Queen Charlotte Track – Marlborough Sounds, Day 1

Considering i don’t like carrying F.A and I also like beds i have choosen to do just that and sleep in beds. First night accomodation is the ‘Furneaux Lodge’ p.s I’m not splurging. A hiker bed is only $65 and i still get to use the spa bath and giant soft towels.

Work finshed at 1630 on Friday and i got on the Courgar Line boat to Ship Cove at 10am. Ship Cove is where Ol Mate Captain Cooksta brought that boat, the Resolution to, when he was exploring these parts for the first time and trading with the natives. The Cougar Line was rather busy with touristas being dropped off at the various hotels, lodges and camps along the track. The track is serviced and suitable for families and those who don’t like roughing it, with restaurants, hotels, lodges and camping abundance. It’ s also good track if you don’t like/ can’t be carrying anything as the boat can drop your bag off at the hotel AND then pick it up again the next day and take it to the next location! A walker is able to do that with camping gear also, you don’t have to be hotel lizarding to make use of the arrangements.

Endeavour Inlet

After the boat lets the passengers off at Ship Cove, I don’t even faf around with a photo at the Captain Cook monument, i just set up my walking poles, put my little lunch bag on and start powering up the first hill. I have a deep desire to burn the stresses of the work year out of me, just a bit of sweat and huffing and puffing and i’ll feel better soon. I still feel irritated from work and have hardly let the office go, my mind is still whirring with conversations I am having in my head with people who aren’t even there and all the unfinished tasks and projects. I’m not an easy switcher offerer, but I’m getting better and I know a long-walk is going to help. The walk from Ship Cove to Furneax is 17km, I contemplate on the disapprenaces of the Ben Smart & Oliva Hope, floating in and out of my head, with the office thoughts, and physically feeling the heat. How has that not been solved yet? How were they never found ?

Furneaux Lodge Homestead

I arrive at the Lodge around 3pm, people are relaxing and getting drunk on the lawn. I feel quite insular today and not bothered to involve myself with noise and social astmosphere, I check into my room and sleep for the afternoon, early evening dozing, read the book I have “When Breath Becomes Air” and sleep some more. I don’t have the energy for the reastaurant for dinner either so eat a sandwhich & tuna snack with peppermint tea, it’s lights out and i’m asleep again, although the bed is a broken marshmellow so I pull the matress onto the floor, ahhh that’s better and sleep again till 6:20am – the weekday wake up time. Todays walk is only 12km to Punga Lodge, i’ve got loads of time to F. around eating breakfast and drinking coffee, although i’m ready to burn some more heat off and am out the door by 8:30am.

Hiker Cabins – Furneaux Lodge

Punga Cove – Day 2

The resort map

Punga Cove is a New Zealand version of a Fiji resort, and as it’s 3 days before Christmas it’s busy with famllies. Unfortunatley I get there way to early to check in, 11:45am. The track from Furneaux has been non-descript and busy, a couple of sprained ankles, a lot of overly dressed people in exsessive tramping garb and heavy boots. I am essentially wearing running clothes (t-shirt/running shorts/visor/trail shoes/sports sunglassess) a couple of people ask me if I am running the track. Hell to the NO! But it’s interesting the assumptions that can be made by the look of an outfit.

I ask the receptionist what time the room will be ready, she gives me the standard ambiguious answer. “I’m not sure how long it will take, shouldn’t be too long, but i’m not sure, definatley by 3pm” – (the actual time to check in). That’s Ok, I say, I’ll go and get lunch in the cafe OK (in a sing-song voice)

Punga Cove – Boat Shed Cafe

“Hi, can I see the lunch menu?” Sorry the cafe isn’t serving food till 1230pm” OK, i’ll have a Coke please. I take the Coke and take up a sun lounger on the foreshore and eat the sandwich that I have left over in my bag. A NZ style Fiji resort doesn’t quite have the service I was hopping for. I fall asleep on the sun lounger, get burnt, wake up and get hot chips from the now pumping cafe. It’s about 2pm, the cafe/bar is pumping, people arriving and leaving on jet skis, taxi boats and private boats dropping people off at the warfs. I check into my room, i’m still not feeling the socialising vibe and mostly hide out reading my book, drinking LLB. On my final LLB run of the night i leave my f.n wallet on the foreshore. It’s a bit of a drama, but I get it back. I don’t make use of the swimming pool or the spa baths, the bed is rather more comfortable than Furneax and the mattress stays on the bed all night. I finish reading my book and put it on the ”shit books that people leave at backpackers shelf”, except it’s not shit, it’s about at 37 year old nuerosurgeon/ nureoscientest who dies of cancer, it’s an autobiography of his life, he writes about going from doctor to paitent and then the life is taken out of him, his wife writes the second part of what it was like for her, they have a young daugther too. “When Breath Becomes Air”. I hope the next person to pick it up finds it as profound as I did.

