Part 3 of my New Zealand adventure takes me down the East coast of the North Island along the beaches and grassy hills and is a welcome change from the muddy forests that I’ve spent a week walking through. It’s blisteringly hot and I meet some new friends along the way, do a bit of hitchhiking and there’s an unexpected end to the trail.
My notes from this section are limited so this post will be shorter and less detailed than previous ones on Te Araroa unfortunately. I find that as the adventures continue I feel less need to write each day.
Day 15 – Keri Keri to Russell
My cousin drops me off at the same place we met a couple of days ago – these are the rule of thru-hikes, I could have carried on from Keri Keri but would never have felt satisfied knowing I’d missed a few km on the trail.
It’s a fairly uninspiring 20km walk to the Paihai coast and then I have a choice to keep on the coast or take a ferry across to Russell where I have booked a hotel. After a couple of nights of luxury, I’m not quite ready to start camping again so need to ease myself back into the hobo life slowly.
The ferry across to Russell is easy to find and I don’t have to wait long for another one, it’s more like a little boat and I chat to the captain as we go who says he carries loads of Te Aroroa hikers. Once in Russell, I find the hotel but it’s still early so resuply with food and grab a few beers at a “bottle shop” – the NZ term for an off-licence and go and sit on the beach having a few drinks. After that, I find my hotel, check-in and hit the sack.
Day 16 – Russell Forest Track to Morepork
I wake-up uninspired by this walking lark and think about quitting but know that a couple of hours down the trail I’ll be OK, and I’m planning to get back into tent-life tonight instead of the comfy beds and showers of the last few days.
It was a long day of walking, and I have to divert 2km at the end of the day to find a campsite and a shop for the obligatory evening alcohol. There’s been a lot of dangerous road walking but I perk up once I’ve had a shower and a couple of drinks. The campsite is fabulous and there’s a school group on the site – just before dusk they all do a haka – like you see with the All Blacks in rugby. It was quite interesting to see a traditional NZ/Maori dance with 30+ teenagers.
Day 17 – Morepork to Onekainga Track
Had a good night’s sleep and it was another beautiful morning, feeling a lot more positive after getting back onto the trail and in the tent. I had some emails which made me realise I’d had around £1000 of fraudulent activity on my eBay account so had to spend ages on the phone to eBay and PayPal but managed to get it all sorted/cancelled and refunded.
On the way out of the campsite a car stopped and asked if I wanted a lift back to the start of the trail. The Kiwis are awesome like this, and it’s not the last time I get this generosity. I’ve only hitch-hiked once, in Arizona but here it’s normal and the kindness of the locals in unbelievable.
It’s another long day at about 45km but I found a free wild camping site right on the beach with water and toilets. Spent the evening chatting to some Germans who had hired a camper van and were touring NZ.
Morepork is named after some indigenous owls who make a sound that goes More-Pork! There are loads of strange flora and fauna in NZ, new sounds and sights which I’ve never seen or heard before.
Day 18 – Onekainga Coasta Track to Matapuri Bush Track
I had a decent nights sleep but my feet were very sore after a long previous day. Lots of road walking though which was tough. I found a spot in a forest to camp in and washed myself down in a nearby stream for good measure.
Day 19 – Matapuri Bush Track to Taihauru Estuary Route
Not a good night’s sleep as my feet are sore, I think that I’m going to need another rest day soon. As I’m eating my morning porridge I spy a hiker going past singing “Another Day In Paradise” by Genesis! I’m hidden from view so he doesn’t see me. As I finally pack-up and carry on I meet him having breakfast by a stream. He’s Tim from Canada and we have a chat, he’s staying and eating for a while so I move on, but we’ll see him again soon.
In the afternoon I meet Helena and Sebastian from Holland who have the biggest packs I have ever seen and we camp together in the evening, spending the night drinking and chatting with Tim who had joined us.They are amazed by my small backpack so we show each other our kit – they have jeans, fleeces and a cast-iron frying pan and pot! I can’t believe it, I travel light and have a small 35L pack! Each to their own I guess – whatever makes you happy!
Day 20 – Taihauru Estuary Route to Ocean Beach Walk
Tim and I are early starters so we’re up early and ready to do this next section which involves an estuary crossing which is done by a local who rows you across the estuary on a little boat. It’s another example of the Kiwi hospitality, you just give him a a call and he comes out and rows you across for a small gratuity – typically $10.
The first section is a hilly jungle walk to Marsden and Tim starts off before me but we meet-up again in Marsden as I resupply at a local store. Tim phones the boat-man and a few minutes later we’re being rowed across the estuary by an elderly chap who we chat to about Te Arorora.
Once over the estuary, it’s a 10km walk to a campsite where I’m planning to have a rest day. Tim and I walk together, chatting about stuff which is great. The camp site is really nice and it’s time for a shower and use the launderette. We then hitched into the nearest town, find a sports bar, have a few drinks and hitch back. I’m not a big fan of hitching but here it’s the norm.
Day 21 – Ocean Beach Walk (Rest Day)
Today is a rest/zero day as it’s been a while and my feet were getting sore. Tim and I hitch back to Ruakaka to buy supplies and do some postcards to family. Tim was going to hitch back to the campsite but I decided to walk as active recovery – it was only 5km so not too long.
The rest of the day was spent recovering, eating and drinking.
Day 22 – Ocean Beach Walk to Bream Head
I woke up completely disoriented, not sure where I was. This happens to me a lot, especially after 100-mile races, I wake up in my house thinking I’m still in the race or on the trail and start putting my running/hiking kit back on ready to get back!
Tim left before me so I was on my own today, the day was OK, fairly hilly and I had another complete meltdown at about 2pm – no energy at all. but picked-up after stopping for a coffee and some noodles.
