Journey interupted

Last Sunday I woke up in the Chateau Tongariro a 1930s grand hotel where I wasn’t able to eat in the restaurant due to not having clothes to fit the dress code, the dress code is actually very relaxed but running shorts worn over long johns doesnt count as suitable trousers. The Whakapapa Village is, as it currently stands My Te Araroa journey’s termination point.

Chateau Tongariro Hotel

Covid strikes

Due to comming in and out of contact with daily media saturation I remained largely unaware to the unfolding of the covid-19 deal untill the mic-drop announcement of the level 4 lockdown.

Despondent to the news reports

People were dying overseas, but weren’t they always? , weren’t we (humanity) always in some kind of ‘crisis of epic proportions?’. The weeks preceeding the order to lockdown, I came into news updates and people sporadically relaying the events to be frank my brain couldn’t compute what people were saying. Internet commentary now asks of visitors stranded here ‘how could they not know ?’ As I’ve found – easily. Very easily. Who could fathom that NZ would ever be isolated without free movements? The North and South not able to touch each other ? I could comprehend shutting boarders, yes, but the sanction on free movement around NZ for people on the ground in NZ ? No. And being confined to one residential location ? That sounded absurd also. Of course it’s not though, it’s the real deal daily for now. ‘Unprecedented’ I dont know how many times a day we hear that now ? 100s. An ‘unprecedented’ amount.

As I read and heard the news, the covid events seemed so far away, not like the other side of the world far away, but planetary far away. I saw a meme that had aliens sitting on the couch drinking wine looking at at T.V saying ‘Setteling in for the latest episode of earth 2020’. That’s exactly how it felt. This is happening to ‘other people’ a world which doesn’t include me. So I kept planning and just thinking ‘this is so odd…’ I wasn’t not taking things seriously with concious effort, it all just seemed so ‘does not apply to me’. NZ being ordered by the Prime Minister to go home stay home ? Shut NZ down? Really? Quite impossible to my little brain at that moment. Although on the whole NZ is now applauding the lockdown direction.

Still attempting to proceed

After National Park the journey proceeds down the Wanganui River, I attempted to hire a canoe, however respectable companies would not hire a boat to a solo padler. I contemplated getting one from a non-respectable company, but reviews were heavily warning against the cowboy companies. Not one to listen to strangers and their internet reviews to seriously I checked in with a family member and ex-collegues who have intimate knowledge and life long blood ties to the river who empathically said ‘NO’! No go to the river solo! Wait till next year and get a buddy.’ OK. Now i’ve listened but I don’t want to cut the journey, I’m so close to Wellington. If I can just keep walking till the end of the North Island at least I will be able to feel the accomplishment with a well known a tangible marker, the capital city. ‘I have walked Te Araroa right across the North Island’. A psychological box and bow. So canoe is out, looks like I take the walk route, a jet boat in the section inaccessable to legs and a bike from Raetihi to Wanganui. Nice! I’ve got a plan and i’m ready to execute it. Feeling good. I start calling accomodation along the river. The Blue Duck Station a lodge and hotel with room for 100+ where I want to stay this evening politely tells me ‘yes you can book for the night, but you will be the only guest here. Prehaps call along the river first to make sure you can get a jetboat in the no legs section?’ hmmm OK. Yeah OK. CLOSED. NO BOOKINGS. CLOSED. NO JETBOATS. CLOSED. Shit! This sucks. Some places are tentitive. ‘We just don’t know what’s going to happen, we can take your booking now, but we might have to cancel it’ comes from a jetboat operator. I’m really zero percent keen to backtrack out of the bush again if the jet boat gets cancelled. humpf. Guess i’m not doing the river then, even on foot. Next plan is to get to Wanganui city then walk to Palmerston North. Thanks to my dear friend and my auntie and uncle I get to Wanganui city and spend time catching up on the happenings with whanau, go the shops, stock up and plan out to continue walking. I call a couple of places along the next section. DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT $200!. FFS. What the heck is happening ? It’s my birthday and the Prime Minister makes a statement ‘right that’s it, shut it down, time to go home’. And there is nothing I can do about that. Like 4.7 million other NZers and our visitors the course I planned is canned. Sympathically condolences are given ‘oh well you can come back to it’. Empathically a moment is shared in the hole with me ‘sorry, I know this journey meant a lot to you’. Thank you for acknowledging that. It did mean a lot to me. I saw a couple on the TA page who were 83km from Bluff when the had to go home. Geezus I felt painful for them! 83km from Bluff! Purist walkers too, meaning every single step of the TA occured on their feet. Not like me, who took rides for some road walks. Many people wrote congratulations for them, amongst that of course was sympathy ‘Oh well the TA will still be there’ true, but maybe they will not. But also as came a pouring of empathy ‘Awesome. Congratulations. I’m sorry you had to come home early’. Empathic response makes so much difference, without a doubt a major reason people are loving our Prime Minister right now, if not loving at least respecting her.

In limbo

As i’m not supposed to be contractully anywhere till June, i’m in a limbo state. No fixed abode. No job. I call my Mum to ask if can stay in Canterbury with her and Colin (my step dad). There is no time to try and arrange anything in Nelson, it’s the day before the lockdown. The Prime Minister has said ‘get home before 11:59PM Wednesday’. Where you sleep that night is where you need to stay for the next 4 weeks. Mum and Colin welcome me back letting me know they can pick me up with the airport.

Auntie Del and Uncle Jim drop me off at the airport in Palmerston North for the (so called) last day of domestic flights for ‘non-essentials’. The airport is bare, I take two flights to get to Christchurch. The flights are being run 1/2 empty so everyone has 2 seats at least to keep thier distances. The atmosphere is so frekn quite.

In Christchurch I go the Warehouse with Mum. There has been a petition signed by 25000 NZers to close the Warehouse. Obiviously signed by people who already have everything they might possibly need to be in a lockdown for 4weeks. I do not. There is a strict policy of numbers in and out. X marks are drawn on the floor to show where two metres is in the check outlines. The lockdown comes on and that’s that. Stay Home Save Lives is the catch phrase for here on in untill it’s enough.

But I can’t really be just staying home ?

I still think I can plan to do this and that walk in Arthurs Pass or Castle Hill or Mt. Sommers or Lale Colridge. I don’t want the walk journey to be over. But the reality is. It is (for now). The government issue tighter dirrectives and contiually re-iterate Stay Home Save Lives on repeat. On the whole NZ appears to be following the rules. Me included. And the reason i’m staying local is I couldn’t bare how gulity I would feel if I needed to be rescued. And the societal backlash for going too far from home when the explict dirrective is to not go to far and  within walking distance. Stay Local! Would be pitch-fork level. But a problem for a long-walker what’s far ? We can walk anywhere. 30, 40, 50km a day is not a biggy, I read someone upset because the beach was 3km away and they couldn’t go because of the restrictions on driving to beaches. Ohh I wish a beach was 3km from me; however I need to remember only 70 days ago I practically walked of the couch 5km in the wrong direction at Cape Reinga and I thought I would die of exhaustion. Were I lived in Nelson Tahuna Beach was only 30mins walk from my house and I used to drive there just to lie in the sand. 

