Monday, 30 September 2013

Days 30-31: Clevedon and Hunua Ranges to Mercer

Day 30: I woke early and packed in the grey dawn light, moving on as quick as I could. To my surprise, I was greeted to the sight of a large gaggle of children at the lookout above Clevedon!
They are part of a Papakura church group, getting out there and enjoying nature. Good on them, I say! 
I got to Clevedon, expecting to wait til shops opened... Again I was surprised to see the Sunday market already setting up and the cafe open for breakfast. 
I had forgotten daylight savings! So it was an hour later than my watch... It all made sense now. I was greeted by a family at the next table, Chris was quick to identify me as a TAT walker- he is planning to walk in November, he gave me some nav help for the coming day, and I told hi briefly about the Herekino/Raetea forest section. I ate a large breakfast (my appetite is huge nowadays!), said goodbye and headed towards the wairoa river and the start of the Hunua Ranges.
Picturesque, no? 
A couple on horseback came by, doing some voluntary track maintenance on some very good looking horses.
What was interesting was that even though it was a weekend, I came across fewer than 5 others out enjoying this very beautiful area... I wonder why?
Great to see messaging about preventing kauri dieback disease!
I was heading for a basic campsite near Repeater Road (less chance of yobos etc hanging out by a composting toilet , eh!), and it was taking awhile- I was feeling tired and run down, but no time to feel sorry for myself! Up one track I saw this, which is never good..
... And on the other side, it said:
Phew! No signage on the other end of this track... Anyway, I reached the first dam and was impressed.
And not far from here, my home for the night.
Now, I know what you are thinking- Pat, what about your hammock?
Never fear! Where there is a will, there's a way:
It was very comfortable, with oodles of rainwater. And it was topped up nicely through the night which made for a cozy atmosphere. 
Day 31: This morning it was a drizzly  affair, hinting at the kind of day in store. Perfect!
Throughout the day it poured, blowed, and I was rewarded with some great encounters. Like two little piggies! Finally, my first visual sighting of wild pigs, and they were only sucklings. No idea where momma was, I was expecting an angry charge at any moment, but nothing. The kiddies played hide and seek with me, I could not get close enough for a good shot (on my iPhone), and didn't want to frighten them any more, so you will just have to believe me! 
There's one part of the track- the Southern Hakataramia track where the track notes caution you that good tramping skills are needed, and to stick to the track. Ok. It was fine for a bit, then it got ridiculous. Marker pointing at what looked like an escarpment.
After some time scrambling and climbing, I decided on a new plan. I interpreted 'good tramping skills' to mean know when you're beaten and head for a ridge line. I followed the ridge through a bunch of blown down trees, expecting to intersect with the marked route eventually. And so I found...
DOC workers! We had a chat about the trail, they told me they weren't responsible for the trail I had just walked (Auckland Regional Authority), and I carried on but not before a happy snap!
I love hard work, I could watch it for hours.
By late afternoon I emerged near SH2 to walk some farmland. Cows. Naturally.
Three bulls decided to play, I spent the first kilometer with these three stalking, charging, and then shying away at the last moment when my magic sticks were brandished. Eventually they let me be, and I walked on through howling wind and rain around a swamp and farmland. 
One of the intriguing things about the TAT is the diverse nature of the track. One moment, forests, then farms, then urban terrain..
And some cool engineering. 
An Archimedes Screw, obviously. But you knew that.
So, I'm catching up with my blog, recharging my batteries (literally), and doing laundry at the Mercer Hotel- a basic but cozy cabin. It will do me! I've had a scan of the upcoming terrain, looks like another two nights before I reach Hamilton. Bring it on! Thanks for reading, don't forget to share this with your friends and donate what you can. Gracias!

Day 29: South Auckland

After a hearty breakfast at the backpackers, I returned to where I had left the trail yesterday. Although waterlogged, the coastal walk was beautiful!
I was soon at the stone fields and dry stone walled old-school farming area. It added a magical quality to the place.
I ran into Dee and her parter, and their terriers, and had a good ol' chat about Shine, animal cruelty, the local area... It was a pleasure to meet them!
On the way out I ran into another family who showed me an avocado orchard, but I was fully stocked with food so didn't take any. And as usual, random bits of clothing were found.
After that nice diversion, it was a bit of a slog across South Auckland, but an interesting window into life there.
As well as this tire farmer (he's doing it wrong), I think I found the Short Pathway, although it too is not without its hazards and I'm sure a trail note could be whipped up for this one? 
I made sure I completed this 4 m urban scramble as a side trip to add to my accomplishments.
My plan was to reach Clevedon by nightfall but a shopping side trip at the airport complex had me shuffling into the reserve overlooking town in the dark. I think I made a local farmer uneasy, as he drove up a farm access road after dark and we played spotlight for a while. I won, although I had to go fully into stealth mode! It certainly tested my ability to hang my hammock etc without white light, in an awkwardly steep campsite.
It was late and I didn't want my cellphone's screen light to give me away, so I left blogging 'til the next day.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Days 26 - 28: Awesome Auckland, Shine and Family!

Day 26: A short wander down to Devonport and I was soon on the water to downtown Auckland
Which meant I had a couple of hours spare to 'up armour' in an outdoors shop. Dangerous stuff letting myself loose at Bivouac Queen St after nearly 4 weeks tramping, and 4 months more to go! In the end, the only major change was to upgrade my wet weather jacket, trousers and gaiters to heavier but more 'storm proof' kit. Proof will be in the pudding I suppose...

My lovely sister Anna picked me up after I fit in a cheeky pint at a Belgium beer bar, and I enjoyed some family time and a chance to hang my new hammock from Dream Hammocks! 

