Auckland

TA Day 28, ‘slackpack’ Mangere Bridge to Totara Park – 36 km

Curious heifers follow me along the muddy trail in the Puhinui Reserve.
Curious heifers follow me along the muddy trail in the Puhinui Reserve.

It’s raining.

A lot.

And expected all day – with lightning on the side.

But I have good rain gear and I’ll slackpack a bigger chunk today, a day I learn of a tramper dying on the Tongariro crossing, a place I’ll come to in another month.

He wasn’t a Te Araroa hiker, rather he was unprepared, poorly dressed and split up from his party when the weather turned ugly. Dumb decisions for sure, but we’re all capable of making dumb decisions. I feel sorrow for his family and remind myself to be smart on this solo walk.

Auckland

TA Day 27, ‘slackpack’ Auckland – 18 km

An early example of goose down sewn into baffles in a 19th century coat at the historic Acacia Cottage.
An early example of goose down sewn into baffles in a 19th century coat at the historic Acacia Cottage.

I’m up and out before the house stirs in full rain gear. Just drizzle – and not cold – but a huge contrast on this second day of slackpacking. The generous offer has been given to stay, so I’m taking the time my body and soul craves here in Auckland before getting back on the trail and the big kilometer days ahead.

I arrive in leafy Cornwall Park encouraged to relax and enjoy – but leave the fireworks at home. It’s a gorgeous city park with magnificent trees and – cows! grazing in a field right in the middle of a city. 

It really begins pouring and several people comment how I picked a good day for my walk. I escape the rain in the Acacia cottage built by an influential settler. For a moment I feel like these people must have felt –  happy to have a solid roof over my head against the elements. A stylish 19th century down coat is spread out on the bed.

Auckland

TA Day 26, ‘slackpack’ Auckland – 9 km

A portrait of a Maori woman by Gottfried Lindauer in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
A portrait of a Maori woman by Gottfried Lindauer in the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Slackpacking is section backpacking while sleeping in the same place each night

I’m a tourist right now, loosely “walking” the trail through Auckland on a bright sunny day. Back to the ferry building with the spectacular red lamps, popped into the DOC office to pick up my hut pass for the coming months, primarily in the south island.

I join a free walking tour and learn of a statue made in the 1960s to honor the Maori, and made by a woman – all sorts of impossible awarenesses converging. The sun burns, so I wear my hat and seek shade. At Queen and Customs, the signal stops all traffic and people casually pour into the street like a slow motion dance choreographed for some in choppy straight lines, others striding diagonally.

Auckland

TA Day 25, zero day, Auckland

Blissful dances on a Moreton Bay Fig tree wearing borrowed cloths in Auckland's Domain.
Blissful dances on a Moreton Bay Fig tree wearing borrowed cloths in Auckland’s Domain.

I am laying in a bed letting the body recover until all hours of the morning, make that the afternoon. Susie is the daughter of friends of my mother-in-law. You can’t imagine how nice it feels to hear her say, “Make yourself at home!”

And I am doing just that with her lovely family.

Happily.

The beautiful rock spit near Dacre Point only crossable at low tide.
Auckland

TA Day 24, Stillwater to Auckland, 33 km + 4 km

Perfectly framed in Long Bay north of Auckland.
Perfectly framed in Long Bay north of Auckland.

It’s a lazy morning awaiting the tide to get to its lowest at 12:36 so we can cross the Okura River. Even so, the water will reach our hips and then some. The whole group is going and I’m thrilled. I’m not a ‘skipper’ – so you may have discovered – as many simply move on rather than wait it out. But I want to experience it all so have to wait for the right moment.

Soup for breakfast. I have two more instant mixes and one unopened NZ lager. Thankfully good take-away after the crossing, but it’s cold and humid this morning, rain coming and going – great for hiking but not so much for staying warm.