The not open Cafe / Bar
The foreshore, the villas, cabins and rooms all nestled in the punga

Anne Hut

I’m really tired today. That was a hard slog, beautiful, ‘easy’ tramping track. My pack feels so heavy.

I get to the hut, 3x people are here, a very talkative guy walking S.I Te Araroa, think archetype geeky tramper, a couple who helped with the go fund me campaign to buy a piece of golden bay to give to the public, another couple, the girl doing yoga on the deck, they are all walking the St. James. The first thing upon entering a hut is to take shoes off, introduce to people already there then select a bed, i choose a space and roll out my sleeping bag, change clothes, wash clothes, drink tea. Within 45mins a number of other people start rolling in, a young girl, then two families of 4 who are walking together, I can see the girl putting tent up, I get the feeling that I should move out of here and get my tent out too. It’s going to be mighty noisy and busy. One of the mothers is turning into the ultimate mother controller mode handing out the orders, planning the food and pre-planning the next day whilst making hot drinks. Her husband is chatting to everyone, talking about walking, his work, the weather. She looks for where thier family will lay thier beds out. I have my bed on the top bunk, there are 3 other spaces, the geeky tramper archetype has his bed on the bottom bunk, there are 3bother spaces. The mother wants 4 spaces, she sees geeky trampers bed and says that must be X , they have walked from the same hut. Then “we can’t all go up there, someone  else’s stuff is up there” (annoyed). I walk in and say “yeah that’s my stuff”.  “Of course it is” eye roll annoyed. What archetype is she giving me I wonder ? 

Geeky tramper says he’s going to move into the lounge and pull a bed out. Now I’m thinking, I really need to get the tent out, but the thought of packing it up and the cold and yeah nah not happening.

So mother comes in and says to husband, two others have arrived, X has moved bring your things down here. But these others (2 30ish girls from AKL) are just f.n around not getting thier beds out because mother has told them there are two bed spaces left just for them. I think about the 3 people who were at the hut I left from and decide I will pegs them for those 3, i can see them comming down the path and put my stuff on the beds Just at that time the 2 girls decide to come in and roll out their beds. They try and start telling me that mother has moved beds for them and that they dont have a tent. I start telling them that all of this happened before they even got here!, X moved his bed before they got here!. (And lucky covid has canned tourists or there would be no bed for anyone).

Multiple stories are happening at once, these 2 girls only see mother has moved a bed for them. Mother is the arbitrator of all happenings in the hut. I have attempted to take the 3 beds. I get into a bit of argument with the girls, the 3 put up their tent. One of the girls then talks to me politely about what trail I am doing the other gives me evils. Mother walks in makes a sideways remark. “That was all a bit weird wasn’t it to the girls”. Ahh no lady it wasn’t. Passive side ways commentary doesn’t wash me and I say something about it. Egos are flying.

The hut etiquette is first come first served. I was first (well 6th / 20 spaces, excluding floor space). Sometimes even if you are early the tent is a much better option.

In the spirit of Don Miguel Ruiz – The Four Agreements. Agreement 4 – Always do your best. Somedays will be better than others, your best is not going to be the same from day to day, but always do your best.

So the best i had after a 7hour walk, in humid heat, with 20kg on my back was an argument about bed. Hopefully I can do better tomorrow.

