Island. I sadly didn’t get their names but they did show me a bunch of cool videos they’d made from GoPro footage about their travels. They also showed me their matching tattoos that they got just the week before in Auckland, which featured a Maori design. I must say I’ve never seen two people with matching tattoos before.

They also showed me their car that they’d just bought. A Volkswagen – “fine German engineering” they told me. When I pointed out that it was missing a hubcap on the front driver’s side, they seemed surprised and argued with each other in German, I think trying to decide whose fault it was.

The only two tents in the holiday park. Everyone else was in a motorhome or a shared cabin.

Lots of chats and stories tonight, it was really good. I got to catch up on my blog posts and have a good rice and pasta dinner. If I get a good sleep I should be ready to walk 26km tomorrow where you need to get a guy to take you across the water on a boat (the first of two such crossings coming up soon).

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 22 – Russell Forest Shelter to Helena Ridge Campsite

Date: 17 October
Distance walked: 25.7km
Trail covered: kms 272.8 to 297.9
Weather: hot
Number of piglets seen: too many to count

Sorry to those who got an email saying this post was ready yesterday. It got published before I was ready. I blame WordPress!!

This morning I learned that the occupants of the other tents in the campground were Nick and Robert who were from Sydney, Olivia who I think was from somewhere in North America and Frederick who I saw last night when I arrived.

Camped right on the path. The other tent did it first so I followed suit.

I also found the previously unfound geocache! I should have waited until everyone else left because they were already packing up when I woke up. But I was too excited. One of the campers was using the spot near the geocache as a urinal just before I found it – gross. But I bet that happens more than I would like to imagine.

The shelter once the rest had left

Everyone else left early, they had all gone by 8am. I bet it was because I was getting very stinky by now. Of course I was definitely not leaving that early.  I could have left early because it was a beautiful day and my tent was dry but I was in no rush, like always. I sat down at the shelter and had breakfast. I took a selfie while I was there. I don’t normally like to encourage people graffiting the walls of huts and shelters, but I liked the stars someone had drawn.

Selfielicious

And there was a toilet, which was a nice surprise. The notes for this place said no toilet.

A loo!

There were these bugs on the tent though. Vamoose bugs.

Take your dirty and perverted act elsewhere please.

The song in my head now was Metallica – Wherever I May Roam. Very appropriate, although I have no idea how that got there. “Roamer Wanderer Nomad Vagabond call me what you will” – seems appropriate.

I eventually left at 9am. I had no idea what accommodation was to come today or even where I’d be walking. The notes for this section are long and rambling and the accommodation part was a bit lacking.  All I knew (well I thought I knew) was that there was one more walk in the stream.

From the shelter, I ventured into the stream again and continued upstream, just like yesterday. There were lots of fallen trees, like this one:

Lots of fallen trees in this stream compared to the last one at Puketi

But wait… soon I was at the junction of two streams, both looked too deep to navigate.  No orange markers anywhere.  Uh oh, what’s going on.  Looked my app and I had gone way off course. I had taken a wrong turn at the very beginning – I was supposed to cross the stream, not walk up it!

NOTE: From the shelter, continue straight across the stream, don’t walk up it like I did! If you see the tree in the photo immediately above, you’ve gone the wrong way!

So back to the shelter I went. That cost me about 25 minutes – it was now 9:25am and I was back at the start.  Bah.  My first major wrong turn, although it didn’t set me back too much. You can see it on the map at the end of the post, if you zoom in. This was the type of road I was supposed to be on:

The correct way

I stopped at the 2km mark to have a second breakfast.  The porridge I had earlier just wasn’t enough.  I had some muesli and some trail mix.  Partly because I was hungry but also because I need to eat some of the food in my bag. It was ages ago that I was in Countdown in Kerikeri but it still felt like I had 5 days worth of food in my bag. It’s so heavy.

Since I’m not actually walking upstream after all, it was crocs off and boots on. The boots are still dry of course so it was no problem. I was also going to put on sunscreen, but it had clouded over at this point so I decided not to. This turned out to be a bad idea.

The way out of the forest was a fairly standard forest road.  My 11am picture was where this road met the main road.  It was also where a local Maori guy stopped and chatted with me about the area, forestry, and the fact he sees a lot more walkers now but a lot less cyclists.  It was quite intereting actually.

