Tuesday, November 29, 2016

29 November

29 November

With the weather no better and gale force winds forecast, we all decided to head to K and P’s place in Lower Hutt and so we have spent this last while parked in their driveway. We went for a few scenic drives and checked out Mt Victoria and out to Eastbourne. Warren and I spent an afternoon in Wellington city on foot. It’s a city we are not at all familiar with as to us it has been a place to either catch or depart from the ferry on our trips south. We strolled around the city centre very conscious of the narrow streets and high-rise buildings. Seeing several cordoned off as deemed unsafe after the Kaikoura earthquake it felt a bit unsettling as there is no escape from falling rubble if another quake, or a strong aftershock should occur.  We caught the train back to Petone where Peter picked us up. I see why commuters would appreciate the train ride, as it was easy, quick and relaxing.

We had no enthusiasm to walk or ride any of the TA trail here in Wellington, maybe because of the weather and maybe due to diminishing enthusiasm regards the walk and so our next thoughts were to head south earlier so yesterday Warren and I boarded the Bluebridge ferry for a very pleasant crossing to Picton. 

We have been concerned with the bike rack on the back of ‘Dreeemer’, our new camper as the weight appears to be pulling on the rear wall just under the back window so we spent the afternoon in the Bunning’s car park in Blenheim yesterday and reinforced the back wall with a 2 metre strip of box aluminium. We also unloaded Porsha’s bike which we had carried down from Tauranga and so now we are much more confident that the bikes and the camper are safe.

We stayed in Blenheim last night, had a nice dinner out with Bruce and today we’ve come via Havelock to Kenepuru Head where we are tucked in to a lovely DOC camp with a couple of pukeko’s and weka’s. I think we will be here for a few days it is so nice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Update to 21 November

14 November 

From Rerewhakaaitu we moved south to 5 Mile Bay, Taupo for the night and then into Taupo and we spent last night on the lake edge there. We went for a walk around the shops (Sunday) and then spent much of the afternoon reading and resting. Today we had the tyre pressure in the motor home checked and all pumped up to 60psi. Then we headed to get the stone chip in the windscreen we got two days ago fixed.

We met up with K and P in Turangi at lunch time and then we all made our way to Waiouru where we plan to spend tonight behind the museum. The weather was settled today but the mountains covered in cloud and as the weather report still tells us that bad weather is moving in we have parked the Tongariro crossing to do another time. 
It seems we are moving further south without getting any walking or biking in based largely on the current weather situation.  I am keen to check off some more of the trail but not so keen to be miserable with rain, wind and cold conditions. 

We're also moving closer to the South Island where overnight a 7.5 magnitude earthquake created some significant damage to infrastructure and sadly caused two deaths. We felt the quake in Taupo and the motor home rocked as though it were being shaken by a group of people outside. It is likely to affect the route we can take once we get across the strait. Currently ferry crossings are cancelled due to damage on both the Picton and Wellington ferry terminal areas. 

15 November 

Leaving the very windy Waiouru this morning we continued south, this time looking for a camp site that is quiet and sheltered. We found it just out of Taihape, at the Mokai Gravity Canyon. This is a bungy site in an incredibly deep and narrow canyon but at this time of the year it is deserted. The DOC camp was totally overgrown and so we parked up in the Bungy car park which is also a POP (Park over property for NZMCA members). 

This area is protected from the wind and despite occasional showers we were both keen to get out and go for a walk. We followed a walking trail here to a couple of lookouts and took some photos of the canyon below.  The bush walk was superb, despite being overgrown. Some areas the grass was over our heads! I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the bush, the ability to stroll, take photos, notice what's about and not be pressured into walking a pace that is really a bit too fast and just seeing where the next footsteps go on the ground ahead. 

We have missed out the Tongariro crossing and the Wanganui river as the weather has been terrible and both of us are getting a bit frustrated at not getting on with parts of the trail. Not that we could have last week through being still tired from the previous month and buying the camper and setting it up. These last few days though we are feeling fit again and have made decisions based on weather and a time frame to cross the ferry to the South Island.  All being well we hope to do some biking out of Whanganui tomorrow.

16 November

Peter had another flat tyre today – the third so far this trip so he and Warren changed that and we headed back into Taihape to get it fixed before leaving for Whanganui.

In Whanganui we parked in the Victoria Park where there is a beautiful winter garden and lake with ample photo opportunities. We went for a walk with cameras and snapped heaps of lovely photos of the bird life here and the trees and flowers.
What lousy weather we are having and it looks like it’s only going to get worse, which doesn’t bode well for walking or cycling.  Today there are postings in Facebook advising TA walkers not to proceed right now with the Richmond Nelson sections of the South Island, the Bluebridge ferry is not taking bookings, the Paekakariki Escarpment trail is closed and it’s considered too dangerous to walk SH1 around it while the heavy machinery is clearing the slips on the road there.
There is a lot against us continuing this trail at present and we are undecided what to do.