Continue reading Anne Hut

Summer Holidays are Coming

Life after lockdown and Te Araroa Part 1

I woke up on the 15th May and walked back into the office like only a weekend had passed. It was like a Friday afternoon when you tidy up your desk, walk out the door and wave goodbye to the responsiblities till Monday, except it wasn’t a weekend, 70 days on the trail and 6weeks in lockdown had passed, the world had phenomenally shifted and was settling into the ‘new norm’ and I was settling into my own new norm,  I’d made some internal shifts in the working out of where I was and where I thought I should be going (but, the best laid plans of mice and men… and that shit can change right on up in split second). However, all that fresh air brought fresh knowledge,  deeper understanding and newness into my life. It’s not possible to undertake long walks without change and accounts of 1000s of others before me are testament to that. But as that Chinese proverb goes “before enlightenment cut wood carry water, after enlightenment,  cut wood carry water” and there I was back in the office, back at my desk “cutting wood and carrying water”.

“Here is your pile of files, unfinshed projects and tasks, sorry no-one closed anything out, it’s just covid work got on top of us, paper work for the govt. temperature checking, social distancing measures etc  everything  we had to do keep the people getting paid and getting product out the door. Literally nothing else could get done. Just the essentials…” Which makes me think. if something can wait that long, how important is it really …?  I settled back into the ‘new’ normal, altough very much the same normal, back in my office seat, contemplative and grateful to have the seat when so many people had lost or were loosing theirs.

8months in Hermit mode

I live with three National Parks within an hour of my house, and about 200meters from the base of the local Grampians, despite the ease of access to the ‘GOD’ (Great Out Doors) , I’ve hardly done any walking in the 8months since my last blog post. An overnight, a couple of day walks, around the locals, the caves, some bays, some hills, a couple days walking to work, walking round the shops, walking around the markets. But mostly I’ve driven my car the 3km to work, laid around in bed, on the couch, watching the 150year old Oak tree out my window drop it’s leaves and come back to life again. Reading books, watching movies, simple, simple daily life and routines. One thing I did do that really challenged me in my hermit mode retreat was to re-read Marie Kondo: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and actually carry out the exercises. You think Te Araroa will be a challenge, try out Marie Kondo for size.. Haha. You know though summer is back on, it’s 19degrees today, it’s  Time to Wake Up and get my My Te Araroa back on!


I’ve got my gear sorted and all the rookie errors from the first round don’t need to be repeated, I’m still following tip blogs for help and just found out a tent peg can be used in place of trowel to save weight! Genius. This is a line from the blogs though…  “You pack your fears” Ophf! This resonates with me. Hard. I freak the f. out about being cold, so I got new thermal liner and an 800fill puffer and some more merino. I also freak the f. out about not having enough food or that not having enough food selection will bore me, food is pleasure and I can not imagine carrying only cold soak porridge! But each to their own and ‘Tramp your own Tramp’. But I’m struggling and in conflict with my fears and the desire and knowledge that every gram counts when carrying weight long distance. Every post that says ‘cut the weight’ it’s no joke! I 100% agree, however in the first round of packing currently the fears are winning! I’m fully aware of the lack of postal facilities I’m going to be coming across in the South Island, there  won’t be at a post office every couple of days, if it’s excess I’ll be carrying it a long way. 

I’ll be starting My Te Araroa journey again at the Queen Charlotte Track on the 19th Dec. I booked hiker accommodation at the resorts (Fernaux, Punga Cove & Portage) and will walk without a pack, like a languishing stroll in the hills (that’s how I imagining this track anyhow), a well deserved wind down from work before the “Character Building” sections of Upper South Island, Waiau Pass and the Red Hills! Frekn nervous. Frekn excited. This time I don’t have the luxury of 6months off to thru-walk, I’ve got to pack as much as possible into my summer holiday, after QCT it;s the car down to Canterbury for Christmas and then Dad will take myself and my long time friend Racheal to start the track at Boyle. I walked solo in My Te Araroa Part 1, the first 70days largely alone, the track, the camps, the huts in solitude, which I loved and was a totally blessed to be able to experience the bush and the trail this way,  it’s what I needed and the ol mate upstairs must have known it because it’s what I got. This time though I am totally looking forward to seeing the trail in a new way next to my friend, and whoever else we might encounter on our journey. 12 Days of office time left to go! Bring it!

See you out there xx

A gear stats post

What are we now ? Two weeks into the lockdown buissness, and ready to roll out! However still at home doing the requirements like a good citizen. Thought I’d write a gear stats post on what I carried on TA.

