I'm writing this from the comfort of a cabin at a camping ground in Kerikeri where I spent the day resting my feet and letting blisters dry out, and resupplying and adjusting gear.
Yesterday was a long one, starting early to walk out of Puketi Forest and then along roads to Kerikeri. Aragonesa asked about what the tracks are like, so I thought I would answer with a photo selection:
So, there you go- a real range of trails!
Despite the discomfort of my feet (boy, I was looking forward to getting my other shoes in Kerikeri!), I think I still took time to 'smell the roses':
This one intrigued me- like a portal in the middle of the tree. Was it rotting from the inside out?
Got myself down to the Puketi HQ and the shower there- cold, but I didn't care!
After 30 minutes drying out and warming up in the occasional sunbeams, I got back on the road.
One thing I noticed while walking on the verge of the road- drivers always managed to time it so you got squeezed by an almost impossible combination on the same meter of road- land cruiser towing a horse flat overtakes a combine harvester, while an oncoming gravel truck driver does the mental calculation whether he will do time for squishing you, or risk a head on and have Mr Ed join him in the cab. Through the windscreen.
So that, pretty much, was Day 10. My favorite backpackers in Kerikeri was closed, forcing me to limp another kilometer or two through town to find an alternative. I decided on splurging on a cabin. Which turned out to be a good thing as I then had a gear explosion.
And all the leukotape holding my body together ended up in a ghastly mess on the shower floor.
And now... Day 11. Zero Day, which means I'm going to talk gear!
This is initial impressions of some kit only, but there were some clear winners and losers in my mind, with an extra bag being sent to my parents containing stuff that didn't cut it for the next leg.
Firstly, the stuff that I am currently loving:
My Aarn Featherlight Freedom 65L body pack is awesome. Once dialed in, it is easily the most comfortable load carrier I've used. Of course being a Kiwi I had to tweak something, even a pack as good as this. Bungie cord added! Also, my magic stick Black Diamond Alpine Cabin Cork trekking poles have been brilliant at keeping me upright and powering forward. I believe it is saving me energy! Plus they do triple duty, also acting as tarp/tent poles and animal intimidator.
My Emergency beacon, a Delorme Inreach, has allowed me to keep in touch when out of cellphone range by using the Iridium global satellite network to send SMS messages and Facebook updates by pairing my iPhone to it. I love gadgets! Speaking of which, my iPhone and Lifeproof case have been fantastic, allowing me to continue to blog, take pics, navigate, read star charts, electronic books, listen to music and more. Keeping all this powered, I use a Power Traveller Solar Monkey Adventurer, which allows me to scavange solar power as I tramp. When near mains power, I can plug it in and recharge both batteries simultaneously. Neat!
I also highly rate my layering system: my Icebreaker GT shirt base layer, Montbell Thermawrap mid layer and ZPacks Cuben fiber Waterproof/breathable rain jacket (which is amazingly light, added pitzips so I use it almost daily as a wind shirt).
Lastly, the gear that heats my food! Trail Designs Ti-tri caldera cone and titanium pasta pot. I mostly heat water with meths, but can use wood or solid fuel also.
Kit that I am sending home after this leg? Firstly:
No surprise! Moabs have been relegated, Salomons are up. The idea had always been to use the Moabs in the sand as I thought they would do better, but they were also half a size smaller which caused problems especially when coupled with comfy, new padded socks.
I've also changed to VERY thin socks rather than padded. I'll let you know if this pays off- I have one padded spare pair in my pack just in case!
What else? Well, I have yet to use my multitool, so swapped that out for a smaller version which has scissors, for me a grea advantage given how much tape I've been cutting...
And for some reason I've been lugging around goretex socks. Haven't used 'em. So bread bags are in as a lightweight substitute, 'cos you never know!
Happy to write more about gear (I am carrying a lot more!), tell me if there are any particular questions you have, I'd be more than happy to answer them.
Back on the road tomorrow, I can't wait!