18 November

Yesterday was forecast for thunderstorms and the rain threatened all day then let go late in the afternoon. All day long the wind blew a gale. We wasted time in Whanganui getting a few non-essential items from the shops as well as an inverter. Although not essential right now we need it to charge laptops and other sundries and so a miserable day is a good day to deal to things like that.
Later in the evening I found that we were parked up in a free wifi zone at a sports club and so took the opportunity to book our ferry crossing for the 6th December. K and P also booked for the same crossing. We booked this day as it tied in well with their commitments in Wellington the week previous.

Today dawned fine, although with still a stiff wind. We needed to get going and so headed to the Powerboat Club to start the next section of the trail. We would ride to Bulls.  The trail followed SH3 for the first 20kms before heading down to the Turakina beach where we joined up with the forestry road that runs parallel to the beach. K and P drove the campers and met us just before the forestry section for a lunch stop. By the time we got to Bulls we had done 59kms so a good day and it certainly feels good to be on the go again.

20 Nov

Yesterday we biked from Mt Lees reserves just out of Bulls to Palmerston North and really enjoyed a flat ride with a tail wind. We followed the trail as much as was on the road but were disappointed not to see trail markers along the way. The first were those on the Palmerston North river trail that is a walking and biking path. TA walkers don't rely on seeing markers; you will struggle without the map as a guide.

We're feeling good and so we decided that we would attempt the three-day walk from Palmerston North to Levin. K and P are happy to move the campers so we got busy and repackage our packs for another long walk. 

Warren didn't sleep well last night. He woke this morning a wee bit disappointed that the day was fine because if it had been wet we could have called it off. I was keen though and we got up, showered, had breakfast and were on our way by 8am.  Today's walk was nice despite a fair portion being on the road. The nicest part was on an old road no longer used by vehicles but maintained for walkers and cyclists. We saw heaps of mountain bikers today. I guess a fine Sunday brings them out and there were mountain bike trails everywhere. 

The last hour and a half was along a forestry road and we pushed on to get through this section as they are still working this piece of forest and we didn't want to be there on Monday morning. The signage also said it was a daylight area only. This last bit we were really tired and pleased to find a campsite at the start of the next section of track, Burttons track, which we will do tomorrow. 

21 November

The day started early as Warren didn't sleep well again so we were up, dressed, fed and camp dismantled before 7.30am. 

The tracks today were nice tracks although with all the recent rain there was plenty of water in the rivers and frequent stream crossings. While crossing the first river my walking pole collapsed and I found myself sitting in the river so it was wet boots and wet pants for me for the rest of the day. It did help us decide not to bother changing into sandals for each water crossing and it would have been impractical with so many today. We stood twice to empty our boots and wring out our socks but in the end we just squished onward. 

Burttons track was part of our walk today and followed an old path that Mr Burtton had built by hand 100 years ago. We passed the spot where he had spent 40 years of his life living so isolated. He had a suspension bridge across the river to his hut and after 10 years of use it collapsed one day. He fell 8 metres into the river breaking a leg, ribs and suffering internal injuries. It took him 12 hours to crawl the 6.5kms to his nearest neighbour. I just can't imagine how hard that must have been. He certainly must have been made of sturdy stock. As it is reported, he died from his injuries at the age of 60 years old. The track we followed he had built by hand and was benched into the hillside above the river on what is in many places very steep country. There is no room for error on the track with the edge dropping very steeply down to the river below and also with many streams crossing the track as water tumbles down the hillside. 

By midday Warren was keen for us to leave the track and head out to Shannon and give tomorrow's walk a miss. It's just getting too tiring and tomorrow looks like another hill climb so we took the road option out. We called up Peter once we had cell reception and he came across from Foxton Beach for us. 

The walk from the trail down the road was steep and winding and I guess was about 8-9kms as it took us 2 hours to get down to the power station where we stopped and sat on the park bench and made ourselves a cup of soup. 

On the way to Foxton Beach we stopped for an egg burger and chips to finish off the day. 

Happy wedding anniversary to us!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Update to 12 November

31 October

The two days off were certainly good and I felt so much better for having lots of sleep. This morning it was off again  and we started out riding 8kms on the bikes to the start of the Wairoa river track which the joined the Hunua Ranges track.  The day started out fine and pleasant but by early afternoon the thunder started to roll and we had the most impressive hail storm which coated the trail in white. The temperature dropped and we quickly donned first our rain coats and then soon after our leggings to try to keep us warm. We needed to keep moving as the air temperature had dropped so much.  The trail had just turned to a tramping track when the storm set in and the surface became very wet and muddy and slippery. Gosh familiar walking surface.
There was no view to appreciate as the shrubbery had grown up and the weather was clogged in so we trudged on until we reached the Repeater road camp spot at 5.45pm.

