“He felt no sense of loss, just like a mountain climber looking back having made it across, the steepest face. And he’s still climbing, see him try and cross the street. He tests his footing, like he was up 10,000 feet, above the clouds, half-way down Dominion Road.” (The Mutton Birds – Dominion Road)
We were grateful to get a lift the last few kilometers to Stillwater. It was bucketing down and we were drenched. I wrote in a previous post about a potential precipitation comeuppance and here it was. The strange lady at reception told us that TA walkers could sleep for free in ” the hall”. We found said hall and staked our claim to the least grubby mattress by laying out our sleeping bags. If there are any filmmakers searching for a place to film a sequel to Deliverance, they could do worse then the Stillwater campground. A beautiful yet eerie place that time appears to have forgot, with bearded gnome-like men scuttling about doing tasks of questionable importance. We were joined in the hall by bearded, quiet Kiwi and a lithe and quiet Canadian – the ensuing banter could only be described as parsimonious.
I was pretty keen to leave Stillwater. There was a deepish estuary that could only be crossed at high tide, which today was at 3 pm. The high tide option was also closed as a result of Kauri dieback disease prevention, so what followed was a slog up a new road created for a new sub-division. When we hit East Coast Road I baulked at walking this narrow yet frenetic motorway with it’s 100km/h speed limit and no shoulder. More in frustration and hope than any real expectation of success, I opened the Uber app on my phone. Much has been written about the negative effects of globalisation and that companies like Uber don’t pay there fair share of taxes, but I can tell you there was a fair amount of fist pumping by yours truly when my request was accepted by a nearby driver.
He deposited us in Long Bay Beach, which at some point would have been a sought after location by the beach, but had been developed into a version of sub-division hell where faux Greco-Roman columned Mcmansions dominated their tiny land sites. Just when I was getting truly depressed at this non-solution to the housing crises, we entered Long Bay Regional Park and things looked up again. Lovely grassed areas with picnic tables and BBQ’s were spatially presented and it looked like a fantastic resource that families both large and small could and were enjoying. The walk continued to hug the coastline along the North Shore clifftop walk and the houses became increasing affluent as we zeroed in to our destination of Torbay. We dropped our bags at our little BnB and headed straight to the Deep Creek brewpub in Browns Bay where we had a fair few beers and bites and reflected on the journey we had come on this far and that we had left the Northland section and entered the Auckland one. Tomorrow would see us walk through the super affluent bayside suburbs of Mairangi and Milford, where we would catch up for a beer with our old friend,Tony, at Takapuna and a long weekend in the Auckland environs.
We had made it to kilometer 573 and there was lots to smile about. Whilst logistics have sometimes been confusing, and some of the road walking mundane and dangerous, there had been something special happening each day which makes you want to stay in the game to the extent you look forward to what a new day might bring.