The rocky section after Wenderholm that can only be crossed at low tide.
Auckland

TA Day 23, Wenderholm to Stillwater, 30 km

The rocky section after Wenderholm that can only be crossed at low tide.
The rocky section after Wenderholm that can only be crossed at low tide.

Cold, damp, sandflies – oh my! It rained through the night and I was warm nestled in the alicoop, but once up, the chill works into the bones.

This is a slower group I’m paired up with, but our path, too, is slowed as we approach the city, and this is due to two tide-dependent crossings, over rocks and a river. I’ve put on my rain gear and found a spot in the sun to heat up and dig into my Puhoi cheese. My biggest expense on this adventure is fuel in the form of calories. Still, my pants are loose and I no longer have a bottom.

I begin my walk today in rain gear. Aspirational words on the stairs come as do the raindrops. – “Koe me he maunga teiti, Ki te tuoho, Whaia te iti Kahurangi.” Reach your goal, Be persistent, Aim high! And high I go above the Pacific all alone again.

Stacked packs at the Puhoi Pub.
Auckland

TA Day 22, Puhoi to Wenderholm – 7 km + 1 km

Relaxing in my private terrace at the Puhoi Pub Hotel. I was the only guest and they let me hang around all day.
Relaxing in my private terrace at the Puhoi Pub Hotel. I was the only guest and they let me hang around all day.
Mussel fritters and a local cider for dinner in Puhoi.
Mussel fritters and a local cider for dinner in Puhoi.

The barkeep Sean has just asked if I met the ghost in room 7, he carries his head in his hands and has a bad case of flatulence. Whoever my ghost visitor was, he was friendly – and healing.

Since departure is not until 4:30, I took a room and it was the best decision. I took two, loooong hot baths, hung out on this huge covered veranda in a fluffy bathrobe, tried every local beer and cider and generally rested my body and spirit – not too mention finished my next audio narrative.

Sean also told me don’t rush, enjoy your stay and has allowed me to just be in this beautiful place. It works for them as there are no other guests in the hotel – except the ghost – but still, there’s an incredible generosity that has made me emotional to the point of tears. Even Judy the housekeeper who walked in on me early this morning when I had my isolating headphones on, said just stay and enjoy, that she would get to my room later.

Auckland

TA Day 21, Dome forest to Puhoi – 34 km

The orange triangle leads the way through the steep, overgrown bush of the Dome Forest.
The orange triangle leads the way through the steep, overgrown bush of the Dome Forest.
"Tramping Track" standard reminds hikers the next section will be strenuous and muddy.
“Tramping Track” standard reminds hikers the next section will be strenuous and muddy.

I’m up and out early. Exotic birds becoming friends wake me, but I slept fitfully. It would be a big day to Puhoi, but if I get a burger after this mountain, I think I can do it.

The tent is damp – I’m damp – but feel relatively clean, the feet still managing to move well. Not fast, but fast enough.

Looking down towards Puhoi from Moirs Hill.
Looking down towards Puhoi from Moirs Hill.
Kauri forestry operations in the early part of the 20th century.
Kauri forestry operations in the early part of the 20th century.

Why is it that a kind act, like sharing a beer, gets me all panicky? All the upset of my life is bubbling out of my pores. This walk was hardly an escape, more a coming to terms.

Tree fern fiddlehead in the Dome Forest.
Auckland

TA Day 20 – Pakiri beach to Dome Forest – 26 km

Sunrise on Pakiri beach after a wonderful sleep on pingao and hairstail grass with a Norfolk Pine looking on.
Sunrise on Pakiri beach after a wonderful sleep on pingao and hairstail grass with a Norfolk Pine looking on.

A sunrise over the South Pacific. Not a bad way to wake up. Though I faff about in the warmth hoping the sun will dry the dew. No such luck. Once I open the thermarest valve, game is on and I begin to pack, wet or not.

I don’t like the face I see, wrinkled and saggy but console myself with what my body still can do. The beach is pristine and empty except for one straw I carry out and an awaiting surf board. Mist rises in the distance, ghostly white in the hot sun.