We have had a quick cup of soup and some pasta and tucked into bed early to stay warm. Luckily the rain stopped before we had to set up camp and we managed to get changed into warm clothes and into bed without getting wetter.

Memories of the first month:
The regular call of the pheasant
Steep muddy narrow tracks
Superb views that are too big to photograph
Getting sick of nut bars, OSM's, trail mix
Thank goodness for Peter and Kath
Dogs barking when passing every farm gate
Trig stations
Sandy beaches
Rain showers so the coat is on/off and on again
Trail angel offering smoked fish, shower, camp site

1 November

Well it was a cold night last night and we were very glad to have our thermals and warm sleeping bags. Luckily there was enough gas to cook some porridge this morning as we had thought the gas canister was running really low last night.  After dismantling camp (read wet tent) we headed off down the road having decided that we didn't want to complete the Hunua Range after the cold wet and tiring day we had previously.

We walked the road out to SH2 allowing ourselves a few short rests along the way to relieve the tired backs and aching feet. Once we passed under the bridge of SH2 we were able to get cell reception and so called P and K. They were in Mercer and so as we were low on water and only 3 hours away from Mercer we decided to carry on and complete the stop bank walk to get there today.

It was probably further than we should have completed today but again sometimes the decisions are made based on circumstances such as facilities along the way or as it was today, water supply.

Interestingly today Warren felt the ping of a developing blister and so decided to stop and tape it up. Right there was a run down derelict shed on the side of the road with bench seats, old mattresses on the floor and a broken BBQ. On the wall was a remnant of a newspaper article on the subject of accidents related to hunting. The shed had belonged to Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game and the article was of real significance to us both as it was dated May 1988 and told of the accidental shooting fatality of David Halsey. David had been a good friend of mine and a school friend of Warrens. We both remember it well and what a coincidence to find it by chance.

We are starting to think that some parts of this walk are likely to be too tough for us. The tramping sections are taking their toll on us and today I have finished the day with many aggregated blisters and we both have very achy bodies.

After a welcome shower we headed off to the Mercer restaurant where we indulged in a nice dinner before bed.

2 November

We started the day with Panadol and Ibuprofen as both of us were feeling sore. Slowly we got organised and left K and P at 9am to head off to complete the walk from Mercer to Rangiriri. Why oh why do they decide to put you crook at the start of the day by having the street sign pointing the wrong way, and then once you get orientated you find the trail heads up hill and down dale, scrambling through rough scrub and wetlands. From there we popped out onto the side of SH1 and followed the track under both the railway and the two highway bridges then we followed the road edge, the notes said keep close to the river but you couldn't get close to the river, and then it was largely stop bank and farmland alongside the mighty Waikato river.

By the time we got to the point where the road and trail combined at 4.30pm we had had enough and so jumped aboard our reliable support vehicle to head to Te Kawhata for the night.

3 November

The weather today was fine and sunny with just a breeze and we biked the 12 kms to Huntly when we met up with our support team for lunch, then completed the additional 18kms to Ngaruawahia where we stopped off for the night at 'The Point'.

Our discussion as we sat on the riverside was 'how/where to from here?'.  We are realising that this is really too physically hard for us but we are still keen to make our way to Bluff. The trail is hard work, particularly through the bush and mountains and there is plenty more of that ahead if we carry on as we are.

4 November

Our discussions last night finished with us deciding to replace Fries and do the rest of the 5 month period doing the sections of trail that we can, utilising a camper for us and still having K and P as backup to help out particularly where we will need to have transport from one end of a bike or walk trail.

I put an offer in on a Mitsy Canter in Kapati but missed out on that. We decided to bike to Hamilton and enjoyed that although still some very noticeable tiredness and sore muscles.

Then I tried for a Merc and missed that too. I scrolled for hours through Trademe and couldn't find anything else so in the end Peter phoned Boothy from Diamond Motorhomes and he said that he had a Merc available. We went to see him and it seems suitable but is in Kerikeri so we're arranging to be delivered tomorrow to Tauranga where we will pick up the car and head to Kerikeri to pick it up.

We will get a week or so off and so that should help us recover. Tonight we are parked up at the Glenview club in Hamilton where we have just enjoyed a lovely meal and hot shower.

5 November

We arrived back to Tauranga midday to some very surprised neighbours and family. We had a quick look around the local motor home yards but there was nothing there. We have since found another vehicle in Otorohonga and will go and look at it tomorrow.

6 November

We visited Mum and Lynda this morning (at Mums place) then headed to Otorohanga to see the Isuzu. We were a bit horrified at the state of it - very dirty and not at all well presented, but convinced that we could clean it up and be happy with the result so paid a deposit and hope to get it Tuesday or Wednesday. It's a 2003 Isuzu NPR 6.5 metre motor home for those needing details.

