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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then there was the weather station…
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”.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Since I’d stopped I might as well have a break. Better do the daily cheese report. It was still surprisingly almost like new.
And the daily chocolate report. All good as well.
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.
There’s nothing at the summit except a trig station. Not even a view.
And just after this is one such rock which you have to climb down.
Not long after the summit though is the lookout. Surprisingly for Labour Weekend Sunday there weren’t many people – I only saw four others.
And one you’re at the lookout you see this sign:
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??
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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”?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):