I had another proper campsite for the evening, so got there and pitched-up, Tim arrived a bit later which surprised me as I hadn’t overtaken him. But he said that he’d been swimming a while back so I guess that’s where I passed him.
I walked into town, bought more supplies and had fish and chips from a takeaway, wasn’t feeling very sociable though tonight, so sat in my tent having a few cans before turning-in.
Day 23 – Bream Head to Restahi Track
30km of road and beach walking with a big climb at the end of the day. Not many notes from today.
The campsite at the end of the day is basically a normal house that lets Te Araraoa hikers camp in their garden for a few bucks. They would also provide dinner and breakfast. I got there and there was a sign saying “TA welcome” outside so pitched up in their front garden. There were two Japanese hikers already there – Nobu and Kay and Tim arrived soon after. We ate together in the evening and morning. It turned out this hike was the Japanese couples honeymoon! How many people decide to go on a 2500km hike as a honeymoon?
Day 24 – Restahi Track to Moirs Hill
A restless night of sleep with painful feet and restless legs which often happens on these hikes. Tim leaves before me and I found myself following his footsteps all day through muddy forests. There’s possum traps all over the place which are boxes on a pole which has bait in it, so the possum climbs up, sticks it’s head in the box and BOOM, the trap shuts and it dies! So it’s a strange landscape of possum bodies hanging from boxes – I later find out from a Kiwi that possums are a real problem in NZ so they are waging a war on them.
It got really hot in the afternoon and I had a bit of a crisis with sun cream dripping into my eyes and had to stop, sit down and have a word with myself in the afternoon.
I freedom camped in a forest at the end of the day.
Day 25 – Moirs Hill to Owea
Not a great nights sleep, feeling sticky after sweating all day yesterday and the mud in the rainforest.
I found a general store in a little village called Pinhoi and meet a fellow hiker called Blair from NZ who told me Tim camped here last night and was kayaking up the river as there is a big estuary crossing ahead and the choice is a long road walk, or kayaking but I’m too late to go kayaking. The morning is a boring, muddy walk through farmland and I managed to electrocute myself on a fence after taking wrong turn a few miles back. Then I had a complete meltdown in the afternoon, feeling weak and faint and had to sit down and eat all the food I had and have a coffee which seemed to sort it out.
I go onto the internet and find a recommended campsite at Owea for the night, then head back onto the trail, it’s a really scary high-speed road walk and after about 1km a Kiwi lady pulls up and offers me a ride. Kiwis are like that, and it’s not the first time someone has offered me a lift on these dangerous roads. It’s so dangerous on this section and another 15km so she takes me all the way to Owea. Normally I would never skip sections on a thru hike, but it’s just too dangerous and from what I’ve read, there’s more stuff like this ahead.
I find the holiday park at Owea which is great and make plans for tomorrow which is another estuary crossing which can only be done at low tide or I face a long road diversion again. Then, while wandering the campsite I meet a girl called “Share Bear” from Canada who is hiking with her friend “Sunshine”, these are their Trail Names which are a tradition on long distance hikes, and you can’t name yourself – it has to be awarded to you based on other’s perception. Mine is “Red Shirt Guy” as I always hike in a red shirt. We have a chat , it turns out she had electrocuted herself as well at around the same place as me! She asks if I want a hug, but I’m more of a “shrugs, not hugs” Guy tonight so I politely decline and head into the local town to resupply, have a huge McDonalds and grab a few beers from the bottle shop. Then it’s back to the holiday park and time for bed.
Day 26 – Owea to Takapuna
In the morning I get an email, and for reasons I won’t go into here decide that I have to return home, so get onto the internet and book the first flight I can back to the UK. I say goodbye to Share Bear and ask for a hug as I’m feeling quite emotional and she’s happy to help out! I give her all my supplies because I’m not going to need them now, plus the stuff I can’t take on the plane – like stove gas.
It’s still a 2-day walk to Auckland and my plane doesn’t go for a few days so I’ve got time to walk to the capital city instead of rushing there.
Day 27 – Takapuna to Auckland
This was my last night in the tent, so I spend a while cleaning it, washing it down along with all my dirty gear. I’m heading back into Auckland today so need to look respectable so clean myself up and have a shave.
Mixed emotions – my notes say “If I had known what the TA is before starting, I wouldn’t have done it” this refers to the fact that it’s not a continuous trail, there’s too much (dangerous) road walking and the North Island is a bit boring!
There’s a ferry from Devenport to Auckland and then I find my hostel called the “Juicy Snooze” and have a room on my own. There’s a nearby casino so I head out to it in the evening and blow $100 on blackjack and the slots or “pokies” in NZ slang before heading back to the hostel for the night.
Day 28/9 – Auckland to Cardiff
It’s a short bus ride to the airport and then another huge journey home, this time Auckland to Doha, then Doha to London involving the currently longest flight in the world at about 18 hours! Then I have to get the National Express back to Cardiff and am absolutely wiped out physically and emotionally after the walking and flying.
In retrospect, I enjoyed NZ and Te Araroa. The really scenic stuff is further down the trail and when you get to the South Island it’s supposed to be amazing. People say the North Island is like Wales, and the South Island is like Scotland and that really resonated with me. I thought, why do I have to travel halfway across the world to see stuff that I have on my doorstep? So, I’m committed at the moment to do more stuff in the UK and go and see some of the stuff we have here before returning to NZ to redo Te Araroa.
While I was on the trail I did something called “One Second Everyday” which means every day you take a 1-second video of what you thing is the highlight or lowlight of the trip. It was introduced to me by a girl called Rachael on The Camino and is an interesting experience… What is the highlight of the day? Anyway – here is the stitched-together 1-second videos from my NZ adventure: