We have traveled another 200K, or 120 miles, putting us at 420K of the total trek. Or 252 miles.
Before I get into all the gritty details, I have a few PSAs. First of all, thank you for all the blog comments, Facebook messages and e-mails. We love hearing from all of you, especially being so far away and beaten by the trail! Keep them coming! Second of all, we periodically post video clips to our YouTube channel, so be sure to check those out if you want to see some live action.
Here are some overall thoughts about the trail so far. I said it in my last post and I will say it again. This trail is Brutal (with a capital B). NZ is into extreme sports and this trail is extreme. Even the very worst of the Appalachian Trail (think the detours in Maine) is better marked and easier than this trail. We were talking to one of the campground owners and she pointed out that we are really pioneers of the trail. That put it into perspective. It is like doing the AT in 1960. Sure, the Te Araroa Trail "opened" in 2011, but it is still in the making. It is certainly gaining more and more attention (we are unofficially #s 83 & 84 this year!), so hopefully the funding and trail volunteers will follow. Someday, switchbacks and footbridges will be built and the road walking will dissipate. But for now, it remains a choose your own adventure type of trail.
And now onto the details of our last 7 days.
Last Saturday, we left the Hone Heke Lodge in KeriKeri. I really liked KeriKeri and could have stayed longer. It is a cute town with a lot of history, including having the oldest stone building in NZ. However, J really likes Waipu--probably because of the Pizza Barn and McLeod's beer)--so we'll see what ends up as our favorite trail town.
But alas, we had to move on and headed more toward into the next section. During this past stretch, there were a few themes.
1) Water, water everywhere
We returned to the beach for another 15K or so. This time it was on the eastern coast of NZ, looking out toward the turquoise-colored Pacific Ocean. It wasn't so bad to be back on the beach, actually. Although the sand was much softer than the west coast beaches. So my feet didn't hurt as much, but it was harder walking.
Even when we weren't directly on the beach, we regularly had the ocean and lots of coastal towns in view. We went through an especially pretty section called the Bay of Islands (fun fact, Captain Cook identified 144 islands here and they remain undeveloped). We also walked through some gorgeous coastal towns, like Paihia (Pie-he-a) and Opua (O-poo-a). We've camped at many beautiful spots overlooking the ocean (see video with a gear breakdown here), including the most expensive spot ever ($40/night for 2 people, but at least it included unlimited wifi). It was nice to hear the sound of the crashing waves again!
We passed this beautiful golf course...J was wishing he could play
Sometimes we had to walk through the water. Literally down the river for a 4 miles!
We also have come across the first of many estuaries. The advice is to walk through at low tide. The first one we walked through, we were impatient and went 3 hours before low tide. I can tell you that was NOT a good choice. We had to negotiate muddy mangroves, we got very wet and it took us longer than it should have. Then, we got a little off course and ended up on private property, where the farm animals were very excitable. seriously, the cows were jumping and the horses were nudging my back. Lesson learned, always obey the tide times.
Waiting impatiently for the tide to change
An overview of the estuary
Stuck in the mangroves
I much prefer the estuaries that have a footbridge going over them, like this one, which is the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere (video here).
Sometimes, we had to take a boat across the water. For example, we had to catch a water taxi to cross the Victoria Channel, which cost $100 whether it was 1 person or 5 people!
There was a second section where we had to get across water from Urquarts Bay to Mardsen Bay. But for this one, there is no expensive water taxi. Instead, the trail notes say "beg a fisherman to take you across and offer a koha (donation) for petrol." Once we got into the bay, we asked every person we saw about getting across. The second person we talked with said her son could do it in morning and her father would let us camp on his lawn!
Pointing to where we came from
Basically, the trail literally walks across water and we have not figured out how to walk on water just yet. More to come!
The last water theme has been the weather. We have had a few days of rain. And even when it is not raining, the tall grass we have to walk through because there is no trail or better yet this is the trail, is wet. Being wet constantly does not make me happy. It's all part of the adventure!
Clothing never really dries out
We've been hiking/camping with 2 other trampers--Marilyn from Canada (check here blog out) and Matteo from Italy--and it has been quite fun to have each other's company. They funny thing about our conversations is it usually is about gear. And when you talk gear, you talk weight. But, they use grams and kilograms, while we use ounces and pounds. It's bad enough we have to convert our kilometers into miles (I'm an expert now - divide by 5 and multiply by 3) and meters into feet. I never thought I'd be doing so much math on this trail.
The planning never stops on this trail
We've also been getting to know a lot of kiwis. Since we are going through more towns, we get to interact more. There are even a few people who let you camp on their lawn, which has been very convenient!
3) Road Walking
We did about 115K of road walking during the past week. The road walking has not been my favorite. Especially when it's raining. I used to think if I am going to die, it will be on the side of a snowy mountain or crossing a raging river. I now know it will be during a road walk. But, being the optimist I am, I am trying to find the bright side.
Road walking means we go pretty fast--we can go 3+ miles/hr.
Road walking means seeing funny signs.
Good thing we were walking with no shoulder
Some people have something against dogs here
Their cars shoot bullets
Still haven't seen one in person
Not even sure what this could be
Road walking means seeing New Zealand's unique mailboxes (or letterboxes as they call them). We've seen all different sizes and shapes. Lots of microwaves, a boat motor and a bat-shaped one, but this one takes the cake. NZ sure takes pride in their letterboxes!
Road walking means passing through towns and tempted by treats.
Road walking means seeing some beautiful views and houses.
In full disclosure, we have hitched about 15K of the 100K-road walking. On the Appalachian Trail, we call this yellow blazing. Here, we call it "saving the feet."
I think that about sums things up, but a few closing thoughts/impressions. J's allergies are so bad here. One night he was lying in the tent and proclaimed he might die. We are still perfecting our orienteering skills every day on the trail, getting turned around and frustrated. You cannot stop paying attention on this trail. NZ still hasn't discovered switchbacks and all trails are at a 60-degree angle. They have these things called "slips," which basically means the trail gave way and disappeared (video here). Everyone in NZ waves and says hello. No one wears shoes in the coastal towns, even to drive. There are no screens in the windows and doors are left open.
This is the NZ we are experiencing and we love it!!
My fav kind of trail
My least fav part of trail
More kauri trees
It's a Charlie Brown Christmas tree