We started our day with a 24km water taxi ride we shared with the Finnish couple. We meandered through the beautiful Bay of Islands which really impressed me. I didn’t know it was so beautiful up here and kept thinking I was in South East Asia or Australia.
Most of the Te Araroa walkers kayak the route but Frances has done a lot of kayaking so I deferred to her decision to take the taxi instead. 3 or 4 hours of paddling in the sea doesn’t sound easy to me.
Having not been up here before I was in awe of all the expensive looking houses and boats around the bays. The trees growing in the water reminded me of Northern Queensland so I kept expecting to see crocodiles.
After about an hour we arrived at Waikare and jumped off the boat. We were really in the back blocks. On our 4 km gravel road we saw at least 8 abandoned cars with wheels and any other usable parts removed and windows all smashed. It looked as though they had broken down and just been left there to die a long and torturous death. There were many rundown houses with a series of decrepit looking shacks and caravans in close vicinity, with piles of rusty old washing machines, fridges and farming equipment strewn around. There was often angry dogs prowling around with young kids playing among them. So this is how many New Zealanders live in the Far North. It saddened me. We saw a mum driving with a child standing in the front seat which is something I haven’t seen for 50 years. I felt this was more the reality of life in this area than the posh houses and boats.
Following in the footsteps of the Finnish couple we then entered a stream which we walked up for about 2 hours. There were no naked young men this time so we managed to keep our clothes on all the way. The rocks were a different colour than our last river walk carrying on with the “no two days are the same” theme.
By 1pm we were at a campsite which we had to ourselves as the others were carrying on for another 5 or so hours. We are in no hurry so glad of a short day. Hot soup and sandwiches filled us up and warmed our feet.
Yoga and stretches and a snooze in the sun was followed by humus and crackers for afternoon tea. THIS IS THE LIFE. I can’t even imagine going back to sitting in front of a computer all day.
We have decided to sleep out on the bench seats of the shelter tonight. Neither of us had looked at the weather forecast but it is a 4 sided shelter so we can move around if the weather turns during the night. There is a bird’s nest up in the roof with a mother bird sitting happily on her eggs to watch over us. There is also a lot of evidence that pigs have been rooting around so I hope they they friendly ones.
I read out my friend Royce Mills diary of her 5 days of the Te Araroa in the Tararuas. It made for interesting reading of what is to come. Different again.
The birdlife is abundant here which is a nice change. Frances has been able to identify tuis, swallows, bellbirds and kingfishers. There are a lot of tuis and they appear to be mating as there are pairs chasing each other around.
Just as our dehydrated dinners were ready young Josh turned up minus his girlfriend. After we quizzed him (poor guy) we found out that they have decided to go alone for a while.
He was pleased to gave a hot chocolate made for him as he had walked all the way from Paihia, remembering we took a water taxi for about 24km.
He hadn’t done too well out of the split up. He got the tent, a nearly empty gas bottle but no cooker, pot, plate or cup. He did have a spoon, small bag of instant mashed potatoes, a sachet of soup and a bar of peppermint chocolate.
This needed to last him for the next 5 days so we advised him to get out to the road and hitch hike into Wangarei to get himself set up.
Day 17. 31/10/19. To Helena Bay 18 km mostly road walking.
A relatively easy day starting with a walk along a wide bush track and then road to Helena Bay. It was hot and we daydreamed of icecream all day. The only shop we passed was closed down but we sat outside in the shade and ate our crackers with avocado and hummus for lunch.
Again we were confronted with the lives of the locals in this part of the country. Run down shacks surrounded by sleep outs and caravans. Life looks quite relaxed and it would not be too hard to keep up with the Jones’s. There are always a few rusty old cars there and a patch of old fridges, washing machines and piles of other rubbish. The area is well known for its marijuana growing so we kept very much to the trail so as not to get too close to anyone’s crops.
After 5 hours of walking along the road of hot melting tar under the hot sun we came to the Helena Bay turnoff. There was a relocated house which some guys were working on. We gave them a friendly wave and one came over to chat. It was Dave, the Trail Angel that Frances had made previous contact with about a place to stay. Trail Angels are people who take in hikers for the night. Frances had rung ahead to ask for accommodation. I asked if there was an ice-cream shop nearby. No luck, so I asked if there was pub. Again the answer was no. The deflated look on our faces must have been very obvious as the lovely man quickly pulled 2 Lion Brown beers from his chilli bin. That is a true trail Angel.
So we sat in the shade and drank our beers while they finished up their job. We piled to his van and drove up the road to the home built cottage he shares with Alex. She arrived shortly from Auckland where she works 4 days a week as an art therapist.
They cooked a roast dinner for us and we enjoyed lively conversation with them before heading to our tents at 7pm.
I have had a lot of backpackers through my home over the years so it was a nice change for me to be on the receiving end of the good kiwi hospitality.
Day 18. 1 Nov. The day of the styles. To Whananaki. 9.5 hours.
Today we walked 24 km in 9.5 hours to Whananaki Beach climbing up and over at least 20 styles. This was also a day where every hour was different. We went up and down all day, with some very steep ascents and descents punctuated by some reasonably flattish bits. It was warm but we has some times on the tops where it was very windy.
We walked mostly through privately owned land which was well marked. Everytime we came to a fence there was a style, at least 20, which is a record for one day. We grunt and grumble as we heave ourselves and our packs up and over them. Actually getting down off them can produce more f*n and bliming than getting up.
After another climb we finally spot the Pacific Ocean in the distance, so blue and welcoming after days inland.
We started the day with a fit looking young Dutch couple who we have been meeting up with every few days. We were proud to say that we arrived before them, even if we were both absolutely knackered. We had already eaten the icecream and bought a bottle of beer before they arrived. Not too bad really.
I don’t like dogs so whenever we come across them I hide behind Frances as she is farm bred and more used to dogs. That rule suited me fine today as she got a little bite from a dog this morning.
There are a lot of properties in Northland that are guarded by vicious dogs: probably to keep people away from their marijuana crops. The climate is very temperate so good for growing many different crops, legal and illegal. 3.6 million trays of Kiwifruit are exported each years as well as a citrus fruits and avocados.
Taximan was here to give us a big hug when we arrived and he has now passed on to us the Taxi moniker because we got the water taxi. For TA walkers a cabin was the same price as a tent site and we received a free can of soft drink so we took advantage of the offer. Unfortunately the cheap bunk beds are not very good for ones posture so by the morning we had taken the mattresses off the beds and were sleeping on the floor. It had been a long hot day so we were pleased to have a shower and wash out our walking clothes.
We started on the West Coast of New Zealand and have now walked over to the East Coast. It is not quite the same as going from West to East of USA but an achievement for a couple of oldies like us.