Another lovely night’s rest and now Vern drives me on the windy rollercoaster of a road back to Stone House to begin the next section, this time alone. The morning is cool and quiet and I’m on my way to Paihia, tuis fluting in the trees, a few roosters announcing a new day.
I already lost my trail notes. Not to worry, since they’re on my phone, but damn if they didn’t drop without my noticing. At least here it’s a sidewalk until the forest and my breakfast spot. My eye is much better. I’m covered head to toe, gloves, buff, long sleeves and pants, hat, sunglasses. The flowers are ridiculously fragrant.
I enter the Waitangi forest. In New Zealand, the g’s is soft, so it sounds like I am describing the reason I love a tasty morsel. Why, tangy! It’s just me here on this cool fern-lined track. The pines are American imports.
It’s time for brunch. A bit of salami, a smokey harissa tuna packet and couscous. This is a tree farm and I can hear machinery chopping away in the distance. Mountain bike trails snake through and the birds don’t seem to mind the monoculture.
Richard say. “My wife is always smiling when she’s moving her body.” Walking has served me well all my life. When I’m blue or obsessing, he usually sends me out the door. A funny store is about the last time I spent any quality time with my dad. We met in Manhattan. He was tired, so I took in a play in Soho while he napped. He made me promise not to walk back to midtown, but how could I not those fifty or so blocks on a late winter’s night. It was glorious.
Everywhere has felt too small for my feet. Like my dad, Richard also wanted me to walk here in stages, mainly to preserve my career. But I just had to see what it feels like to do it all in one go. And now I am alone with no trail notes, Guthook’s map on the phone, and my wits.
So far, so good.
My food is delicious and I let out a hearty belch. No one around to laugh.
You have to create a balance when long distance thru-hiking – one of ‘getting there’ and one of enjoying ‘getting there.’ I find it relaxing to have not met a soul in this forest as I march and belch.
It’s noon so I find another spot to place my mat and my pack as a backrest. I’m still tired today. This is a long way through the forest, but soon I’ll be on the coast. I think about life back home and wonder what Americans will do today since it’s election day. Will they vote for sanity or support divisiveness. I’m amazed how much people here follow what’s happening, probably feeling sorry for us.
I turn up Tu Puke road dodging massive dust-producing logging rigs to see the sculpture memorializing the start of this track. I walk right past the ‘artistic’ lump thinking it’s a dead palm. Not exactly beautiful, but very important.
It’s up only a short spur to Mount Bledisloe and the view opens toward today’s destination. Water turquoise against mountains and islands, I see the bridge I’ll soon cross. It’s very hot.
The forest opens onto a road and golf course, then treaty grounds – tempting to visit, but an expensive half-day affair. I cross the bridge and a splendid cool breeze greets me. The water is less colorful when next to it. Three Maori girls share raw cockles with me.
Along the beach signs teach me about the birds in this seabird capital of the world. Terns, herons, even gulls are protected, the latter clever buggers stamping the ground to imitate rain and luring worms to waiting beaks.
Paihia is a total tourist town with coaches crowding the streets, American accents, an obnoxious cross signal, and every food imaginable.
The alicoop is set up at the Pickled Parrot, I’ve had a shower and now a walk back to town with Ondi for a craft beer by the sea. This truly is a backpackers’ hostel. Big kitchen, lawn for tents, a few rooms, awesomely comfy couches and a huge open area. This is the kind of place to hang – ah, and Caroline from the Netherlands has offered me a glass of Pinot Grigio before beer. Life is good.