The Good, the Bad and the Better – Northland – Day 11-15
Te Araroa – A Skittles’ Journey Through NZ
Day on Trail: 11
Weather Forecast: Better
We set out on day 11 with a renewed sense of strength and conviction. Since some people hadn’t zeroed in Kerikeri, our trail family was a little smaller. Renske, Stacey and I were a unit now and headed out that morning alongside Sevi and Elise (a French/Swiss couple we started on the same day as). About ten minutes into the walk, we were stopped by someone we knew.
When Stacey and I were figuring out how to get to the trailhead in Cape Reinga, we decided to take the bus as far as Kerikeri and hitch-hike the rest of the way. This involved a few hitches and an overnight stay in Pukenui. However, our last hitch was from a very nice man, Asanka who had previously hiked part of the trail with his wife and three kids and now went out of his way to support hikers in the Northland.
And of course, we bumped into him for the second time.
He kindly offered us a ride to the start of the trail out of Kerikeri (shaving off a few kms of road-walking) and since we already knew him, we took it as fate and jumped in his car.
Asanka is something of a trail angel and had even hosted a few of hiker friends early on. Even though it was out of his way, he drove Stacey, Renske and I to start of the forestry track and wished us luck.
I’m a sucker for coincidences and fate so I was buzzing for the rest of the day.
The three of us arrived at Waitangi fairly early and spent a few hours being tourists in the cultural centre and then in the tourist town of Paihia, where we bumped into more of our friends.
The next part of the trail was divided with several different options, since there was a water crossing involved and a huge chunk of trail that was now closed due to the risk of disease to the trees.
Some of our friends were going kayak 18km the following day and then continue the walk. Others were going to catch the short ferry over to Russell and go from there.
Meeting back up with Sevi and Elise, the five of us headed over to Russell and devoured one of the best burgers of my life.
Genuinely, this burger became the burger to which we compared every other burger on the trail and unfortunately, we peaked far too early.
It was actually so nice being tourists for the afternoon. Hiking the trail, you get swept up in mileage and what others are doing and whether or not you’re being purist enough and it can be a lot. Slowing down and taking it all in was a really nice reset of our attitude to the trail and we made note to start prioritising down-time.
That night, we stayed with our first trail angel, Sheryl at her farm by Russell Forest, before starting a couple of days of very long, very uneventful road-walking.
I discovered the kids’ book The Wonky Donkey and proceeded to read the whole book to my new friends.
I then showed them the accompanying song.
This became an earworm for the next month or so.
Stacey and I were still struggling with our boots and feet and had to elevate our feet every 5km.
We had lunch on the back of a parked truck.
We had good weather.
We had bad weather.
We linked up with our friend, Maureen (Mo for short, Moseph for long).
And I decided I wanted to quit one more time.
On day 13, we walked from a trail angel’s place on the side of the road and headed in the direction of the Helena Bay Ridge Track. The road-walk itself was fairly straight forward. Stacey and I had to stop every couple of kms to rest our feet. Elise and Sevi raced ahead because their packs were like 8kg and they were superhuman.
When we stopped for lunch, I made the mistake of saying it was a good day. A perfect day. I was vibing with the trail. I was feeling stronger.
And then the rain came in.
The four of us took off in the direction of Helena Bay Ridge, not realising that the arriving rain was turning the relatively easy forest climb into one long and uncomfortable slip and slide.
I’m not really sure why this felt like a quitting point. I suppose it was a few factors: the rain, mud, my aching feet, the fact that I’d already lost enough weight that my pants were loose and rubbing between my thighs.
Basically, I was super uncomfortable and all I could think of was that song.
You know, ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’.
But specifically, that line: ‘when the road looks rough ahead, and you’re miles and miles from your nice warm bed…’
Because the road was rough ahead.
And my bed was so far away.
And god, I was tired.
And it had been such a perfect morning and now, it was raining and muddy and Stacey was being so nice to me and god, I f**king hate this trail.
I decided I was quitting for the third (and basically final) time 400m from the campsite on the Helena Bay Ridge Track. I asked Stacey to leave me to have a big old pity party in the forest.
Of course, I thought I still had a couple kms to walk and cry. Turns out the campsite was around the corner and all our friends were waiting for us…
Here is another picture to describe how this went.
In the end though, I got over it. I reminded myself that 30% of our days were going to be great, 3% were going to be okay and 30% were going to be shit.
And I guess 10% were for those fan-freaking-tastic days.
The next days were fairly straight forward as we walked along roads in a constant spray of rain and clouds. Us girls hitched part of the road into Whananaki so we could binge-eat cheese and do some laundry. Sevi, the purist he was, walked the whole way and rocked up in record time for our binge-fest.
By the time we rocked up into Ngunguru, I was sick of road-walking and in dire need of a repack.
There was a tiny post-office in town and with Stacey’s help, I went through a bunch of my belongings and sent a bunch of stuff home. Sure, I only cut about 2kg from my bag, but that was 2kg I didn’t have to carry up the next hill.
That night, about 16 of us were ferried across the small estuary in Ngunguru to a beautiful forest camp run by a local angel, James.
Surrounded by friends as a torrential thunderstorm battered down around us in what felt like a tropical rainforest, I thought of home.
I thought of warm beds and comfy pillows.
I thought of what my feet looked like three weeks earlier before they were rubbed raw by my boots. The thought of walking another 2700km was daunting and there was still that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t going to make it.
But then I thought of what was to come.
In another week or so, we should be in Auckland.
After that, it would be Tongariro.
Then Wellington and then the South Island.
I just had to take it one day at a time.
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