11am picture – the end of the forestry road and now on the main road

A lot of road walking now between here and Helena Bay. And really not a nice road – lots of twists and turns and sharp corners so you had to keep crossing from one side of the road to the other and back again. It wasn’t too busy but every now and again a big truck would come down the road and use up the entire lane.

Just a small distance down the road was 2999. I know Rhydian stayed here and I’m fairly sure he said he liked it… so that’s an option if you don’t want to stay at the shelter where I stayed last night.

2999 Helena Bay Rd

There was a sign to report wandering stock:

I thought this was a bit odd but literally one minute later was this guy:

Cow just hanging out on the road

And then a bunch of other cows on the road further up.

Really felt like a shop again to get a drink. I don’t know this part of the country and so I thought Mokau (which I saw on the map) might have a shop.  But no, this was all there was:

Mokau

At least the horse there on the corner was a very good looking horse. Winston Peters would definitely give this horse a tax break.

And then up the road was a pig which had escaped from the paddock.

More wandering stock

And then just past that… piglets!!! I’ve never seen so many piglets in one place.  They were so cute.

Huge number of piglets, even more were off-camera

The road walking started to play tricks on me. At first I thought this was a cow on the road in the distance:

Cow on the road in the distance?

But it was actually just mailboxes:

What sort of cow is this…

It was at this point that I got asked by a woman driving a car if I was lost. First time I’d been asked that!  She still didn’t offer me a lift though.

It was also at this point that I realised my bag strap had gone under my shirt and onto my bare skin. Didnt hurt too much but looked ugly.

Don’t let this happen to you

Finally found the turn to Helena Bay. It was a beautiful little bay with very blue water, and it was the first time I had touched water on the east coast since I started walking.  It was a great feeling.

Beautiful blue water at Helena Bay
Nice to touch water again

I was really sure that this was going to be a big place, and that there would be somewhere to stay. Turns out no. There are exactly 7 houses here, and not one of them showed any signs of life. All holiday homes for rich Auckland people perhaps? I don’t know. There was the Helena Bay Lodge less than a kilometer back from Helena Bay itself, but it looked far too posh with it’s perfectly manicured grass and odd-looking sculpture and gates. And with no actual sign I think they want to keep riff-raff like me out.

Helena Bay Lodge

I met a girl in a campervan who had seen me walking. She gave me roast vegetables, I think she felt sorry for me when I pulled out my wrap, peanut butter and pretzels. The roast veges were amazing. Whatever seasoning she had put on them was awesome.

I had heard there was a guy by the name of Jock who lived in Helena Bay, who let people camp in his yard. I had looked at all seven houses for signs of life but didn’t find any. I was sure I found the right house because I saw this sticker. But the house didn’t looked recently lived in.

Didn’t know that “trail angels” have their own sticker until now

It was also a super hot day and I had run out of water. Since it looked like I was going to continue walking, I first tried to get some water from the stream that fed into the ocean, but the sides were too muddy and I was getting more mud than water into the water filter. So I gave up on that idea.  Note to self: if the days are always going to be this hot from now on then I need to start bringing more water or stopping at suitable streams more often.

I continued on the trail since I couldn’t find Jock and all of Helena Bay had No Camping signs everywhere. I took a walk down the length of the bay first and then continued up the road to Helena Ridge.  This was the entrance to the Helena Ridge Track.

Big gates indicating the start of the Helena Ridge Track

I was still really thirsty and contemplated knocking on the door of the house opposite here and asking them for water, and if they didn’t answer, just using their outside tap anyway. But when I heard barking dogs, I decided against it. I guess it was going to be like last night where I turn up without water and just live with it until the morning. But I wanted a proper meal tonight. Hmmm, what to do. Hopefully I’ll find something.

Helena Ridge track was nice at first (just don’t fall down the sides):

Start of Helena Bay Ridge track

But wasn’t long until it got steep and bristly.

Nice views to be had though!

View from what I hoped was the summit, but wasn’t

After this… it went up. Up and up and up. The up seemed to be never ending. It probably wasn’t that bad, but I was tired, it was hot, and every time I paused a river of sweat ran down my face. I changed the name of the track in my head to Helena Handbasket Ridge, which seemed more appropriate.

On this steep bit I saw 300 written on a triangle. Maybe last year this was the 300km point but since they reinstated Puketi Forest and removed the large detour around Day 12, this year it was only 294km.

