7 days of work and I was ready to get back on the trail again - Pakiri to my hometown of Auckland! I had been warned that this was a particularly muddy section - through the Omaha forest and up and over Mt Tamahunga and through the Dome forest; and I had set myself a tough timeline of 26km in half a day and they were right: it was 'will I lose my shoe in this?!' muddy, but it was a perfect day and the views over the beaches to the east and the farm and forest inland were spectacular. Also getting to the Dome cafe for 9pm for a shower and a bed at friends' (Stephen and Kumi's) was also a big motivation to smash this section out.
Being a woman, walking on my own had never made me feel vulnerable before, but when I felt eyes on me as I was stepping off the road and into the farmland ascending the first mountain I was suddenly on edge; - a man had watched me creepily as I had passed and he started following me down the road for about 50m till I reached the trail head. This had me doing an Olympic style fast walk waddle and had me looking back a few times until I was sure he hadn't followed any further...
More mud and gorse and fantastic views later I was back on the road and I was finding myself again entering a daylight-only forest at 5pm. It said on the trail notes that it would take 6-7 hours... ! so I messaged my friends and told them it was near impossible to get there so I'd find a spot in the forest but they insisted - they had dinner for me and they didn't want me camping out! So onwards I went. I stumbled out at 9.30pm... having kept poor Stephen and his dog waiting a while! But god, that shower, the food, the company and that massage chair made it worth it!
500km Selfie w Stephen. There is a great view behind us...!
The next day was another hefty one - Dome Valley to Puhoi, and I also wanted go back up the Dome Valley track to check out the view that I had missed in the darkness the night before so after his morning run and a wonderful breakfast, feeding their alpacas and having a tour of their beautiful new home/ B&B, Stephen and I made the extra ascent and took the 500km selfie together. "oh, she'll never make that distance by today..." it was 11am by the time we got back to the starting point for the day, and the Dome Cafe owner had his doubts. I'll show him....! Up and over Moir Hill, some more mud, a cute lamb encounter and then I accidentally/on purpose got myself lost and ended up wandering through the most magical forest between the 521 and 524km marks... If it wasn't for the horrendous cow-shit/mud mixture, the big trespass signs and electric/barbed wire fences I had to scale and sneak around to get back on track I would recommend it to others. Do not be Shelley and take that path over the broken stile folks. Bad TA hiker. I still have no idea what route I was on with those orange triangles but I was expecting pixies to come out and join me - it was so pretty!
This got me behind and running again to make it for beer and food and a kayak posse of two (mum and her kayaking friend Richard) waiting for me at the Puhoi pub. The perfect calm night, the perfect tidal conditions - it was a wonderful 7km paddle to Wenderholm to finish off a 34km day :) Now the conundrum. Do I go home with mum?! Or camp up and wait till late morning for the perfect tide? - I decided to consider mum the perfect trail angel (not cheating), went home to sleep in a bed, cuddle the dog and head back the next day in time for the tides.
Wenderholm was stunning, on another perfect day. And I practically had it all to myself~ through Waiwera then Orewa where I bonded with Annora over pies and horses. Going further inland, I noticed the urban sprawl and the massive changes to Silverdale. The rubbish on the roads, the speeding - yep, I was back in the big smoke. The Spur Road down to Stillwater had me scared! The tight turns and little leeway meant that I was running, listening for cars and crossing the roads to give myself room to keep safe. Maxine from the campsite drove past and offered to take me down to the village but I declined- as long as I was down before dusk I'd be ok. She also mentioned that she had a hall for TA walkers to stay in for free, on mattresses with a hot shower! My plan previous to that was to carry on and try and cross the Okura estuary at midnight (low tide). The safer/lazier option appealed by the time I had had a beer and fish and chips at the boathouse. Waiting till lunchtime the next day was A OK with me ~ :)
The next section I had done previously with a friend Jo a number of years back. It's a lovely bit of coast. I took two partial days to complete it, having an amazing lunch prepared by Andreas in Murrays Bay, tackling, and losing to the tides and scaling rocks I really shouldn't have after a few wines... till Mairangi Bay. The next day walking with mum till Milford - then With Meesh and Jezz till Takapuna, crossing on the Devonport ferry at night and meeting with Pete (of 90mile cred) to his home right next to the trail in Mt Eden. The next morning early we were joined by another friend Karla and his Mum Denise for an early (non pack) walk up the mountain then down for great cup of joe. Mum joined me later that morning and we headed through Cornwall Park to Ambury park and I continued on from there through towards the airport.
