November 15th
Morepork Track(189.1)-Nikau Bay Camp(210.4)
Mileage: 21.3mi/34.3km
Campsite Elevation: 58ft/18m

Elevation chart courtesy of Guthook Hikes Te Araroa App.

I want to start off by addressing some of the comments and concerns in yesterday’s post. First, I’m sorry for the abrupt and poorly expressed response to everyone’s emails and messages concerning the earthquake. It was overwhelming on my end and I have been very open about my knee-jerk reactions to over stimulus when it comes to social dynamics. I was feeling quite a bit of overwhelming stress and anxiety when more than I could handle came through as I was also juggling the day to day stresses that come with the endurance of a thru-hike. My reaction was to simplify and attempt to shut down all the incoming stimulus. It came off ungrateful and terribly rude, and I sorry for that. Again, it is a knee-jerk reaction I had to something that was overwhelming. Not an excuse, but an explanation that I am human and I do have sensitivities to overwhelming social situations. The funny thing is that not a single family member contacted me and I feel like that is because they know me so well and knew that it would stress me to get so many inquiries. They knew I’d update them and keep them in the loop just like I will with everyone following the blog. Thank you all for your concerns and know that it is appreciated and I’m sorry for being so rude in response.

As for my comments on the priciness of this trip, I will work on my tact. It was terrible timing as it was written before the earthquake occurred and I can see how it would come off as terribly insensitive. I just posted as I normally would without realizing the context it was now in given such a terrible natural disaster that occurred after I’d written it. All of you that have followed me for awhile know that I tell it how it is. I don’t write this to please anyone, but to honestly present what happens on a thru-hike. I’m simply stating a fact that this hike is quite expensive, and I’d be remiss if I did not mention this huge factor in everyone’s thru-hike.

I’m sure there are many sitting at home who are first time readers thinking how I’m looking for a free ride and that I’m one of those spoiled American hikers that get by on trail magic and taking more than giving. Any insinuation that I’m not willing to give, does not know me and is quite misinformed. Know that I have great respect for the fact that New Zealand has a lot of private and sacred ground. Before my trip, I was sure to donate to the Te Araroa Trust in advance for all they have done to make this trail possible. I have also gone out of my way to obey camping restrictions on private or protected lands. That often means that the only option is a pay only campsite. I am completely following all the requests set forth in the trail notes given by the Te Araroa Trust. Due to private land and camping restrictions, I’ve paid for camping 6 out of the 12 nights I’ve been on the trail thus far. That is unexpected, and I am even paying it when there isn’t a person there to monitor it, but I do have a right to mention it as a factor in my thru-hike.

To be clear, everywhere I’ve camped so far is completely legal and within the restrictions set forth in the trail notes. Know that the notes make it clear where camping is not allowed and where it is. Some private land is noted as being a no camping area and some just ask that you camp respectfully, and obey leave no trace ethics. Camping is a serious discussion that we have each day and our schedule is greatly dictated on where camping is legal, so know that I am abiding by those restrictions. Again, those that have followed me for years know that obeying such restrictions are important to me, but there are many first time followers here that may not know this and may be making misinformed judgements.

In general, as a thru-hiker, camping has usually been free outside of national parks. It’s quite the adjustment for all of us out here to have needed to pay for 50% of the nights out here. I am completely within the right to mention it as a factor of this thru-hike. I’m very used to wilderness and camping away from civilization, which is a big reason why I thru-hike. I must warn others and be honest that this is not a wilderness thru-hike up north, but more of a bunch of day hikes carrying a pack from a Caravan Park to a town and then to another pay-only campsite. Quite a different and pricey experience from other thru hikes for sure, so I am going to mention this observation. It doesn’t make me cheap or say I’m looking for a free ride, but it is an observation from someone that has hiked over 11,000mi of thru hiking both within and outside the US. Some enjoy the facilities of a paid site, but other options for thru-hikers out here for solo time in the wilderness just don’t exist thus far. That’s been building over the last two weeks, so I mentioned it. Usually, it exists and I have options to walk through towns and skip civilization, so it isn’t a bother, but not here. I’m known for saying things how they are and that is why this blog has the following that it does. I don’t make it all out to be sun-shiny and roses. I tell it how it is and finances and repeated nights in civilization are a huge part of it. It doesn’t mean I’m not having fun and that I’m not appreciative of the trail itself. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t feel that the charges are justified. It just means exactly what I’m saying, which is that this is an expensive thru-hike that hasn’t been in as much wilderness as I prefer. Yes, going into communities and seeing all of NZ is part of it, but it’s a bit imbalanced for me so far. I’ll do better to mention it more tactfully in the future.

