On my own for the first time.
I left Frances behind at Orewa and had to find my way to Stillwater Campgrounds on my own. Frances loves her maps so has been in charge of directions until now so it was a bit stressful for me. Cars were coming at me from all directions like machine guns. After a month of bush tracks and quiet beach walks it was a real assault on my senses. Crossing roads freaked me out and I was really doubting myself. As I turned into Spur Road about 3 km before the camp I found myself on a busy narrow winding road with no shoulder at peak traffic time.
So I sat on a driveway until a lady pulled up and said “get in the car now. You people should not be walking on this road”. I was in like a flash.
I shared the recreation room that night with 8 other hiker buddies. We weren’t charged to stay at the campground as the owners enjoy having Te Araroa walkers there.
Day 31. Stillwater to Takapuna. 23km.
Another day when the tides determined our start time. We had an estuary to cross and we needed to be there at low tide so we had a leisurely morning and left camp at about 3pm. I made sure I wasn’t going to be on my own today so left with Gerban and Sanne and The 3 German Boys. We had been given directions by the camp owner as to the best place to cross however I didn’t really take much notice as directions has been Frances’s domain and I hadn’t really got into the swing of it. I presumed the others had taken more notice than me.
But when we arrived at the river mouth I found I was wrong. No-one really remembered the instructions. There was 7 poles in the mud, but which one was the one to cross by? We vaguely remembered mention of the 3rd pole but from which end we didn’t know. Then we found a pole that had a big cross on it. “Ah ha” I said “that cross must mean cross here”. No-one argued with me but it did look quite deep.
So we sent the tallest German lad out first. The water was soon up to his pack level so he retreated, stripped down to his undies and heaved his pack up onto his head. He managed to get over with the water lapping his chin, then returned to help us shorter people. This is why I made sure I wasn’t on my own for this day. So we all stripped off and the tall guys ferried our packs over while us shorter ones swam.
The water was warm and not swift so it was actually quite enjoyable and a bit of an adventure. We were all dressed and ready to go when we saw a lone woman in the distance and decided to wait to help her across. I yelled out for her to remove her clothes as one of the German guys undressed again. She thought we wee joking until she saw how deep it was on him.
Lesson for the day – walk with tall Germans when approaching river crossings.
So we now had another member of our trail family walking to Takapuna. It was 25 km day so we didn’t arrive until 8,30 pm just as it was getting dark. The last 15 minutes was over some dodgy rocks that were getting hard to see as it got dark. A lovely young German police officer helped me through it. Pleased to be there it was a quick tent set up, dinner eaten and bed.
The next morning I started chasing the Germans at 8.30 am through some leafy Auckland suburbs and along beaches. We seemed to be the only ones out without a dog and a doggy poop bag (presuming a peerag and a poop shovel do not count). I was pleased to be able to keep up with them, even if I was always at the rear.
A quick ride on the Devonport Ferry and we were in downtown Auckland. That is a major milestone for us all.
Off up Queen Street we wafted well aware that we all smelled quite bad alongside all the well dressed office workers They all gave off lovely odours of the kind we had not smelt for a month now.
We headed straight into the Bivouac store to pick up bits and pieces we needed. For me it was to exchange my Icebreaker socks for a new pair. “Just drop them in the bin and choose another pair” the girl said as she screwed up her nose. Good onya Icebreaker.
Then I said my good byes to the group who were all staying in the city center. I headed off to get to One Tree Hill for an arranged pick up by my brother. I would use his place as a base for the next few days getting dropped off in the morning and picked up at night as I made my way across the city to Pokeno at about 25 km a day.
I was pleasantly surprised as to how enjoyable it was. I mostly walking through university grounds, parks, Botanic gardens along the bays and back country roads surrounding the airport. The houses changed from up market to cheaper state house areas through to hundreds of new 2 storey lookalike places.
I passed water treatment plants, sewage disposal, the airport, lots of schools, churches and 2 university campuses. One I got horribly lost in (where is Frances when I need her?). But I managed to hitch a ride with a gardener in his little cart and he took me to where I needed to be.
The trail went through an area occupied by Maori at Ihumātao. The guard at the gates sent me off on a bit of a detour which okay with me.
I went through a number of Farm Parks which I thought was a great idea for a city. Sheep and cattle roam the parks, saving on lawn mowing and giving the city dwellers a taste of country life.
A growing city for sure.
My last day was from Dury to Pokeno over the Bombay Hills singing in the rain. I passed out of the Auckland district into Waikato.
I am now at about 670km through my 3,000 km walk.
I am off trail now until 26th as I head home for a few days and to Napier for my Father’s 90 th birthday celebrations.