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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

3 October 2016

Today's the day! The night was long and a bit disturbed, I slept better than Warren but both of us pretty excited about starting this journey. Maybe also a little anxious about what's ahead.

We have had a lovely two days trip from Tauranga to Cape Reinga with Kath and Peter.  We stopped in Auckland at the BP on the Northern Motorway and had a great catch-up with Craig, Tony, Quinn and Dylan. K and P's son Dane and his wife also met us there so we got to meet some of each other's family.

Saturday night we stopped at Roger and Anne Cann's in Whangarei for a fabulous dinner and great company and then Sunday we drove through the rain, and thunder and lightening through Kerikeri wondering what the weather had in store for us from now on.  By Maunaganui the sun had come out and we stopped for the compulsory fish and chips and as we pulled in Peter noticed the rear outer tyre was flat. A quick visit from the AA and we were off again.

We arrived at Cape Reinga about 5pm, checked out the view from the top car park and then settled into the Tapotupotu DOC camp ground where we pitched our tent for the first time this trip.
The rain had gone, the skies were blue and the stars came out in full.

Today we headed out from camp at 0815 but with taking time out for photography at the light house we have missed the chance to scramble around the first rocky outcrop onto Te Werahi Beach as the tide is just too high. We knew we were pushing it but enthusiasm and the need to get going got us here early.  We will sit back here in the sun and gentle breeze til the tide has turned which will be about 4 hours I expect.

We managed to scramble around the rocks at 1pm and set off for Twilight Beach arriving at the camp on the Southern end.  We've had the best day! The weather has been great and the scenery stunning. The sand dunes, the beach, the blue water and white waves, the scrubby grassy sections were all more than we expected.  We met up with other TA walkers and the walking community is growing with American, South Korean, English, Irish, and kiwis. All of us decked out in the same uniform, Marino tops, shorts, boots or walking shoes, walking poles and new packs, and all wrapped up in a ton of enthusiasm and excitement.  We have had a fabulous first day with bodies still in tact.

4th October

We woke to find the cooker not working.  No porridge today or even a cuppa. So we left Twilight beach at 8am and climbed 4 kms over the Scott Point which was a bit of a climb first thing in the morning through some mud puddles (unavoidable wet shoes) and then down a series of steep stairs to the beach. No I didn't count them but wished I had by the time we reached the last one. Then we were officially on Ninety Mile Beach. Yahoo!

There started the long walk. Today we pushed on to the Bluff Point camp arriving a bit tired and foot sore at about 5pm.  We walked around looking for the camp, finally finding it a little further around the corner.  No blisters! We just got the tent set up and had a hot dinner after Warren realised he hadn't screwed the cooker cylinder on tight enough this morning, when the rain started. Lucky us.

4 October

Today was all beach walking. All 30kms off it. The rain settled early in the night and although it was a bit windy overnight we slept pretty well. We set off at 8am and walked until midday when the tide was high and the walking on the sand became too soft to be easy. We stopped on the beach and before long we were joined by another couple doing the same as us, taking a rest to have a bite of lunch and waiting for the tide to turn. As it happened all 4 of us fell asleep on the sand and the tide woke us up lapping at our feet and packs.

The afternoon walking was great, good rhythm with the music playing on our iPods. We arrived to Hukatere at 5pm to find K and P waiting for us with a lovely dinner. Warren has a blister.

5 October

After breakfast with K and P we bundled up the tent and reloaded our packs mindful of the weather closing in and the rain looming. With tender feet and tired backs this is getting harder but we knew it would hurt for the first few weeks.  So Warren has a nasty big blister on each heel and so today we only planned to walk 17 kms to Waipapakauiri.  As we headed off this morning the heavens opened. The rain pelted us from behind as the wind was really strong blowing the sand onto our backs at about 40 kms (that's our calculated guess). It wasn't too cold and as the morning drew to a close the sun came out.

We have stopped tonight in Waipapakauri at a Holiday Park in a cabin with a shower. We will put the feet up for the afternoon and all going well we will head off for Ahipara tomorrow, weather and blistered heels  permitting.

The trail is fabulous so far, already it's better than we had imagined.  The slow pace lets you watch the birds, say hello to the odd seal, sing along to the music and get into a really nice walking rhythm that just slowly picks off the distance. Even through the rain the walk was good but thank goodness we were going the same way as the wind. I think it would be sole destroying walking into weather like that

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Warren snuggled up in a light sleeping bag

Getting ready for the TA

 17th September 2016

Two weeks to go and work is finished for six months and will be heading off to start our trek from Cape Reinga to Bluff. This is the exciting and scary bit!

We started thinking about this crazy walk early in 2015 but at that stage we were not certain we could do it.   With my back injury still playing up and not having had any overnight camping experience I was a little cautious. We both enjoy the camper van life style and biking so why did we even think about a 3000km walk?   I think the idea grew on us. We regularly need a challenge and the time was ripe. The trail requires a pretty good level of fitness and stamina and so we thought we better do it while we are still young and fit. :-). Also, it's a fabulous NZ long distance trail that provides an opportunity to see NZ as we have not seen it before so why not?

