Day 16. Coastal Cows – Omaha forest. 34km. Total 482km.
Incredible, I have already done the first section, Northland! I didn’t sleep much the night with the guys having their party and myself a few things to organise, write, prepare. I still wake up at 6am so I slowly get going, giving my parents a call before leaving. The first 13 kilometers or so are on a road again, to Manghawai Village and the further out of town where it becomes a gravel road in the forest. The sun is shining and it’s very hot already.
I am determined to take it easy today! I meet a few Kiwis asking me about the trail and where I am going. Then I arrive at the beach, it will be a 15km stretch today on the sand! I was afraid the tide would be too high for the first river coming into the ocean but it’s just ankle high. I arrive soon at the Te Ari point where a few surfer are catching the waves. I pack out my stuff at the picnic table and have a wonderful second breakfast with my banana cake and a powder Flat White coffee (trail magic!). So far I am doing well with taking things easy! The morning couldn’t be better, cooking your coffee outside with a good cake feels very luxury.
Then it’s a few more hours on the beach and I listen to music as it gets boring. I am hungry but want to make sure I safely arrive at the end of the beach with the last river crossing at low tide. Easy, at 1.45pm it’s still low tide. I have my lunch directly at the beach, another spinach wrap with tuna.
I can’t decide whether to rest and stay at the holiday Park just behind the dunes or continue and sleep in the forest, saving some money. At the picnic tables are 3 hikers, an American couple and their friend. They will continue a while but first get some water at the holiday Park. The couple has already done the triple crown (the three US long distance trails: PCT, CDT, AT). I decide to walk with them a while and hear some stories about these trails, who knows if I will do them one day. We talk a lot during the road section but then it gets steep uphill on farmland and I am falling behind (I am carrying now about 4l of water!).
At 5pm I see a good spot to camp and decide to stay here, I can see the next summit and it looks too far to me now, I am tired. I would have preferred to camp with the others but finding a good spot for 3 tents is difficult anyway. So I set up everything, cook dinner as suddenly someone comes along the trail in the other direction. A French guy a bit lost, it’s 6pm and he still needs to get back to the holiday Park. I give him some advice and then go quickly in my sleeping bag, it’s cold now and windy.
Day 17. Omaha forest – Nanotiki Homestay. 29km. Total 511km.
My first night alone in the forest without being scared! I was awake quite often but there weren’t many noises and I was just fine. Great! I start at 6am again to see the beautiful sunrise and enjoy the atmosphere and light. It’s muddy and steep and I am happy I didn’t hike further yesterday. Now my pack is lighter (I used half of the water) and I had a rest. I pass the three hikers from yesterday as they cook their breakfast. I enjoy the day and the hike although I am already sweating a lot – despite a cold wind today.
Then a road section before the next rainforest to The Dome. The hike begins on such a nice and easy track that I can fully enjoy the nature. But given that the time estimation for these 15km is 6-7h, I am sceptic about what’s coming next. It’s of course a real rainforest trail with a lot of ups and downs and some mud. But I still love it, it’s so pretty everywhere I look!
As I get closer to the peak I start seeing other people, on the other side of the peak is a car parking. Finally I am at the top bit disappointed by the little viewpoint. I thought there would be a picnic table maybe…. So I continue to the next lookout which has a bench to take my lunch (toast and tuna – of course I already had some bread with peanut butter earlier!). I talk to a Swiss couple from Luzern about the hike and we have a very nice chat.
The descent to the car park and cafe is super easy, as they built stairs. I fill up on water at the bathroom as I plan on staying in the woods again tonight. Then I continue uphill on rather easy roads. The backpack is now much heavier and I start to be tired. It’s only 3pm and I consider setting up my tent but there is only road and farmland. My ankle starts to hurt now as well and I don’t feel well. I realise I will not make it another 8-10km today into the forest. Before its only roads, farmland and prohibited to camp. I want to ask people if I can set up my tent somewhere but the houses are barely visible from the road and no bells to ring. I hate doing this anyway. So I check the trail notes and see that there is a Homestay only 2-3pm away. Very slowly I walk to the homestay, for 15$ I can set up my tent, use the bathroom and (yeay!) a warm kitchen / dining room. I take a long shower and have dinner, enjoying to sit at a table jn a warm place. As I am terribly tired though I sleep at 7pm, hopefully my ankle, feet and tiredness are all fine or gone by tomorrow!