Even though physically I didn’t get to touch my feet on the destination I wanted when I wanted, I’ve come a long way indeed. For now I’m staying local and doing dirt road and padock block walks. Looks like I get to make up for the all the roads I missed! Yay. Haha

P.S I haven’t shared about what it was like in the section between leaving the goat and Tongariro (expressway) Crossing, which i’d like to. So another post comming soon

Te Araroa – the long path way – on hold

Ngaruhoe Window eating High Tea at table on right
Looking down at the Chateau from Ruapehu
Cafe food. Who needs the restaurant?
Let’s eat lunch. T.Bar Cafe
My room. Cheap as chips due to no view apparently. Looks like Ruapehu out that window to me?
Lounging

Goaty Mc Goat Face

The Mangaokewa River track was pure bullshite. The first track where I felt lonely. Not the usual alone which is fine, but a bit lonely, like some company would be nice. I had a negative attitude on that was hard to shake. I listened to an audio book throughout called Midnight in Chernobyl (probably helped in remaining negative) and what should have been a one day track ended up being an overnighter. 15km – 5hours claimed the DoC clock.

I got beaten up royaly by overgrown blackberry brambles of which there is no possible way to get around them, I tried to find an alternative, lost an hour or more but had to go through anyway. The track also has large sections of track standard I would class as goat access only. This is where your feet have to go one in front of the other and you have to lean into the side of the hill. There is not enough room to move your feet in a march style walk. A piece of the goat track even gave way which scared the shit out of me, but in the fashion of taking a ‘lucky’ fallĀ  a nice tree stump showed up to grab on to as I slipped over, holding me from going down the bank and allowing me to haul myself up with wrecked a shin, bruises and grazes. Yep, shit track.

Anyway aboutĀ the title of this blog post. My friend: Goaty Mc Goat Face.

Trying to take a lunch break on a rock, goaty trying to sit on my knee.

Prehaps an hour into the track I came across a herd of wild goats up on a pastured hill totally normal, they’re abundant in this track. More than I’ve seen anywhere else. Animals in the wild I’ve noticed will freeze before fleeing or staying, their first mechanisim to check the danger is to freeze. I just glanced at this wild goat herd and kept walking, then one of them comes bolting down the hill ‘goat baa(ing) (what kind of word is that ? goat baa… ) Like a sheep noise but from a goat. And it jumps on me, like actually jumps it’s fore legs into the back of my pack. I laugh and pat it, it nibbles on the loose strap parts. I just keep walking but it follows me, trying to jump on me again. I push it away and tell it ‘naughty’ like a dog that might understand what ‘naughty’ means. I wonder why it is being like this ? Have walkers been feeding it ? Must be.

look at the top of the hill horizon. About 20 goats. Then this one.

I keep walking, it’s been two hours, this little goat has followed about 4m behind me the whole time. Is it not going to miss the goat family ? How will it be able to find them again ? It’s not leaving, 4hours, still following behind. I take breaks and have to constantly push it away from trying to eat my pack, my clothes, my hair and food. At 6:30pm i’m still 8odd km from the track end where a campsite and shelter has been put by thoughtful landowners. The goat keeps jumping on my tent, attempting to eat everything on it. I finally get the tent up, and it jumps right on top of it. I’m really exasparated with the little creature, constantly pushing it away. If it wrecks my tent i’m f.d.

When putting together tramping equipment a 5m nylon rope is suggested as part of your emergency kit. I’ve long gotten rid of my rope up in Kaitaia due to not seeing the point in weight and space. Now I know what it’s for! Tying up lost pet goats in the forest to stop them eating your tent and sanity.

Eventually goat goes to sleep next my tent. I can feel the warm body when I roll over in the night and bump the tent wall. When I wake up goat is not there I think it must have gone back it’s family. But… no there it is eating grass by the river. It’s ensconced in the grass and I can packup camp without dramas.

there it is, eating breakfast grass by the river

When i’m ready I say ”let’s go goat” and it follows behind at the same distance as the previous day. It squeezes through fences and jumps over styles. If it looses vision of me it crys a goat baa trotting faster to keep up. My head is getting done in by this sweet little animal, what the heck am I going to do at the end of the track ? Take it on the up comming 37km road walk section ? 8km of which is SH30 !? Prehaps knock on a farm door and ask if they’d be interested in an addition to thier stock ? Now i’m thinking, this is not a goat that has been fed by walkers atracting it to people. This has been someones pet. This is a pet that has been put in the wild on purpose. It’s an anonying little beasty, but this is people goat, this goat has once had a people family, not a goat family and i’m mad as all hell because it’s going to be left behind again. I’m going to have to leave it. Eventually I arrive at a style that is too high with fences to soild for it break through. I leave goat on a bone dry pastured hillside with no other animals around. It crys the goat baa for a long time and stops when it can see me again through the sparse trees. It’s a pittiful sound and I pity it and myself deeply. Please don’t put domesticated animals into the wild crying for humans to take them home, it’s the saddest thing. I naievly hope that other walkers befriend this little goaty mc goat face and s/he becomes a mascot and tour guide on my (so far) least favourite track on Te Araroa. Thank you for carying me through.

Bye beautiful little creature oxo

50 Days & 50 Nights

Waitomo Caves Hotel. I didn’t stay here. I’m in the tent. I’ll stay here next time. By gone era of grandeur

Current location:

Waitomo. Te Araroa 856km mark. Close to a third of the way to Bluff. The brain has cranked into OMG it’s just about over, just like that, i’m not ready to return to the daily yet! Hold on cowgirl 836 does not equal 2999

Sign is on the staircase of Hakarimata, along with a sign ‘sweat is just fat crying’

Of note shift has occured physically and mentally. I’m now what I would class as ‘fit’ if I do say so myself. I’ve lost 12kg and eat double, gained some lean muscels and don’t have to puff it up the steep bits. I still puff, but I don’t have to take a minute out of every 60seconds to catch my breath and thanks to some dear friends in Huntly who fed and watered me for a couple of nights I got to cruise through the Hakarimita walkway with no pack. It seriously felt like flying. What a lark. This is the first time I actully got that flow feeling with full enjoyment of the experience, the chore and the challenge had finally dissipated. Just flying.

this is the track on Hakarimata walkway tree root central

My average pack weight is now 15kg – 22kg dependent on food/water requirement. It still feels heavy. It feels heavier when I get into the shoulda woulda couldas about yesterdays that won’t and should not be bought back.

I’ve lost some psychological weight too. Self-talk is quiter. Sleeping is less fit-ful. Creative thought has been flowing, novel and possible. I still drink the ‘black death’ to wake up though (3 heaped tea-spoons of Nescafe Classic as a shot). I thought that could go, but cheap strong Coffee is life blood. Less irritation over current affairs and events. Deeply disturbed and aware of the state of the worlds challenges still. As should be. But not scratchilly irritated by small town and first world problems like the coronovirus toilet paper mayhem, that is absoultley mind boggling! It’s not even funny, that behaviour is freakn scary. But then again it is really funny!

