I get an early start. It’s overcast just as I like it. Someone else is up with a weed wacker. I wonder if he’s the same guy with the music. Soon I’ll use the river as a trail.
A big bull leaves loud patties in a screen of trees. I’m already a bit lost. Not exactly, I have GPS but nothing is marked and it’s a weedy, wet, barbed wire nightmare. Is it too much to put up a few signs?
This area is Maori and off the grid. Cars, garbage, rusting metal implements lay about. Poverty? Sure, but it’s a community too. I was told I’d meet trail angels. I’d like that.
Finally signs appear to tell me I’ve entered the Russell Forest.
Ondi catches up and we’re in and out of the creek. Stunning place, mood lifting.
We spy a swimming hole, climb down the steep, mossy bank, strip bare and dive in. Refreshing, clean, cold. Mood continues to lift.
Especially since Ondi just lets me talk. I guess I need reassurance, validation, to just unload and I’m usually better quickly.
Up and down, bushwhacking, through the Papakauti stream. It’s a fairyland of dappled light, giant ferns stroking the banks and gurgling music – and no mud!
The wind is coming downstream, the water getting every last bit of mud and sand off my La Sportivas. It’s quiet and gentle here. Each step healing whatever darkness took over yesterday with an audible plunk and kaspoosh.
The sunlight glistens on the thick vegetation as I leave the stream. Sad to move on, but getting closer to views. Birds sing in a forest that Sheryl said was in collapse.
The trail goes up and up over a ridge and finally down to Helena Bay. I stop at a Maori marae to have a snack in the wind, the hot sun moves in and out of cloud. Signs on this forest track warn of poison and that all dogs will be shot, no excuses.
I have another gummy dinosaur and remember that Bram gave me the rest of his gummies last night when I felt so bad. I think he’ll catch up soon. Ondi just lumbered past. I have my sights on a trail angel’s lawn for tonight.
I come across a field of pigs rooting. They take one look at me with their intelligent gaze and scamper off in a burst of snorts.
Along here are interesting homesteads of cobbled together bits and pieces; always a few comfy chairs out front, a rain barrel, lovingly placed plants and a caravan permanently parked for unexpected guests. Flowering tee trees work all the way up the hillside. Three tough guys talking at the mailbox. A tiny girl stands close and returns my wave.
The walk is long and I’m the only one of the group who does it all including the two from last night. Ah well, maybe they’ll take a rest day when I push on. The lawn is inviting, soft on my feet.
I make dinner of tuna and couscous plus some cheese then head to the beach. The sand is soft, the Pacific Ocean just right. A dog comes to play with her stick which she fetches over and over in the surf. Only 6:30 but ready to sleep.
Earlier I felt guilty about getting upset, but what good does that do, as though punishing yourself for having feelings. I know it’s stuff I need to manage, those types of people who are dismissive, but I find it hard to dismiss them and not allow whatever makes them tick not affect how I feel about myself.
The trouble is I feel insecure about what I’m doing here and even a minor slight rattles me.
I walked better and felt better today, even the road bit after the extraordinary forest had its surprises. I think even a hike has its learning curve, and it will take me time to find my rhythm, trust my decisions and take the good with the bad.
I am making friends, but many have paired up and I feel lonely. That being said, I like my own company, Today was perfectly balanced with the harder to navigate section with Ondi and after, alone.
As I sit on this lovely beach and think how far I’ve come already, I vow to take things as they come and – at least try – to let go of what doesn’t work for me.
Til tomorrow, friends.