Our days have started to go faster now as the dates muddle together and Christmas and New Year’s sneak up on us with surprise. It has become a bit of a routine.
We don’t always know how far we will get or where we will build our ‘house’ but there are things that always are certain; it is nice doing something familiar everyday even though the day can be so unpredictable. When the evening is coming and our sore feet are no longer cooperating, the flat spots become all we think about, oh and food of course. Sometimes we ask the locals and sometimes we just part the ferns and ley our groundsheet down. Then up goes the tent (We called ours Marshmallow) and the night routine has begun: the sleeping mat gets blown up, the sleeping bags pulled out, I change in to camp clothes, Arthur gets the stove going and I’m putting together couscous with whatever dried veg I have gotten my hands on and if we are lucky some tuna. It is pretty simple really but very cosy and we haven’t gotten sick of any of our trail food yet our trusty home.
After Kerikeri rest day I still felt very exhausted. In fact I have been feeling pretty fatigued for a long time now and I’m worried I need a holiday in Bali, but that will have to wait as I’ve still got 2650km to go.
Our walk to Paihia the next morning was a pretty easy one along a dirt road through Waitangi forest. Feeling tired at the end of the day, we treated ourselves with Pad Thai and a night in an overpriced holiday camp, but sometimes we just don’t have a choice. We ended up having to stay another night when we found out our boat ride to Waikare was dependent on the tide. Luckily, we met a great chap who took us on a super refreshing and wonderful boat trip on Christmas morning to Russel Forest. We were in good spirits despite being away from our families and Christmas roasts. The sun was shining and as the forest track wasn’t supposed to be too hard we took it easy but very soon we found ourselves a little bit confused and lost. Since there was a river following the track we just decided to go right through it and as I had earlier fallen in to the water (thanks who ever invented dry sacks!) I just went right ahead through the water with my shoes and socks on. So when we trampled out of the forest on to Russel Road with our heavy wet feet (way to much later) our Christmas spirits had died down and the sad notion of not knowing where we would spend our Christmas night struck. It didn’t help walking past all the jolly singers and the big tables covered with food and drinks. But just as our stomachs couldn’t take it anymore a beautiful and kind voice invited us on to their lawn handing us plates and telling us to help ourselves to their home cooked goodies. Safe to say, we were close to tears and their incredible kindness will never be forgotten. That was the most amazing Christmas gift we could have ever dreamt of and I really hope they understood just how much it meant for us.
That night we stayed at a camp in Whangaruru and cheered on with our small Lindau bottles, showered and well fed by our trail angels.
Boxing Day was hard. It was super hot and we kept passing bay after bay full of happy holiday makers swimming and lazing around. Our motivation to keep walking in the scorching sun was little to non existent but if we wanted to get anywhere we had to power through. That night we slept on the well benched trail in the forest after spending 40 minutes lost in some fields just next to entrance to our actual track.
The next day was another hot one and we swore that this time we would have a swim and stay somewhere close to the beach, which we did but not before we had a serious feast in Matapouri.
We set up camp on a grass patch next to the public toilets on Sandy Beach. There was a no camping sign but somehow it had become the unofficial freedom camp spot for most passers-by. I would recommend it. When it got dark the orange moon was casting light on the silver ocean and we really felt lucky to be on this incredible journey.
The road to Ngaruru was hot but fast. I was away in my new found dream world of what I would be doing after our trip, which is a partly of why I’m doing this. I have started to allow the questions and fantasies to flow with the hope that I will really find my passion again. At this stage I’m exploring the idea of working with horses in some way as it is something I love and could potentially be really good at, and since I’ve also always wanted to do some sort of therapeutic work I’ve combined both ideas. Now I’m planning to start my own horse therapy centre. Where this flow of feeling will take me I don’t know but I want to go with it for a while.
After a small discussion we decided (Emma and I) to stay at ‘Milas Ranch’. If you’re in the area, I really recommend staying there. It is the cutest camping spot ever!! And very well priced.
We have noticed a bit of a difference in opinions between the four of us with some things. We have found ourselves in some very interesting healthy debates. For instance, the boys feel very strongly about walking literally the whole of New Zealand, while Emma and I see this more as an adventure on foot through New Zealand and hitching a ride with a car or boat can be a part of it. The next two days ahead of us lay 30+ km of highway walking which is hard on feet and dangerous as there is no real space between the cliff and the road. So we have played around with the idea of sometimes splitting up and Emma and I hitching some of the roads if it would come to that. There are options to kayak river sections but we can’t afford it and therefor do big road detours. This time however, we all walked and in a way it was good because we came across heaps of black berries and despite my rules of not eating anything next to big roads I quickly become a berry vacuum cleaner. It was so delicious, stink bugs, ants, half ripe it all went down my fresh food starved stomach.
Because new year’s was coming up we decided to hitch to Whangarei on the 30th to watch Star Wars and spend New Year’s eve there and then hitch back on the 1st to the other side of Pataua, eliminating a long wet walk through a Bay that can only be crossed on low tide and even then the water can go up to your armpits so I’m more than glad we all agreed on that. And when Emma met a guy that offered to drive us out on the 1st it was settled. New years with nachos (yumm) and wine.
A lot of wonderful things have been happening lately. The most amazing thing is probably that our bags seem so much lighter and it is much easier it is to walk uphill. The sun doesn’t burn me anymore, I mean it’s still bloody hot but I have reached that level of tough brown skin that it just reflects the sun rays back. That said, I’m still careful with New Zealand’s sun.
There is this magical thing that is happening, just as if our backpacks and walking poles have become a super hero cape, anywhere we go people are talking to us, offering things to us and just waving out of cars and shouting encouraging things. It is amazing, somehow everyone seems to be really happy to see hikers. I feel like a celebrity and I’m scared to think what will happen when the bag is taken off, I’ll just have to leave it on forever. I’m not prepared to lose these wonderful powers. We have come across so many interesting characters. I mean for Peats sake we met a real life Bilbo who was selling corn on the side of the road in Whangarei and ended up giving us a bag full of fresh tasty corn after telling us about his stories. I wish I could take all these people with me but I guess they will have to stay in my overwhelmed heart for now.
Another very memorable meeting was with a bunch of kids selling shell necklaces and cookies. We bought some and then a young boy played a song on his guitar singing in a quiet angelic voice making us all tear up. If you ever lose faith in humanity do the Te Araroa and it will be restored, I promise.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!