Te Araroa: Day 9-12
Day 9: Kerikeri to Paihia (28km)
I got up at 7 am, got myself ready and walked up that gnarly hill at the holiday park campground. After some roadwalking, the trail led into the forest and followed a dirt road for 14-15km. It wasn't special but nice and easy hiking. On boring roads or beaches it's usually time to hone my non-existing singing skills, as i often sing along loudly with the songs I'm listening to.
...definitely to many germans here. Sign says "Umleitung"
My GPS tricked me one time and I got on the wrong road for just a few minutes. I realized my mistake quickly and could still see the other dirt road. Instead of walking back I decided to take a shortcut through the forest to get back on track. That way I got to learn how nasty NZ forests really are. Every tree and all the bushes seemed to have needles or spikes and especially some kind of reed or higher grass gave me some cuts. I made it to the other road, but now i looked like someone who just escaped a torture chamber, bleeding from 7-8 cuts on my arms and legs.
At Mt. Bledisloe I took a short break, enjoying the nice, yet cloudy view on Waitangi and the Bay of Islands until two buses of Asian tourists showed up.
It took another 45 minutes to hike 4 kilometers to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. I had been here already 9 years ago, but still went in to educate myself again on NZ & British history. (The treaty made NZ officially a British colony and is considered the "founding document" of today's NZ.) I met Alex outside of the Treaty Grounds. So far he wasn't lucky in getting a ride to Paihia and so he decided to walk with me.
Our goal for that day was the Top 10 holiday park between Paihia and Opua. We therefore had to walk through the entire "city" until we reached our final destination. The holiday park was a nice surprise with good showers and great, yet basic food.
Day 10: Paihia to Punaruku (39 km)
There are several options to continue the trail from Paihia onwards. The official route is taking a canoe to Waikare landing, some 10 km east of Opua. Another also quite expensive option is to take a chartered water taxi. To save some money, I decided to go for option 3, taking the ferry from Opua to Okiato and than roadwalking or hitchhiking to Russel and Waikare (19km) Landing. The ferry was just 1 NZD and had only 2 passengers, me and - of course - another german. I didn't get lucky with any rides, so I ended up hiking 8km to Russel, unfortunately in quite some pain.
That roadwalk the day before hurt my left ankle and caused severe pain and troubles when walking on roads. Some 6-8 km after Russel a French couple picked me up and gave me a short 10 minute ride towards Waikare Landing. Some 4 km before Waikare Landing a Kiwi forest worker gave me another short ride. From Waikare Landing it was another 15 km to Punaruku, including a nice forest and river walk. It really rained for the first time on trail, but eased off after 30mins.
It all added to the mystery of all those old and broken cars along the first kilometers. That later river walk seemed to ease some of the pain in my foot, even though it was quite tough to walk some 4-6km through the water.
Due to the recent rain it was sometimes more than knee-deep.
Punaruku itself isn't really a town, so I stayed at Sue's and Al's place and got a room and a bed for 15 NZD, as I was the only guest that day. I spent some time playing with the cat and doing some research on the next trail sections, before having a great nights sleep in a real bed.
Day 11: Punaruku to Whananaki (34km)
Sue offered me a ride to Helen's Bay the next day, as she had to drop the kids in town. I happily accepted and skipped another 12km of boring roadwalk. The next few kilometres were a steep and tough 300m climb, which offered some nice views.
The day continued rather difficult for me, as my ankle still caused some pain, especially on some steep downhill sections, but I eventually made it to Whananaki at about 4 pm. The local beach store was quite expensive and had only deep fried food on the menu, which I still devoured.
Day 12: Whananaki to Ngunguru (27km)
The day started with a walk over the longest footbridge on the southern hemisphere.
It than went up some gentle hills on the Whananaki coastal walk, which offered some great views on the nearby beaches. It was a beautiful day, with a great mix of beach, forest and mountain walks in short succession.
Orange Trail markers
NZ roadblock: I promise I didn't have a burger in days!
I really enjoyed it and had a nice and lovely break at the Matapouri Takeaway Store. Their Sandwiches and wedges gave me enough energy to quickly climb that next hill. For the first time on trail I was running really low on water, as the day was really hot and some water sources not very accessible.
I wasn't desperate enough to climb over fences, so I decided to push on with my limited water supply and made it to Ngunguru by 2 pm.
For the last 1.5 weeks I had never carried more than 2 litres of water, which is usually enough to hike some 25-30 kilometers. In Ngunguru I finally found a working ATM and got some cash again, which I quickly spent on Coke and some Ben & Jerry's icecream, while waiting for James on the estuary.
James briefing me and others on tides and river depths
James runs the local boat service for TA walkers across the Ngunguru river and also offers stays at his awesome eco-lodge. Within the last 27 years, he created a quite independent and beautiful little oasis, which was the perfect place to spent the afternoon. He also provided important information on the tidal situation for the upcoming rivers on the next day.