Day 6 20/10/19 Ahipara to Trampers Inn Edge of Hirikino Forest.
We were all up and ready to head to the cafe for proper coffee before hitting the trail. Pipi Shells (Kiwi Lad) Possum (Aussie girl) and Nadine from The Netherlands were picked up by a van about 5 minutes of thumbs out so we waived them off to Kaitaia.
They all needed to resupply for the next section but Frances and I had picked up a bag of food her parents had dropped off for us at Ahipara.
So we were heading to Trampers Inn on the edge of the Herikino Forest. The trail had been through the forest but has been closed to try and halt the Kauri Dieback disease that is decimating our native forests.
We walked about 4 km up the main road so as to reach the turn off to our destination. As we approached it we saw a van with its dinkers indicating that it was turning our way So we showed a bit of leg and wobbled our tits and he stopped for us. Trail Magic.
Frances climbed up front with the young Maori guy as she is in charge of directions. I loaded in the the packs and jumped into the back. From Whanganui originally, he told us about his pub crawl around New Zealand and his decision to settle in this area and live the quiet lifestyle. He went out of his way to take us an extra couple if kilometres and would have taken us the full 14 km if we had let him. Us Kiwi are nice people.
Then we walked off along the very quiet country road expecting a 14 km walk. A few of the local dogs and their owners came out to greet us as we walked. The day was getting hotter.
Then a ute stops for us. Mr and Mrs Local Farmers were on their way to the owners of our destination hut to wish her a happy birthday. So we were dropped off with just a km to walk to our hut. The couple explained that they had moved here 15 years ago to raise their 4 kids and had a number of properties, 800 beehives, beef cattle and horses. They even put their teeth in for us saying they don’t usually wear them, so we felt very privileged and thankful for their ride and insight into their lives.
Along a farm track we found our first mud of the trail and soon the hut. It had been the school house for the farm owners children. 5 Star luxury. Mattresses, a huge table, running water and a toilet with a view. I now have another great toilet photo to add to my collection.
We had a lunch of Parmesan cheese and salami on wraps, followed by a bit of a sunbathe in our undies while there was no-one around to scare. Then we did our foot yoga followed by stretches and gave each other a full massage. This has to be better than work.
Day 7 21/10/2019 Trampers Inn to edge of Raetea Forest 20.5km 9 hours
Leaving at 9 am after our usual breakfast of porridge with milk powder and a sprinkle of protein powder and LSA The cows mooed as went down the grassy track then along a gravel road for about 15 km until the only car that passed us gave us a ride for 2 km at the end of the road.
We walked an easy 8km to Takahue where we had lunch in the grounds of a community hall, accompanied by local dog.
Then onto a small camp area and up our first hill. We were warmly greeted by trail mates Possum and Nadine from Netherlands. Mark was also there and after finding out that he had got a taxi out to the trail head we gave him his trail name Taximan. He is vegetarian and carries a pressure cooker to cook his lentils etc.
The sun was out and we had a picnic table so enjoyed some good conversation while cooking dinner.
The next day is through the Raetea Forest which is notorious for its muddy track. Only 18 km through but reports from last week were that it was taking an hour to do a kilometre. At about the 8km mark we will hit the first summit where there is room to camp but staying there means carrying 2 days of water on top of our 5 days of food.
Frances and I had planned on two days but agreed to go with the others and try for one day, leave by 6.30 am and stop at summit and reassess. Downhill in the mud can be as slow as uphill. So off to bed at 7pm.
The roosters are crowing as I write this as it is 5am so time to get up and wake the rest of them ready for a 6.30 start.
Day 8 22/10/19 to the 147.5 km mark in the Raetea Forest. 11.5km 9 hours
I went around the tents saying “Wakey, Wakey” . But then found out that bit was supposed to be 6am rather than 5am. Too bad I was up so they should be too. Let’s get this day on the road.
Mud, mud and more mud. Not much more to say actually. It was a good lesson for the tourists about the difference between hiking and Tramping. I think they get it now. We had sun and hail and more mud.
We tramped for 9.5hrs, 10km mostly up hill. Very slow rate of pace but no one got hurt. Taximan had decided he wanted to get all the way through so he took off at a pace much faster than we could slip and slide.
“Frances wears Kahtoola Microspikes on her shoes so has an unfair advantage in the “Number of Slips, Trips, and Falls Competition” .
Georgia scored the highest being from Sydney she has had very little experience in the mud. However she kept her sense of humour and I came close second. Nadine. from the Netherlands was very careful with her steps so had no falls at all. She snowboards so has great balance. I have no excuse, I am just hopeless.
By 3pm Georgia was showing signs of exhaustion and hypothermia so we made the call to find a camp spot. Soon we had two tents up, were in clean, dry clothes and were enjoying a hot cup of soup.
As there was no entertainment on hand we were tucked up in our sleeping bags by 5pm. Frances and I ordered wraps with fish from room service then settled in for the night.
Frances slept like a log while I had to blow up my mattress 4 times. Find Puncture was added to the To Do List.
Day 9 Finish Ratea Forest and to stay at Frances brothers place in Mangamuka
We were up and off by 9am leaving no trace, taking a few photos and followed in the deep footsteps of previous trampers. We had a lot of fun on the way down as we were all feeling a lot less pressured. There was some very steep and slippery sections interspersed with flattish grassy sections.
Morning tea break started out in glorious sun only to be interrupted by a hail storm. NZ weather at it’s best.
After only 3 hours we were on farmland. So green and flat and welcoming.
Then through a backyard that was guarded by about 10 angrily barking dogs. Nadine and I were not at all comfortable with this even though they were all chained up.
Soon we were at a lovely campsite provided by the previous mentioned farmers. A long drop, tables chairs, a washing line and a nice clean running stream to wash in.
We were all quickly in the water cleaning our shoes, wringing out dirty socks and scrubbing our legs. It was so good to get rid of the mud!
Then we said our good byes to the girls hoping we had given them enough skills and advice to carry on without us. Frances, being the outdoor education teacher, had been giving them Flora and Fauna lessons and I just talk all day about lots of shit so they had said they were pleased to start out with us.
F and I took off in our much lighter shoes to the end of the road where we were picked up by her brother.
In typical Northland fashion I was thrown on the back of the ute with the packs and Frances went upfront because she is family. Off to get a Len’s pie at Kaikoe as I had been dreaming pies all day.
We didn’t look out if place in our muddy clothes in the supermarket, actually we looked better than most because we had clean shoes.
Sue made us a nice “proper food” dinner and Frances sat and talked while I put on the washing and hung out my gear. Slept in a nice comfortable bed. Everything was good.
Day 10. 24/10/2019. Zero day at Frances’s brother place
Cleaning and sorting out our gear took us all day. I gathered some fur from the possum caught by the dog overnight and added it to sheep wool that we had found a few days ago.
We use it in our shoes to protect the hot spots on our feet. You can’t beat pure NZ wool and possum fur as long as you pick out the extra bits first.
We couldn’t find the hole in my mattress but managed to do a bit of other mending and planning.
A nice dinner and time well spent with Sue and Edward. Now that man can talk more than me! I could hardly get a word in.
Next section here we come.