8 November

The motor home is still to get a COF and hopefully it's today so we can pick it up tomorrow. We've spent our time sorting gear, doing washing, enjoying the pleasure of a hot shower and our own bed. Today seems to be going slowly as we wait for word to confirm that we can head to Otorohanga tomorrow. I've spent some time at Mums getting her iPad working and in doing so I forgot about the Xmas cake in the oven at home. Enough to say it's well cooked. Dam!

Despite the frustration of waiting which we never do well it's good to be resting up. I'm glad we didn't need to go to Kerikeri.

12 November

The last few days have been too busy to even think about updating this blog. The COF for the motor home took a day longer than expected and we eventually headed to Otorohanga on Wednesday 9 Nov with Tom and Allie to pick it up.  Andrew had blown all the hay from the top of the motor, put there by the birds over time, and after sorting the final payment and insurance we headed to Te Awamutu for a well deserved coffee before coming home.

The afternoon was a cleaning frenzy with Tom and Allie providing huge assistance, not to forget Lance as well. The inside and outside had the best clean that this machine has probably ever had and it certainly came up looking much more respectable and ready for us to load up with our gear.

Then of course it needed the scrutiny of the neighbours and seemed like all considered it a suitable replacement for Fries.

There were also adjustments and repairs to be done and Warren and Tom got busy fitting a bike rack, resealing roof vents where the silicone had dried out and they were leaking, fixing the door step after it broke and replacing the alternrator belt which was cracked.

Final supplies were loaded and we managed to get away about 2pm yesterday. We stopped off briefly to say goodbye to Mum and then headed off to Rerewhakaatu where K and P were sitting by the lake fishing.  We didn't see any fish, apparently they caught them all last year.

Our impressions so far with the motor home are good. It is certainly going to be easy to spend the summer in and we are pretty happy with it all round. It's not as quick as Fries was but then it's not a race, so they say and a far cry from walking.

Now we need to star to figure out how to carry on with our journey.  What will be be able to manage and what can't we. It's a wet day here today and so we will be able to do a bit of planning ahead. We will now be able to make an earlier crossing on the Cook Strait Ferry and avoid the summer (school) holiday rush. At this stage it might be the second week of December.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Update to 30 October

23 October

We started the day with a hot shower and breakfast and plenty of chatter while Peter gave the motor home a wash. Whangarei doesn't have the cable Peter needs to connect his new tablet to the drone, nor does it have a spare battery for our GoPro but we did manage subway for lunch while K and P had sushi.

This afternoon we have moved around to Marsden Point as the start Point for tomorrow. Lovely day off.

24 October

This morning was quiet and still with no wind and very high cloud and it was low tide. A good day for walking the beach. We left Marsden Point at 8am and by 9.30am had reached Ruakaka where we had a cup of tea with P and K and then biked to Cullen Road via a quick lunch in Waipu.  We hitched a ride for 5 kms up Cullen Road as its a steady uphill climb, firstly on a sealed road then onto a metal forestry road toward the start of the Brenderwyn track. The track crosses a high point on the Brenderwyn's and we were able to get some really impressive views back north to Whangarei Heads, south down the coast past Mangawai and west to the rural countryside of northern Kaiwaka and Brenderwyn.

We managed to complete the track by 3.30pm and so have chalked up a respectable 15km walk (Bream bay beach and Brenderwyn trail) today and a 22km bike ride. Our km tally to date is 478, we will have to try to hit the 500km mark tomorrow as we complete the Northland section of the Te Araroa trail. We are achieving the goal of a 20km per day average. So far so good!

25 October

It was an early start today so that we could complete the Breamhead/Managwhai walkway and then have time to walk the Pakiri beach before high tide this afternoon. We left K and P at 6.40am and spent a good 2 hours tramping largely through a steep sheep farm before exiting for breakfast with them at the northern end of Pakiri in the rain.

It had started raining lightly overnight then settled in for the day. Today I saw a good sized lamb, probably half as big as its Mum, run straight through and 8 wire fully battened fence. We got driven from there to Te Arai point as our previous plans to bike that bit went by the way with a sense of tired bodies and wet weather.

Getting us to Te Arai Point was really helpful and allowed us to complete the beach walk a couple of hours before high tide. It was still pushing us slowly up the beach into soft sand and harder walking. There were not many birds on the beach, we saw a couple of dead penguins and lots of jellyfish which had been washed up. We had a small stream to cross half way down the beach which required boots and socks off then it was boots off again to cross the Pakiri river at the end of the beach which was almost as high as my legs go.

We parked up to prepare for the next few days to get us to Puhoi but not before celebrating our 500km achievement and the end of the Northern section with wine and chips with our superior support team.

26 October

Last night we were parked up on the roadside near the start of today's track up Mt Tamahunga. The track was 11 kms and when the notes say steep and slippery they mean it. The track in many places was really muddy, thank goodness for good boots although mine on one occasion were not quite high enough and a small trickle of water spilled in.  It rained on and off and before each shower was a chilling wind so we walked almost all day with full wet weather gear on.

