Day 10 – Apple Tree Campsite to Puketi Recreation Centre

Date: 5 October
Distance walked: 24km
Trail covered: kms 172.4 to 197.5
Weather: stunning
How worried was I when I thought I had to swim across the deep river: very

Today was an epic day. Epic is a word that is overused a lot these days but today truly was.

It didn’t start that great, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night but it wasn’t because of possums. It was really cold during the night and that wasn’t pleasant. And also my knee really hurt during the night. Every 30 minutes I had to change position because my knee was so sore. Plus I was camped on a very slight hill and that meant that every time I did change position I kept sliding down my inflatable mat into the back of the tent.

I’d planned on an early start because it is a 25km day today, but when I saw the sun coming up I didn’t actually end up leaving until Rhydian left, at 10am. Today there is a bit where you walk down a stream for a few kilometers so it will be good to have him there for that. I haven’t really done that kind of thing before.

And there’s no escaping it, I now have to change into my extremely wet shoes:

Uh oh there’s no escaping them now

Walked out from Apple Tree camp and past the almost overflowing outhouse.

Took a while to find this, hidden away up there… no sign or anything

Started seeing these Te Araroa markers which I hadn’t seen before. There really wasn’t a lot of TA signage in general to be honest until today.

TA sign

Saw a bunch of beehives around. They were everywhere along this road – yesterday too. Really close to the road, when you walked past them, you could see bees everywhere and hear them too, and often walked through a bunch of bees flying around on the road.

Beehives

Here’s my 11am picture… another particularly uninteresting piece of road.

11am boring road

This boring road eventually turned into the type of track that I was used to seeing. You could see the forest and it was beautiful.

Beautiful view walking down here

There was a Kauri Dieback cleaning station at the start as we were going to be walking into the Puketi Forest which is full of Kauris. I was looking forward to seeing those.

Use these!

This track went down a steep hill and then eventually stopped at Mangapukahukahu Stream (what a great name). I heard there was stream walking today. I was excited. There had been very little rain recently so I wasn’t worried about water levels.

Start of the stream

This was a great place to sit and have lunch while I waited for Rhydian who had stopped earlier. I was excited about this bit but didn’t want to do it alone.

Great spot to just sit and admire the view

I loved walking down the stream. It went for a few kilometers and the scenery was great the whole way. I thought how most people would never get to do this. In fact, last season’s TA walkers didnt get to do it either as they had closed the Puketi Forest so they could build boardwalks and steps that keep people off the Kauri roots. So I felt honoured to be here.

Beautiful

Rhdyian didnt want to get wet and went to some lengths to avoid the deeper water but I didnt mind.

In the water

I never got sick of the views.

Rhydian must have been paying more attention to the water than the scenery. He found this…

Ouch

I even did two YouTube videos. This was the first time I thought I needed a video to show what I was seeing.

Like I said at the end of the video, the stream eventually came out into a bigger stream which definitely did not look crossable on foot. I wasn’t expecting to have to swim. And honestly I didnt think I’d be able to. And I didnt want to get everything I owned wet – I wasn’t prepared for that.

Now what the hell do I do?

Luckily Rhydian spotted little orange arrows that led over a small hill on a treacherous pathway. It lead to a better place to cross, unless you slipped down the bank, which both of us almost did.

Better crossing point

This was the end of the water section and a great place to have a bit more food.

And a selfie, why not!
The scenery at this point

I left Rhydian here as he wanted to chill out a bit longer but I wanted to get going.

Departing point – Rhydian in the background

I put on my headphones and said goodbye.  Up here was the next bit:

Where does this go?

This is when it kind of dawned on me. We had done about 11km by this point, and it was now 3pm. We were supposed to be doing 25km today. I’d better get a move on. I thought that we would be okay because I had been told that Puketi Forest was easy.

Or had I? Let’s think… what I had been told is that Puketi was *different* to Raetea. I was never told it was easier. Hmmm….

And along this bit made me nervous. In fact, I was terrified of what came next. It was a walk along the side of a hill, where there was barely a path at all, holding onto trees if there even were any, pulling myself along with whatever tiny thing I could grab onto. There were even a few places where you had to jump gaps.

