Day 15 – Whananaki to Ngunguru

Whananaki to Ngunguru

27kms

Total 346kms

More spectacular views today following the Whananaki coastal track to Matapouri before going bush again through the Matapouri bush track to Ngunguru. I was feeling very light today without my backpack and I would have been much quicker if I didn’t take so many photos. I found some new inspiration when I stopped to talk to a guy who I noticed was riding is bicycle up and down a hill at Woolleys Bay. He was training for the next paralympics and is pushing himself to his absolute limit every day.

My friends and biggest supporters Sally and Raewyn from work were waiting for me at Tane Moana, the giant kauri tree. They brought me drinks and food and we went back to Sally’s for icecream before Raewyn and I finished the last few kms down the main drag of Ngunguru. Sally’s daughter Kayla and her 2 year old girl also joined us for a short walk. I was given a donation from a friendly local who had heard about what I was doing and was keen to contribute.

Katie and the kids came to pick me up again today and I will start at 7am tomorrow from the other side of the Ngunguru Estuary because I will lose a day if I wait for a ride across. I thought I would be able to cross on foot at low tide but I did not read my trail notes properly and it is not possible.

I highly recommend the Whananaki coastal track to any of my local friends who have not done it yet. It is only a couple of hours of easy-going walking.

Day 14 – Rest

It is Jesse’s birthday today which worked out perfectly for a day off.

I am chilling out at home and getting a good dose of family time and fresh vegetables into me.

Tomorrow I will continue from Whananaki to Ngunguru and will come back home each night until I reach Waipu Cove. I won’t need my full backpack which will be nice for while, just a small backpack for my drink bottle and food.

Jesse’s first car wash

Day 13 – Oakura to Whananaki

Oakura to Whananaki

33kms

Total 319kms

After a good sleep I was feeling much better and didn’t wake up with a flu which I could feel coming the night before. I was probably just feeling a bit run down.

It was a big day. The two forests between Helena Bay and Whananaki took me a good seven hours. From the ‘High Chapparal’ entrance at Helena Bay, an old farm track sidled steep pasture and through manuka trees before entering the forest. The tracks were well formed and well marked but there were several steep elevations that were hard work. I was sweating a lot with the humidity as well. The east coast views were worth it.

I finished the day with a short walk along the Whananaki Estuary and finished at the shop where I waited for Katie and the kids to meet me.

Day 12 – Paihia to Oakura

Paihia to Oakura

33kms

Total 286kms

I stayed at the Adventure Backpackers in Paihia. After the family went home I settled into my accommodation. My room was full of smelly backpackers when I got back which made me feel better about my own odour. I ran into Jayden there and by coincidence the rest of the group had all come there for the night. They were going to have a rest day in Paihia. I had a good catch up with Jerome and Jayden and we discussed our plans and intentions for the rest of the TA. It is possible we won’t cross paths again but who knows?

I was up early again to get started asap. Dan from Bay Beach Hire said he would come to work early so I could get going by myself. Dan has sponsored me by providing the kayak hire for free. He is such a neat guy and really goes the extra mile for anyone.

While I was waiting for Dan to arrive, I got a visit from a work friend Ty-Ray who lives in Paihia and stopped by on the off chance he might see me. Ty-Ray had written a very big message in the sand already in case he did not catch me. It read, “GO DEAN the path less travelled”. So cool.

I managed to get my whole backpack repacked into dry bags so it could fit in the kayak. The trip was awesome up the Waikere Inlet and took me only a couple of hours to cover 17kms. I padlocked the kayak up to stock yard, repacked my backpack and put on my boots before heading up a gravel road and into Russell Forest. The track at the end of the road was easy. The track then became the Papakauri Stream which I walked up for 4kms. I took my time wading up the stream. It was so beautiful and I wanted to really make the most of it. The rocks were slippery under the water so I needed to be careful not to twist an ankle. I was weary of anaconda eels slithering out from under the banks and sinking their backward teeth into my legs. I dont like snakes or eels. Luckily I did not see any. I had to climb over fallen trees and at times cut up the banks to avoid deep pools. It was mostly only ankle deep and at worst up to my knees.

I filled my water bottles before exiting the stream. The trail turned into a four wheel drive track for most of the way out onto Russell Road which I continued up towards Oakura. Not long before the turn off to Oakura I came across a driveway with a sign welcoming TA walkers. The sign promised backpacker accommodation, showers and a toilet so I thought that sounded pretty good. Better than sleeping in my tent anyway.

I walked up the driveway and met Sue. It was such a cool place and felt very homely. There are also cabins available. There was food available to purchase in the pantries, fridge and freezer. I had the whole place to myself. I had another blissful hot shower and put on a set of clean clothes. I am feeling like I am getting a cold so will have an early night.

I will be home tomorrow night after getting picked up from Whananaki. Then a rest on Jesse’s birthday.

