Day 11 to 14. Omahuta Forest and Puketi Forest then to Kerikeri

Day 11 Mangamuka to Apple Dam Camp

Only a short 12 km walk along quiet gravel road taking 4 hours. We both feel we are getting stronger as the days go on.

Frances has a sore knee so now wearing a knee brace that seems to be helping. Drugs of choice are Panadol and Ibuprofen.

We were first at camp so picked the best spots. Later joined by Josh from Germany and a Finnish couple. The couple had got through Raetea Forest in one 9 hour stretch. Wow. The long drop toilet here was really bad, very smelly and dirty. Footnote: This toilet was remembered by everyone on the trail and voted the worst on Te Araroa

Apple Dam Camp

Again I had a bad night because of the leak in my mattress but I got to hear Moreporks, New Zealand’s native owl.

Day 12. 26/10/2019. 11.5 hour day. Omahuta and Puketi Forests

Because of the Kauri Dieback disease there was no camping in the forests so we had a 11.5 hour day to do about 28 km. We were up and away by 6 am with our head torches on for a while.

Cleaning station 7am. Coffee time.

The Omahutu Forest is home to over 360 indigenous species of plants, this forest is one of the most diverse in New Zealand. We went into the Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary which was built in 1952 to enable a lot of people easy access to view giant Kauris and enjoy a true Kauri forest encounter, with many huge trees.    The track has been carefully chosen to protect the trees and many boardwalks ensure that the roots of the trees will not be damaged by onlookers and that visitors can keep dry feet in the wet and swampy surrounding. Kauri are one of the world’s largest trees and are native to Northern New Zealand. Being excellent timber they were logged until 1970 but are now protected. Unfortunately there is a disease that is threatening their continued existence.

We had 6.5 km of walking up a river which was a nice change from muddy tracks. The water was not cold and it was easy walking.

River walking

Frances has been in charge of directions as she loves her maps and up until this day she has done well. We came around a bend to where there was fork in the river that we needed to take but there, on the rocks, was gorgeous young Josh, stark naked.

He (too) quickly pulled on his undies saying that the river was very deep and he was planning to carry his pack above his head to get to the other side.

Being slightly distracted we began to strip off to our undies to follow him without question.

Josh got across okay then Frances just managed to make it with the water up to her chin. She is taller than me so when it was my turn the water was nearly coming over my mouth.

I was panicking a bit, holding a 12 kg pack above my head for that length of time while being in cold water was hard enough without being completely submerged. But Frances came out to my rescue and grabbed my pack just in time. Whew.

This is Josh. Very distracting.

Then, as we were quickly dressing and hanging our wet bras and undies on the back of our packs, the Finnish couple arrived. They took a track to the left up and over the bank then crossed in knee high water.

Only knee deep when the right path is taken!

Our focus on the naked Josh had meant we had missed the marker. Lesson for the day…don’t get distracted by naked bodies.

The next few hours of the track was up above the river and fairly challenging with many risky places. In hindsight we should have continued walking in the river.

Then through the Puketi Forest which was easier under foot because of new steps and board walks that had been installed to help save the Kauris.

Beautiful Kauri trees
Old forestry road

Soon we were on an old forestry road that had some hills and was hot going. We stopped for wee shade breaks whenever we could and kept on truck’n.

After 11.5 hours we arrived at a DOC campground, put our tents up and had a well earned cup of soup before our dinner tonight. Josh’s girlfriend was dropped off by some trail Angels as she had been in town getting some replacement gear. They shared nice fresh bread with us.

I conned a mattress from the DOC hut and dragged it into my tent but didn’t have a much better sleep. My damn hip pains me only when I lie down but not walking at all.

Day 13. 27/10/2019 Puketi Forest to Kerikeri

A 26 degree day with 24 km road walk and bit of farm track. On the farm we walked with the Finnish couple and reached the 200 km milestone. Thew track followed the fence lines and there was styles to climb over instead of opening and shutting gates. This made sense as it ensured gates were left as the farmer intended. However we had to heave ourselves up and over each style with very little grace and lots of grumbling. We didn’t have a lot of strength in our legs at this stage. Frances had some trouble getting around the posts with her “56GGG” front packs.

Then it was walking down gravel roads that reminded me of my Camino de Santiago.

Long stretches of road

Eventually we hit the tarmac that was very hot under our shoes. A 26 degree day with no shade so I begin to wonder if I am a sadist rather than the ultra athlete that i have been convincing myself that I am.

We had done about 14km when a nice man stopped after he saw my thumb slightly sticking out. We accepted his lift expecting to be dropped off at the next intersection only 4 km up the road.

However he had a captive audience and regaled us with his opinions of John Key ( needs a letter bomb sent to him), the immigration policy (send them all back) , the diet of the locals (they eat margarine!) and a few more unmentionable things. So he drove us all the way to Kerikeri. Cheating “yeah nah” with not much sleep over the last week I needed to get to the shops to buy a new mattress.

So that was done and off the the Caravan Park. Frances checked us in and chatted with a few other TA walkers as I slumped in a chair. I felt dizzy and very grumpy but wasn’t sure why. Needless to say, the the usual routine of making camp had to be done so I got on with it. We are getting quite smart at it now. I had some electrolyte drink and some food, hot shower and rinsed my clothes and soon began to feel better. That night I gave myself a 7/10 for my body and a 5/10 for my mind. Up until this I had scored 8.5 to 9 for my body and always a 10/10 for my mind. A day off was ordered.

We are out to a proper restaurant with Taximan tonight enjoying a huge pizza each and a beer.

Yummy pizza with leftovers for lunch

The Northland Forest are done and we passed the 200km mark today. Only 2,800 to go.

Day 13. 28/10/2019. Zero Day

Today we did some planning, shopping and this web site work. (It was difficult on my phone with slow internet). I felt much better after a good nights sleep.

We are meeting more TA hikers each day including a couple of Aussie ladies in 50’s who had 2 weeks off after 90 Mile Beach because they were in a bad way. They then skipped forward to the Raetea Forest and arrived here by taxi, declaring that they have done their dash. They wanted our opinions as to whether they should carry on or change their plans. We both thought they didn’t have what it takes to continue and suggested they spend their time in New Zealand doing some easier tramps, some Great Walks and touring the country by car instead. Enjoyment has to be the main drive. We had a fun evening with them and wished them well.

We heard that the young Israeli couple, straight out of army training, who we started with have also pulled out after 90 Mile Beach.

This makes us feel really pleased with ourselves. WE ARE STILL GOING STRONG. Everyday we feel fitter and stronger and taking the rest days regularly is allowing us the revive. I am again amazed at how I forget the previous days’ tortures and am ready to go and do it again the next day. I suppose it is the same resilience that we women have that allows us to go on and have more babies.

Next section will take us to Whangarei.