A Māori pou whenua or "land post" that marks territory and tells a story, much like totem poles.
hike blog

TA Day 10, Kerikeri to Paihia – 24 km

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.

A Māori pou whenua or "land post" that marks territory and tells a story, much like totem poles.
A Māori pou whenua or “land post” that marks territory and tells a story, much like totem poles.
Another roadside attraction.
Another roadside attraction.
A glimpse of the bay through long puriri arms.
A glimpse of the bay through long puriri arms.

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.

Oysters are farmed on log wooden piers in the Whangaroa Bay near Kaeo.
hike blog

TA Day 9 – zero day, Kaeo

I’ve been invited to stay the night at one of the most extraordinary homes I’ve ever been to, in the countryside near Kerikeri, out on a peninsula looking towards the islands. I have a huge, soft bed all to myself, the window open to the crashing waves and a full-on, thru-hiker sized  pasta dinner. Incredibly generous Cam and Vicki take in a few strays and let us clean up and rest.

And now I have pink eye. Irene has been sick this entire week unable to shake a sore throat, and maybe I caught something from her. Or, it could have been the battering sand, wind, and never being quite clean. Likely a signal to chill out now after over 200k tramping.

What do you think, is a rest – or ‘zero’ – day warranted? I have been driving pretty hard, mostly to be able to share the limited time with Irene who flies home Tuesday. Don’t worry. That cool hiker friend will make another appearance in the story when I make it to Hamilton next month.

Oysters are farmed on log wooden piers in the Whangaroa Bay.
Oysters are farmed on log wooden piers in the Whangaroa Bay.
Kāeo is the Maori word for freshwater mussel and is a small township near Kerikeri in the Far North.
Kāeo is the Maori word for freshwater mussel and is a small township near Kerikeri in the Far North.

When I was a little girl my parents divorced. It confused the hell out of me. I never quite felt certain I was loved and belonged, mostly because the two were so wrapped up in the unfolding drama. I remember one particular Thanksgiving shuttled off to my dad’s and then driving to friend’s in Maine with his latest girlfriend.

A welcome sign and snacks left by trail angels.
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TA Day 8, Puketi Forest to Kerikeri – 27 km

A stile takes Blissful off the forest track and onto farmland where trail angels left a basket of oranges.
A stile takes Blissful off the forest track and onto farmland where trail angels leave a basket of oranges.

The morning comes full of birdsong. The first few nights – especially going this hard – are tough. My legs feel great now, but laying down, they seize up and I shift nearly all night. Woe to the neighboring tenter!

My eyes have their ordinary “check-on” bags, and this morning a bonus – wrinkles! But hey, in this humidity, my hair looks fabulous. At least I’ve got that going for me, though not sure if it’s these killer first days or my aged self, but I am going full on gray (at last!)

Looks like Andi – make that Ondi – and I will tackle the kayaking section together in the coming days. We both want a pause in Kerikeri and so will be well timed. I find her a bit prickly, but she did hunt down the best site here far from the ukulele strumming party hikers. Nice enough, but not quite my cup of tea.

A cleaning station for our shoes to try to stop the spread of Kauri Dieback.
A cleaning station for our shoes to try to stop the spread of Kauri Dieback.
Settlers worked hard to clear the New Zealand bush for pastureland.
Settlers worked hard to clear the New Zealand bush for pastureland.

We both pack fast and agree how much we like the little routines of thru-hiking. Funny we also use the same tent. Friends suggested to me before I left that the day-after-day of walking would be boring.

To revisit the topic, isn’t everything a little boring some of the time? The fact is, every day is different, around every bend is something new for the eyes. And isn’t that where attitude comes in?

Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand
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TA Day 1, Cape Reinga to Twilight Camp – 13 km

Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand
Alison and Irene begin the Te Araroa from Cape Reinga at the northernmost tip of New Zealand.

It’s pitch dark, the waves are crashing and the other six at Twilight are asleep, nestled in their tents. This will be brief, but suffice-to-say, an extraordinary start.

I arrived in Auckland chased by a gibbous waning moon over the Pacific earlier than planned, the plane flying low over water before touching down on a drizzly paradise.

All went smoothly, even with a sprint of nearly half a mile to customs, then a long wait for my tent (tient) to be inspected – be sure to clean everything, including the pegs! – but while my pegs underwent inspection, I had time to snag my new SIM card and pile on data before the line got too long.

It was a long day+ of three flights, back-to-back, from Minneapolis to New Zealand and ultimately Kerikeri in Northland.
It was a long day+ of three flights, back-to-back, from Minneapolis to New Zealand and ultimately Kerikeri in Northland.
Irene's dad Bryce and his partner Vern picked me up at the airport and drove me to the start at Cape Reinga.
Irene’s dad Bryce and his partner Vern picked me up at the airport and drove me to the start at Cape Reinga.

The next prop plane took me to the Far North of Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands, where Irene met me, a gal I friended from the Te Araroa women’s group. Her dad and his partner were happy to collect me at the airport and take me the long drive to the Far Far North to ensure Irene had a mate to walk with.