Trail stats wise, after Hakarimata is a walk from Ngaruawhia to Tron, Tron City, Karamu (I got a ride for the paddock walk section, thank you cousin Devante) Mt. Pirongia, Waitomo. Tommorow Te Kuiti. Mt. Pirongia is the highest point in Waikato. 959m. It was minty! The cost to stay in the hut at the top is a DoC 1ticket. Thats $5! However, I have a back country hut pass, $122 annually to stay in as many standard huts as many times as I like, except the flash huts, gotta pay a bit more for those, like $15 or $20. Total bargin. The only catch is, yep, gota walk there. (or helicopter) This is ludicris in the best of ways. Seriously. $5. And did you know their are people out there who go out of their way to not pay the fee, no-one is there checking, it’s an honesty based system. I just read a newly released police report of a couple on Routeburn track in 2016. A fatality occured. The other was stranded in a hut for 21days. There were multiple failings leading to the most unfortunate of disasters, a section in the report though, the couple decided to tell no-one they were going into the track so they could avoid paying the hut fees. Backcountry 101. Leave intention notes, make sure someone knows where are you are going and when you’ll be back, if you don’t come back when you said, the police and SAR will come looking for you. This is the time when you really will be glad the police are looking for you.

At the Pirongia Hut is a new 20 bed hut with the old 6 bed hut for use aswell. When I got to the Hut I had a chance to pay forward some of the blessing of food i’ve been given by offering snacks to a lady who had come rather ill prepared for a hut stay, she slept in the little hut, I slept in the big one. It must have been a hard night with no sleeping bag or pillow on the top of a mountain. Geez the mountain was quite, no insects, no water running. I saw Kokako, they are endangered. Lucky.

Morning veiw from Pahutea Hut
Pahautea Hut with my 4th pack of the trip on the seat
Looking back towards Mt. Pirongia from the Hihikiwi track side. The hut is close to the peak.

Pirongia down the mountain I stayed in a sweet little caravan, then a camp out, then here. Today life is mostly tickty-boo, excpet something is wrong with my foot from running a km odd on a short road section today. My rationale was if I run the hated road section, it would be over faster. I ended up having to walk it slower.

Pirongia to Waitomo track
camping out

What are you walking about anyway?

Auckland city. I’ve made it to the big smoke, from Puhoi to Wenderholm is an 8km kayak, then a hill, then some footpaths, then a rock hop beach walk to Orewa, a tent out at a holiday park and into an Uber to Base Backpackers Queen Street. I’ve paid for a single room shoe box with no windows and rice paper thin walls next to a group of students and their coaches on a rugby school trip from Brazil. O ley o ley o ley O ley. To be fair it’s not that bad but I do wish I had the budget for the Hilton or Sky City. Yeah baby yeah!. But i’m going to save the hotel splash for Wellington. The end point of the North Island.

The plan for Aucks is to catch buses or trains to track starts then walk back to the central city, this allows me to carry only a small back pack with water, eating at cafes and rice stops. Yesterday was my longest KM day from the city to the airport. 37km. Part of this track is the coast to coast. I can now say I walked from one side of the country to the other in a day. Nice work!

What are you ‘walking’ about anyway ?

Being at the Auckland point I have had a lot of time to think about why the heck I am walking. During the journery this is the number one question, oft possed with ‘..if you don’t mind me asking…’ No I don’t mind, but I don’t really have an answer. So far it’s been somewhat bland or middle of the road safe teritory non-detailed reasons. I haven’t been lying to all the people who asked. I just haven’t organized that part sufficiently for myself yet, but when I do I’ll let you know. People have gone out their way to stop to ask me if am doing ‘the trail’ ? Am I going to Bluff ? What am I doing it for ? People always give encouragement ‘good on you!’ ‘Well done!’ This is gold, it’s nice to have a bit of encouragement from passersby. Prehaps they may also want to know if I am raising funds or awareness for a worthy cause. There are muliple campaign walkers out here, a few that I have been made aware of – ‘Walk for Wiggly Eyes’ a guy raising awareness/funds for a condition called stagymus.’Walk for those who can’t talk’ a girl walking the whole trail without talking using her phone and paper to communicate raising awareness for anti-animal cruelty. ‘Walk for Jake’ A best friend of a guy who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis raising funds and awareness of the condition. So far this cause has been the most cash money I’ve seen raised yet. 15k. ‘Walk for Blue Light’ A policeman from Northland raising awareness on the good of Blue Light for at risk young people. A probation officer walking to raise funds for an emergency evacuation centre on Amphobe Island. A guy from Brazil attempting to raise funds to plant 3000 native trees in Northland. Multiple walkers raising funds, awareness and seeking to over come mental health challenges. Worthy causes, passionate people.

Back to me. What am I walking about anyway ??

Like everyone and I do mean everyone, there’s universal life lessons that occur. When they happen it’s not an indication of being singled out or picked on by God/Universe/Divine/Source/Creator. It’s just part of the ‘human experience’ I guess. I won’t do the details as it’s not appropriate story telling for a public internet blog. Maybe this part of my life journey would be better placed in a book or probably better still with a cup of tea, yarning with you on the couch. But for here, let’s just say I was a less than happy camper 5 years ago. At this time i’d just put my feet back onto the ground in NZ after a couple of years in Tasmania with Asian and European travel. Being back in NZ and not camping happily a thought occured to me that I needed to walk.

A walk around the block wasn’t going to cut it, walking in the local hills of my town wasn’t enough either, I was used to charging around in The Withers (hills in Marlborough NZ) for hours. There was no where close enough to me or long enough to discharge the emotions that needed to be moved. And if you’re from Top of the South and thinking, what Richmond Ranges and all those other back country gems? thats only 5minutes away… Fair call… But I just didn’t think about that at the time.

Then, in my head all I wanted to do was walk in straight line for as long as possible untill I had ‘walked’ it out. I wasn’t thinking tramping or mountains or forests or beaches or cities. It was more like when Forest Gump went running. I just wanted to walk out the door and walk until it was enough. Also like when Forest stopped running. He just stopped because it was enough. That was what I wanted to do.

This desire to ‘walk’ it out, lead me to research the internet for long walks. I came across the big famous ones that I already knew about Camino de Santiago Compestella, Pacfic Crest Trail, Apilacian Trail, one I didn’t know, a trail in Japan the follows the path of ancient Samuri Warriors, then I found Te Araroa. NZ has a long walk trail ? Why do I not know about this ? At that time I was on a fixed term contract so going on a long walk at the end of the contract seemed a real possiblity. I started telling people about long trails and did you know NZ has a long trail? I started reading the TA website planning info. Comedian show host Pio did a T.V series about the trail and an RNZ radio show presenter walked his dads ashes, home to Bluff recording podcast of the journey along the way.

For me, as things tend to do, my life naturally equalized and the pressing desire to walk peated out, however the walking seed was planted. Although a number of life items had to be sorted 1) I didn’t have enough funds. Six odd months off work out walking needs some good funding. 2) Other life admin still hadn’t settled 3) The thought hadn’t solidifed deep enough so that it would become a real live breathing thing that I would actually do. Not just be a ‘talk about it’ or a ’roundtoit’. Everything was just on the preiphery of my vision.