300km down? Last year it would have been…

Also at some point on this bit something brushed up against my arm. I looked down, and suddenly there was no doubt as to which country I was in.

Silver fern leaf

Eventually the forest stopped and I came out onto a farm. There was suddenly a breeze, which felt like the best thing in the entire world. More of that please, I thought. And after going up 320 or so metres of elevation I was really thirsty now. Luckily it was a farm, so there must be a water trough somewhere.  And sure enough, there was.  Complete with little floaty things in it, but I didn’t care.

Plus it came with a great view!

I had trouble though getting the water from the trough into the Sawyer Squeeze water filter bag though, which was a surprise. So I only got a little bit of water, but it was better than nothing. I was ready to continue again.

Now that I had a bit of water and I was thinking better, I looked at the Guthook Guides app which tells you what is coming up. It talked about an area that people used for camping and apparently the farmer even filled up a tank there with water for you to drink. This was at odds with the official trail notes which say “no camping along this ridge at all”. I hoped that the campsite existed and was legitimate. It was only a few kilometers away so I’d find out soon.

I approached this gate, and noticed that this time I would have to walk through cows. I just figured as I approached the gate they’d all scatter. But this guy wasn’t having any of it.

Guardian of the paddock

As I walked through, the cows gave me the minimum amount of space possibe, and then they started following me. It was a weird feeling. I took this video, and I love the point in the video when one cow walks into another cow and then they have a fight about it.

The farm was nice. These cows had a nice view, but they were too busy looking at me.

Cows with a view

This was the view from the other side at this point.

The view the other way

And there were lots of these. I didn’t like these very much.

Double electric fence

After that the terrain changed again. It was now a little overgrown track around the side of a hill.  I found it odd how first it was steep forest, then easy rolling farmland, and then suddenly gorse city.

Just walk through it, you’ll be fine.

Not long after I found the campsite that the app talked about. It was everything that it said… an open grass area with a water tank but no toilet.  It did seem that someone was filling up the water tank manually.  Thanks to whoever does that, it was awesome. It was even labelled as “drinking water” so I didn’t filter it.

Legitimate campsite on the ridge

It was 6:45pm, and Nick and Robert were already there. I said hello but they were both locked away in their tents and there was a chance I woke them up. They asked me if I had seen Frederick and I said I’d seen no other hikers. They said okay and I left them alone because they wanted to sleep early.

I went and found a nice spot further up the hill so that I wouldn’t be annoying. It was a good spot because I had a nice view just a few metres away.

View from by my tent

Also because it was at the top of a hill I had a kind of a seat where I could sit and make a proper dinner. The fact that I had a water supply and at least another hour of daylight really helped with that.

Dinner at sunset

I noticed that I was starting to get hiking pole tan lines.  It’s not that clear here but it is when you see my hands.

Hiker pole tan lines

I took some time to put a plaster on a new blister forming just below the toenail on the big toe of my left foot. I took a picture but it’s really not pretty so I’m sorry, you won’t get to see it. It was a bit red and quite painful.

Went to bed fairly soon after having dinner, as it had been a long day. It was much colder tonight and I had to wrap myself up in my sleeping bag. I could hear a possum around but it wasn’t being too annoying and didn’t bother me.  How kind of it.

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 21 – Paihia to Russell Forest Shelter via Opua and Okiato

Date: 16 October
Distance walked: 33.2km
Trail covered: kms 246.8 to 272.8
Weather: mostly sunny but with several bouts of heavy rain
Number of lost dogs: 1

As I learned yesterday, no kayaks would be going out today because to get to Waikare at high tide would require leaving at 5am in the dark, and “Dan the Kayak Man” as he was called by the backpackers staff is very safety conscious.  So that’s why the distance walked today was more than the trail distance covered.

Kayaks at Paihia sitting idle. At least the weather is good.

Despite this, I feel like I made some good distance today.  And as a bonus, I got to walk the Paihia to Opua coastal walkway which I wouldn’t have seen if I did the kayak.

Part 2 of the walkway starts down here to the left

I couldn’t do the first bit of the walk because that was low tide only, but the rest of it was a beautiful walk around the coast.

The first section of coastal walkway – can’t be done at high tide

The views from the walkway were always amazing.

Views from coastal walkway

And there were boardwalks across the water.

