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…


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

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

4 thoughts on “Day 21 – Paihia to Russell Forest Shelter via Opua and Okiato

  • What a read. So much of interest. That is an awesome tree with the alien life form and that has to be the cheapest passenger fee on a ferry I’ve heard of, at $1.00. Car Ferry, yes, but $1.00?? Fantastic. NO…. never knew that New Zealand’s first capital was Okiato. Thanks for that interesting fact. Such a pretty King Fisher, seen them sometimes round home. You’re a good advertisement for those Crocs. This is a great read, looking forward to your next days adventures.

  • You have steps to spare, can I borrow a few? Maybe we could work out some step sharing programme.

    Looking forward to clicking next to see if you got the GeoCache.

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