Two years after that intial seed plant I worked on a project in Waikato where the track crosses a one-way bridge where walkers and cars cross over – Rangiriri Bridge. This is the start of a track for south bounders (SOBO) or the end of for north bounders (NOBO). On the work commute I often saw walkers crossing the bridge and thought … that’s a TA walker… I have a very clear memory that has an impact now I’m out here doing it. It’s a full torential sideways rain day in Waikato, I am waiting in my car at about 5:30pm for the lights to change to cross the bridge, when two walkers walk into the middle of the bridge road, a girl and a guy, the girl puts her hands in the air and keeps walking, they both then stop and hug each other. I am sitting in my car with the heater blazing thinking ‘Get the F. off the F.n road FFS!’ because I am still full of the dramas of the work day, in my car, self-righteous, selfish and stuck in my head. The lights change, the cars move, the walkers step up onto the bridge footpath. They are only 1km from Rangiriri Pub, Cafe, Pie Shop and warm bed in the pie shop accomodation, after most likely, at mimimum, having walked 21km in a dark day rain storm. Now I know what’s that’s like, now I know all I was looking at on that day was me in disguse and without a doubt there is someone in a car seeing me and saying ‘get of the f.n road!’ Haha. Look out, because perhaps if this is you, you’ll become part of next seasons TA walkers…

After I left the Waikato project I had a job back in the Top of the South again. I had the idea to walk home. I would walk from Waikato, starting at that bridge, Rangiriri to Nelson. The problem was I would have to get there within 1month to start the new job. Not going to happen. The new job happened to be a fixed term contract for 8months. At 3months till the end of the contract, where I started thinking about the next moves for a job and deliberating the options with a friend step up, step down, step sideways, city change, stay here, field change, remain dedicated ad infinitum. He said “well, maybe don’t take another contract, maybe it’s time to do that walk that you keep talking about”.

I knew it was time. I made a commitment to myself right there that no matter what came up, I was taking the time to do this walk. And yes things did come up, I got offered another job. 2 jobs. I declined both as the commitment was set (as it it turned out either I’m good at my job or there’s no-one else (either or both is equally possible) so I kept the position. But that decision to decline the offers came as in my heart of hearts I was felt ‘rightio Candis this is now or never’.

So what am I walking about again ? I actually don’t really know anymore. Whatever reasons I started with don’t cut the mustard any more. Each day a new beginning. Welcoming in the challenges, the possiblities, the gifts. More will be revealed. But for the grace of God and all the jazz…

Te Araroa – The Long Pathway

Wraping up Northland

487km

Trig station Dome Valley

Yesterday at 6pm odd I stopped at the trig point on Dome Valley track. This trig is the exact marker for 487km. It’s also 20 days scince I arrived at the Puketi Forest campsite where the last blog entry ended. I’ve now crossed the boundry from Northland and two days into the Auckland section.

Some days have been really tough, I put in longer walking hours than computer hours on a workday and am frequently not at an end of track point till 6pm. Either by coincidence or by design I am (so far) walking alone as I started late in the walking season which is noted as Oct/Nov to April. The majority of TA walkers will meet others in camps, huts and on the tracks, I’ve been watching the TA Facebook page of the Spring start walkers posting group pictures in Bluff with those they have met up and walked with along the way. I met one person going ‘NOBO’ (north bound) in Te Whara, and I did get to have a couple of convos with an American fire fighter and a Dutch school teacher who I saw sitting on Marsden beach with packs. Obvious indicators of TA walker in an isolated place where no one else is around. These guys walked about 100km an hour faster than me but they had a zero day (no trail km) so I got to catch up with them again in Pakiri HolidayPark where I got a cabin for $40 and offered to share it with them. They told me if they wanted to sleep in the cabin they had been told they would have to pay $40 each too! The trail gets more expensisve now we have hit Auckland I see… Although i’m not complaining, it’s just the marked contrast to the practicality give away prices of the Far North and Whangarei of which I often gave more than the sugested koha with listed angels or was an extra good guest or bought shop food in commericial enterprises where TAs are given major discounts. $20 for a cabin in Ruakaka. Amazing!

Ruakaka beach holiday park cabin

TA is the a popular kid on the walking block

Mulitple stuff.co.nz articles, news reports of young families walking the trail and a postage stamp series last year (what’s a postage stamp again ?) are increasing walker numbers appearing exponential, 350 people registered, then 550 then last year 1100, then this year a trail angel told me 2000. Some angels have had 10+ individuals previously unknown to each other camped out on their house lawn. These numbers are walkers who have registered for a thru-walk (both islands).Many don’t register. And then there are 10s of 1000s who section and day walk. I’ve been out here (so far) by and large alone. Yes… by coincidence or by design…

Some days – Tired AF

A beach section before Waipu

In 27+degree heat, being done in at 4:30pm, still having hours to get to the end of tracks I’ve been ready to chuck it in, hitch to Auckland and throw my hands up and go ‘F.this shit i’m going to Thailand to hang out at Soi Taied, drink coconut water, punch some pads and lounge by the pool till it’s time to go back to work!’ This walking malarkey can go take itself off a short pier! Seriously, thru-walking a.k.a long distance hiking a.k.a what the hell are you thinking!? is hard yaka physically, mentally and I’ve found the logistics difficult in places. Planning where I am allowed to campout or stay everynight adhereing to freemdom camp by-laws, private land ownership directives, trying to make an accurate assessment of the kms I can cover and making sure I will hit water ways or beaches on the optimal tides takes fore-thought and planing. Last night when I came out of the Dome Valley the track bangs right into SH1 rumbling trucks, cars, motorbikes and a major road works upgrade it’s a shock to the system. And I thought there might be a nice little DoC reserve. BAP! WRONG ANSWER! So I take the 2km highway walk to the holiday park. I’ve got zero problems with paying for camping like some begrudge. It’s the killer roadwalk that does my head in frekn out that i’m going to get hit by a non attentive P head drunk tired non licensed driver in a police chase. One track I came out of in Waipu on to the road at 5:30pm had brand new tar and stones laid down. 2km of road sholder walk with after work drivers not following the speed limit flicking brand new tar stones all over me, not to mention my shoes sticking to the tar. That was shit. I 110% dislike any highway road walking and will get rides wherever offered although I won’t hitch.

In laid road at end of Waipu section

Pertinent quote

There’s an indian guru (deceased) Swami Muktananda and he says “It’s best if you don’t start this journery (here he is talking about spritual developemnt) but if you do, you do not stop, there is no stopping place on this path” I think this quote a lot when I’m ready to quit. So here I am at Sheepworld caravan park 4km from Warkworth having a rest day instead of chucking it in and taking the Intercity bus straight on down SH1 to that airport.

