The Te Araroa adventure continues as we leave Northland behind and new challenges arise that force us to reconsider our hike.
Check out my latest video as the trail presents new challenges:
DAY 15 – Waipu Beach to Pakiri
Tom and I woke up on top of a mountain. The name is unknown but it was a survey/trig point. There wasn’t much condensation on our tents but still a little. We packed up and headed down out of the woods.
It was easy downhill on gravel roads until we reached a track that led through farm fields and some hills. Soon we were hiking along the Mangawhai Walkway which had incredible seaside views from atop the cliffs.
It was tougher hiking than we thought. It was a hot morning and we couldn’t stop sweating. Eventually we descended to Mangawhai Heads Beach and crossed that into town. Here we stuffed ourselves with breakfast.
It was still stifling hot as we road-walked four kilometers to the next town of Mangawhai where I ate some more food. It was nice having twins close together because it meant more food breaks! From here it was a six kilometer road walk to another beach.
This next beach was just like Ninety Mile Beach; it stretched on and on. It was quite tedious, all the beach and road walking today. We did have a hill to climb in the middle that made for a sweaty addition to our day.
We were pushing big mileage and kept walking, using the flat ground to move fast. Soon the weather turned windy and the sky grew cloudy. It was cold now and I was wind burned. Tom had to stop because his little toe was curling under his other toe and it was being crushed as he walked. He was in excruciating pain.
We couldn’t stop since we were too far in either direction to get off the desolate beach. Tom later said this was his lowest point on the trail so far. It was a miserable moment, watching him take off his shoes as the wind blew sand in our faces. He ended up taking his shoes off and walking barefoot which helped.
At last we reached the end of the beach at Pakiri. We waded across a small stream (great, end the day with wet shoes that won’t dry overnight) and arrived at a holiday park only to find the reception had closed.
We pitched our tents on one of the many open sites sans payment and dried out our socks. There were coin operated showers and luckily Tom had just enough coins for us to each rinse the sand off. It really made us feel better. I found the kitchen so we could cook dinner with ease and charge our drained phones and power banks. It would be a day or two before we would see another town perhaps and our guidebooks are on our phones!
So far, this has been our longest day on the trail. We hiked over 41km (25mi) and survived, barely. Tom planned a big day tomorrow so I hope we can handle it as I try to manage my blisters and he his toes. Neither of us recall the Appalachian Trail being this difficult the first two weeks. As he left the kitchen to retire to his tent, he exclaimed, “I’m going to go look at my feet now.”
Day’s Distance: 41.5km (25.8 mi)
Total Distance: 463km (287.8mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,534km
DAY 16 – Pakiri to Dome Forest
When we woke up, Tom told me he didn’t think he could walk on his foot. We were in the middle of nowhere and there wasn’t even a town nearby to really stop at. After some consideration he decided to plod on. At least it hadn’t rained as forecast and our tents were dry. Tom headed out ahead of me.
The day began with a road walk, naturally. As I walked past a farm. The cows were being rounded up and put into a truck, presumably to be taken to slaughter. It was a silent and eerie event to observe. The only sound was the shuffle of hoofs as the cows were unwillingly moved onto the truck. I haven’t mentioned this before, but Tom has worked on many a farm and has actually become a vegetarian. He wasn’t one on the AT but so far he’s been sticking to it on the TA. His stories from his farm work and my own beliefs have shifted my diet somewhat in that direction on the trail. It’s also clear to see in the landscape of New Zealand how wasteful and destructive agriculture is on the environment: 80% of New Zealand has been deforested, mostly for grazing land.
Soon I was climbing up track through steep farmland. Some storms had knocked over a lot of giant trees. I had some great views of the beach from the previous day.
The track entered the woods and I caught up with Tom. We followed a ridge for a while until it opened up to a helipad. We stopped for a nice break there.
The trail descended steeply but it hadn’t rained so everything was dry. As I tramped along listening to music, I finally felt like I did on the AT. Simply hiking through the woods was so enjoyable. After nearly two kilometers I checked to see how close the road was; I should have hit it by now. Turns out I was on the wrong trail!
I began climbing back up the hill, pissed off. I ran into Tom and told him we had to turn around. He was not happy. We finally reached the sign we had missed though It was more like a barrier directing us down the path we had taken but also stating our correct route behind it. So we squeezed around the sign and carried on.
As we descended a steeper, more slippery trail, it began to rain. When life gives you lemons…the world tastes sour.
