We woke up early seeing as we were camped in a public park and the dogs started their morning walks around 6am. Today’s goals included a long list of gear replacements and catching up with the real world as well as making it through the Auckland CBD and to the southern suburb of Onehunga. The walk along the coast included a neat visit around North Head, a volcano forming a headland that was used as a military defence base back in the day. We ventured a little off route here and ended up walking through tunnels and bunkers down to the shore where we scrambled around rocks to get back on the road.
It rained on and off all day which seems to happen a lot here in NZ. As soon as you decide to throw your rain jacket on, the weather clears up and then starts to rain down on you as soon as you take it back off. Not a huge worry for today because our first shelter stop was Maccas for some wifi. I ordered coffee but got a hot chocolate. Auckland was off to a rough start. Kidding. Auckland has a bad rep for being the big mean city so we joked as we got closer to it but truth was we had stuff to get done so Auckland was a welcomed stop. First up, new socks for me under Icebreaker’s lifetime sock guarantee.
Next were shoes for Matt. He had put some in his bounce box waiting for us at the central Auckland NZ post. A bounce box usually consists of gear replacements, toiletry refills, food, or anything else you might be missing on the trail. You mail a box ahead so that by the time you get to it, you need exactly what’s inside. For Matt, it was shoes. His has started to blow out the sides.
Last was a new backpack for Matt (this was a big one). Basically, Matt’s Osprey bag started to squeak and Matt was not down to carry a mouse on his shoulder for the next 2600 km. He swapped it out for an Aarn pack, New Zealand designed. The idea behind it is to keep you balanced by having weight not only on your back, but also your front. His new bag is also already lined so he doesn’t have to worry about those sudden New Zealand hailstorms and having a pack rain cover.
Funny enough, we broke off from our two Montreal Canadians at McDonalds when we went to suss out (NZ for sort out) our gear. Then, low and behold, four hours later, climbing Mt Eden not 200m ahead of us we’re Brad and Jess and once more we joined up for a walk.
Separated from Brad and Jess for a day of on again off again rain. Nevertheless we pushed on through 35 km through the forest to come out into Mangatafiri where as it got dark, we decided we best set up camp for the night. With a short highway walk ahead of us, we decided to try our hand at knocking on a door and asking for some lawn space to camp. Debbie greeted us and quickly agreed to us pitching our tent. As we tried to choose a patch of grass, she ran back out and offered us real beds, hot showers, mince on toast for tea, coffee, beer and some chocolate. Kiwis are fantastic people.
After breakfast with Debbie, we set off for a lovely walk along a stopbank beside the river and many farmers paddocks into Mercer where we were excited to see a McDonalds because we knew who would be in there. Sure enough, the fab Canadian four teamed up again to continue walking along a confusing highway/riverside track. (Confusing because of recent flooding I think.) When we arrived in Rangiri, we spent the night in our tents pitched on the lawn of the local café.
Day 28 took us into the Hakarimata Ranges which we pumped out in 5 hours instead of the 6-7 approximated trail hours.
It was in these ranges that I took my biggest muddiest tumble yet. Just on the other side was the city of Nguarawahia where a local rolled down his window alongside us and led us back to his lawn to pitch our tents for the night. He also had a 4 month old golden lab to keep us company. By keep us company, I mean tear apart everything we have. He loved chewing up our nasty as socks and muddy as shoes. Did I mention he was the cutest guy ever and I could not discipline him at all when it came to his chewing habits. Destructive or not, it was adorable.
Highlights of this stretch
Leaving Auckland. Sorry Auckland but the big city is just not for us trampers. I have no regrets about staying true to the trail and meandering through Auckland but gosh, I had never looked at my map so much the entire hike before we entered the big city.
Mince on toast at trail angel Debbie’s house
Finding my street signs
New shoes for Matt
New socks for Quinn
Finding an orange tree and standing around it for 20 minutes replenishing our vitamin C.
Public avocado orchard. I am carrying one with me waiting for it to ripen!
Day 25 which was a day perfectly timed to arrive in time for Clevedon’s local market where the local baker was selling their baked goods at an amazingly reasonable price. Between Matt, Brad, Jess and I, we had: 1 salted caramel pie, 1 apple pie, 1 giant quiche, 2 mini quiches, 5 appleturnovers, 1 bowl of fudge and 5 coffees.
Crossing though multiple paddocks of bulls, cows, and horses where we had to confidently walk our walk and pray the bulls wouldn’t charge us.
Lessons learnt during this stretch
Night 25 was spent camping at Huanu Falls. Earlier in the day we were telling somebody how fortunately we were that it had never rained while we set up camp in the evening and took down camp in the morning. Night 25 was our jinxed night clearly. Don’t brag about perfect weather until the hike is done.
Sleep does not always happen when freedom camping. By the time we reached the botanical gardens on day 24, it was about time to camp. We cooked our dinner and then left to scope out the park, pitch our tents and fall asleep. Not so much the last one. November 5th is a Guy Fawke’s holiday (= fireworks galore). So, every house in NZ seemed to be having their own firework celebration. A flash of light to the right of our tent, some pops behind our tent, and cracks and snaps all around. I think it was near midnight when we were actually able to fall asleep.
Nights spent: 5
Onehunga- Debra, future T.A. Hiker’s couches
Trail angel Debbie’s spare room
Rangiriri café backyard
Trail angel on Thickpenny lane’s lawn