Day 18. Nanotiki Homestay – Orewa Beach. 33km. Total 544km.
It has been colder last night than usually and in the morning I feel frozen and am happy about the shelter inside to pack up my stuff. I feel a bit stiff and my eyes are swollen, but after 11h of sleep (just rarely waking up), I feel much better than yesterday. It’s incredible how quickly my body recovers! I start walking and have to put on for the first time my rain jacket because I am cold. But soon I am hiking uphill again and get warm. The remainings of a bad dream are now “hiked off” and I feel great! I listen to music and dance a little all by myself while hiking. What a difference a day makes.
I still promise myself again to have a relaxed day and recover a bit further. Actually I am having all the day discussions with myself about how far I should go and one parts always says you could do more… The issue is that a part is coming up that you can only do at low tide and I don’t really want to go that much further today but otherwise I would have to wait till tomorrow afternoon for next low tide (or walk at night). Anyway, the morning is beautiful and at 10am I take a first long break at the peaceful Sugarloaf rocks. Sitting on one of the rocks I admire the green gills and the view to the sea. New Zealand is a special place, every day so far has had some magical moment, place or people. I continue on farmland and am soon lost about which side of the fence to continue as a farmer with his cute little dog arrives and explains where I should walk and then talks for quite some time with me.
Soon after I am on a road which takes me to the swinging bridge and the Puhoi river track. It’s a beautiful and well maintained trail that has kind of walkways and stairs instead of walking in the mud. Wonderful, I can admire even more the rainforest. At a lookout above Puhoi I sit on a bench, cook some coffee and enjoy lunch. Afterwards I sleep a little on the bench. Doing good on relaxing today – so far.
I walk into the lovely village Puhoi and ask the lady at the library how bad the highway walking is. From Puhoi you have just one official option, which is taking a kayak on an outgoing tide (I.e. tomorrow morning) for 50$ for about 7km. This is very expensive and in addition I would have to stay in a hotel here as there is no camping.
The lady is very nice and says she has seen other hikers but I would have to be very careful. She even asks another woman to take me there but I want to walk everything. The beginning is not too bad, there is some space on the shoulder. But then I see the tunnels before which I need to cross. It’s impossible to cross here and it feels very dangerous to be here. A car pulls out and the driver asks where I am going. As I explain my situation he tells me to get in the car and he will drive me. I don’t want to risk my life just for having walked everything of the trail so I say thank you and not even 5 minutes later I am already at a safe place from which I can continue the trail easily in the Wenderholm Park. I could probably have walked the last part before the park myself but the guy insisted on bringing me to a safe place. I feel a bit guilty though about hitchhiking these few kilometers but if you don’t do the kayaking there isn’t any other safe option. I am decided now to only hike the few kilometers to Waiwera and then stay at the holiday Park and rest tomorrow morning. I am waiting out the rain and distant thunderstorm under a shelter. The trail in the Wenderholm Park is again very beautiful and perfectly maintained. I enjoy every minute of the hike.
I n Waiwera I ask at the Thermal Spa about the holiday Park but am informed that it’s closed. Bummer, what should I do now? The girls tell me I should just ask around I can for sure pitch my tent. I am allowed to fill up on water here and then start looking around, hesitatent if I shouldn’t do the estuary crossing now because hanging out in this no man’s land the whole morning isn’t appealing. Then a car stops and two hikers get out, a French couple. We discuss and they want to go for it and try the walking beneath the cliffs now. I am a bit concerned the tide might be too fast coming in so I almost start running. It’s about 3km on rocks, boulders, beach and it’s beautiful and challenging. At a tricky part I opt for the safe option and get wet feet. I am too scared though about the tide coming in that I barely enjoy it. You can’t see far, every corner I am afraid it might be impossible to continue. There are a few ways up and out of the cliffs though, so I don’t feel really in danger. Finally it’s done and I wait for the French hikers.
We walk together towards the holiday Park of Orewa but which would still be 4km away. It’s 5.30pm now – so much about a relaxed day! We spot a great rest area with toilets and there is no sign of camping being forbidden (which doesn’t mean really it’s allowed either). As it starts to rain we ask people if we might camp here but no one really knows. We take shelter in front of the toilets and there is even a changing room where I can put on my warm clothes as it’s getting cold again. We cook dinner and around 7pm simply set up our tents. I wouldn’t have done this on my own and am happy to have met the couple! Hopefully I can sleep and am not too worried about being wakes up by the police or an angry neighbour…