We survived our first night of camping in the wild. Even with the thunder we heard rumbling as we went off to sleep and the fact we were on a summit amongst the clouds. This was the first night the trail notes hadn’t specified an actual camp spot and I’d been a little anxious about having to find a suitable spot in a pretty inhospitable environment.
There’d been heavy rain overnight but we awoke to only the misty clouds and drips from the trees. Ironically with all the overnight rain our biggest issue at this point was lack of water. With practically no collection points on the track for our two day journey, we’d filled our every vessel at the last point available and rationed our usage. That meant no bedtime cup of tea, and no cooked porridge or cup of tea for breakfast. Our breakfast consisted of our items with the most moisture in them which for me was the remains of last nights mushroom bolognase (cold and yuk), part of a carrot and a mandarin.
Despite the disappointing breakfast we set off in good spirits wearing our raincoats for the first time this trip, to protect from the mist and tree drips. The track was relatively good as it flattened out for some way. The bush was very pretty and reminds me of the goblin forests on Mt Taranaki
After a couple of hours walking a dehydration headache started setting in, and getting near the bottom of my water supply I started eyeing up every puddle. So I got my supply topped up at the deepest cleanest puddle we could find. Surprisingly it came out completely clear and only had the mildest dirt taste.
We were still pretty happy at this point as were ticking off the km markers at a much quicker pace than yesterday. We were averaging 45 minutes for each km compared to the muddy uphill of the previous day taking more than an hour. It was always a joy seeing the km markers. We also thoroughly appreciated the abundant orange triangle trail markers. As we had to go off trail numerous times to find a way around tree falls it was reassuring to know that we’d successfully found our way back to the right path. Also in a lot of places if it wasn’t for the triangles we would never have believed there was even a track there.
Late morning the rain started. It was no problem to start with as our raincoats were doing a good job. I kept thinking this is what happens in rain forests and a bit of water never hurt anybody. But the rain never let up and then it got really heavy and never stopped. Thankfully my raincoat kept my top half dry enough to stay warm. My bottom half was as sodden as if I’d just climbed out of a swimming pool but didn’t cause me to much bother. I don’t regret not bringing my waterproof pants. Gerard did have his on though.
Lunch was about 10 min huddled under our tent ground sheet for cover. The cover was really only keeping our food dry - we were a lost cause.
From then on things got quite a lot more challenging as the volumes of water turned the paths into flowing mud rivers and all surfaces into treacherous slippery spots. I went for a few slippity slides but thankfully no injuries. All we could do was push on. We could no longer take photos or check progress on our phones as we didn’t want to risk damage to them. Also my fingers were to wrinkled to operate it anyway.
We were heartened to reach some grassy stretches where we could pick up the pace a bit. It was ankle deep in water but firm under foot. We spotted a patch that Andrew had identified for us the day before as a campsite and that we’d naively been hoping to reach the previous day. I think we would have floated away if we happened to have been camping there during this level of rainfall.
Sadly the grassy stretches were short lived and we soon slowed up again with more treacherous forest. Finally we emerged onto some farmland and again were happy about the change of terrain. It was steep and severely rutted - likely from the little black pigs we saw, but was a
pleasure to walk over after the forest.
As we were nearing the road with our intended campsite for the night I mulled over our options. Given the volume of rain that had fallen I knew we would need to delay our entry into the next forest section. Here are the quotes from the trail notes:
“Omahuta Puketī Forest Track is a challenging, wet route using river canyons - subject to flash floods. You need good equipment and navigation skills. Only go in dry weather… Follow along to cross a concrete ford over a stream (NB: if water is flowing over the top of it, do not proceed as this means water levels in the Mangapukahukahu gorge will be too dangerous).“
Given we were still relatively close to Kaitaia by road and that we were approaching SH1 we made the plan to keep walking until the mangamuka dairy and use it’s canopy for shelter to change into dry clothes and find a ride into Kaitaia where there would be better facilities for drying out and spending a rest day.
On SH1 we seemed to be walking far more than expected and still no sight of the dairy. The kms certainly are very long at the pointy end of a tough day. As we’d been operating on memory of the map and distances I thought I’d best check we hadn’t headed in the wrong direction. On getting my phone out I saw the most perfect txt. Phillipa and Graham who live in Waimate had txt to say did we want to be picked up and spend a dry night or two with them!! What true trail angel’s!! We’ve been friends for a long time and they’d offered to have us for a night when we come through kerikeri, which was what we were planning. They’d been following our blog and along with what they could see themselves with the weather put the offer to us. Graham found us within half an hour inside the little farm bus stop shelter we’d popped into to get changed.
What an oasis arriving at their warm dry home with space to lay out all our wet gear, washing machine, shower, home cooked meal, and comfy bed. Heaven. Days like this really make you appreciate the things in life that we to often take for granted. I was feeling a bit of guilt about being seen to abandon when things got tough, and thinking of all the other TA walkers still out in the elements dealing with it. But we had decided on this trip to take the nice options when possible and this was most definitely a nice option being offered to us. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of days to come when we won’t have a nice option to turn to.
We’re staying for two nights to give flood waters time to drain away, so we’ll end up having our first zero day after eight days of walking. Although our bodies and feet have been faring well, this rest will probably be good for them.
A very restful day indeed. Drying out things, laundry, lunching in town and Phillipa driving us around KeriKeri sussing out where the trail cuts through. And the suns out. Just perfect.
Day 8 ~ Walked 16.4km ~ Start: Raetea summit ~ End: Mangamuka (km 158)
Day 9 zero day Waimate near Kerikeri.