6.30am 600km selfie! w Karla, Denise and Pete
Amelia then joins the story! A good friend over a number of years I supported her though her 100km trail walker challenge so it was lovely for her to come and pick me up and feed me and offer to take me back after a good night's rest (ok, not so great cause we stayed up late watching a Julia Roberts movie hahaha!) Knowing us, it wasn't surprising that we ran late so we decided public transport would be the go - I hit the trail at roughly the right number of Kms away from the other side and continued on towards the Botanical gardens. Work beckoned so Mum (jeez, mum has been spectacular - Uber mum if you will...) picked me up and the next day, late in the afternoon we dropped my car and pack off at the start of the Hunuas, and dropped me off where I left off - and I ran/walked the 27km to get to the car before nightfall.
The plan was to leave my car at the end of the Hunuas, Clayton who I was walking this section with me would pick me up, and we would leave his car at the start of the Hunuas, trek in for a day and a half and be out by the late afternoon of the second day. All went to plan (albeit I left a few key things like tent pegs at home), Nachos dinner care of Clayton was awesome, weather was perfect... UNTIL I realised with a couple of hours left of the hike that I had left my keys in HIS car - back at the start of the trail. Ok, so here starts the Comedy of Errors.... Clayton is very good with this piece of news - and even if he wasn't, he's already given me his last peanut slab... so... we hitch, or something? We soon come across two women, a little girl and a dog on a day hike~ the dog carrying the remains of a picnic on her back. We chat a little - we explain our (my) quandary and straight away one of them - Melody offers to drop us back to Clayton's car, a 35 minute drive away, but kind of on her way home. Easy! With that solved we relax with them by the river, have a tour of the school (Dilworth Rural campus) and watch with envy as Neeve jumps with unbridled joy in the sprinkler rigged trampoline. Now all the bags we were carrying - Clayton's and my pack, the dog's pack and the one Melody was carrying were in a pile outside so with Clayton, we start loading things in. We drive off, stop by an amazing strawberry farm selling frozen yoghurt and get to Clayton's car. We unload the car. "You left this" Melody says. She pointed to the bag she had been carrying and that I had put in the back seat. IT WASN'T HER BAG, it was her friend, Hayley's bag!! My heart drops - classic Shelley accidentally steals someone's bag, trying to be helpful...! But, we are driving back in that direction, my car is just outside Dilworths... all good. We say our goodbyes and she drives away - we have the bag to take back to Hayley. We get in the car.... and nothing... no movement, no engine action what so ever. The car is DEAD.... No reception, no phone battery, dead car with a bag that needs to get back to its owner FML. I start hysterically laughing. Clayton is calm, but much less amused... we do manage to charge my phone just enough and find reception to call the towing guys to come rescue us. In the meantime Hayley is worried that her possessions are with complete strangers, and Melody hangs out at the end of the road and gets worried when we don't follow her out the dead end street... she comes back. She is concerned for us but we reassure her that help is on the way - and despite the long way, she takes the bag back to her friend 35 minutes in the opposite direction to her home... !! We finally get the car going, thanks to Clayton's insurance and we head back to my car. AND I COULDN'T MAKE THIS UP, a cop is at my car taking notes and looking VERY stern indeed. Now I'm still in bundles of nervous giggles but I pull myself together and go and talk to him - turns out the farm lady who I had asked about parking my car near her house had only seen me in my shorts and t-shirt, and as I said I was going into the Hunuas she got worried when I hadn't come back. She hadn't seen my humungous backpack with all my life sustaining objects inside it. Two cops were at my mother's door across town and they