We were both impressed with our progress through this tramp and when we met up with K and P on the roadside to exchange our light packs for our not so light ones we were both happy to keep going and so we started the Govan Wilson to Puhoi valley track, eventually stopping in the bush just after 5pm. We went as far as we did because the track and gradient were both pretty good and we figured once we stopped we wouldn't want to get going again. Both of us finished today feeling tired but satisfied with a good days work/walk.

We managed half of the noodle dinner with a cup of soup and then by 6.30pm we were starting to hunker down as the rain started up again and it became quite cold.

27 October

We slept pretty well last night in the bush and after a cup of tea and porridge (again with sweetened condensed milk added) we headed off once agin into wet muddy slippery steep country. We both felt pretty tired and our pace was slower than yesterday. We frequently found ourselves looking up or down a very slippery slope and its no wonder some folk do ankle and knee injuries in this terrain.  We gradually moved into dryer country and found some of the track went along a forestry road. Even though it was all uphill we were thankful that when you put your foot to the ground it didn't slip or slide from there.

From there we found ourselves climbing up to the Dome summit and lookout. By now we were making slow but steady progress and it was a relief to pop out at the Dome valley cafe mid afternoon. We ordered food and drinks and the old bloke there told us that a young French couple had arrived just after 5pm the day before. They must have been speeding because they only left about half an hour before us yesterday morning and they had done in a day what took us almost two!

We had our 'dinner' and then as we were leaving the cafe a couple in a campervan called out and asked us if we were doing the Te Araroa trail. They were friends of Hilton and Melva in Ngungaruru and she had done the trail the first year it opened. They offered us a cup of tea but with full bellies from the cafe, we moved on.  They are not the first,we have had a good number of people ask us if we are doing the trail as we walk by.  People who live along the trail certainly seem to know about it.

The old guy at the cafe advised us of a camping spot up the road and so we have taken the opportunity to stop here tonight. It's just a flat section of mown lawn with a 'camp' sign on the power pole at the entrance to someone's property.  Nice that they keep it mown and let TA hikers stop here.

28 October

It was early to bed last night and we fell asleep to the sounds of gun fire as the locals here were apparently out possum hunting. With an early night we were awake early and on 'the road' by 7am.
We have spent a lot of the day walking public and forestry roads as well as some farm land and bush track.  We left camp with little water and so we had to refill bottles at a roadside drain. The water was flowing well and we sterilised it so we should be ok. Today's walk took us 9 hours and with a hot day we had that water finished and so next refilled in a small stream about an hour out of Puhoi.

Yesterday the wild life we came across was stoats. We had two run across the forestry track in front of us. Today we came across two very young goats as we climbed Moir Hill.  Another of today's highlights was seeing, way in the distance the Auckland sky tower and Rangitoto Island and we could also see the sea on both the west and east coasts. These are the benefits of climbing so high. There have to be some rewards. Seeing the sky tower makes us realise how far we have come.We have taken less photos in the last few days as the scenery is so similar and the vast views just don't look the same in a photo as they are so far away.

Puhoi was a welcome sight at 4pm and we enjoyed a shower in the motor home before heading across the road to the  Puhoi pub for dinner. This evening we're organising to sort out the Auckland section and we are thinking we will miss Auckland out and take a few days off to give the body a break before heading into the Hunua's and then on to the Waikato.

29 October

Today is a rest day and K and P took us to Silverdale where we waited for Claire to collect us at 3pm and take us to her place. We managed to get washing done and boots cleaned, the tent dried and bodies showered. Craig and the boys arrived to see us and then we had a lovely dinner before an early night. We're still both really tired.

30 October

We slept late. Tony had just come back from a motorbike trip to the South Island yesterday afternoon so he was tired too and we all enjoyed Claire's cooking and baking and slept some more

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Update to 23 October

18 October

I didn't post anything yesterday. We were taking a break after having completed the Morepork trail into Whananaki. We enjoyed a long sleep, hot shower and a stroll along the estuary walk back to the point where K and P had picked us up the previous day. K and P called around in the afternoon for happy hour and to collect the packs we would not need for today. We ate lots yesterday too. We bought bread, eggs, fish, baked beans etc from the little store next to the camp despite it being pretty expensive. It was really good to have a rest day, wash a few clothes and plan our next few days walk.

Today we left the camp at 7.30am, crossed the walk bridge between Whananaki North and South. The sun had just come up and the tide was almost full, there was no wind and no one about. It was a beautiful morning. The walk followed the Whananaki Coastal walkway trail which took us parallel to the coast through farmland and a very clear and well maintained track. In some parts it was mower grass and other parts metal road. We met Liz at the junction to the Bougainville walk and walked with her until we got to Matapouri where we bought a hot pie and flavoured milk for lunch, yum.

