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.

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

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