I called this bit “death ridge”. This was a bit dramatic because if I fell, it was no more than 10 meters down the hill back to the stream, however it still would have hurt a lot. I quickly removed my headphones as it was clear that I was going to need all my concentration for this section. I didnt even take any photos because no photos could do justice for what I was walking through. And I didn’t want to drop anything, because you’d never get it back.

Needless to say it was very slow going. After another hour and a half I had reached sign and had only walked 2km since last time I checked. It was 4:30pm and it was apparently 7 hours 30 to my destination – Puketi Recreation Area. Oh boy. At this rate I’m scheduled to arrive at midnight. And I still have 450m of elevation to climb too. Shit.

Uh oh

It was at this point my whole attitude changed. It changed to one of “this is how a through-hike is meant to be”. I walk as far as I can and then camp for the night. I have food, water, a phone with a full charge, a headlight and there is no sign of rain. I’m set – what’s the worst that could happen? Preparing for an unexpected night in the forest I filled up with water so that I would have enough.

Now you’re not supposed to camp in the Kauri Forest. Kauri Dieback and all that. So I didn’t want to if I didn’t have to. Besides I was looking forward to getting to Kerikeri where I could wash my clothes. But given my complete underestimation of the difficulty of the Puketi Forest I might have no choice.

After this sign was stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. Zillions and zillions of stairs. But that’s okay, I like stairs. And they went through the most beautiful patches of Kauri ever.

Stairs behind me
Stairs ahead of me

This was a breathtaking section. Both literally, and figuratively. I was worried about Rhydian as there were not a lot of spots suitable to pitch a tent and those that were were often specifically fenced off to try and stop you camping (but you still could have easily done so if needed). I’m sure he is fine though, he has been telling me stories on our days of walking and he is clearly more experienced than me.

Even more stairs

Of course the whole time I was walking I was looking for potential camping spots for myself as no way was I walking until midnight. I wasnt worried about the lack of hours though. I even stopped to find a geocache that hadn’t been found since early 2017. It was an easy find.

One of the many fine specimens
Something else cool that I saw

But then suddenly I found this!

Not far to go!

It’s suddenly only 2 and a half hours from here to the campsite, and by this time it was just past 6pm. Oh wow, I must have misread the original sign! I should be at camp around 8.30pm. That’s still dark, but a much more respectable time. I had read that at Puketi camp it can be busy on weekends with weekend day trippers, so I didn’t want to get in real late and annoy people.

So I just hoofed it down this gravel road as quickly as I could. I was hurting a bit but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get there.

It was a typical gravel road. I did see this though…

That’s gotta hurt!

And as the sun went down, I hoped for a nice sunset. But this is all I could see because of trees:

The sunset

By the time I turned up it was 8.30pm. An added bonus was that because my GPS watch is on “low accuracy” mode, it was showing that I’d walked a shorter distance than I actually had. So I turned up at camp 10 minutes earlier than the watch said I would.

The Puketi Recreational Campground was a big place. I had a wander around with my torch but couldn’t see anybody there. I came across two people with a campervan and asked them if anyone was here. They said “no, and we are just leaving too” and they then did exactly that. So yet again, I have arrived at a campsite being the only one there.

That was good. After a long day I could just relax and take my time. I spent some time looking at the stars. They were beautiful. I’ve seen some great star displays while I’ve been walking. I know I’m never going to be able to capture it in a photo, but I wanted to try.

Night sky – view from my tent tonight

Heard lots of bird noises that I haven’t heard before. Given the signs around, I’m guessing at least some of them were kiwi.

And again it is surprising that not much hurts. Very little knee pain. Again though I bet that will change in the morning. But I’m happy with the state of my bumps and bruises.

I wondered what Rhydian was up to and if he would turn up. I didn’t expect him to given he normally walks slower on the uphills than me. If he turns up it won’t be until real late. He wasnt there when i went to sleep at about 11pm. But I knew that he would just be enjoying himself camping in the forest. Just as I was, alone again in a campground for the first time since Raetea Peak, but this time without the wind and the rain.

Now this is the *real* TA. It was a hell of a slog and terrifying in places but I would happily do this day again in a heartbeat.

UPDATE 9/10 Here is Rhydian’s blog post on the same section.

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

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