Helpers along the way – Trail Angels

To be fair it’s not a 100% solitary afair. The walking parts for me have been very soliatry, however to assist in the solitary parts there have been multiple helpers along the way. In the Te Araroa and long-walk world, these beautiful samaritans are called ‘Trail Angels’ who open their family, houses, fridges, vegetable gardens, lawns and lives to weary walkers who need assistance or a resting place for a koha, meger sum of cash or in service only. In Waitangi week there is no where for me to stay, an angel puts a bed in their lounge for me, drives me around for supplies and gives me a guided tour of the history in the district. In Russell I contact the next listed angel to arrange camping at their off the grid property and get a lift to the start of a trail head to save the 10 odd km of road walk, at Punaruku I get picked up by the next angel at the trail end to be taken to their converted barn which is their family holiday space and air b n b. At Whananaki Holiday Park I am given a cold can Coke on check in and the special rate of only $20 for a cabin bed for walkers. This helps desolve the stress. At Ngunruru is a free boat ride across the estauary to Nikau camp and cabins. The coolest camp in NZ. Go there if you are ever in Ngururu. Another pick up is offered due to the high tide estuary when I arrive to stay at Tidesong. The host and his wife have previously walked TA to raise awareness of live transplant organ donation after one partner has given a life saving kidney to the other. This couple have been hosting walkers scince the trail was a baby in the late 90s. In the morning my host walks across the estaury with me, bringing a bucket and towel so I can dry the mud off my feet before putting my shoes on for the next section. We see a baby Gurnard in the estaury. He has never seen one before in 20+years of loving this environment. That’s magic to me. At the end of Te Whara Track in Whangarei Heads I need a ride to town, but don’t want to hitch. I’ve never hitched before, I don’t like the whole idea of the whole thing, I pick up hitch hikers though so what’s the problem ?? I guess it’s the vulnerablity mostly. I am just about willing to fork out the $104 for a taxi for 30km odd to Whangarei Central when a trail angel answers my question about transport options on Facebook and offers me a ride, I end up staying at her place for 2 nights eating the best vegetable pasta in NZ and cooling my body in the sea on her private beach. The sharing of the blessings life has given these angels with essentially a stranger really does humble me and wakes up my sleepy understanding of the principles of sharing and service. A treat of all walking treats is an aquacultured whitebait fritter with microgreens for breakfast from the family at Twin Rimus. The hospitality of Northland has been phenomenal. Some angels are listed in the trail notes. Some just appeared. Thank you for what you did that you do know. Thank you for what you did that you don’t know. What could be called ‘big things’ like making the peaks, putting in the kms and seeing the NZ landscape which we know and love are really only the little things. The little things like the offers of sharing food, space and conversation, these really are the big things. Really big things.

Encounters with others

After a short day from Whananki (7km), I came across a free camp site at Sandy Bay. Sat under a tree, it is only 1pm, a campervan pulls up, 2 retired friends, one Kiwi, one Pommy on holidays pull up, they ask me what I’m doing. ‘Walking the length of NZ on a trail called Te Araroa” Oh ! They offer me a beer or an orange juice. I take the juice, later conversating in their campervan they share the roast chicken, coleslaw and fruit they have for dinner with me. Here is more of the magic. Connecting. In Nikau camp a couple is celebrating their first wedding aniversary with their baby, in the whole camp is me and these 3, they have bought a slow cooked beef stew they made at home, there is plenty and would like I to share it with them ? Gracious acceptance. Thank you. A young guy in a ute sees my puffiing it up a really steep hill of road and just stops, yells out ‘hop in I’ll take you to the top’.That ride of 1km on the hardest section of road hill changed my whole attitude to the day.  In the Mangawhai Heads track on the end of my longest day in kms I see two girls scambling on a goat track. It’s a bush scamble that looks kinda dangerous dropping off the cliffs to the sea below. I drop the pack down to have a rest. 3.5km to go to the beach car park, still 45minutes to the backpackers, should be there by 8:30pm. The girls pop out of the track realising it’s not the ideal way to reach the beach, 2 Australians from Perth taking a side trip on the way to Mountain Bike meca Rotorua. They ask me about the track then “Where are you staying?” “The Coastal Cow” “Are you Candis?” Yes. “Your name is on the bed, no wonder you got a bottom bunk. Who the hell could be bothered with a lader after all that walking”. I meet them back at the carpark, we go the famous Mangawai Tavern for pub dinner on the water front, they tell me of tracks I could walk in Australia ‘Bulumabri’ in NT. I’m interested. We have a few laughs and talk about NZ and Australian life. So even when I’m extremely disliking the day, somewhere the right people at the right time seem to show up.

Trish, Claire and I at the Coastal cow backpackers
A long beach walk to Pakari
More beach on the way to Mangawhai Heads

By coincidence or by design…

In the morning they drop me off at the trail head. Beach walk all the way to Pakari Holiday Park, up Mt Maharunga a stay at Twin Rimus then into the Dome Valley to here. A cute comfortable caravan park ‘Sheepworld’.

My caravan at Sheepworld

Next track Dome Forest to Puhoi!

Due to being a bit sacky on the dailys with writing the blogs I’m missing a bit the essence of all the good beautiful people I have encountered and who have helped me, this includes everyone world wide who has liked or shared my posts and pictures, has sent me messages and taken mail drops of all  the gear I’ve discarded or added  along the way. Thank you all too! I really appreciate it. With all the help and hospitaltiy along the way, the best thing I can do now is keep paying that forward.

The Northand Forests (part 2)

The Northland Forest section of Te Araroa starts in Raetea, then connects with a SH1 road walk to a dirt road walk to get to the Ohmahuta track.

The day after Raetea

In the campsite where i have rested for the day after Raetea is a sign “if you want a good rest there is a caravan up the next drive way $18/night” i’ve made the desiscion that I do indeed need a rest in a bed! The owner of the farm, campsite and caravan drives past the campsite and comes in to chat to me, I ask him about the caravan. It’s free tonight. Hooray! At about 4pm I am ready to walk up to the caravan. The drive way of the farm house leads high on a hill. I’m tempted to just chuck the tent up in the campsite. I have zero energy for anything but really would like that bed and shower!

The caravan is super cute 50s with an outdoor solar shower set up in an old skid site. There are budhist prayer flags and yellow flags lining the drive way up to the house. I tell the owners that $18 is to cheap. On Air B n B, this would be $80 at least. But for walkers $30 would be reasonable. I am given fresh tomatoes, beans and corn. Miso soup, tea and coffee. The taste of the vegetables is like sunshine and earth. Only salt and pepper required. I’m not used to the taste bud reset. At home i would have ‘had’ to have butter or sauces. But here in this moment with simple vegetables, salt & pepper i’m delighted at the tastes, relax on the bed and sleep easily and early.

The road to Mangamuka

In the morning my next plan is to pick up food from the Mangamuka Bridge Shop. I definatley need to get some more food before heading into Ohmahuta and Puketi which flow into each other without a connecting section. My estimate is 3 – 4 days at my walk rate to get to the next shops at Keri Keri.

The road walk to Mangamuka is 6.5km down SH1. The lawless Far North is fully operational with kids on motorbikes with no helmets or shirts, everyother front yard features a car grave yard and there is farm with large passive aggressive professionally made billboards showing aminated cows wearing solar pannels “My cows are solar powered” and another one “Don’t blame my cows for your cars emmisons”. Obviously not fans of the Fart Tax I take it…Being this is my first SH1 walk I also get a slow clear look at the types of rubbish that litter the sides of our roads that can’t be seen from a car at 100km.

About 1km from Mangamuka I am really busting to use a loo so pick up the pace and power through to the loo. Feeling relived I’m looking forward to food from the shop. I’m hoping bacon & egg pie or sandwhich, Coke, chippies, chocolate bar and the food supplies for the next Forest and…. The goshdam shop is farkn closed… FFS! The opening hours are 9am – 8:30pm M/T/W/T/F/ /S. Closed on frekn Saturday! The trail notes say it’s open everyday! F.u rural NZ! There is nothing and no-one around. Well there are a few houses and old buildings. The old petrol station now claims to be a radio station ‘Radio Mangamuka 85.something’. There is also a transit NZ sign for the turn off to the Hokianga car ferry.