At a road crossing I waited for Tom to catch up. It was pissing rain. When he finally caught up, things went from bad to worse. Tom’s toes were hurting so much he couldn’t go on; he has to get off trail. We were in the middle of nowhere, too far to go back and too far to go forward.
Pain and injury can kick anyone off the trail without notice. We both understood that and Tom needed to do what’s best for his health and well-being. And so he decided to walk six kilometers down the road and find a hotel or a bus into Auckland. He told me to keep going.
It was a sad moment, walking away from each other. I hoped he felt better. Maybe he could rejoin me on the trail if he worked out his foot pain. Time will tell.
The track took me up into the forest along a ridge. I clipped along at a decent pace. Without Tom slowing me down, I could really move (don’t tell him I said that). There was a campsite in 30km, but it was already early afternoon. That was a long way to go before sundown and so I kept a fast pace.
The trail became easier with some nice wide paths and stairs as I reached a few lookouts. I paused for a quick lunch of cheese wraps and then entered farmland.
As the sun set I walked along farm roads and eventually on old forestry roads. It was still raining and there were a few good places to camp but I was pushing for that spot after 30km.
Dusk fell and it got dark. The moonless sky tested my night vision. Near the top of a hill, there was a large gravel area I could have camped but I continued into the darkness.
Eventually I passed the 30km destination without finding any camp spots so I eventually settled for a small gravel area. It wasn’t ideal; my tent stakes wouldn’t go far into the gravel but there was no wind to blow my tent away that night. It was 9:30pm when I finally got in my tent and forced myself to eat before I passed out from exhaustion.
Day’s Distance: 40km (24.9mi)
Total Distance: 503km (312.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,494km
DAY 17 – Dome Forest to Stillwater
I woke up alone for the first time on this trail. Tom wasn’t nearby rustling around in his tent. I could sleep in if I wanted, no rush. But I got up anyway and packed my wet tent up. My shoes and socks were still soaked from the day before.
The sun was shining as I set off and there were beautiful views of the surrounding farmland. My shoes and feet became even more soaked from the overgrown, dewy fields I walked through.
It was almost all farms for a while. I climbed over fences of barbed wire and electric fences. At one point I was walking down a steep slope with a barbed wire fence on my right and an electric fence on my left. I could stretch my arms out and touch either fence if I wanted. The wet grass and muddy trail made for a slippery slope. And of course I fell. And cut my hand on the barbed wire.
I stopped at the bottom of the hill to disinfect the cut and bandage it up. I was getting really tired of all this slippery, dangerous stuff.
Eventually the track went into the woods as it wound down to the Puhoi River. The town of Puhoi was historic and quaint.
I walked to the Puhoi Pub and had a steak and eggs breakfast; I was starving. This place had so much charm. The pub let me charge my phone and dry out my tent on their lawn.
The next section of trail was actually the Puhoi River. I rented a kayak to paddle down to where the river meets the sea. I had to wait until the tide was just about to go out since the river levels were tidal.
After enjoying the town of Puhoi, I boarded my vessel and paddled down river. It was a nice break for my feet. The river was peaceful and the going easy.
At the river mouth I disembarked and got back on land. From here I passed a historic old house and then climbed a hill.
After descending back to the beach, I had to rock hop and cross the sea floor at low tide. The timing was perfect after my kayak trip but the going was slow.
I was wearing my sandals from kayaking and thought I might be getting wet again so I crossed the rocks in not the best choice of footwear. I slipped a few times and accidentally popped a few blisters on my toes.
After the tedious rock hopping, I made it to some more beaches and into the town of Orewa. There was a long stretch of beach with people milling about for evening strolls. I carried on and stopped for a Subway sandwich.
After the town the track took me along a suburban walking path where I made great time. I raced alongside an estuary and then onto a road.
This was the last part of my day, walking along a road for over 10km. It was a dangerous road with no shoulder at times and a high speed limit. The sun went down and I walked in darkness. It was safer this way as I was able to see the car headlights coming ahead of time to get out of the road. By 9:30pm I reached the town of Stillwater after walking down the most dangerous section of road on the trail so far.
In Stillwater I got picked up by my mate, Ti, who lives in Auckland only 45 minutes away. He drove me back to his place for the night, of which I was so grateful. I was exhausted. This was my longest day on the trail yet and my feet were dead.
Also, sometime in the last few days I crossed over from the region of Northland into the region of Auckland. I’ll soon be hiking right through the city itself!
Day’s Distance: 45km (28mi)
Total Distance: 548km (340.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,449km
After Tom left me all alone on the trail , I started feeling the pain:
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