Days 73-75 Mangamuka to Kerikeri
Walked: 24 km, ~ Start: Mangamuka ~ End: Puketi forest (km 184)
Woke up to a colourful sunrise for our last morning at home. Very excited to resume our travels so I jumped out of bed early and captured it.
We had a nice little farewell party at the airport along with seeing Brian and Nicola who were on our same flight.
Then we were welcomed at kerikeri airport by Kay and Jason (friends from home currently on holiday in bay of islands) who very kindly were able to drop us back at Mangamuka where we’d left the trail three months ago as northland was being put into lockdown. We’d planned to stock up on a few fresh items and treats at the store as well as have an ice cream with Kay and Jason before saying goodbye. Unfortunately it was shut despite all the cars stopping and people milling around. Luckily we’ve actually got six days worth of food on us.
There was a family with two very young children (perhaps 7 & 5 or younger) outside the store trying to hitch. They had packs and walking poles and looked like TA walkers. Then I spotted the mother had a baby in a front pack and I thought no definitely can’t be. Amazingly turns out they were and had come through from cape reinga. Incredible!! They were trying to hitch to kerikeri for a break.
We took advantage of Kay and Jason returning back the way we were heading so cut a few kms of our days road walking. Once off SH1 there was a big stretch of gravel road walking. Apart from the milk tanker (only vehicle we saw) kicking up a lot of dust it was a very pleasant and easy start back for us.
At our afternoon tea break we met Stu who is section walking and Aleisha and her dad Ross. We discussed our plans for the forest section ahead. Our plan was to have a nice short 12 km (half) day to apple dam campsite, which we were almost at. The forecast however was for heavy rain overnight. This would make the forest section impassable and necessitate a long road walk detour. So we decided to push on and get to a point just past all the streams and rivers where there was a freedom camping spot. The others decided to stay at apple dam and do the bypass if necessary. Another couple that had been with them had already decided to skip the whole section due to the weather and had got a ride to the other side of the forest.
Near our afternoon tea break we checked out the remains (stump) of a giant Kauri. Absolutely massive.
After the road walk it was onto a freshly cut grass track. Very pleasant.
Then into the stream for a good few km. I loved this so much. The stream was gentle and while luke warm, was very refreshing in the heat of the day. It was only ankle deep and a good surface underfoot. The forest all around was lush and tropical.
After reaching and crossing the waipapa river the track became very slow going. It was sidling along the river bank and very narrow with continual up and down, crossing fallen logs etc. We were contemplating taking the river instead but then suddenly there were steps and a boardwalk. We patted ourselves on the back for sticking with the track but then it got bad again so the next opportunity of getting close to the river we went in it. That sped things up a bit. Finally we arrived just before 8-30 which is pretty much our bedtime on trail. We found a clearing about 30m up from the river like the notes had said but the ground was very uneven
We were about to settle on an uncomfortable looking patch but thought we’d scout out a bit further up the track first. Pleased we did as this was where we were supposed to be.
We ended up eating our dinner in the dark after setting up camp. It was nice hearing moreporks as we were going off to sleep.
~ Walked: 13 km, ~ Start: puketi forest ~ End: Puketi forest hut (km 197)
Well the heavy overnight and early morning rain forecast never eventuated. I was pleased for the others who wouldn’t need to take the bypass and happy that we’d have a short day ourselves without walking in the rain. We had a leisurely start.
The track immediately set off into a steep climb which was expected as we were to be following a ridge line all day. What I didn’t expect were the very well formed gravel paths and steps. And abundance of kauri groves. The kauris were spectacular. So many of them of varying ages and sizes. Photos can’t do them justice with the bigger ones being further off the path.
The ridge line itself was a stark comparison to the rocky alpine ridges of the South Island. It was still lush with pongas and other smaller trees with views over the kauri canopies.
Our five hour day finished with 9km of gravel road walking still amongst the forest and a lot of trapped possums in varying states of decay. This was a fresh one.
The rain finally arrived in our last 20 minutes of walking but it was quite welcome relief from the heat. We’d booked the hut at the doc campground and it’s the flashiest one we’ve been to yet with electricity and full kitchen. We were joined later on by Cass and Annaliese who are doing the ta and their friend Emma who will join them for the next two days. The others arrived in also but were staying elsewhere. We were thankful to be in the hut rather than tent as the rain didn’t let up all evening.
We also had a great chat with William who we’d seen on the track doing a day walk once he’d returned to the camp. He had a cold beer each for us which was most appreciated. He’d done the TA a few years ago so knows what goes down well after a long hot day.
~ Walked/hitched: 29 km, ~ Start: puketi forest hut ~ End: Kerikeri (km 226)
William had offered to drive us over the road sections today and as there was still a bit of rain around we were quite happy with that offer. The trail normally passes through a bit of farmland here but that is temporarily blocked off and longer road diversions in place instead. His motor home is decorated with photos of his TA adventure and a great prompt for stories.
The walking we did was very enjoyable following the Kerikeri river and looking into the backyards of lifestyle blocks the suburban homes as we neared Kerikeri.
It felt weird once we were on the rainbow falls track with all the day trippers and tourists. We felt overdone with our backpacks poles and plbs at the ready.
I recreated a couple of photos we took 5 years ago almost to the day, at rainbow falls and the stone store. I imagine the falls are looking a bit better today on account of yesterday afternoon/evenings heavy rain.
The iced chocolate I had at the stone store cafe was so good I had to order a second one. It was a hot day after all.
Our accommodation had a pool so I took advantage and relaxed and swam for an hour or two. A pretty good trade off for skipping the mornings road walking I reckon.
My brother Clint drove two hours down from the far north to see us for dinner. Then he showed us around some of his landscaping work
Day 73 ~ Walked: 24 km, ~ Start: Mangamuka ~ End: Puketi forest (km 184)
Day 74 Walked: 13 km, ~ Start: puketi forest ~ End: Puketi forest hut (km 197)
Day 75 ~ Walked/hitched: 29 km, ~ Start: puketi forest hut ~ End: Kerikeri (km 226)