Day 11 – Kerikeri to Paihia

20kms

Total 253kms

I met with Hannah from Alzheimer’s Northland this morning. She came to see me off before I headed into the Waitangi forest. All forestry road walking again but it was nice. The pines are mature and so provided plenty of shade until I came out at the treaty grounds. The pine needles also provided a soft cushioning under foot down the centre strip or to the side of the road. As I came down and out of the forest the view openned up to the bay and it was a stunning day. I took a quick detour up to Mt Bledisloe lookout.

Paihia was humming today. There is a cruise ship in the bay and markets going in the town centre. All the tourist attractions were busy. I arrived in Paihia at 1pm and Katie and the kids met me at the south end beach outside Bay Beach Hire. I will be paddling from there tomorrow morning.

It was so good to see the family. We played on the beach and the play ground and then had dinner at Jimmy Jack’s. Hard to say goodbye again but I will be seeing them again on Friday.

I hope to be in Oakura by tomorrow night but not sure if I will make it that far yet. There is a four hour kayak, hike through Russell forest which includes four kms where the river is the trail and then some more road walking to Oakura.

Day 10 – Puketi Forest to Kerikeri

Puketi Forest to Kerikeri

28kms

Total 233kms

It was easily my favourite day so far. It started with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Shanelle and Levi dropped me off where I finished the day before.

The first half of the day I was walking through private farmland which was so nice and soft on my feet! I talked to the cows and sheep as I walked through the herds. Most of the fences had stiles to climb or gates so it was easy. The farmer pulled up on his bike and we had a chat and he made sure I knew where to go. A few of the marker posts had been knocked over by the cows. I could see the Bay of Islands getting very close and by mid day I was in Waipapa.

The group caught up to me early in the day. I started later than usual. All except Xavier. We talked about the day before and I told them all about my roast dinner. They wanted all the details. I could not keep up with their pace along a stretch of metal road in between farms so they went ahead. I soon passed them again when they stopped for morning tea. I dont break much and like to keep moving forward. I also prefer to walk alone so I dont have to think about anyone else and just go at my own pace. It is one of the unwritten rules of ‘thru hiking’. There is no obligation to stick with a group and everyone is on their own journey and for their own reasons. Most days you will catch up at some point or at the end of the day. I have met a lot of people already and have enjoyed talking to all of them.

I had a break in Waipapa before joining the Raibow Falls track all the way to the Stone Store in Kerikeri. The track was very nice and the kms came easy under the cool bush canopy. I made good time today so I lay on the grass by the Stone Store and enjoyed a refreshing drink from the cafe next to the river. I was able to put some time into planning the next few days ahead.

I took up another offer for a place to stay with Peter and Lesley who are friends of my dads. They live right on the trail down Kerikeri Inlet Road. Lesley was out of town but I met her in the morning. Peter cooked a very nice Chilli Con Carne and gave me a very large serving. It was delicious! Followed by a cream bun that I did not need at all. Not that I am worried about putting on weight. Another beautiful hot shower and comfortable bed for the night.

Paihia is where I am heading tomorrow and Katie and the kids will be waiting for me there.

Day 9 – Apple Dam to Puketi Forest Park

Apple Dam to Puketi Forest Park

33kms

Total 206kms

I was packed and walking out of camp by 7am. No one else was up yet. I wanted to start early because I knew I had a long day of road walking ahead of me and I wanted to get as much done as possible before the sun was on top of me.

This section is a diversion around Omahuta and Puketi Forest. The trail ran through the forests until this year when parts were closed due to kauri dieback disease. So unfortunately, I had to walk 30kms of old forestry road to get around it. I did not see one car the whole 8 hours until I came out on to Waiare Road. There were no flat parts either. Just rolling hills. I had a great view of the Whangaroa Harbour at the top. There were about 20 beehives set up along the way which I had to button up for and take a wide berth. There were lots of shotgun shells and road signs with bullet holes. I found another kauri snail in the middle of the road too.

My feet and ankles were dying on the rugged metal road and I was struggling with the heat from mid day onwards. I would have a drink of my green water, sweat it all out in about 5 minutes and feel my body dehydrate again. I got out on to Waiare Road at about 2pm with 3kms to go. It was all up hill and took me another two hours. I reached the Puketi Forest recreation area where I would have camped but I had taken up an offer of a bed for the night. My work friend Sally had told me to contact her daughter who lives just down the road from where I finished. I am so glad I took up the offer! Shanelle and Levi were amazing hosts and looked after me so well. Sally came up for a visit too and they gave me a bag full of chocolates, energy bars, lollies and heaps more. I couldn’t carry all of it! Shanelle cooked a roast (pork, chicken, lamb flap and all the sides) for dinner then insisted on making me bacon and eggs for breakfast, and filled rolls for lunch. It was nice staying with them and such a nice family with three friendly kids.

Sally brought messages of support from my work colleagues who are eagerly following my progress. A good piece of advice from Jim which I have attached below. And thank you Neil for pointing out ‘Saddle’ is spelt with two d’s. I blame the predictive text on my phone.

My family is coming to visit me on Wednesday in Paihia! We will have a swim at the beach and go out for dinner. I can’t wait!