In the past 7 days we hiked from Ahipara to Paihia and covered 144,6 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.
Total TA kilometres: 247,1
Philippe: surviving Raetea Forest
Nadine: arriving in Mangamuka Bridge
Philippe: mud everywhere
Nadine: sliding, stumbling and falling in the mud
Please note: The stated kilometres are approximate. The hiking times are pure walking times, without breaks. On average we take 1,5 – 2 hours breaks during the day. The smiley’s describe our mental, the muscle arm our physical state. 10/10 is the best.
You find our actual pictures from the trail on Instagram.
Day 5: Ahipara (Zero Day)
Our zero day was more work than relaxation. Shopping, cleaning gear from sand, washing clothes, writing down blog articles. We almost weren’t able to watch the Rugby final. We’d already seen the winners celebration during breakfast but the game was stilll exciting to watch. We really underestimated the time to write the trail stories with the tablet. But we vow that we will write less the next time.
My inflamed tendon was not healed but it was set, we would hike into the Herekino Forest tomorrow.
We definitely earned the rest day in Ahipara. But we didn’t spend the day idly. I hitched to Kaitaia (Philippe’s feet required more rest) to resupply for the following six days. Moreover, we cleaned our gear from the sand, made laundry, and typed trail stories into our tablet. Not to forget enjoying our reward for the last 100km: cider/beer and pizza. 😉
Day 6: Ahipara to Taumatamahoe (Herekino Forest)
21,06 kilometeres, 6h30min
Today, we enjoyed 8 kilometres of tarmac road for the first time until we reached the Herekino Saddle. We moved fast but it was very dangerous due to the cars which wouldn’t make way for one milimetre. But after that it was time for the forest and mud, mud, mud. The Te Araroa would lead through hilly forests for the next four days.
For us this meant: up and down, up and down. Between that there were slippery passages of mud or even paths with especially deep mud. Thanks to the sunny day it wasn’t that bad at all. We enjoyed the imposing Kauris, the great plant diversity of the forest and the birdsong, which sounded like a concert from mobile phone ringtones of the nineties. And we alternating cursed the mud and the dense undergrowth.
A bit rested after yesterday’s zero day and with less sore feet we hit the trail for our next section. After about two hours of walking on roads we finally took a turn into the forest.
Even though we were considerably slower, the ups and downs were hard on my legs and there were lots of slippery, muddy parts, I prefer this kind of trail to hiking on the endless 90 Mile Beach.
But I must admit that I was a bit anxious to leave this morning. Unlike on the 90 Mile Beach we now didn’t know where we could camp, if there was water, or what would expect us. The possibility of getting lost, river crossings and other challenges laid ahead of us.
My fears were soon proven unfounded, though (at least for today’s section).
Day 7: Taumatamahoe (Herekino Forest) to Raetea Forest
20,72 kilometres, 7h15min
Steep downhill, mud, gravel road, uphill, mud, steep uphill, mud. The Northland forests are very nice to look at but very exhausting (up and down), blessed with muddy paths and armed with nasty roots and undergrowth. Switchbacks? Kiwis don’t know them. There is only one possible way: straight (+ a random gradient).
It was hard on the knees and every other muscle. Although the hills were max. 5050m high we hiked 1000m of ascents and 1000m of descents. The only fast kilometeres we made were these few on the gravel road of the forestry service. And since today we have a new slowliness record: 1km/h.
Muddy and steep downhill, roads, roads, roads, muddy and steep up, down, up, down. That’s how today’s hike was like. And it was a looong day.
It took us almost an hour to cover just the last kilometre. That’s how slow we were at times when we had to fight through steep, muddy sections and overgrown paths. I praise trekking poles and gaiters, my heroes and saviours of today.
Now I also understand why the forests of the Northland are told to be so challenging.
Day 8: Raetea Forest to Mangamuka Bridge
18,08 kilometres, 6h55min
Fuck you, Raetea Forest. If the Herekino Forest was muddy, then this time it was Mud Apocalypse Now! The responsible person for this route planning is a sadist. No shoe of this world will drily get through this. At the deepest part the water/mud came up to my knees. Hurray for the gaiters! Because of the waiding through mud for hours we only made slow progress. And my motivation equaled zero. I was swearing all along the way as so many did before me. At the end of the forest I gave the lush green the finger and stumbled on through a cow paddock.
But wait! My heart was warmed again. At the end of this miserable day the dairy in Mangamuka was waiting. Kumara (sweet potato) chips and the hospitality of the shop owner Liza, who let us sleep in an empty room, made all the strains almost forgotten.
It was raining. And ahead of us was another day in the mud. The mud was knee-deep at times and there was no escape. The shoes squelched, the feet burnt. It wasn’t fun.
The track (oh what an overstatement) seemed endless, until we finally emerged from the forest and soon found a stream. We managed to clean our shoes, socks, gaiters and pants from the worst dirt. We’re going to spend another two days in the forest, but it shouldn’t get as bad again. We’ll see…
Oh yes, our goal for today was a dairy with cafe and take away. We demanded a treat. We got one (kumara chips) and even a place to sleep in an unoccupied adjoning room (there were two beds ;)). How nice it is to have a toilet, water and a roof above your head. Liza, the owner of the dairy, was our first “trail angel”.
