TA Day 5, Takahue Saddle Road to below Umaumakaroo – 16 km

Friend of a friend of a friend, Peter, holds up a manuka branch just before we enter the New Zealand bush.
Friend of a friend of a friend, Peter, holds up a manuka branch just before we enter the New Zealand bush.

What a delight to spend the evening at Peter’s overlooking Ahipara Bay. Wine under the olive trees, alicoop drying in between rain showers, pork belly dinner with a lovely Pinot Grigio, lots of conversation and finally singing for one another.

Northland is so damp, everyone needs a few pairs of Crocs.
Northland is so damp, everyone needs a few pairs of Crocs.
Before we set off, Peter took me to the massive Pak'nSav in Kaitaia to stock up for the next four days.
Before we set off, Peter took me to the massive Pak’nSav in Kaitaia to stock up for the next four days.

I’m hardly surprised he sets aside one of his ten pairs of crocks, laces up the boots and decides to join us for the first three k.

I cheat – a bit – and ‘betray the mission.’ We drive past green pastures, cows lining up to cross the street, and a Maori Marae, or meeting place, to the giant Pak’nSav in Kaitaia, then pick up Irene up a steep farm road. Fair is fair driving around the awful detour, but then we drive as far up the Takahue Saddle Road as possible before cracking up the track into the Raetea Forest past stunning Nikau Palm, Kahikatia, Remu, Manuka, and Black Trunk Fern with fiddleheads larger than a man’s fist. Peter comes a long way before kissing us goodbye as we turn up the ‘real’ track, directly into ankle-deep. shoe-disappearing mud.

But I love it.

My pictures hardly tell the story of the sweet pungency, the dappled light pulsing in a gentle breeze and the insistent, slightly obscene sucking on the trail. The Kiwis call it Bush. You and me might say jungle.

Reunited with Irene after the long beach walk, we prepare for New Zealand's famous mud.
Reunited with Irene after the long beach walk, we prepare for New Zealand’s famous mud.
There's no point in going around the mud.
There’s no point in going around the mud.

Thank goodness for the Lekis which save me from a muddy bum, though I walk with an animal gait, reaching forward to sort of crawl through.

Straight through is the best. You’ll get muddy anyway, so don’t bother balancing on slippy roots, just plunge right into the soft muck.

Irene reminds me of HikerB on the Border Route Trail nattering the entire way. I love that we’re sharing these days. Bonding over squishiness, rather refreshing squishiness to be honest, as the water inside my trail runners is cool.

Finally we’re at the Mangamuke Saddle. Slip-n-slide is all fun and games until you’re hauling up a fully re-supplied pack straight up-hill in it.

Orange triangles mark the trail through dense bush.
Orange triangles mark the trail through dense bush.
Deep, wet, and sticky, the mud made a sucking sound with every step.
Deep, wet, and sticky, the mud made a sucking sound with every step.
The tree fern canopy sheltered us from the hot sun.
The tree fern canopy sheltered us from the hot sun.

One minute cut off to the radio towers and a sunny meadow. Tomato soup + Hungarian salami + cheese = heaven.

Back on the mud path longing for 10 meters of joy and usually getting about two. The day is waning and camping by a river – and a chance to rinse – is a long way off.

The trail plays tricks on me. Blue sky opens up and a summit appears near, but the the orange triangles point down and around. I carry three liters of water in this clag as camping will likely happen near the summit and not out of the forest. No rinsing tonight.

One hundred feet of joy on dry trail.
One hundred feet of joy on dry trail.
Blissful hugs a Kauri covered in supplejack vines.
Blissful hugs a Rimu covered in supplejack vines.

As we get closer to what was purported to be a grassy spot big enough – and flat enough – for tents, Irene says, “It’s getting easier.” But next is the biggest turn-you-around-on-trail blow down, the deepest suck-off-your-shoe mud patch and the widest obscure-the-tripping-hazards giant ferns you’d ever seen.

I tell her I want my money back.

Kidding, of course, but this has got to be the hardest trail I’ve done. It’s the Vilcabamba and Torres del Paine and Pennines on steroids. It doesn’t get easier and my trail app ‘Guthook’ offers the helpful suggestion that the grassy flat spot is between kilometer mark 148 and 150. Considering we’re moving about 1 k/hour in some spots, that is a long distance to go not knowing.

Irene goes first on a sunny day in the Raetea Forest.
Irene goes first on a sunny day in the Raetea Forest.
Ferns and Manuka look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Ferns and Manuka look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book.

Of course we find it, a wide patch in the trail. Tents up fast. I use nearly every wipie to take the mud off my feet. Praise the goddess for my camp shoes! It’s cold and a Tui – and other birds exotic to my ears – pipe in the bush. All my clothes are on, and dinner is served.

One clear patch before we dive back into the bush, the sun already starting to go down.
One clear patch before we dive back into the bush, the sun already starting to go down.
Camping on the small grassy patch without water in the middle of the forest.
Camping on the small grassy patch without water in the middle of the forest.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. Am enjoying following the blow by blow of your great adventure. The muck and mud remind me of time I spent years ago as a lineman’s helper (grunt) on a line crew in South Texas, a summer job between university sessions. As we restrung electric lines blown down in a tropical storm, in the middle of flooded pastures with snakes and mosquitoes lurking and buzzing, the grunts had to string out the new cable, taking the only practical path straight through the mud and at times knee deep flood waters.

    Glad it’s you and not me, though I’m more than a little jealous of you and your trek.

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