Te Araroa: Day 5-8
Updated: Dec 7, 2019
Day 5: Ahipara to Makene Road Campground. Hitch from Ahipara to Ratea Forest and 20 km hike.
The section from Ahipara to the Ratea Forest is a roadwalk with barely any shoulder to walk on. Given the fact of a limit time frame Alex, Callum and I decided to call a local businessman for a 15 NZD hitch to the Ratea Forest. We got picked up at 6:45 am, resupplied in Kaitaia and started our hike of the dreaded Ratea Forest just before 8 am.
That section is well known to TA hikers as its known for being tough and difficult. The track leads through a dense forest with steep climbs of about 750m and is in general very muddy and slippery. We got lucky and the trail condition was alright that day. It hadn't rained for a few days and therefore the track was rather dry.
We finished that section with just one minor break in 6 hrs, instead of 9.5 as estimated by the Department of Conservation (DoC).
At the very beginning a horse blocked our way. It stood in the very middle of the road and wouldn't move until I gently touched it. It than gave way and allowed me to hike on. Overall it was a good first strength test and quite an entertaining difference from the days on the beach.
Instead of walking a straight line on a beach we now had to watch every single step and balance over endless numbers of roots and mud pools. It was challenging but doable, overall a kilometer on the TA feels more like a mile on the PCT.
We arrived early at the next campsite at Makene road and were not at all bothered by the barking dogs just up the road at the farm house, which are mentioned in various Guthook comments. At the campsite we met Deborah (Kiwi), and later on Dennis and Jan (both German).
Just before sunset another group of four arrived at the campsite. 3 germans and 1 American. Like 9 years ago, if you want to meet germans, come to New Zealand. The most disturbing thing we realised was how close the toilet to the river was. Probably the owner didn't know much about "Leave no trace" principles and so Deborah will try to give them a heads up on the situation as feces might eventually end up in the river.
Day 6: Makene Road Campground to Apple Dam Campsite (18 km)
That night it rained for a few hours. Not much, rather a nice and gentle rain that allowed great sleep and that special and lovely feeling of being snug, warm and sheltered in your tent. My equipment is holding up great so far and I feel very comfortable with the gear and weight I'm carrying.
I was the first one to leave camp and arrived after just an hour at the Mangamuka Dairy, stopped there for a Bacon and Egg muffin and a Cappuccino and rested for 1.5 hrs, just watching the cars go by and talking to other hikers.
The rest of the day was short and easy. At about noon I already arrived at the campsite, took a few drone pictures and waited for the others to show up. Later that afternoon rain kicked in and we stayed in our tents until the next morning.
Day 7: Apple Dam Campsite to Puketi Rec. Campground. (24 km)
What a day :-) It started again quite boring on a gravel road for a few kilometres until the trail continued on a forest trail and our first "kauri tree shoe cleaning station". The kauri tree is important to New Zealands culture and economy and currently threatened by a disease.
To stop the spread of that disease many forests require you to properly clean your shoes before entering.
That done, I followed the trail until it went straight into the Waipapa river. I knew river crossings from the PCT, but this wasn't a crossing. The river basically was the trail for a few kilometres, sometimes knee-deep.
It was a nice and refreshing experience and just after a few kilometres the trail continued through a dense, muddy and slippery forest until we climbed out of the valley via an endless amount of wooden stairs.
I got off track 2x for just a few minutes but thanks to GPS found the trail again quickly.
Overall the trail is mostly marked and easy to follow especially as hundreds of possum and rat traps showed the right way.
It was a beautiful and exciting day for the majority of those 24 km. Only the last 9 km which I completed in 2 hrs led over a gravel road again.
Yet again, I arrived early at the campsite, but this time I was quite exhausted due to the difficult terrain.
Only Alex managed to keep up and was even hiking faster than I did. Overall I'm happy and confident for my future plans.
The Te Araroa is providing the training i need and even though I'm on a timer -with my onward flight scheduled for March 20th - i'm trying to slow myself down, by not yet hiking very long distances.
Day 8: Puketi Rec. Campground to Kerikeri (25km)
Gravel road and highway again. The first few hours of the day sucked.
The gravel road to Kerikeri had a small incline and put a lot of stress and pressure on my joints and ankles.
Fortunately the initially boring hike turned into a nice stroll along the Kerikeri River and the spectacular Rainbow Falls.
The trail sometimes even led through private property, which was quite confusing as we had to cross several gardens, private lawns and backyards.
Kerikeri itself is a town of 7.000 people and offers the full range of amenities. Sadly enough I decided to retire my torn 9 year old hiking shorts, which served me so well over the last few years.
I got a new pair at the local Hunting and Fishing store, while visiting the town for food and a small resupply.
We stayed at the local Holiday Park, right next to the river.