were very close to sending out a land search alert. Luckily mum and I had been in contact shortly before, so she knew not to be worried, but what a drama! To make matters worse, I had let my Warrant of Fitness slip (walker's brain) and my two front tyres were close to bald. Luckily the Sergeant was more concerned for my safety so let me off with a stern warning to get those things seen to (as I since have!!) so all in all a pretty action packed last three hours of the Hunuas Experience!! It's lovely to know that there are people that care enough to alert the authorities when worried, and I'm so glad Clayton took it in his stride - walking with me there are bound to be some happenings or other >_<
Fellow TA Hiker sightings: Loads! Yen from Singapore came to stay Will, Tyler Brandon Paul at the base of the Hunuas - USA? Gregor the German in the Hunuas Nikki, the kiwi in the Hunuas Tumble count: Dome valley darkness and slippery low tide rocks on the eastern bays delivered a few good ones! Number of Cries: one... processing my Uncle Bob's recent death and revisiting the loss of my dad, his brother RIP :(
Rubbish picked up: around 2kg - bits and piece and a huge blue paddling pool on the waterline that I wrestled with in the wind into a bus stop to hopefully be picked up and given a new lease on life. Drop off points: Home, Rothesay Bay bus stop >_<
Homes for the night: Day 23: Stephen and Kumi in Snells Beach - giving me a ride to and from the trail despite the mud! Day 24: Home sweet home post Puhoi night paddle Day 25: Stillwater campground Day 26: (half day) Home sweet home Day 26: (half day) Karla and Pete's house in Mt Eden Day 27: Amelia's house in Lynfield - ride from (and almost back to~ lol) trail Day 28: (half day) Home Day 28: (half day) In the car in the middle of nowhere - south of the Hunuas! #nosleep Day 29: Upper Mangatawhiri Dam Day 30: Home sweet home!
Food highlights: This leg included great home cooking everywhere! so it was a hard one, but Nachos a la Clayton nudges forward with his gooey chocolate brownie to finish.
Being so close to home, friends and family! Being able to go to a memorial for my Uncle, a beauty contest to support a friend, go to a concert, do work and life admin and get spoilt by people letting me stay and wanting to join me for bits :)
Getting to see bits of Auckland I never knew were there - Stonefields! The back and beyond of the Hunuas and the Puhoi track - and the beauty of the Wenderholm section ~
Getting a bit of publicity! The local paper ran a story about my walk
Having to be so dependant on the tides for the Eastern bays section~
Being bogged down with life admin. Yes, WOF done, banking, tax, paperwork - all the things I'd been meaning to do... for years... lol.
The Post Hunuas drama - though we can laugh about it now! Actually, because of the people - it ended up being a highlight :P
Song for the leg: Wherever I May Roam, Metallica
Things I learned:
Last leg was all about surrendering to YES. This leg was about getting comfortable with saying No~ Having over-planned then realising I was ahead of schedule meant that to be true to my mission I had to let plans go and let people down and that suuuuucked. But old Shelley was a lazy/clumsy people pleaser - either burning myself out or not pleasing anyone! So this is still a major work in progress, but getting more comfortable with doing things for me.
Check my pack twice/three times! I think I got a bit complacent on this leg and ended up leaving behind sandals, socks, tent pegs and KEYS - and lost/found again my licence and credit card... It all worked out in the end, but was a hassle for more than just me... need to get my head in the game now that I'm leaving Auckland and not coming back till Bluff!
Number of wet feet days: all of them (this should really be changed to number of dry feet days... 0 haha!) Weather: a few showers but predominantly sunny, still and HOT! Body: can feel a little ligament niggle in my right foot, but otherwise strong Spirit: a little melancholic, but motivated :)
Questions unanswered: what's it going to be like now~ about to be a FULL TIME trail bum?! No more flitting back to home sweet home~ excited!!