And it was a dreamy hammock, as my wee nephew Max noted.
I also picked up an iPhone 5 after my old 16G iPhone 4 melted under the sustained pressure of supporting me on the trail. So far, so good! Loving the new iOS 7, camera, and how much easier it is to blog on this. One really annoying typing glitch has been ironed out, saving me time and muttered cursing under my breath. Battery life pretty much sucks though, so I switch off 4G etc most of the time while walking. 

Day 27: My sister dropped me off at the Ferry Terminal in the morning to meet up with a few hardy Shine walkers who would accompany me up to Mt Eden. Vincent, Malcolm and Kimberly were great company and we made short work of the walk, getting in a wee detour to the Auckland War Memorial on the way.
at the top we had a little liquid refreshment before being joined by a gang of staff from Shine- permanents and volunteers. We shared a lovely meal together which they had made, and it was a real pleasure to have a chance to chat with them. I am hoping I will be able to share a couple of pics once they are published by Vincent. It was humbling and energising, and I hope to hear from the team regularly as I go. As I told them, one of the key reasons I chose Shine as the charity I wanted to support was because they are action-oriented, working proactively to make NZ homes violence-free. I am truly honoured to be able to champion this cause, and I hope it makes a difference in some small way. 

After lunch Anna picked me up and I spent the rest of the afternoon repacking gear and reloading apps and content onto the new iPhone. We had another wonderful family dinner, this time cooked by Anna's mum who is a talented cook. Two home-cooked meals in a row! I was starting to feel very spoiled.

Day 28: my gracious chauffeur Anna dropped me off at the top of Mt Eden, and she took some great pics before I headed off for South Auckland.

I think the wee break made it harder on my feet somehow, as they are now feeling quite tender! Anyway, a few pics along the way with the new phone and a cool post-production app suggested by my photographer sis!

And now I am happily ensconced in a backpackers near the airport, having had a very tasty Indian takeaway dinner. I was thinking on events and walking today, and couldn't help but observe that Auckland is a beautiful city, and I was fortunate to meet many of the beautiful people that live here. A good resetting of my biases, and I was glad for it.
Thanks Auckland, you were awesome! And now, to bed... G'night!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Days 23-25: Trail Magic and Puhoi, Orewa and The North Shore

Day 23: In what seems to be becoming tradition, as soon as I published the last blog the wind came up and a thunderstorm opened up above my tarp. Heavy rain, lightening and thunderclaps continued until around 2 am, so slightly tired I missed my watch alarm and slept in an extra hour which meant I needed to get a move on to reach the Dome Tearooms for breakfast and hopefully an Americas Cup victory! I got going.
A couple of trail runners passed me the other way at a good clip. After a bit of a scramble, I got within 3G reception to find out the race was postponed by an hour. Maybe I would make it before the race started! I increased my pace... Eventually seeing...
I found a spot in the sun and ordered breakfast while arranging gear to dry out
Eventually the race was abandoned, but thankfully a superb breakfast arrived, as did the runners, and we chatted about their training and my gear while I ate.
Eventually out of excuses, I topped up from the kitchen's spring water (with thanks!) and headed in the direction of Puhoi. 
The sun was near setting when I got into town, feet a little sore and again legs covered in cow excreta.
I had called ahead to the Puhoi pub/hotel, so my room was waiting for me in the historic building, while Amigo sorted out my dinner and a cold Guinness (pretty sure he was Maori, not Spanish and I forgot to ask him about his name, sorry). The staff at the Puhoi Pub were all awesome and friendly. I walked up to my room ... Past various unnerving implements
I headed for the shower, not bothering to take anything off. Hot water on, lather, rinse, repeat. Clothes off, wring out and air out. Beer o'clock!
Despite having celebrated their town's 150th the night before, the pub staff stayed and chatted with me for a good long while. Eventually I headed for my bed, and amazingly managed to get there without impaling myself on a farm implement.
Amigo left me a bit of 'trail magic' for breakfast (gracias, amigo!)
Day 24: The night before I met Cody who runs the kayak hire place where I would pick up a kayak to get myself down the river to Wenderholm Park. He was kind enough to invite me in to his house to watch the morning's racing. On the way, I took a pic of the hotel/pub;
The general store (love how they have set things up on the shelves in an old fashioned style);
And proof that Brad Pitt does a bit of real estate selling on the side.
Cody's wife Cath got me set up for kayaking, then I settled in to watch Team NZ lose a couple of races. Stink. A friend of Cody and Cath's showed me her awesome Airstream, imported from Idaho and done up here.
Soon enough I was in a kayak and paddling... It was nice to give my arms a workout!
This was my first Auckland signpost! Excited! Made me paddle harder, and in seemingly no time at all I was in sight of Wenderholm.
Back on land I explored some awesome Nikau forest and coastline, including a bit of splashing around the coast waist deep at times, to get into a beach just North of Orewa.
My magic sticks decided to do their bit to  tidy up the forest...
One of my most generous benefactors for this charity walk is Bec, and she was in Orewa with her kids to meet up and wish me well for the rest of my journey!
Thats a picture of me with my magic sticks, drawn by Abby :-) it  was fantastic meeting them and sharing a meal!
Day 25: I said farewell, and got going for Takapuna.
I had a chat with some alpacas along the way, had lunch in Browns Bay at Java Jungle, who's amazing staff gave me great encouragement and some food to speed me along... Cheers guys!
This toilet talked to me, and even played some Burt Bacharach. I didn't want to leave it, but it kicks you out after 10 minutes.
Heavy wind-blown rain had me soaked by the time I arrived in Takapuna, so I opted for a cabin at the campground to dry out. Auckland city next, and meeting up with the SHiNE crew on Thursday!