Day 9: Mangamuka Bridge to Omahuta Forest
20,82 kilometres, 5h55min
What I like about hiking is the feeling for distances you get. Every time I’m amazed again, when I see how far we’d hiked. In the Herekino Forest I looked down to the 90 Mile Beach and in Mangamuka I looked back to the hills of the Raetea Forest. You don’t have that feeling with a car. Or at least not that instensively. You’re not really aware of the new place you’d driven to. While hiking I recognize the small changes in the landscape and look – with the knowledge of having accomplished something physically – back to the chain of hills in the distance.
After many kilometres on gravel roads we went in into the forset again. This time we had to wade through a stream for 3 kilometres. A new experience, which wasn’t that bad at all because the icy water cooled our sore feet.
Our night next to the dairy was dry and comfortable ;). The sun was shining, we had a fresh apple in the backpack and I feld spirited. We walked on gravel roads until the afternoon and I enjoyed having dry feet and walking at a comfortable speed. But after a couple of kilometres walking uphill my achilles tendon started hurting again. It has been slightly imflamed since the 90 Mile Beach. Conveniently, the inflammation got cooled in the last hour of today’s hike, when we had to ford Mangapukahukahu stream criss-cross over 3 kilometres. At some point, the water came up to my knees, but at least it wasn’t mud.
Day 10: Omahuta Forest to somewhere before Kerikeri
28,06 kilometres, 7h55min
The stench of the dead possums followed us through the Omahuta and Puketi Forest today. Every few metres there were three different kinds of traps set up. Now and then hung/laid a possum in a trap. Especially in these forests the pest control is very important because Kiwis and other endangered birds are nesting here.
Besides some rough and steep kilometres in the forests we mostly walked on gravel and farm roads. A few kilometres before Kerikeri our feet gave up and we made halt for the day. Tomorrow we go into town to buy food and a gas cartridge. Our zero day in a hostel we’ll be in Paihia, one daywalk away from Kerikeri.
Yeah, today was a long day. In the morning we walked through forests (hardly any mud!), at noon the scenerie changed aburptly. Juicy green fields and rolling hills dappled with white spots which started bleating loudly once we came closer.
From our campspot we can see the Bay of Islands and marvel upon the realization that we’re soon going to reach the Pacific and have walked from ocean to ocean.
Gradually, the infamous hiker-hunger catches hold as well. It’s a voracious beast, which will probably soon let us think of nothing else than the next meal, and it will want to gobble down a chocolate bar as an appetizer (not that I would mind that 😉 ).
Day 11: somewhere before Kerikeri to Waitangi Forest
24,81 kilometres, 6h35min
We ate our breakfast with a view down to Kerikeri after sunrise. After that we followed the Te Araroa over the last kilometres of framland. Because of the travelling in the past 1,5 years I never had hay fever. But the numerous blossoming grasses on the sheep paddocks triggered it again. We walked along the river bank of the Kerikeri river, which grew bigger and bigger as we were getting closer to the little town with the same name. The river bank was surrounded by forest, Kiwi nesting places and there even were some waterfalls. We almost felt far away from civilisation. It was the best part of the hiking day.
After a long stop in Kerikeri to do some shopping – fresh tomatoes and carrots!!! , a gas cartridge, and some stuff from the pharmacy – we went on to the oldest house in New Zealand, which presents itself in a beautiful little bay, where the river is flowing in to the sea.
On pedestrian ways and on roads – passing some really fancy houses with lots of grounds – we left Kerikeri. In the Waitangi Forest we changed to a forestry road where we walked until we pitched our tent in the middle of the forest. Tomorrow we’ll reach Paihia. Our feet really need a break.
Today was arduous, even though the weather was marvellous, the environment fascinating and the track not at all challenging. My energy level sank especially in the afternoon from hour to hour. My feet hurt like after a 40km-day and the surefootedness dwindled gradually. My motivation also appeared to be lagging behind or being lost in the forest. Let’s see if it will catch up with me again over night.
Day 12: Waitangi Forest to Paihia
11,05 kilometres, 2h30min
Finally a dry tent in the morning. Thank you very much you boring pine forest! The remaining kilometres to Paihia weren’t very interesting. Forestry roads and pine trees. Paihia itself is located at the almost tropical Bay of Islands, is a touristy place and because of this looks very spruced up. And it was nice to return after over six years. A familiar place. there were some new fancy buildings and the sunny spring day showed Paihia at its best. After the big shopping (5 days + 1,5 zero days) we pitched camp in the dorm of the Pickled Parrot. Surely, we didn’t put our feet up. Washing, organizing food, typing blog texts. Tomorrow there will be recovery time, I hope.
In no time we were out of the forest and amid the tourists of Paihia. It’s no wonder this place is so popular. It’s picturesquely situated in the Bay of Islands, seems to have an everlasting summer and has an easygoing atmosphere. We knew that already from a two-week stay in 2009 and were looking forward to our stay in Paihia (incl. zero day) all the more.
Btw.: my motivation did catch up with me again (maybe because we had another gorgeous day) and my feet appreciated the rather short walk today.
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