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  • Writer's pictureJenny

Days 76 - 78 Kerikeri to Sandy Bay

Day 76 ~ Walked: 23 km, ~ Start: Kerikeri ~ End: Paihia (km 249)

I was sad to have to leave behind the flowers Clint had brought for me. He knew I’d only have them for one night but he also knew I’d appreciate them anyway and I did. They smelled gorgeous. The motel owners were happy to have them for their reception though so they weren’t wasted. I did get to eat or take with us the avocados and plums he’d brought as well.

We continued our walk out the other side of Kerikeri on paths alongside more residential properties, some of which were very resort looking. It smelt very much like summer with freshly cut grass and honeysuckle common.

Then we were into the Waitangi forest. It was a pine forest with a very popular mountain bike park throughout. It was a very easygoing walk and quite enjoyable particularly in the cooler non harvested sections. The heat is quite intense and the raucous cicadas were evidence of this.

We did a short side trip up mount bledisloe which had our first views into Paihia and Russell.

It was quite special coming out of the forest and seeing waitangi paihia and Russell before us and then walking towards them.

Waitangi flag pole to the right

We would have like to have wandered around the Waitangi grounds but the only option was buying the mega ticket including museum and cultural shows. We’d been to the new museum fairly recently so didn’t think it was worth doing again just now. (I would recommend going if you haven’t already though).

Families out enjoying paihia beach

We didn’t hang around in paihia long as it was heaving with tourists. We caught the ferry to Russell and enjoyed a beer at the Duke of Marlborough. Great people watching and a bit of live music was a great finish to the days walk.

Scott and Jane came and joined us for us drink then took us back to their place to stay the night. They were the perfect trail angels anticipating our every need or want, having done the TA themselves last year. It was great comparing stories of sections we’d done and getting their insight into what was ahead.

Day 77 ~ Walked: 7 km, ~ Start: Helena bay ~ End: Helena ridge track (km 311)

We had a late (for us) night talking eating and drinking, so had a leisurely start to the day. Jane and I went for a morning swim in the nearby bay. Jane actually swam, I just lounged around enjoying the picture perfect surroundings.

We’d got Scott and Jane’s advice the night before on which would be the best option for bypassing the Russell forest which has been closed due to kauri dieback. The trail notes had three suggested options which were all various combinations of water transport and roads, but we went with their suggested fourth option which was to skip the road walking entirely, as it wasn’t safe particularly with all the holiday traffic- today being New Year’s Eve. Scott very kindly drove us to the next forest section which started at Helena bay. I was so thankful we weren’t walking the road. It was very narrow and windy with no shoulder at all. And as predicted very busy with a lot of boats and caravans being towed.

It was great getting Scotts commentary and local knowledge along the way. Sad to see such stark contrasts between properties worth in the 10s to 100s millions dollars (they were mostly hidden from view but their gated entrances gave them away) and the shacks with only outside toilets. There were informal campsites at a lot of the smaller properties as families had converged to celebrate the season together. That was great to see.

We’d planned on just having a short walking day so relaxed at Helena bay until after lunch.

Today was another stifling hot walking day. It seemed as though all the uphill sections were in the glaring sun and no breeze. Then when we got into the coolness of the forest with a breeze and the clouds coming across, we only had flat or downhill sections. At least it was some respite. I was wishing today could have been in reverse, especially with the beach to finish.

We had a few nice vistas along the way.

We set up camp where a kind farmer had allowed for it. Not exactly party central for New Year’s Eve, but I’m sure we’ll be asleep by 8-30 anyway.

Day 78 ~ Walked: 34 km, ~ Start: Helena ridge track ~ End: Sandy bay (km 338)

Another day, another forest section closed, therefore another big road detour section. We had the long day planned so we kicked it off early. Also to beat the heat and road traffic as much as possible.

The first 10 or so km was on quiet farm roads passing through patches of native bush so was very pleasant.

Once we were on the main road leading into Whananaki it was suddenly busy with New Year’s Day holiday makers. Mostly we could duck and dive across the road picking the sides with best visibility to approaching traffic and the widest berms. The last couple of km it was getting a bit hairy so we decided to hitch.

Not much space to get out the way of vehicles

We were picked up in literally 5 seconds by Markus who was running a camp at the school as a fundraiser. He dropped us there where his lovely wife gave a a cold bottle of water each. He said we were also welcome to use their showers if we wanted. So kind. The camp was chocka block full which was in addition to the regular campground which looked to be fairly full as well. No wonder the roads were so busy.

We had our lunch in the shade, a little nap then an ice cream from the shop before continuing on our way. Next up was the famous longest foot bridge in the Southern Hemisphere. It really was quite impressive. Although pretty narrow so we had to squeeze past others if it wasn’t near a passing bay.

Just after the bridge was the stunning beach of Whananaki south. And yet more camping spots. This one was a big freedom camping area. The beach was too enticing on such a hot day and after walking all morning. I had a quick swim and it was heavenly.

Whananaki south beach - as long again in the other direction

The stretch of coast from there to Sandy bay via the Whananaki coastal walkway was just beautiful. Bay upon bay of amazing beaches. I’m pleased I’d had a swim already as they weren’t all as accessible from the track.

Just about everyone we came across walking the track was interested in the TA and wanted to chat to us about it. It was great to see so much awareness and appreciation of it.

it was also interesting to note the differences in the groups of people enjoying the public beaches vs the private access only beaches (that we could look on to). The public ones were well populated with large friend and family groups, well set up with food, drinks, music, activities. The private ones had small groups of twenty somethings posing for their insta photos on their unused beaches. While the thought of a private beach sounds appealing, I know which one seemed more fun to me.

Our final 3 km was a tough uphill climb on yet another very busy and narrow road. Very pleased for that to be over and to arrive at our campsite for the night.

Day 76 ~ Walked: 23 km, ~ Start: Kerikeri ~ End: Paihia (km 249)

Day 77 ~ Walked: 7 km, ~ Start: Helena bay ~ End: Helena ridge track (km 311)

Day 78 ~ Walked: 34 km, ~ Start: Helena ridge track ~ End: Sandy bay (km 338) detour road in purple

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