Kerikeri 224km to Ocean Beach 371km (day 12 to 21)
Now things started to change. Yes, we may have got a bit fitter, but the trail also got a bit kinder. And wow, the people of Northland came to the fore.
Also, the subliminal, subconscious, unconscious thoughts about keeping up, doing x km per day, walking every single step started to fade. This was our adventure, and we could tackle it our way. Our TA was underway.
The commercial forest to Waitangi was a welcome stroll down to the coast. A night in Paihia, then over to catch a ride to Waikare (with time for lunch at The Duke). Our first trail angel experience Sheryl and Peter hosted 15 TAers on their front lawn. A lovely walk through Russell forest started to heal our Puketi wounds. A night at 2999 with Sue -barn conversion and just lovely country spot. Then on by road to Helena Bay, which is a pinch point for TA, and only about 6 baches there. We had an awesome night with Kevin, his mates, and a converted container sleepout.
Some pretty niggly hill work to get to Whananaki, but after 8 plus hours, we made it in time for a post tramp burger! So good, we even had one the next night. The campsite hostess loved TAers, discount, wifi, laundry powder, can of soft drink. So lovely! We enjoyed a hot labour day at the campsite, because it was so lovely.
Magic walk through to Ngunguru the next day too, even spots of rain couldn’t deter us. Glorious hills, overlooking sandy coves, looking out on blue ocean to distant islands. Aches and blisters receding, good walking.
What do you get if a talented odd-job man sets out to set up an eco camp in a glorious nikau grove? A crazy, wonderful camp in the bushes. Recycled timber and joinery, open air showers, communal kitchen and fire pit. And just three of us to chat with James and enjoy his creation. (and a bacon buttie for dinner!)
The next section was a bit problematic, due to estuary crossings and tides. Meant we had to hang at Horahora river for 2 hours, being more than a tad windswept. The crossing was bum deep for Pete, so he ferried packs, while I tiptoed gingerly across just the once. We were laughing at the experience. Our evening was above the second estuary, at lovely Tidesong. A tiny cabin set in the bushes, picnic table, outdoor shower, composting loo, all to ourselves. Ros and Hugh our hosts were lovely too.
The final push of this section was up Kauri mountain, and along Ocean Beach. Thankfully the tide timing meant we could say yes to a cooked breakfast, before being towed across the estuary. Picnic at one end of the 8km beach, and a rock scramble at the other. Night at another angel campspot, with 5 other (new to us) walkers. We didn’t meet the owners, just an honesty box system. Grass, loo, hot shower, picnic table and flat grass. Who needs more?