Well this <expletive> sucks.
It’s been pouring rain for the last few hours. Nothing is nastier than packing in rain. Guthook gave us 20-some k today, but the notes have it 34! There goes the early start.
The track all day is a forest road. Not hard, just long. C’mon, Al, buck up and get on it. Not supposed to last.
It doesn’t help I dream all night about rock climbing and hanging over vast cliffs. Not a horrible climber, just terrified of heights.
I must say the fluting birds in this spot don’t mind it one bit. And, honestly, it’s not so bad once you get out. Musical friends, it’s Elgar and Grieg’s morning music today I’m whistling.
To be honest, I prefer damp and chill to hot sun. I’m already wet and filthy, so might as well walk in good temps. Rumor had it a heat wave is coming for the next three months! Heaven help us.
Passing loads of bee hives. Manuka – Tee Tree – honey is some of the best in the world. Uphill now and the rain gets heavier. Andi is saving bourbon should we make it to Puketi camp.
I stop on a lovely bridge at 10k. Future TA walkers, there are several lovely flat grassy spots near water here not mentioned on Guthook or Trail Notes. Might be a challenge getting down there, but the water is inviting.
I take a bite of all items in my food bag – salami, cheese, chocolate, pistachios, trail mix and snack balls. Bram finds us and we consider what’s ahead. In NZ you often hear “I reckon…” though pronounced ‘rikken.’ Even Belgian and Aussie use the phrase. Me too, soon enough.
It’s time already to tighten up the adjustable hip belt on Olive Oyl. Pass me more of that salami!
Finally the trail climbs to a ridge with views to the mountains and steep rolling green below. I move on ahead alone. The wind whispers in the pines, Rimu scattered throughout.
Everwhere on this windswept vista are scars from logging. Silent except for one car coming past. I ask my standard question of a possibility of my purchasing one of their beers and they offer a wild turkey.
I’m dubious wondering if a bullet-ridden carcass will be offered up. Instead it’s a bottle of the good stuff straight from Kentucky mixed with soda. Cheers, mates. My wild pig hunting trail angels.
Stopping just before 23k for lunch and looking out for two requisites: shade and view. I hump my pack onto a mossy mound next to the track for leaning, place my mini mat down under the ferns for shade and cook up a little tomato soup looking out at the hills beyond. It’s silent here but for the wind and a few flies buzzing about.
I think about where I am, so far from home and work, even if Irene and I spent the first 10k sharing our stories. Funny how you carry all of you everywhere, good and bad. The feelings I had leaving are still fresh, my confusion and fear, but slowly with each step I become more relaxed into where I am now.
Walking here is like walking any other part of the world, my feet naturally belong on this ground. Whatever happened before I left – or is happening now – doesn’t detract from this singular fact, that I am here in this moment walking a very long day’s stretch with views and myself for company.
All of sudden Irene comes around the corner singing ‘Funky Town’ at the top of her voice. Ah, thru-hiking! We all leap-frog each other through the day, with just about 10k to go to Puketi Forest and good camping.
Slowly descending the ridge, the shadows getting long, Tuis drunk on fermented berries chortle from the Kauris.
Only moments from camping and I take a detour to Manginangina, a 5-minute Kauri walk. It’s one of the remaining subtropical rainforests in Taitokerau or Northland. Only 3% of this vast forest remains where birds, kiwi, bats and kauri snails call home.
Best part here is there is a boardwalk. The cool and fresh pungency overwhelm me as I come upon a giant Kauri, hundreds of years old. Fat trunk in soft gray, holding aloft huge arms that create a kind of crown far above. It would take 12 blissful hikers arms outstretched to hug this beast.
She grew solo, her family just below in a huge circular cluster, living, as they are wont to do, right in the heart of a swamp. Vines creep up their leathery, moss covered bark with protruding Dr. Seussian heads.
Nearby a sign explains how hard foresters work to eradicate invasives – rats, stoats and – as cute as they are – possums. I have heard and seen their prey – tui, kereru – a type of pigeon, tirairaka – the fantail and miromiro or tomtit.
An ecosystem of 200 species, one of the most diverse in the world. Kauri are conifers and no wonder it feels like Jurassic Park in here. They came of age with dinosaurs. This moment right now is pure magic, holy, like walking into a cathedral.
The Muir Woods of Australasia.
It’s hard to say goodbye, but the coolness and birdsong as well as my own sense of wonder follow me the final km to camp.
The alicoop is up right as a brief downpour moves in quickly drying up for me to get a cold, rain-water shower and send this to you as I dry in the brilliant sunshine.