As for the comments about my focus on technology and wifi…um, did you not notice the big logo at the top of the blog that says Wired and has the plug trailing off the end? Yes, that is who I am and if that’s a turn-off for people, this is not the blog for you and you will not like my take on things. We are all different and experience nature in our own way. There is no need to judge it, and if it’s not your thing, you don’t have to follow. Yes, I keep it in perspective and those that follow know that it’s a fun bonus for me to be able to watch shows, Skype, and post to social media. Just this summer, I was on hikes where they were so remote that I’d go a week or more without connectivity and I can appreciate that as well. I’m not alone in this enjoyment of wifi, and it is a factor for many of us out here to now have such limited connectivity and wifi. Again, mentioning it as an aspect of this hike is factual. It doesn’t make me spoiled, petty, or unable to appreciate nature like everyone else. It’s just another factor to be mentioned that impacts this experience. Know, that overall, I am having lots of fun out here and am enjoying the hike!

Also, I want to thank all of you for your support both publicly and privately about some trolling comments, which have been removed. It is the internet and that unfortunately comes with the territory. Know that it isn’t anything I waste time or energy on and I hope you don’t either. Remember that I’m a substitute teacher that spent many many years in Chicago. I considered that my “West Point” experience in being hazed or trolled, and little can phase me when it comes to displaced anger spewing. I get trolled daily by angry teens needing to take out some anger, so it seriously isn’t something I absorb or that phases me. Thank you all for being there and sticking up for me! Knowing that 99% of your comments are positive and constructive is what I choose to focus on.

Ok, moving on to today. We got up at 6am to be able to make it to the town of Ngunguru. Last night, we realized that the route has been changed this year to now require a boat shuttle across a waterway. The placement of this shuttle that can only happen after 3pm each day meant we either did two short days or one big day. We got up early and left camp at 6am to try to make it in one day. The weather had possible rain in the forecast, and we weren’t sure how taxing the terrain would be, but we wanted to give it a shot. The morning started with finishing out the Morepork-Onekainga Track. It was pretty dark in the thick forest when we started out and there were many small stream crossings, but we managed to keep our feet dry.

Felix took the lead and blazed on ahead. Then the trail turned into an awesome spacious downhill and we all were cruising and enjoying the sudden change. Then we saw Felix coming towards us up the hill. He had checked his GPS at the bottom and we were off the track! Fortunately, we hadn’t gone down far and we went back. Somehow we all stepped right over the obvious arrows telling us to turn, ha!

We all missed this obvious turn!

Then we were back on the brushy, muddy track we should have expected.

Now that’s more like the Te Araroa.

We walked over the longest footbridge in the southern hemisphere, 395 meters.

A road walking photo taken by Felix.

Much of today was enjoyable walking along weaving roads of farmland and cows right along the ocean along the Whananaki Coastal Track. I loved the green hills, weaving path, and ocean views. It was a great combination of relaxed hiking while it misted rain on and off.

We entered the town of Matapouri and ate lunch at a picnic table under a protected area in front of the General Store. Other hikers arrived and it was like a reunion with some as we have now caught up to those that chose to skip the last two forests.

The last part of the day had us going through the Matapouri Bush Track, which was just as dense as previous tracks, but quite well maintained with steps built into the trail, which we all greatly appreciated as the rain came down harder.

It was so humid, and the dense forest was catching so much of the rain, that I happily hiked without my rain jacket. We got to town at 3:30pm. Plenty of time to do our supplemental resupply. It was really pricey ($5US/$7NZ for a packet 10 of small sized soft tortillas), and we were all glad that we bought extra last leg and only needed to add a few things. I had lost my sunglasses today, and all they had were cheap ones that hurt for $43NZ/$32US. It’s just a short section to the next town, so I’m waiting to look there for something more affordable. We chipped in together to buy pasta, sauce, and chicken to make at the campsite kitchen where we were headed.

At 5pm, James who does the short boat shuttle and runs the Nikau Bay Camp picked us up. He works full time during the day, then shuttles and hosts hikers ($10NZ/$7.50US shuttle, $15NZ/$11US tenting, $20NZ/$15 inside, full kitchen, showers, no wifi,) at night.

Shoes off for the beach walk to the short boat ride from James.

He’s a really awesome and accommodating host and had 12 hikers and 3 others tonight. Last year, the TA followed a busy paved road for 16km around this inlet and James approached the TA Trust about moving the route to go through his place. It helps the TA with their goal of getting the track off paved roads as much as possible. By the time we got settled, made and ate dinner, and took showers, I was ready to retire for the night. Becky and I got a cabin room and it’s great to hear the rain coming down once again while I’m inside. Great timing!

Kitchen and cabins at Nikau Bay Camp.

Will is sleeping in the main house, and half the other hikers are camped. Felix had to hitch to a nearby town where he sent a box and is probably taking a zero tomorrow while we do late start. We are in a bit of a bubble and will leave after a very relaxed morning tomorrow (it’s been two big days), so we will see them down trail. Another unique day that only happens on the TA. I do miss hiking days at a time in wilderness, and the relaxation that comes from extended time outside of civilization, but given that this is the nature of the TA, I’m adjusting and it’s been interesting to experience a bit of a different kind of “hike.” Whew, that was a long post!

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