The shop deal is not good. I pull out the dry bag i have for food. 5x Porridges, a Back Country potato flakes, 2x Back Country Meals, some sunflower seeds and a Raro satchet. I get my note book out and try to calculate if this is enough food. It’s not really, but it should make do. It’s definately not enough for any provision if I get lost. I decide it has to make do and plan the food for 3 days. I put everything back in the pack and begin toward the track start. 13.5km till the track start. Today the heat is popping to 35degrees. The road walk is a mostly unshaded country dirt road.

It’s so hot that I take rests every half hour or so where there is tree shade. The skye is crisp blue. The type of crisp that happens in a cloudless windless heat. Sometimes when I rest I fall asleep. I have 5L of water for this part of the road walk. A local stops to ask me if i have enough water and offers me more from a tank he has on his ute. Bless the kindness of strangers.

Apple tree dam camp

Eventually I arrive at the DoC camp (Apple Tree Dam) around 6PM. Once again there is no-one here. I set the tent up with the fly even though I don’t need it for weather protection it feels cozy. I’m not a descriptive enough writer to explain the campsite, but it’s something i’ve never seen before and looks like the old 1950s promo post cards for Toursim NZ of the bush that gave made a come back as ‘Kiwiana’

1st day in Ohmahuta

After i pack up camp I check the trail notes. ”DoC has opened a new track through the forest, continue up past Apple Dam turn right”. This is not congruent to the app. It’s like i’m continually trying to figure out what’s opened closed of detoured. It’s not easy. I walk 2km from the campsite without my pack to look for the Apple Dam turn off and don’t find it. I start thinking if a new track is open does that mean the old track is closed ? or does that mean I have two options for a track ? The track markers for the old track are still there with no indication that the other track is not open. I walk down the old track for 2km and then decide this is the track to take…. But it’s not. 6km in I reach a DoC track closed sign. There is nothing else. No reasons. Someone has written with a marker on the sign “This track is only closed if you want it to be”. OK… Food sources low. Energy sources low. I’m going in. I’m pretty sure that the track has been closed due to Kauri Die-Back but i can’t be sure. I know this is questionable to go into a closed track and all the headlines if something goes wrong ‘idiot ignores signs and goes into closed track’ ‘falls off cliff in closed track’ ‘kills Tane Mahuta (the oldest known Kauri tree in NZ) in closed track’ …

The track is in reasonable condition. Till it’s not… I don’t know how long this track has been closed for but the Forest is taking over fast with fallen branches and over grown grasess. The track runs along a river a good 5km is a river bed walk which I really enjoy. It’s an odd feeling when you know you’re the only human in very far radius. The river pools are deep and I enjoy a refreshing naked swim. For all the re-growth of the bush along the track there is also multiple DoC signs delcaring ‘NO CAMPING PROTECT KAURI’ in the places that look like a tent would lie down quite nicely. Some Kauri are protected by fences. I want to touch one but I darn’t go near one. Espeacially as i’m not even supposed to be in here.

The track gets rougher as it goes along. Many parts are washed out so i have to kick the problem solver mode on. To be honest i’m in full fear mode solving out some movements. When I told everyone at work I was doing this ‘walk’ many said ‘Oh you’ll loose so much weight!!’ It’s true I am loosing weight, but not from the physical exertion. It’s from the concentration and constant calculation of steps to not slip down the banks. An Able Tasman Great Walk in the park this sure as hell is not. I’m scared and nerves are running.

I’m also on food rations remember so today is potato flakes day. Tommorow is poridge day. When I get out to Puketi I can have the Back Country as a celebration dinner.

Day 2 end

I’m so exhausted by 4:30PM I just have to call it. I make my tent up right on the track and make sure it’s a Kauri free area. I sit in the sun, swim in the river and shave my legs with eco-friendly natural soap that’s ok for outdoors. Even though i’m alone out here, i’m not turning into a bush pig. haha.

At first light it’s pack the camp up again and eat poridge. I’m not entirely sure if I will make it to the Puketi DoC camp or not.

“When you’re going through hell. Just keep going” – Winston Churchill

Today the track is not as wild, surprisingly I come to a DoC sign earlier than expected. There is a MASSIVE stair case leading up a hillside covered in Kauri trees. Being a South Islander i’ve never seen Kauri untill this trip. I understand why DoC is pouring so much money and engery to save them. I don’t know FA about Kauri die-back disease, however it fits in with the metaphors of the moment with the ancient and natural worlds dying. I must have walked about 1/3 the way up the staircase where a young Kauri (young meaning probably 200 years old) is closer than my arms length. I put my hand on his giant trunk and start crying. I stand there stroking the bark and crying softly and silently. I stand quitely in his strength till I am re-newed and ready to move again. From here Fantails follow me the rest of the way to the summit.

When I get to the summit i don’t realise how close I am to Puketi Camp, I pop out of the track on to an old forestry road. It’s only 1pm. A 3hour dirt road walk and Honey Soy Chicken Back Country for tea! Motivated! The road walk (like all other tracks is not an UP / DOWN it’s an up down up down up down never ender).

Puketi Camp

When I reach Puketi Camp there is also a hut. I don’t have any cel phone power left to book the hut! An 18bunk hut with no-one in it! Gutted. Oh well tent it is. I pay the $8 to the honesty box for the campsite even though i’ve already paid it on-line. Due to the no phone power I can’t get the booking number I am suposed to write on my tent. Young travellers start pulling into the camp site, look around and don’t pay the fees. I contemplate pretending to be a DoC Ranger and asking them to pay the honesty box. I don’t though. For now i’ve got to stay out of the controverstial politics of what I think about that. If I come across this the next time though. Honarary DoC Ranger Candis will be on your case to pay your DoC campsite fees!

Hey so yeah. Northland Forests. Made it.

Boom!!! yeah boi!!!

the Raetea Forest (Northland)

Rightio here i am, Ruakaka Beach Holiday Park. 50 odd KM to go and the Northland section of Te Araroa is done and dusted. I’ve been journeying for 31 days now. Rather slow on the comparison to other walkers, however being at home (NZ) I’ve been taking my time and savouring our fares.

The last post i wrote about comming into to Kaitaia for the supplies then getting into the forests.

The Forest sections are where the real work begins (for me). The Raetea is ‘only’ 18.5km in length, however the DoC clock (as i call the time limit the track will take to complete stated on the DoC signs at the start of the track) states 9.5hours. Some comentary in the Te Araroa forums has been upto 16hours.

18km taking 16hours to traverse, this is a good indication it’s going to be slow and rough. It ends up taking me 18hours… and not without the drama of this forest. I read later in a tramping magazine an article Police have put out to remind trampers to walk to thier skill level after a group of 5 women set of a PLB (personal locator beacon) in the Raetea after going in prepared for the difficulty and not being able to get out unasssisted. Later down the line i also hear from a volunteer fire fighter of physcotic episodes, getting lost, falling down waterfalls and the biggun. Runing out of water. The track notes, sinage and forums talk extensively of the need for water. 18km/9.5hours. No water sources.

This Forest is mythological known as a place where spirits pause and take rest before they flee to the Cape and away. I’ve read the commentary of other walkers feeling as though the Forest didn’t want them there, the Forest was watching them, they felt like needing to be out ASAP as though being pushed. Scince being at the Cape i haven’t said any prayers to the land so I myself pause, get quite and ask the Forest for safe passage, i feel the Forest grants me permission to cross. I’m ready.