This afternoon we are kicking back thinking that 15 kms is enough for today. We are parked up beside the beach enjoying the sun. The next stage is the Matapouri bush walk which we will prefer to start in the morning.

19 October

We were up early enough to see the beautiful sunrise this morning. Looks like another lovely day. We had breakfast with K and P, packed up the tent and headed off to start the Matapouri bush walk. The walk took us through farmland, pine forest and plenty of native bush with some steep descents and climbs. The single trail area were still muddy but not as wet as the Morepork trail so there was no sliding. We took our time stopping for rests and photo opportunities with our lunch stop being at Tane Moana, a giant kauri just off the forestry access road and protected from kauri dieback by a board walk surround. It is a big tree but surprisingly not too far up to the first branches.

Leaving our lunch spot we were surprised to see a couple of baby wild pigs on the track. They were still pretty young so mum must have been around somewhere close. Once before while mountain biking at Rainbow Mountain we also came across two small wild pigs. Those ones had their mum there and they were black whereas today's piglets were a mix of black and grey. Maybe a bit of interbreeding with a domestic pig. It wasn't far past there that we entered farm land and then followed the metal road down to Ngungaruru where there was an ice cream waiting for us. K and P picked us up in Ngungaruru and drove us out to Hilton and Melvas where we parked up for the evening. We need to repackage for the next few days stretch down to Whangarei harbour.

20 October

I'm sitting in a deck chair looking out over the Pataua estuary having been fed freshly smoked kahawai caught this afternoon and just enjoyed a beautiful hot shower. From this seat I can see people collecting shelf fish and locals riding their horses along the beach. Who would have guessed the day would end like this?

K and P dropped us off this morning at the start of the forest track which was 13 kms out of Ngungaruru.  The track had two river crossings, both times we changed our boots for sandals and it took us 2 hours to complete the track through to the road section which goes all the way to Pataua. This section was tough on the feet. We were walking on a tarsealed 100km road with no shoulder to speak of and despite being told last evening that the locals would give us a ride, there was little traffic and no ride.

We were walking onto the approach to the Pataua walk bridge when a guy rode up on his bike and asked if we were doing the trail. When we said yes, he offered us fresh hot smoked fish and a place to stay for the night complete with the aforementioned hot shower.  This guy is Stephen and he's the ultimate trail angel. He watch out for walkers and then offers snacks to eat, or a meal, shower, or place to pitch the tent.  All he asks in return is that you hand the favour on. Stephen and his wife Connie are just house sitting here from Auckland and happy to support trail walkers. We slept in the garage laying our sleepy mats on the concrete floor.

21 October

The tide determined our start time today a we needed to get across the Taiharuru estuary we got there in time to catch a few photos of a pretty sunrise. The estuary was hard going with a deep sticky muddy surface which tended to suck your feet in. We wore sandals and the cockle shells worked their way into the sandals too. We had no trouble crossing the channel with the water only knee deep at best for short people. Once on the other side we cooked up a cup of tea and some porridge. We added sweetened condensed milk to the porridge, yum.

Our walk then took us straight up to the trig at the top of Kauri Mountain which rises to a height of 245 metres. It was a good solid haul up there. Just as we hit the top a solid shower of rain came through for a little while as we descended through the bush. We followed the road down to the northern end of Ocean beach where we paused for an hour and a half waiting for the tide to drop so we could get across the small estuary there. Just over the estuary we came across a huge flock Bar-tailed godwits and managed to get heaps of photos as we expected them to fly away but they didn't, they just moved away on mass from us, like sheep.

The beach walk was great and we walked it in sandals.  We could see the end of the beach and it only took us 2 hours to get to the southern end and to the car park where K and P were parked. The sun shone, there was a bit of wind but still pretty pleasant. Today we've done 18 kms.

22 October

Today we spent a solid 6 hours climbing Mt Manaia and Mt Lion leaving from the southern end of Ocean beach and finishing at Urquarts Bay where once again K and P were waiting for us and again a very welcome sight for us.  I had underestimated the walk today, thinking we were climbing the mountain and then descending. Not an unreasonable assumption if you don't read the map and notes carefully. We climbed Mt Manaia first and it was a good stiff climb for us, then the trail followed the ridge along to Mt Lion, which although the other local trampers notes suggested this was an undulating walk, it felt more up than down.  Maybe it's the horror of looking forward and seeing another climb ahead when you feel like you've already run out of steam.  We stopped for a half hour lunch break at the top and added jelly beans along the way as the energy levels flagged. I found it really hard and we were only carrying day packs. I feel for those TA trampers who have to haul their full pack up there!