It went close to private property – between people’s houses and the ocean.  I’m guessing these people had enough of people walking through their back yard.

I’ve never seen these weird things before. When the wind picks up, they blow off the trees and into your face. So watch out.

Weird alien life forms that have taken over this tree

While I was walking, I could see the car ferry pulling in which I needed to get across the harbour to do the road walk diversion.  I sped up because I didn’t want to miss it.

Car ferry pulling up

But not to worry, the cars still had to unload and new cars had to load and so there was plenty of time.

Onboard I met a man from Ireland (I guessed Scotland, and was corrected, oops) who said he had seen a few hikers earlier this morning on the ferry when he came over.  He said that they had hiking poles and packs like me. I wondered who they were.

As we pulled into Okiato across the harbour, someone yelled out “man overboard”! Wow I thought, who could it be?  There were only four foot passengers on the boat, me, Irish guy, and the two staff.  We went to have a look over the side of the boat but it turned out it was just a drill.

Never fear – the invisible man has been rescued

As I got off the ferry, I turned back to check out the price list.  $1 for a walk-on passenger is amazing.  I know it’s not Cook Strait we’re crossing here, but The Interislander, you could learn something from this service.

Opua Ferry prices

My 11am picture is this road sign just up the hill.  I really thought it was Okaito, I had been saying it wrong for days.  I also learned that it was New Zealand’s first capital.  I didn’t know that, in fact I hadn’t even heard of the place before this week.

11am picture: Okiato – New Zealand’s first capital

I was sad to see there was no shop at all in Okiato.  I really felt like an L&P.  I have heaps of food but drinking only water gets tiring.

I took a small diversion to go and see the site of NZs first capital.  It was nothing except a sign and a well, which is apparently all that’s left of the original buildings.  But I’m glad I got to see it.

All that remains of the first capital
Saw this chap. He didn’t say much.

There was a lot of road walking planned today, but at least the first bit was a forest track – it was Stage 1 of the Okiato to Russell walkway. I ran into a woman on this bit of the track.  She asked me if I was doing Te Araroa, I said I was and we had a bit of a chat about it.  She had done sections of it, she said.  I’m surprised by the number of people up here who have heard of Te Araroa.  Maybe lots of people start the trail, but a lot have dropped out by the time you get further south?

Okiato to Russell walkway

After this was the road walking… and it was about this time that I got the song 500 Miles by The Proclaimers stuck in my head.  It’s an okay song, certainly one that I used to jump around to and sing to loudly in my drunken university years some time back.  But I’m not sure I wanted it in my head the whole day.  So even the road walk wasn’t the best, I stll put my headphones on and listened to music, quietly of course so I could still hear cars coming.

Besides… The Proclaimers say they would walk 500 miles.  Is that all?  Lightweights.  Even if they did walk “500 more” as well which they go on to say, that’s still only 1000 miles.  The TA is almost double that.  Maybe I should write a song.  Although “I would walk 3000 kilometres” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.  What I can say though is that if I haver, then I know I’m definitely gonna be the man that’s havering to you.

One good thing early on is that there was a GAS station on the corner where the turnoff is to Whangarei, after 5 or 6km from Okiato.  I finally got my L&P and some other sugary junk.

G.A.S. Russell

The kayak would have been 13km, but the road walk from Okiato to Waikare is over 19km – long.  After the GAS station not a lot happened.  I did find these though…

Bag of chips lying in the ditch

They were just lying on the side of the road. At first I thought they were chicken flavour, which comes in a yellow bag.  But on closer inspection they are Ready Salted, which normally comes in a red bag. That meant they had been here a while. And there was no visible expiry date. But they were sealed. I ummed and ahhed as to whether I should eat them or not. For about half a second. Of course I ate them.

There was a quarry…

Quarry

And this shed over the water…

Hope this is constructed well

I haven’t yet been asked if I wanted a lift yet, which is something a lot of hikers report happening.

The views this house must have…

Towards Waikare a guy in a white van did pull up beside me, and I thought maybe he was going to ask me if I wanted a lift, but no he asked me if I had seen a dog roaming around as his was missing.  I said no and he looked dejected and drove off.  If he had’ve asked if I wanted a lift I might have been tempted to say yes, because I had already done 13km of road walking and so I was telling myself that getting a lift to Waikare wouldn’t have been cheating.  But I’m glad I didn’t.