I start walking at around midday. I’ve gotten a shutlle bus ride to the start of the track to avoid highway walking. The entry to the Forest is a steep gravel farm track, some locals in a 4WD come past me and say ‘you’ve got a long way to go’. Thanks locals… Unlike other tracks this one has a blue marker letting walkers know the KM marks. 2km up the steep hill and i’m in. I’ve been aprehensive of this section. Remember, i’m by myself and walked straight of the couch and into the outdoors. I hope i haven’t ‘punched above my weight’. But that’s how i tend to do things. Just start and see how we go.

When i wanted to work as diver i hadn’t even snorkelled before i’d paid 10k to train as an instrutor. In the first couple of pool lessons i couldn’t even take my mask off under water. I had to practice taking it on and off in the bath at home and that turned out quite well. This journey is a bit like that. Just start and see how we go.

The track is ‘challenging’ it covers ridgeline of some of the highest peaks in Northland, 754m, 638m, 458m. And ridgelines don’t go UP / DOWN it’s up down up down up down multiple times to get to the peaks.

I seem to be doing alright and charging ahead in timely fashion; however this is dense sub-tropical forest, there aren’t easy camping spots and the canopy is thick causing light to start disappearing before it would on the beach. At 6:30pm i decide to call it and set up my tent for the night. I’ve been quite and ‘alone’ all day. I don’t feel alone though, i feel this ancient Forest and it’s spirits are OK for me to be there, it’s weird(ish). I lean my my walking poles on a tree and ask them to ‘hold them please’ (in my head of course, i’m not freakn speaking out loud to myself in the goshdarn bush!) and when i use tree branches to pull myself up the steep inclines i say ‘thank you’ to the branches like they have held out a hand and pulled me up.

I go to sleep relativley easy and just remind myself when the creatures make noises that ‘it’s NZ, nothing can hurt you in here’.

In yesterday’s 6.5 odd hours i’ve only covered 5km, so after packing my camp up as soon as enough light is avaliable i’m ready to smash out the day with the expectation to be out of here by sundown. I don’t know where i’m staying at the end of this track. I’ll work it out when I get out or camp at the end of the track before the next section.

Dramas start here

Now the dramas start. I’ve walked about a kilometer comming across a giant dead tree. This is OK, i can sit on the tree and pull myself over. As i stand up i walk about 3 steps and the back of my legs are soaked… i look at the tree to see if i’ve picked water up from it.

As i look at the tree i get a smashing realisation that the water is pouring down my legs from my pack. I rip the pack off fast as lighting and start pulling shit out. Holly what the farkn ?? no farkn way ?? this is not for real !? The farkn water blader hose has broken…. i’ve got about 200mls left in it. holly craper rolly. It’s about 9am, i’ve got 12km to go, i’m not going to be out of here till sundown and the water has gone… absolutley gutted (and concerned). I’ve a pump bottle of water and a ‘sip’ left in the bladder. FAAAARRRRKKKK!!!

This kicks me into motivation mode. Now it is imperitive that i get out of the Forest to get water. In a grade 10 track (i think the grades only go to 5) sweating up a storm with no water. A side note too. I have no ‘fresh’ or ready eatable food items, i only have freeze dri and food requiring ‘add’ water = no food and no water.

I have to make some deals with myself to get this done. Each blue KM marker i give myself a reward, i a, allowed to take a one sip of water, no matter how thristy i am or i get, i must wait till a km marker to have a sip. I also have to employ A Grade emotions only. I realise i’ve got a full repetorie of emotions in me and any one of them is threatning to take over. Only the A Grade employees are comming in here today. No frekn out, no lazy mode, no half arse, clear, focused power through.

thristy

I can not explain how thristy i am and the desparation to get to a KM marker to take a sip. What a driver. And when i do get to take a sip, i have to have extreme brakes to not guzzle the lot. The conflict is unreal. The self talk is hard and soft internal yelling ‘that’s enough!’ and i pull the bottle from my mouth. Then the soft ‘it’s OK’ ‘well done’ ‘it’s going to be just fine’

another dilema

When i get to the 744m summit another dilema starts. I can’t understand the track marker dirrection and start second guessing myself. I think about asking the Trail Angel Facebook page (a group set up to help walkers) which dirrection i need to go. But i don’t want to publicly look like I don’t know what i’m doing (even though i don’t). I take an hour at the summit, looking at the GPS, looking at the track markers, trail notes and app. Also i’m down to about 15% phone battery power. I can’t risk taking the wrong track or getting lost due to the water sittuation so i get over myself and post a picture of the markers to the Facebook page. In about 2minutes someone replies with their phone number, i call the number. The person who answers is a Search and Rescue volunter in Wellington, he asks for the GPS co-ordinates, goes and checks some maps at his end and says “North East. You need to go North East.” Thank Goodness for this guy! Grateful. North East i go, it’s only about 500m till i reach a KM marker and get another sip. I text him at the next 3 markers to let him know i’ve made it along. He knows the water sittuation and has asked me to keep texting.

I’m powering it along. Really flying now but the light is closing in and i keep looking at the GPS. ‘You have 2hours 44mins of day light. You have ‘1hours 50mins of day light. You have 27mins of day light. I’ve only made it to 16KM marker, still 2.5km to go. I have to put the tent up, i don’t know the condition of the track ahead and not confident to walk in the dark with my Kmart head torch.

I’m shattered. I get the tent up (with out the fly) and go to sleep. Please bring the day light soon God. This night i don’t sleep very well, although i still really appreciate the stars lying in the tent without the fly.

At the first light i am packed up camp and out of there, all i can think about is water. I reach the farmland at the end of the track and see some horses. I wonder where their trough is ? There are dried up creeks. Where is the water!? I walk through the farm land till i hit the road and finally a stream. I fill up the drink bottles, wait for the aquatabs to disolve and just sit. Phew!!! Made it. A couple more km up the road a farmer couple (and budhists) have made a joyful little camp site for walkers exhausted from the forest with water, tables, trees. I stay here sleeping, eating and drinking the water all day.

just start and see how we go… yeezus!

Just start and see how we go. yeezus !

Kaitaia –

Spelt wrong KAITAIA

From Ahipara I get a shuttle bus to Kaitia township. Kaitaia is a surprise to my South Island middle socio-economic eyes of NZ. If I even really know what that means. Which I probably don’t. The media commentary on the Far North is ‘Meth’ & ‘Poverty’, Kelvin Davis’ (Labour MP) office is squeezed between two laundries in a small shopping complex, multiple shops fronts with ‘For Lease’ signage and the largest single building, ‘Pac ‘N’ Save’, is boarded and graffitied. There are showers in the main street public toilets, presumably for the homeless, which as a simple and easy enough gesture has a deep impact on me. It’s thoughtful and kind. I think about Simon Bridges making homelessness ‘illegal’ in Tauranga. I don’t like Symoine Bridges and National holds the seat for the Northland. I also get a feeling The Far North has an air of zerofs.given on the state of the parliament anyhow. Car number plates are replaced with stickers of the 1835 United Tribes Flag.

I’m staying at a back packers ‘The Beach Comber’ which has apparently over comes a former reputation with new ownership and direction after the previous owner was jailed in 2017 for 8 years, charged with indecently assaulting 19 male guest between 2005 – 2014.

Link to article of case if interested to know.

