Puketi Forest Hut(123.4)-Kerkeri(137.5)
It was a great night of sleep after I got to bed late last night with all the people to talk to in camp. I slept through the night for the first time in awhile and woke up around 5:45am. I finished the blogging from yesterday and packed up for a half day hike to town. As I was heading out, the others at camp were packing up. Becky (who I met and shared a room with two nights ago) was ready, so we headed out together and enjoyed the whole day together.
Today was pretty great. This trail is really unique, in that it transitions to so many various things, and so far at least, each leg has been a completely different terrain. It started out with the beach walk, the forests, and now comes the farmland and bays with beaches. Just as I proudly anticipated many days ago, the clouds gathered and rain was expected for tonight, the night we’d be in town. It made for a perfect day of clouds as we walked through the exposed farmland.
There were warnings in the trail notes about the farm animals we’d cross and to beware not to get too close or get between mother and child. There is a lot of private farming land through New Zealand and that makes for some creative routing. Some complain about road walking, but the gravel roads are quite great and a relaxing reprieve from the claustrophobic forests. Plus, it’s quite nice to be able to walk next to the people you hike with rather than ahead or behind. As we crossed into various properties, there were formal stiles set up to make it easy for hikers to get over the fences.
It was great to get to know Becky more. She’s quite the force. At just 20yrs old, coming from Germany, and having 7 brothers, she is as independent and strong as they come. Like many young foreigners, she is over on a year long working visa NZ has available to people under thirty-one. Her thought is that she may want to live in NZ permanently and that visa allows young people to come over and work and travel. So many people are randomly doing this trail as a first-time thru hike because they wanted to travel NZ and came across the trail online. Becky is one of the few that is excelling greatly and struggling much less than many who are in well over their heads, skipping, and quitting. This is quite the trail for a first timer, especially for those with no hiking experience at all. I can’t even begin to tell you the countless people I’ve seen with the deer in the headlights and fearful look these first two legs.
Becky has breezed through these first two tough legs like a veteran and has quite the endurance. What I find amazing is that just 5yrs ago, when Becky was 15yrs old, she was incredibly overweight (265lbs/120kg). On her own, she decided she was tired of not being able to do basic physical things (like walking up stairs), and she used a workout app to start working out. Then she changed her diet and everything just went from there. Everyone has questioned how she’s able to walk so much as a first time thru hiker, and one theory is that she’s so strong from having carried her own body weight all those years that carrying her pack really isn’t a big deal. It’s quite inspiring and incredible that she just decided this on her own and made the necessary changes. I wanted to mention it and hope it speaks to the grit she has and why it’s been energizing to be around her.
We wandered through sheep and cow farms. The signage wasn’t super obvious in some places and I was quite happy to have the track and Guthook’s App to easily check when there was a confusing spot. There was one point where we found ourselves in some deep mucky stuff in a drainage and questioned the track when there wasn’t clear signage. We saw another hiker behind us going an opposite direction and doubted our route, but then came to a market soon after. Yep, that was the route and we later learned that hiker got turned around.
We even got our first trail magic. Someone left a board for hikers to sign and a big bag of homegrown oranges. That was a fun surprise.
It was just half a day’s hike to get to town. As we got closer, there were electric fences we were going over on stiles or under. Many hikers accidentally touch them and get quite the jolt. I stupidly approached one that looked more like a ribbon across the trail, and without thinking reflexively brought my pole up to lift it as I was hiking and talking to Becky. It gave me a big jolt and was like one big pulse wave through my whole body and down to my feet like a thud. So stupid!
As we got to the more residential areas, there were beautiful properties we walked along on the Kerikeri River Track. It was like a movie scene in some places with the perfect grass, trees, and even swings and tire swings. We took a break just to lay in the grass and swing.
It was a 20min walk into town from the trail where it intersected the first major road. We agreed to try hitching in a less than ideal spot for 5mins and then we’d walk. Within two minutes, we got the hitch, score. Thank you Christopher! By 1pm, we were in town and at a burger place. I had my first egg burger, which is popular here. It’s just fried egg on top of the regular burger (well they like to put beets in it too, but I didn’t eat that). I liked it. We were pretty elated to be lounging on town and having made it in before the rain after a tough leg in the forests.
We did our resupply for the next leg and went to the local Caravan Park for the night. I did laundry and realized it had been 15 days since I did laundry. That may be the longest. I hadn’t done laundry since the day I finished the Cape To Cape Track at the end of October. They had cabins we were totally getting knowing rain was on the way. They hold four people, and later Claudia and Will showed up and joined us. A great group, and again, I’m so happy with the quality of people out here! There are many other hikers here as well. There are so many webs of people jumping all around. There are so few who are doing the full hike without hitching or skipping. I know I’ll be seeing many people ahead who just left the forest section after the first one. It’s so rampant out here and seems that once people do it once, it’s a very slippery slope and they quickly go from Te Araroa thru-hikers to cherry pickers.
I do have a couple random things to mention.
-I couldn’t find Oreos at the store and bought some very disappointing cookies. Will is in the same torture without Oreos and found them on a bottom shelf! He got me some and I now know to look really hard as they are not going to be as obvious as they are in the US.
-Felix is just behind and should be caught up and joining me in two days, yay! Arisa is doing great, but won’t be able to keep pace. She is going to do her hike and take time to pace it well and draw along the way. Good for her and I’m excited to hear how her hike goes as we keep in touch.
-Internet is just crazy here! Always check to make sure before staying somewhere. I don’t think free unlimited internet exists (maybe McDonalds). Here, at least we could buy the amount of data we’d like. So, instead of unlimited, you login to a wifi and pay and it charges by the data. That means lots for me if I want to watch shows and I’ve just accepted this now as an expense on this trip. I would have loved a solo room, but I reasoned that sharing with three others meant I could put the money towards internet.
-I’ll explain next leg in the next post, but it’s much easier and should be a great break from the last two legs of really taxing hiking.
-Out here mileages are just going to be at least 25% less than what I’m used to doing. It’s been a mental adjustment as I feel like I’m making slow progress at times when I look at the numbers, but it for sure feels like I’m putting in a full day’s work! From an outsider’s perspective, it may look like I’m doing relaxed days because the mileages are low, but it’s actually quite the opposite. My pace is still well beyond that of almost everyone out here. Most have needed one or multiple zeros with how taxing the hiking is. I’m hopeful that I’ve found some good pairings with Becky and Felix (both German!) who are the only other ones keeping this pace so far. I don’t mention this as a brag, but more to give it context of how lucky I am to have found them and how rare it is to find. Also, I know many are out there using this blog as a guide for their future TA hike. Just know my mileages are quite high though they don’t seem high on paper.
-Know that I see and appreciate all your comments on the blog and social media. I may not be able to respond to all of them, but I see them!