Over a year ago when we started planning this trek we had four categories that we had to achieve and  they were:

We estimated that the journey would take about five months and so just before Christmas last year I approached my boss and applied for a six month period of leave from work. Lucky for me he agreed and so we planned to do this walk from the beginning of October 2016 until the end of March 2017. Add to that two weeks of annual leave that I will be due and that takes my start date back at work through to mid April 2017. So that's the time taken care of.

It's a bit of an exercise figuring out how much it would cost to do something like this. We've not done any long distance hiking and we thought at the start that since we already had packs, tent, sleeping bags etc then we were half way there. Wrong. It didn't take long to realise that the gear we had wasn't going to be suitable and so not only did we need to finance replacement of everything we thought we had, and to buy those things we hadn't realised we needed, we also needed enough coin put away to live off. Hopefully we have achieved that. Only time will tell.

Well the gear we had was not suitable. The packs we had bought about 20 years ago were old, heavy, mouldy and coming apart so to the dumpster they went. Our tent was too heavy as were the sleeping bags. We had never had to carry them further than from the car before. We decided that we needed to go for lightweight quality gear if we were to carry it the whole way and for it to last the distance so over the last year our shopping has been mostly from shops like Kathmandu, Macpac, Bivouac and Hunting & Fishing.  As a means of checking out the gear and doing some overnight camping we started doing weekend trips into the Waitawheta Valley and we also headed south in March 2016 and walked the Heaphy Track. Only my boots failed with blisters forming under the toenails on days 4 and 5.  The roof of the right boot had delaminated and so they also ended up in the dumpster when we got home. We bought a new camera as we decided the SLR's we have are also big and heavy. We bought a Canon SX50 being a smaller lighter camera but with a 50x zoom for those amazing shots that we will be finding. Of course we will also take the GoPro.

Starting during the winter of 2015 I started walking to work to strengthen my back. The Heaphy track tested that and although I found the pack a bit heavy it was manageable. We felt after the Heaphy that if we managed to maintain our fitness level then that would be a good starting level for the TA so over the next 6 months we walked, carried loaded day packs, cycled, exercycled, climbed the Mount and went to the gym. At this stage we are feeling good to go. Again time will tell.

Right from the start we wondered just how to give ourselves the greatest chance of succeeding. There were, and possibly still are, those who think we are mad even attempting such a feat at our ages.  Well, there are two special people who not only thought we were mad but believed that we could be successful. Kath and Peter decided that they would be our support team and follow our journey in their camper van.  They will be our transport around harbours and rivers, carry the gear we don't need for any particular section, be our supply ship and kick our butts when we get grizzly and just want to go home. We think they have significantly increased our chance of getting that final photo at Bluff.

 2 weeks and we're on our way. . . . . !!!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Next steps...

It's almost two years again and the blog has been parked up for a while. The motivation for the last entries came from the completion of a couple of books and as an update, there was a fourth. This one was about the trucking in USA and took considerably more time and effort to produce. However, once again it was really satisfying to have it completed and shelved with the others. To read on a rainy day perhaps.

Time passes quickly when you stop taking notice and for the last two years we've been occupied with heading away either cycling or hiking somewhere within weekend distance of Tauranga. We upgraded our camper van last year and 'Fries', our Mitsubishi Fuso camper has made it so much easier to head away, sometimes on a Friday evening and sometimes early Saturday.  The cycling, although still very enjoyable, took a bit of a dive after a couple of injuries and as a result we started to spend more time in walking boots.  Needless to say, the appeal of the bush trails, particularly around the Kaimai Ranges has sparked an interest in seeing more of NZ by foot.  Earlier this year we walked the Heaphy track taking 5 days and making good use of the wonderful DOC huts along the way. Despite being a bit foot sore by the end of the trail we were still keen to pursue an idea that had been hatching for the last year and that is to tackle the Te Araroa trail, a continuous 3000 km walking trail and the ultimate 5 month NZ great walk.

You must be mad, some say. Maybe they are right but our current plan, based on plenty of consideration and planning, is to complete the Te Araroa trail this summer coming. I have been lucky enough to get 6 months leave without pay (they wouldn't pay me to go) and we will start 'the long walk' in early October from Cape Reinga with the goal of finishing in Bluff in March 2017.
My thoughts are to keep a Facebook page and I'm not sure about using this blog also to record the trip but will listen to any feedback.

We have the added advantage of friends Kath and Peter keeping within close proximity to us in their camper van while we are walking so we expect that they will be able to meet up with us periodically, listen to our grizzles and send son our way again. Having them handy will help where there are harbour and river crossings as they will hopefully give us a ride and we also think that we will cycle some of the road sections.

With less than 100 days to go the excitement grows and so watch this space or Facebook to hear how we get along.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

And a third......

We are on a bit of a roll with these books and so making hay while we have the time. Once I get back to work full time, which should be within the next few weeks, I'm sure the progress will slow down.
This one is about the time we spent in Australia driving road trains.