During the day I get all the chores done, get a new phone send some more weight back to Nelson, eat food and go to the library to check in with everyone on the social. I’ve made it to Kaitaia! The Kaitaia Library has a lending service for lap tops, I’m sitting in an arm chair using my tablet. A late 20s dude with a Sun Inn hair mullet comes in asking the librairin for a lap top, she takes his library card, hands over the laptop. He comes and sits in the chair adjacent to me. ‘Nice day aye Miss’ in jail language ‘Miss’. ‘Indeed!’ I say, paying no attention, just glancing up from my tablet. He restlessly sits in the seat looking at YouTube, chooses Hate it or Love it (The Game) and starts walking round the library blasting the laptop like a boombox. No one even looks up, people carry on reading, looking at phones or computers. He walks half way out of the library with the blaring laptop appearing to be looking if the librarian is going to tell him off. She doesn’t even pay attention, keeps checking books out for people. The guy comes back into the library, folds the laptop. ”Thanks Misss” ‘Thank you” she smiles, gives him his library card back and he’s out the door.

The afternoon carries on being hot and lazy lounging around at the back packers sorting my pack out again prepping for the forests. I’m sharing a room with two American girls and a German guy. 10pm is time for bed and I’m on a top bunk above the German guy. There is no ladder to the top bunk, I have to use a plastic outdoor seat to hoist myself up on-to the bunk. I can’t actually move without the whole bunk going sqqqeeeuuukkk squek squeukk. It’s still 26degress and uncomfortable as F. By 1am I’m still not sleeping. I start Googling for Hotels & Motels as I can’t possibly hit the forests on this much no sleep, so am thinking I’ll spend another night resting up.

There’s isnt alot of options for accommodation and I come across an article about the (no)housing and poverty situation the Far North is experiencing. Why the state I see this town in today is not like the Kaitaia promoted when I was a kid of tropical touristy paradise. The article relays in-depth the former number 1 hotel ‘The Northerner” beening converted into emergency accommodation for those with no-where else to go. Meth. Poverty. Violence. According to the Google Map it’s only a 1.3km walk, 500m from my current location also is a Womens Refuge. Empty houses. Abandoned houses. Striped cars. Former motels where it’s hard to tell if anyone is behind the thick curtains. Bricks are jarred in sash windows to allow air flow where pull cords have snapped. Poverty in NZ is real.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/113953435/the-faded-hotel-in-kaitaia-thats-become-a-dumping-ground-for-the-homeless

I carefully slide down off my bed on to the plastic chair at about 4am and sleep on the floor. No matter what looks like i’m going into the forest tomorrow.

End of Day 10

The last slog on 90mile

Being alone for long periods of time on 90mile causes delusions in time and vision. I look at my watch, sometimes not even a minute has gone by sometimes it’s 15. The monotonous sound of the waves makes inescapable white noise. I walk wearing ear plugs. There’s a lot of random thinking. Bored. What’s to eat. I wonder what that kid from primary school is up to etc. Nothing profound. Just boring thoughts. But there is that part of me standing back and looking at me walking along the deserted beach thinking the boring thoughts and wanting something more interesting to pop up in my thinking.

90mile beach is also a highway. Every so often a person in a 4WD comes driving at as fast as possible totalling all the poor tuatuas and other shell fish that are popping out of the sand. I feel sorry for the shell fish. There’s a few seagulls and pipers going for them aswell.

The one hour watch timer limit has been set again. One hour of walking 15mins of break. Over the time I’ve been walking the tide has been slowly coming up to high. The trail notes expressly explain that walking at high tide can get very difficult due to the water line coming right into the dunes at places causing the walker to be forced into the soft sands as opposed to the easier hard sand of the low tide.

I sit down and start thinking “oh no”. This is not ideal. I start calculating the time limit to get to Ahipara. If I have to wait for tide change or walk in the dunes it’ll be about 9PM -10PM. It’s about 1130am now. F.

I have a snack of Sealord Tuna Sensations Lemon Pepper flavor and decide if I don’t walk now it’ll be midnight till the end. Resigned to that fact the pack is on and I am away into the landscape and noise of the monotonous 90mile.

After about 30minutes the Beach Patrol ute pulls up next to me. Their job is to check on people walking, fishing, making sure people are following the no freedom camping rules. They ask if I am OK. Do I have enough water ? How’s the TA (Te Araroa ) going ? etc and ‘Do you know that walking at high tide is rather silly and you wont make to Ahipapra till dark ?’ Yes yes Beach Patrol man and lady, i’m 100% aware this is NOT the best idea!

The man says “we never offer walkers rides, but i’m going to offer you one” “Would you like a lift?” I say ”erm but that will be cheating”. “We can drop you off a couple of kms from the end of the beach, it really is going to take you a very long time…”

OK i’ll take it! 3000km -12km of 90mile. I think I managed 72km (?) close enough.

Relax time at Ahipara Holiday Park for the afternoon. In the reception I meet a husband and wife who have been waka ama racing in Lake Karipiro, the wife tells me she lives in Mapua. I live in Nelson! She hugs me. Lady are you crazy !? I’ve been sweating it up for KMs on 90mile I smell like xx yy zz.

It’s nice to get a hug.

End of Day 9

Pukenui to Hukatere Lodge

From Pukenui I have now gotten back on the trail walking 12km to Hukatere Lodge, then a quick 30km to Ahipara. LOL LOL LOL Not even ow.

I have no pictures as my practically brand new Galaxy is water damaged from a leaking water bottle in the back pack. Having no phone sucks. Walking to Hukatere is a mission in blazing hot sun and gravel roads. Two cars of tourists ask me if I ‘know where the beach is’?

“Do I look like i’m from round here bro!?” . I don’t say I like that though as cheerily as I can. “I hope so, because if it’s not i’m going the wrong way”. A German girl stops on a return journey to let me know that yes indeed the beach is at the end of this road. Ahhh. Excellent!

Hukatere Lodge is owned by a German lady called Gabi, it’s the type of place that the Auckland Arts & Crafts Set that feels like rejecting society comes to be rustic on a rustic level. Not a luxury rustic a real rustic. Gabi is not there when I arrive at the reception, there are a young couple #vanlife (ing) it, but no-one else around. I make myself at home, put the jug on and eat two minute noodles. Gabi arrives an hour or so later, she has been swimming with friends from Whangarei who are also staying at the lodge they invite me to the kitchen /lounge/relax space and offer me beetroot crackers, some type of artisan cheese and onion. And this is the first time in the trip I get asked what I do for a job…

What I do for a job

I don’t want to get into the work conversation 90% of the time. 1. I work in a primary industry 2. The job title I have is a profession that IS misperceived and misunderstood. I try to avoid this topic, keeping it short I tell them the company I work for, that can deflect away from my titled job and then I can angle into the soft politics of the industry. If the pursuit is still on for the job title, ‘it’s ‘just the office’ and leave it at that.

The lodge owner and couple from Whangarei talk about their friend who has a wild foods pet food company, water quality issues in Northland and the avocado gangstas. I now know how to tell when buying roadside avocados if they have come from theft or are legit.

The evening is relaxing alone in the (non-powered cabin) listening to the soft wave sounds of 90mile beach. It’s up for walking at first light. It’s still 30km of walking down 90mile beach to get to Ahipara.

End of Day 8