And there’s always time for a cow photo.

More moo cows

The “low accuracy” setting on my GPS watch nearly caught me out because I nearly missed the turnoff onto Waikare Valley Road, because I thought I still had 700 meters to go.  Here’s the turn here…

Don’t miss this turn

If you turn 180 degrees from here, you can see the Waikare Landing where you would leave your kayak for the hire company to collect.  It’s not particularly beautiful and I can see why it needs to be high tide.

Waikare Landing – I’m sure its mother loves it

These little buildings were interesting. I couldn’t see if they were for rent or why they were there.

Interesting buildings up on the hill

I was on the lookout for “Sheryl’s Place” which I knew was on this road.  She’s frequently mentioned on blogs as being a good host who would let you camp in her garden and provides a composting toilet.  I soon heard loud thumping bass on the street and thought that must be her place.  Gee, I don’t really want to stay here, it sounds like a real party house.

But Sheryl’s place was further down the road than I thought, and so the bass wasn’t coming from her place.  Here’s her entrance:

Entrance to Sheryl’s

I didn’t want to stop though.  I wanted to make it to the shelter in Russell Forest which was only another 6km on.  There was still a few hours of daylight, and there was an unfound geocache at the shelter which I was excited to be first to find (that’s a big deal in the geocaching world).  So I pressed on.

I had some food at the first little river crossing, and got attacked by sandflies almost immediately.  So I looked for the Deet insect repellant which I always kept in the top of my pack, but shock horror, it wasn’t there!  How can that be, I always pack the same way every time!  I had to pull apart everything out of my pack and there it was, right at the bottom. Grr, I won’t be doing that again…  it’s good to always pack the same way so you know where everything is if you need it in a hurry.

Once you reach here, you’re finally off the road

Plus my Deet was running low.  It’s really expensive and so maybe I shouldn’t be spraying so much.  But it works well.  Although if you spray it on yourself and then touch your skin where you sprayed it, and then eat food, the Deet ends up in your mouth.  Gross. Note to self – try and avoid that from now on.

Changed into my crocs.  I’d walked about 28km by this point and it was so nice to get out of my hiking boots.  I like my new boots but as you all know I love my crocs more.  They’re so freeing!

Another crocs photo

When I got here, I realised this was the first stile I’d seen since before my rest days. And I remembered how much they hurt and how hard they were to get over when I had my sore foot. This was the first real test of how my foot had recovered. But I’m pleased to say there was no pain at all.

My old nemesis – the stile

From here on the road turned into “Abandoned Car Avenue”.  Look at this collection of abandoned cars. This wasn’t even all of them.

Next was another stream walk.  Hooray, I loved the Puketi Forest stream walk so I was looking forward to this one too.

Stream to walk down

It looks deep, and in places it was, but at the points where it would have been deeper than thigh-deep, there were marked paths out of the water and along the forest.  So if you are walking this, and the water gets deep enough that it wets the stuff in your pocket, then you’ve missed an orange marker.

Getting darker now

I took a while to have food before and I was aware that daylight was running low, so I tried to be hasty, and therefore I didn’t fill up my water bottles from the stream, even though I had none left.  I knew the camp was not far away so I wanted to wait until then.

And there were footprints! People must be ahead!

The stream was nice and clear but the views weren’t as nice as those in Puketi… but still pretty good.

Last stream walk I was in my shoes but this time I was in my crocs the whole time.  They were excellent, they gripped almost as well as the shoes and they dried out really fast.  I know people say that shoes dry out fast too, but they don’t, they just get “less wet”.  Crocs are dry within minutes of exiting the water, and your feet are dry not much later.

Even when I saw a massive eel and jumped like a girl, the crocs didn’t let me down and I didn’t slip.

And I saw the coolest bird that I’ve ever seen in the wild.

Awesome bird

I eventually arrived at the camp to find four other tents already set up, and one guy there sitting at the shelter table called Frederick.  Amazing!  First time I’d seen anyone at all upon arriving at a campsite since way back on Day 2. When I introduced myself to Frederick, he said he already met me in Paihia.  But he can’t have, in Paihia it was pouring with rain the whole time so I didn’t talk to anyone. I was confused… but after I havered some more we had a quick chat. Maybe he didn’t meet me in Paihia and he just saw me at the backpackers… I’m still not sure.

But it was a shame that once I had set up my tent it was fully dark, so there wasn’t any time to talk to anyone.  The occupants of the three other tents didn’t emerge so I didn’t meet them, and I didn’t recognise the tents so I knew none of them were Rhydian.

And I had no water… and didn’t want to go get water or cook dinner because I wasn’t sure where the water was and I didn’t want to disturb people by cooking dinner.  It’s ok, I had a fair bit of food at Waikare before crossing the river, so I just had a protein bar and went to sleep.  I was thirsty though, I wish I had at least got a bit of water from the stream.

I also couldn’t get first to find yet on the geocache.  I had a quick look but nosing around in the trees late at night right by the other tents would have made me look weird.  So I’ll look for it in the morning.  It’s not going to be found between now and when the others leave in the morning.

It was warm during the night.  I don’t think it was just because I had walked so far.  I just slept in my sleeping bag liner at first, and didn’t get into the sleeping bag itself until quite late at night.  I hope these warm temperatures keep up at night, they’re awesome.

And today I set a record for most number of steps in one day.  Not sure if it is a record for the most steps on any day in my whole life, but probably.  Certainly as long as I’ve had this phone.

52769 steps in one day

Click here to see today's walk on the map.

Day 20 – Kerikeri to Paihia

Date: 15 October
Distance walked: 24.9km
Trail covered: kms 223.1 to 246.8
Weather: light rain all day
Chances of taking a kayak out tomorrow: Slim to bupkis
Gloomy start

Woke up this morning, and this was the view from where I was staying. I had to decide if I was going to start walking again today, or wait until the weather cleared and maybe go tomorrow.  After yesterday’s storm today had the potential to go the same way.  It looks gloomy outside, however I don’t want to be stuck inside all day for another day – I just had 7 rest days!  So I was gonna be out of there – only another day of storms would keep me inside.  And right now it was just a light rain.

I spent some time talking to my friend Nick who was sharing the room last night.  He was reading me the weather forecast, I don’t know exactly which forecast it was, but it had some interesting predictions.  Apparently the “allergy index” is moderate, the “mosquito index” is “not biting” and the “sweat index” is comfortable.  I found that last one very hard to believe, given how wet and humid it has been and still seems to be.  No doubt I’ll find out very soon.

Once I had walked back to The Stone Store to rejoin the trail, the first part of the walk was quite nice.

Then this was followed by a short walk through a little forest.

This didn’t last long. It soon turned into road walking which would become the theme of the day.

As it got to 11am, I started to feel very warm, because I was wearing my rain clothes and it was very humid.  I had to stop here and take off my rain jacket.  It was at this point where I got undeniable proof that the “sweat index” was not at all comfortable.  In fact I was far more wet than I would have been if I didn’t wear the rain jacket at all.  Maybe Nick was accidentally reading the forecast for Kerikeri, New Mexico instead.

Wrong, sweat index, very wrong

Not long after this it was 11am, which coincided with where the road walk turned onto a forestry road:

11am picture – forestry road begins with lots of signs

It was all road walking still but at least it was forestry roads for most of the rest of the day with no cars.  Here was my view for most of the walk:

Road walking view

There was lots of signage in here, it would be hard to get lost.  It seems the TA has been diverted from its original route as these signs suggest.

Big diversion signs

There were also lots of mountain bike trails, although I didn’t see any bikes.  They all had interesting names, like this one – “Nigel’s Nostril”.  I felt like I was in a ski field where all the runs have a difficulty posted and a funny name.

Nigel no-mates’ nostril

There was also a track I passed called “Wasn’t Me”.  This of course paved the way for “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy to be stuck in my head all day.

I also at one point passed a sign for a “Water Supply”. I was going to let the picture speak for itself, but I thought this water supply was worthy of being converted into a meme.

Yeah, nah

I posted the picture above on instagram and to my surprise there is somebody out there who did drink from this.  I wonder if they now have superpowers.

There had been light rain all day today, ever since I left the house.  At one point when it got slightly heavier, I did stop with the thought of putting my rain jacket back on, but the light rain didn’t seem to be really getting me wet. Certainly nowhere near as wet as the sweat from the humidity when I had my jacket on earlier.  So I left it off.  I’m not really sure when I will use the rain jacket.  It feels like something I need to have but when it’s humid it just seems pointless.