When you have to carry everything on your back over a long period you begin to know the value of ‘essential’ (to you). I mean some people will break the handle off thier toothbrush to drop the weight, or not carry deoderant, that type of behaviour is not my set point and those items are absolutley essential to me! However, each to thier own, hike your own hike and all that jazz. A bonus of analysing weight to the gram is I never resigstered before is how heavy small weights can be. I hold 100grams in my hand now and think ‘ooo that’s heavy…’ 100 frekn grams, I couldn’t even register 100grams before, it’s a gift of being aware of the weight of an object. (If you’re already all over this one, just roll your eyes and say ‘noob’ oxo).

Below is the breakdown of what I had carried at my interval point, interval as in ‘break’ in story like there used to be at the movies). Some people like to know this information to compare, plan or out of inquistive nature. Don’t use my list to plan. I’m not a seasoned walking professional and have probably way more than nessasary. But; it’s my particular comfort zone, my set point. Go with where that is for you. It’ll probably change, as it did for me, it was learn as we go.


I changed pack a couple of times.

  • Pack 1 – Kathmandu Levant (70L)
  • Pack 2 – Osprey Vault (75L)
  • Pack 3 – Tatonka Bison (60L)
  • Pack 4 – Macpac Torlesse (50L)
  • Pack liner – that yellow one
  • Pack rain cover – the one inside the pack


  • 2x pairs of quick dry running shorts (1x Adidas, 1x Warehouse)
  • 5x pairs nylon undies – (Kmart)
  • 2x Sports Bra (Triumph)
  • 2x Merino shortsleeve tops
  • (1x Kathmandu 1x Swandri)
  • 1x t-shirt (New Balance quick dry)
  • 1x Long-Johns (Macpac that I had to buy at i-site Tongariro)
  • 1x Polarfleece (Kathmandu Altica)
  • 1x Goretex Jacket (Kathmandu Aysen)
  • 1x Down Jacket (Macpac uberlight)
  • 2x Socks (1x Briscoes 1x Ice Breaker)
  • Compression bag to keep clothes in
  • 1x Boots (Solomon x-ultra trek)
  • 1x Trail Runners (Asics fujutrabuco 8)
  • 1x Jandels (the Warehouse)
  • 1x Visor hat
  • 1x Broadbrim hat
  • 1x Merino neck gaiter (Mons Royal)
  • 1x Sunglassess (Caterpillar cat.3)


  • Tent – Kathmandu Mono
  • Sleeping mat – Sea to Summit etherlight XT
  • Sleeping bag – Marmot angel fire -5.8degree C (comfort) & compresion bag
  • Silk linner – Kathmandu
  • Pillow – Sea to Summit aeros


  • PLB: ACR-Res-Q-Link
  • GPS – Garmin e-trek
  • Watch – Baby G
  • Phone – Samsung A90
  • Phone charger
  • Ear buds for phone
  • 15000mAh power bank
  • Portable keyboard – Logitech
  • Dry bag

Toiletries, 1st Aid, Safety

  • Eco-freindly soap
  • Tooth brush/Tooth paste
  • Disposable razor
  • Tea tree oil
  • Kawa kawa balm
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • Sun screen
  • Zinc stick
  • Insect repellant
  • Ear plugs
  • Eye cover
  • Small first aid kit
  • Paracetemol/Ibuprofin/Quick-ezz
  • AquaTabs
  • Emergency blanket
  • Compass
  • High Vis vest
  • Whistle
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Biodegradable plastic bags
  • Zip-lock plastic bags

Food, eating untensils

  • Spork
  • Knife
  • Pot – Kathmandu solo asent
  • Stove – Kathmandu backpacker

I ate various things but always seemed to be carrying (in a dry bag):

  • Wraps
  • Salami
  • Processed cheese
  • Potato flakes
  • Tuna packets
  • Crackers
  • Noodles
  • Cup-O-soups
  • Peanut butter slugs
  • Museli bars
  • Instant poridge
  • Back Country meals
  • Raro
  • Treats – choco/buscuits
  • Water – Poweraid bottles

Carry what you want and like to eat. Don’t get pulled into someone elses crazy diet unless it resonates with you. I bought ‘classic tramping fodder’ like dried apricots & scrogin which I don’t actually like; wasted space and cash.


  • Pocket-pack day backapck for shopping & town days (Kathmandu)
  • Poles! ( 2x Mountain Warehouse)
  • Note book & pencil
  • Paper maps and notes

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?

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’ fall  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 about 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


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!!!