Back on the trail, solo and on a beautiful part of Northland! Paihia to Opua was a majestic part of coast that had beach walking, rock hopping, boardwalks and stunning views. Opua wharf was also the place I had come with my mum and Gran 6 years earlier to scatter part of my Grandfather's ashes - a special place I was glad to visit on my walk of the country.
From Opua I had the choice of getting a $100 boat ride across the Waikare connection or taking the $1 vehicle ferry and walking the connection adding 24+ km to an already hefty bit of walking... Now, $99 can get me a lot of powdered mash and beer, so went with the vehicle ferry and what ensued was 24+ km of extra walking... Something I had to motivate me was a certain Brit who I knew, from chats on Facebook, was a few hours ahead. Now, damn him - this is where my decision not to hitch any part of this walk (the official trail) was solidified. A car pulled up into a driveway and I was running low on water so I asked if I could fill up - and he ran me up to the house to fill up my water bladder and he mentioned that he had come along side another walker, a brit full of tattoos earlier that day, and that he had offered him a ride but he had refused. He said he would have offered me a ride but knew I would refuse him too~ FML. Hahaha! So my fast crumbling resolve not to hitch (even this asshole extra waikare connection) was strengthened purely for pride.
The next day, after I had dried my tent from the rain in the night and had a lovely breakfast in the sun, I was feeling stronger, and soon entered into Russell forest. If you ignore the car graveyard leading up to it (If you're missing a car in northland, chances are its remains are there...) it is a magical forest and the trail follows up through beautiful bush, a stream and several waterholes.
Once out and back on the road I caught up with a farmer who was fine with me camping up and having the trail meal of my dreams behind an old dilapidated outhouse just as the sun was going down. Sleep came fast that night!
Day 15, I had a LONG day of road walking ahead - I had realised that the 'few hours ahead' walker was actually, after all my mermaid frolicking and Instagramming the the day before, now 20km ahead, so there dashed my dreams >_< so, I got comfortable and started trucking on. Running low on water again, I passed a house with its family outside - as the little girl handed me the bladder she asked if I was walking the length of New Zealand to lose weight. With feigned hurt I asked if she thought I needed to... ah, kids ey?
Now this next story will stay with me for the rest of my life - I was passing Mokau Marae, where there were some workmen, and in the field opposite was a horse that was standing by the fence, dead still except for the occasional kick of the hind leg. As I got closer I saw its leg was tightly wrapped around a loose piece of fencing. I know NOTHING about horses and jumping into an unknown paddock with an unknown horse was not on my to-do list that day... I got one of the workmen to help and with great gusto he lept into the paddock with me cowering behind him for protection. As he approached, he scared the poor animal to distraction so I thought the only way to solve it was for him to get some wire cutters. As he was away getting them I slowly approached the horse and I could see her eyes closely watching me. She let me come closer and soon I was stroking her and she started to lean on me a little, then started smelling me and then nibbling on my ear!! This was going to work! I slowly stroked down her body and though she hesitated at first, all the while watching me, she let me lean down and unwind the wire from her back leg - success! I was so touched that she would trust me like that; it was a special moment~
I was in my own little horse-saving, instagram taking bubble walking along the coast again, when I was invited in out of the rain by a farmer who let me have the last of his special Chinese green tea while he showed me round his old cow shed conversion and he told me stories of the area, his time owning the extensive valley farm and his days visiting his daughter and his rich in-laws in Japan. Having bade our goodbyes I realised I had gotten a message from Matt; the Brit had called it a day earlier that afternoon and was waiting: with BEER. Now, beer to me is like 'Chicken' to McFly and it suddenly boosted me to tackle this last 15km. Only this 15km was from sea-level to 260m (in the first two Kms) then into the challenging Morepork forest - described in the notes as DAYLIGHT ONLY track. It was 5pm. No worries! hahaha, and so began a 4hour run, scramble, tumble, updating Facebook experience into the darkness until I see a tall shadowy figure of the handsome Englishman. "just another 1km to go" he says as he drives away towards the camp once he guided me onto the road. (The campsite owner was worried about me so lent him her pick-up, which, OF COURSE, i refused to get in) 3km later I staggered into the campsite, cabin all organised, coins for the showers procured and hot food and cold beer waiting. Heaven.
Km: 244-308 Fellow TA walker sightings: One, with beer. Matt the Brit. Number of tumbles: pretty good until nightfall in the Morepork forest! Number of cries: Zero! Kg of rubbish I picked up: <1 but awkward. A bucket, few plastic bags and bits and pieces Drop off point: Paihia/Opua Beachside Holiday park
Homes for the night: Day13 (half day): rainy miserable night under grabby trees on a roadside hill Day 14: Just out of the Russell forest, in farmland behind a derelict outhouse! Day15: Whananaki North Holiday Park with Matt & Tom, the lovely heartbroken Manchurian
Food Highlight: Has to be the salami and canned chicken cantonese stir-fry with onion and capsicum (previously fresh and very heavy LOL) on udon noodles with black sesame and chilli sprinkles on day 14.
General Highlights: The horse! Having the whole of the Russell forest to myself, river wading in the dappled sunlight, skinny-dipping! Finding "Let's Go Butt! written for me on the ground by my new friend in front. Having a cold beer and cooked meal and hot shower waiting for me after having done a long 34km into the night/ having a hot Brit come to my rescue (though he got told in no uncertain terms I didn't NEED rescuing Bahaha!)
General Lowlights: Pretty good leg - though thinking I was lost in the Russell forest was disconcerting till I saw the magical orange triangle The last 4 kms of day 15 lasted foreeeeeevvver
Things I learned: With just me as company, I'm pretty fun to be around! Life on the trail is very simple: it's all about the trail, where to sleep for the night, what to eat and where to shit. After it rains a lot my fancy phone doesn't recognise my thumbprint
Number of days with wet feet: EVERY DAY~ but stream walking was fun :) Weather: Showers at all the inconvenient times! - After one particular heavy shower during the long Waikare section I was sopping wet and a pool cleaning truck drove past with the signage: getwet.co.nz. The universe having a right laugh! Body: I did it so long ago, I don't remember! But I think it was good. Spirit: High!
Question unanswered: All the roads have storm water drains or streams along side. All roads are littered with plastic from people tossing stuff out of their cars. How to stop the tossers?!