Hello! As most people already know I have finished the walk. The last days of walking were incredible, but I did not have access to a computer and I wanted to focus on everything around me rather than worrying about technology. So here’s what happened from Whangarei to Paihia since my last post...
Leaving Puhoi after spending the night at Lance and Brigitte’s, I was dropped at the SH1 to begin hitching to Whangarei. It took a while to get the first ride for a few kilometres up the highway, but unsuspectingly, the day began to get more and more incredible from then. My second ride was with Alan who I had mutual friends with in New Zealand...typical. After Alan dropped in Wellsford, I was picked up almost immediately for one long ride all the way to Whangarei by Mikaera. Mikaera works for the Te Uri O Hau Settlement Trust and from what I understand, he decides where in the Northland region development can and can’t go ahead because of the cultural impact it may have. When we arrived, Mikaera offered to buy me lunch at his favourite cafe in town. During lunch I had the opportunity to learn about the blessing he gave before we ate, the significance of his face tattoo and Maori tribes. After lunch, Mikaera gave a blessing for the rest of my walk and we went our separate ways. Thanks for the enlightening experience Mikaera!
Next, I needed to resupply my food and see if there was an outdoor shop in town that sold a seam sealing product for my tent. As I was wandering around town trying to find a shop that no longer existed (but was still on Google), I met Brendan. He offered to help me find an outdoor shop, which was quite the mission. After walking to 3 different shops, Brendan drove me to another two before we found a temporary solution for my tent at a canvas shop. Then he gave me a brief tour of Whangarei before dropping me at the hostel...he also offered to take me fishing the next day and drop me back on the trail! At the hostel I met Dena from Germany who had nothing to do, so before I had even unpacked my gear we were out on a walk through a nearby conservation park until the sunset. That evening we shared dinner with Kelly from the US. New Zealand showed us its two degrees of separation once again when we discovered that the friend Kelly was recently on a road trip with is now working for Jenny Hirst. I went to sleep on the couch in the common area that night (because of the worst sleep apnoea snoring I’ve ever heard in the dorm room) feeling totally amazed by all the things that had happened in one day.
Brendan came to pick me up from the hostel at 9am and we were out fishing in Urquharts Bay and on Ocean Beach around Whangarei Heads. Despite a fair bit of biting, no fish were caught. I still had a great time hanging out, thanks Brendan! From Urquharts Bay I set off on the trail again. I found myself climbing a steep hill with many steps up to Mt. Lion (395m). My body was a bit shocked after 10 days of meditating. I then descended off of the Bream Head track to stay at Peach Cove hut that evening. I didn’t expect it, but there was a full hut that evening and I spent the afternoon hanging out and playing card games with Nick, Jonah and Mia.
I warmed up on the 1000 or so steps back to the main track as the sun came over the hill in the morning and then continued along the main track towards Bream Head. The weather was incredible on this day and from the Head I had an incredible view looking up the beach, over Whangarei Heads and across Whangarei Harbour. One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in NZ! I descended to Ocean Beach and walked north for a couple hours before meeting Lesley at the end of the beach. Thanks for the donation, Lesley. Then it was up and over Kauri Mountain to reach the Taiharuru Estuary. Wanting to keep my shoes dry, I regrettably decided to walk the 2km across the estuary with bare feet. The walk across was fine but when I got to the far side I discovered that shells had slit the bottoms of my feet open in multiple places. Those cuts still haven’t fully healed! I stayed in a camping ground that was technically closed for winter, and when the owner found me the next morning they asked me to pay $15 for using a patch of grass and no facilities. I wasn’t too keen to pay that much, so I made mention of the walk for charity and the lady said I could give that money to The Foundation instead.
The next day was 38km almost entirely on roads to get into Ngunguru. While waiting at the local sports bar, I met a couple of Kiwi TA walkers from Dunedin who shouted me beers before departing. That night I stayed with friends of Lance & Brigitte: Kate and Dimitri with their son Barnaby. It was a real pleasure to meet these folks and also have a place to sleep out of the rain.
The next morning I said goodbye and set off in light rain, after following road I then started a track that led into forestry roads, past Tane Moana, a big kauri tree and then through some native bush to reach another road. More roads of walking in the rain took me to the Whananaki Coastal Walkway. The walkway was just a gravel farm road that led past some incredibly scenic bays and expensive looking holiday houses. Along the way I met and walked with Martin and Carrie from Spain. They left to find a place to camp and I continued on for the last couple of kilometres to reach the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere (a fact that everyone needs to know!) and on the far side, the Whananaki Holiday Park where I was welcomed by Matthew and Tracy, the owners. Thanks for being so welcoming...and for the circular towel!
The next day began with the Onekainga track which was a combination of pasture, bush and quad bike tracks, with most of it being quite slow due to the slipperiness of clay. Once at the far side of the track I had lunch with a view over rolling pasture hills to the coast before the 17km road walk to reach the Whangaruru Holiday Park, which is 3km off of the trail but well worth the side trip for the location.
The following morning I had another 9km of road walking to knock out before the Russell Forest Track. Along the way I met Paul from France and Glen & Sherren from NZ/England…some fresh Te Araroa southbounders. The Russell Forest was a straightforward walk that followed old 4WD roads to Papakauri Stream, which I was then required to walk in for 4km before coming to another old road that led out to the main road...if you can call if that. The next 10km of the trail was on water and it was a long road walk to the nearest town. The road was almost completely deserted, but some people that came past said they would pick me up on their way into Russell right after they ran an ‘errand’. I was grateful that they did come back, and the guy even dropped me out of his way at the ferry landing to get to Paihia.
I decided to take a rest day in Paihia and hang out in the beautiful weather. I met Tom from Germany at the YHA hostel and he was keen to come over to Russell with me and go for a walk. This was good for me because I probably wouldn’t have walked as far had I been on my own, ‘cause you know, I do a fair bit of walking. We ended up on a mission climbing over rocks around the coast before trying to climb a hill that was far too steep and having to bail. I ran into Kelly at the supermarket when we got back to Paihia and so we hung out with beers by the beach in the evening.
That’s all for this blog. I’ll post about my final days on the trail shortly!