Days 9 – 12, km so far 312
We spent a super relaxed day moseying on down from the Puketi forest to Kerikeri, our first “real” town. By “real” town, I mean one with a legitimate supermarket, not just a dairy. The route we took wandered down 4WD farm roads and through pastures full of cows and sheep. We really felt like we were living the true New Zealand experience- although the UK couple we were with told us it feels like they’re back in the UK, so not quite the iconic NZ picture for everyone.
At the campsite in Kerikeri, lots of T.A. hikers were settling in for a few nights (just one for us) but Tane, a Kiwi we had met, decided to indulge in some wine, cheese and crackers and lucky us, we got to take part in his celebration. We’ll have to hide a bottle of wine for him somewhere along the trail in the future. We managed to chat with quite a few T.A. hikers that night. Ken, an American hiker who had also done the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and AT (Appalachian Trail) recently told us that this trail is by far the most different and challenging thruhike he’s done.
After Kerikeri it was on to Paihia which turned out to be a beautiful little holiday town. Reminded both of us of Vancouver Island back home- beautiful coastal views, beaches, trails, tourists, and ice cream. Stayed at a lovely campground on the water and arranged our boat crossing across the estuary along with five other hikers. The crossing had to be done at low tide because it enters an estuary so we would have a half day of forced rest before our boat would leave at 2:30pm. This meant we would also indulge in multiple ice creams from the camp shop while waiting for our boat.
Once across, we hiked a short 10km through Russell Forest following a river until we reached a big grassy space for camping along with a small shelter to cook in.
The next morning (in the words of my journal- daaaayyyyyyyuuuuuum), we hiked a whopping 40 kilometres to Whananaki. There ended up being a lovely 21 km of road walking to be done before a whole lot of forest that was on private property (=no camping allowed) so we had to push through to finish it all. Go big or go home right. It wasn’t too awful to roll into camp and have somebody usher us in saying “50metres through that gate- hot chips!” (Chips=fries). You can bet we ate some.
Highlights of this stretch
About an hour out of Kerikeri I told Matt that I could definitely eat a big bag of popcorn in town. Sure enough the first storefront to jump out at me in Kerikeri was “gourmet popcorn”. Of course I chose the most economical bag – a 3 pop (they come in 1 pop, 2 pop or 3 pop so yes I got the biggest bag- also the biggest bang for your buck).
Had a Countdown rotisserie chicken and a big bag of oranges for dinner in Kerikeri.
Matt fed a goat some grass.
Cheese and wine with Tane.
What we learnt
Don’t trust road signs. Check your map or GPS to confirm. We took a wrong turn coming out of Waitangi forest so we ended up taking the highway for a few km rather than the nice coastal route. Plus side there was a dairy along the way and a cycle path in construction alongside the highway so we weren’t struggling with no shoulder and fast cars.
Don’t stay at a campground on a holiday weekend. It was labour day for the Kiwis in Paihia and unlike us trampers who go to bed at 7pm or earlier (that’s called Hiker Midnight folks), people on holiday like to drink and have a good old time till midnight.
If you have sore muscles, pop into the historic Stone store and try their tester of “healing balm”.
NZ sun is harsh. Sunscreen up!