I passed this interesting thing, and couldn’t work out at first what it was.

Interesting setup

On closer inspection it is apparently where Jim Bolger, former prime minister opened the first section of Te Araroa track in 1995.

Jim Bolger waz ere

From here you could do a short diversion up a hill to the top of Mt. Bledisoe, which apparently had a great view of Paihia and the harbours.  I wasn’t optimistic about the view because of the weather but I hadn’t had lunch yet and also there was a geocache up here, so I didn’t mind the detour which was posted as 5 minutes up this path.

Thanks, Mr. Sign, that was really helpful.

It was quite nice up here.  No table but at least there was a seat to sit on and admire the view.

This looks like fun… a bench!

And also time for a selfie.  I’ve never seen my hair like this, must be the rain and the sunglasses.

Hello!

The geocache took a few minutes to find but I managed it. I also found this thing (I forget what it is called).  Mount Eden in Auckland where I live has one too.  Apparently Bluff is only 840 miles from here.  Is that all!  Seems positively nearby!

The view from here was actually quite reasonable gven all the rain.  Actually the rain stopped while I was up here eating lunch, which helped.

The view from Mt. Bledisloe

Past here there were a lot of closed roads.  I’m glad there were the little TA signs as well to reassure me that I was in fact allowed down here.

Stop! You, yes you! Oh no wait, you’re a TA walker. Carry on.

I also saw this in the forest.  Most people would probably think nothing of it, but the nerd in me knows that you never ever see a speed limit sign that ends in a 5.  They just don’t exist.  So this was very exciting!  But I’m not sure what use it is.  People seem to have been using it for target practice.

I also saw this car.  Normally I would see this and think “gee I better be careful on this road” but because I’m hiking my first thought was “can I sleep in this tonight?”

Wasn’t long before I was out of the forest and walking through Waitangi, which had great views towards Russell.

What do you call a man in a pile of leaves?

Not long after this I was in Paihia. Like I often am as I arrive into a town I was craving a milkshake. I went into the Rainbow Dairy and while I did get a milkshake, I wasn’t allowed to pay by card which I thought was strange given that there was an EFTPOS machine right there and the guy before me paid with card. And I will admit, I also got a real fruit icecream just down the road.

Boysenberry real fruit icecream. They also sell kebabs. Isn’t that a weird combo.

And shortly after…. here’s bay beach hire. This is where the majority of people hire a kayak and kayak to Waikare next. But… oh no! No kayaks will be going out in the next few days because the tides aren’t favourable. Apparently you have to arrive at Waikare at high tide which would mean a 4.30am start tomorrow.

Bay Beach Hire across the road

I knew the tides were not ideal but I wasn’t sure how big of a deal that was. Turns out very. Dan who runs the place said that there are a few people with the same predicament and he is going to drive them to Waikare tomorrow. I didn’t take him up on that offer because to me it feels like cheating. I said I’d never skip a section. So I’ll walk the road detour.

I could wait a few days for favourable tides but I’ve just come out of 7 rest days and the last thing I feel like doing is taking more rest days. There is a kayak section from Puhoi to Wenderholm in a week or so, so I have that to look forward to. So because of that, I will live with not being able to do the kayak from Paihia.

As I was walking down the main street of Paihia I met Ralf. He introduced himself as one of my followers and I felt like a minor celebrity! He is apparently joining the others tomorrow for the ride to Waikare, as he was hoping to kayak tomorrow also but can’t.

This morning I booked a private room with shared bathroom at Bay Adventurer Backpackers, and I arrived just mere seconds before the rain poured down. I know it doesn’t look like it here but it started raining hard. Again, I feel generally I have been very lucky with the weather.

Rain, rain, go away

And one thing I discovered about my new Salomon hiking boots… I was walking in light rain almost the whole day but when I took my boots off, my socks and feet were bone dry. Incredible. That was a very unexpected and happy surprise.

The backpackers is alright. Not a bad room for $50.  The dorm rooms were $24.  There was a spa which was still excellent, despite not being very warm.

Spa pool

That’s about it for my first day back walking. I don’t really have any pain at all which is very nice.  I’m very optimistic now about at least making it back to Auckland. I miss having my walking mate Rhydian, he will be far ahead now. Walking by myself it seems harder to think of interesting things to write about.  Hopefully I will meet up with other people at the campsites in upcoming Russell Forest.

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