Once saved by K and P we were transported to Anne and Rogers for a shower, hot meal, computer time and the chance to feel normal again. Time for a day off.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Update to 16 October

13 October

We left the NZMCA camp this morning next to the Rainbow falls this morning and we headed down the Kerikeri river track to the Stone Store. This was a really fabulous walk, easy going along the river edge and through native forest and of course slightly downhill. We had planned an easier day today to rest the new blistered feet. We stopped at the Honey Pot cafe for morning tea before then heading onward on the Kororipo Pa track where we circumvented the Pa site before finding the DOC track that would lead us down the Kerikeri Inlet road toward tomorrows start point which is the beginning of the Russell Forest. Today has been a real delight, the weather is staying perfect with fine, sometimes overcast skies and we are looking forward to the forest section tomorrow.

On our return to the NZMCA park we met up with Stephen and Uenwha (we had previously referred to them as Mr Chch and Mrs S Korea). We shared contact info as we have been meeting up regularly and plan to keep in touch ongoing. It's great to catch up with those who are becoming friends through sharing this journey. Mike contacted us via email today to say he was suffering blisters and had hitched into Kaitaia to his car to take some time off and let them recover.

14 October

The Russell Forest was an undulating easy tramping track through pine forest. Once again I tried my Keen boots as I had two days ago but once again they hurt my feet and so I changed out to my shoes with additional tape, now on both heels, big toes and under the soles. It makes for sore feet all the way. We walked through to Mt Bledisloe where we were able to look out to Russell. We met three maori men there who suggested we visit the Hururu Falls. They said they were a horseshoe shape and there were only two horseshoe shaped falls in the Southern Hemisphere. The other one being the Niagara Falls. I think he was drunk.

Anyway we walked down Te Puke Rd and took the turn toward the falls. The falls were great despite the rain having started but as we checked our map we realised that we had taken the wrong turn from Te Puke Rd and the trail doesn't even go to the falls. We missed Waitangi by taking this wrong route and so walked via the road into Paihia. It was probably a similar distance, maybe slightly longer.

After a pie and milk drink in Paihia we walked around the coastal track toward Opua where we found K and P waiting for us just before the hill climb to Opua so we hitched a ride. By now I was starting to flag it, despite the food I was getting pretty tired so they were a very welcome sight.

We took the ferry to Russell and then drove around to Waikare where we freedom camped beside the landing. This is the start of the next section. Just as we were having dinner a boat arrived to the landing with Silvan, another hiker. Silvan comes from Switzerland and is hiking the trail alone. We shared stories through the evening before collapsing into bed once more.

Before dinner we had packed our big bags for the next stretch which tomorrow will take us up the famous 4 km river walk.  Thank goodness I learned to take a toilet stop with the pack on while we were walking 90 mile beach.

15 October

Wow, what a day! We left Waikare landing at 8am and walked about 4 kms up the gravel road. There was no traffic in this very remote area. We did see many dead cars along the way and also as we entered the bush area. We met up with Silvan after only about half an hour and we walked with him all day today.

We reached the river just on 10am and changed into sandals to do the wet section. The trail follows the river for 4 kms and every now and then it leaves the river and climbs through the thick wet bush on often very slippery. The trail was very hard to follow with infrequent markers and what trail was there was very overground. The water was cold but crystal clear and usually ankle deep although in places it was over the knees.The river walk took us 2.5 hours and we were pleased to come across a shelter for lunch where we were able to dry our feet out and change back into boots/shoes for a walk out to Papakauri Road, testing our fitness with a big hill climb.

Once on the road there was really nowhere to camp and so we just had to keep on going.
We have completed 20kms of the trail then we walked another 2 kms down to the Whangarei camp ground with tired bodies, especially feet. The first shop we found had us all eating double scoop hokey pokey ice creams. We set up camp, had a rice dinner and ready for bed before dark.

16 October

I slept really well and Warren pretty well despite the party music on til late in the camp. There was a big group who had taken part in a fishing contest at the camp and they partied loudly apparently. We rose, had a shower and breakfast said goodbye to Silvan and gradually got organised to walk through to Helena Bay. The morning was fine and warm and the day inviting. We left the camp at 9.30am and walked the hill back almost to the main road when who should appear around the corner but K and P. They were a welcome sight, we had a coffee with them and the rode their bikes the 7 kms to Helena Bay. From there it was a long 11km climb to the top of the hill and the entrance to the Morepork -Onekainga track that goes through to Whananaki so we hitched a ride up in the camper picking up Silvan early on in the hill climb.

Somehow it was decided that we would do this section this afternoon as it was only an 11 km walk. The trail notes said it would take 4-5 hours and we headed off at 1230.

This section has to be the worst we have done and it took me to the limit. The trail was very steep up and down with 3 steep climbs to 218 metres, 174 metres and 227 metres. The views from the last high point was spectacular out over the bay but the effort to get there was huge. The track was very muddy and slippery and with a steep gradient both up and down it made for a tough walk. Barley sugars saved the day this time as the energy out was far more than the energy in over the last few days.

Again we walked the trail with Silvan and it was good once again to have his company. We are learning about Switzerland and he is learning our native flora. As I was flagging Warren was able to phone and asked K and P to meet us at the end of the road and they drove us to the camping ground 2 kms down the road. I booked us in for two nights. We need a rest

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Update to 12 October

7 October

So much for that last comment about it being sole destroying walking into the weather, we had a 12 km walk into Ahipara today with pretty wild weather consisting of very strong winds coming round to being on the nose by the time we arrived at the beach end and horizontal driving rain showers. These two days have been a real test for our rain gear which has performed beautifully. We had replaced our gortex coats with Kathmandu ngx3 coats which are much lighter and we hoped they would cut the mustard.

We had a good nights sleep in the cabin through a boisterous night, before heading out into the weather.
We left at 9am hoping to make Ahipara before the tide was too high and although the high tide wasn't until 1.30pm we only just made it. What a relief to get to the other end and have achieved the first leg of this journey.

The beach has shown us both its best and worst moods. The vast amounts of foam on the beach was impressive and we know how much wind it takes at sea to create all this cappuccino froth.  We've seen the water a beautiful blue and an angry grey and the sky colours to match. Would it have been too easy to have tail winds and sun all the way?  There was no problem with water supplies as all the streams were running well from the recent rains and we had plenty of food with our daily rations being more than we appear to need at the moment. Its been early to bed at night and awake at sun up - what do they say? Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Maybe a few more early nights are needed.

8 October

We've just had our first night in the camper with Peter and Kath and we're appreciating having their support more and more. What a luxury to arrive in Ahipara yesterday to find them there waiting for us. We were whisked off to Kaitaia where we had lunch and then a restful afternoon in the camper followed by curried sausage dinner. Today is a rest day, or zero day (no distance covered) as through hikers like us call it. Is it too soon to call ourselves through hikers? We've loaded day packs and boots for tomorrow's walk which will be through the Herekino Forest.  Second leg about to begin.

9 October

We left later than planned this morning as Warren woke and indicated that he thought he needed another day off to manage his blister pain. After breakfast and a bit of a round table discussion we decided to set out and bike the first section of the next leg. We left from Ahipara and rode out to the  mark where the walk enters the Herekino Forest. There we met a couple of young Germans who had hitched up the hill and were about to enter the trail. They had also had a day off yesterday after arriving in to Ahipara on Friday afternoon.

Having completed this first section we decided to ride around the forest and carried on with K and P driving just ahead of us all the way. We managed a good days ride calling it off mid afternoon when the bodies got tired and the gravel road hills got a bit too hard to ride. So we rode 28kms and walked an additional 3 kms up a long uphill gravel road section. Peter put the bikes back on the van for this part to make the walking easier.

Given that we were initially going to take the day off we have made good progress, had a good workout, and were happy with the decision to circumvent the forest walk which is reported as being in poor condition with lots of mud. Chances are we may do the same with these three forest sections between Ahipara and Kerikeri.

10 October

Today we walked an 8km section of the trail through recently felled pine forest and via a metal road down to Takahue where we met up again with K and P for morning tea. We then jumped on the bikes and rode out to SH1 stopping for the day at a freedom camping site beside the stream just before Managamuka. Its been a lovely day, both of us still have blisters and the biking is a pleasant relief for these. We've decided that with the forests being marginal due to excess mud and our sore feet that we would ride around these forests. That means that we get to do additional kms but easier.

Today our total kms were 29 and yesterday 31. The highlight of today's bike ride was the descent from the top of the hill where SH1 goes over the Maungataniwha Range. We had about 5 kms of windy downhill which put huge smiles on our faces despite chilling us down with a cool breeze.

11 October

33 kms of road riding today on SH1 all hills so a slow slog up at 8kms an hour in granny gear then a roaring 40-50km down hill. K and P kept just ahead of us providing directions, food and drinks and encouragement. Thank goodness for a support team!  Along the way we met Mr Chch and Mrs S Korea, ( we named them that as we don't know their names yet) and we were thrilled to see them so we had a catchup on the road edge. They were making their way through the forests on foot and told of the deep and relentless mud along the way. They too are hoping to make Kerikeri tomorrow.

We called in to Puketi Forest DOC camp this afternoon and spent a bit of time rearranging our contents in the van which have taken up so much room including all the front passenger seat meaning that K has to sit in the back. Hopefully that's sorted now. I think we brought far too much hiking food although I am sure it will get eaten.

12 October

Leaving Puketi Forest DOC camp we walked initially on a quiet gravel road before entering farm land. As a result of the recent rain, the farms here are still quite wet with lots of plugging from the animals. We have travelled quite a bit on roads today as well as climbing through farm land to a spectacular view of the Bay of Islands. We stopped for lunch at the top of the hill and had a bite of lunch and aired the feet for half an hour. The walk down to Kerikeri got longer as the feet got new blisters (me) and the body felt tired. Just did 21 kms today but it felt like more.