Hello from KeriKeri, which means "dig dig." 123K--or 73.8 miles for us Americans--in the books, bringing our grand total so far to 223K, or 133.8 miles.
Last I wrote, we were in Kaitaia resupplying. We were worried about getting a hitch from Kaitaia back to the trail in Ahipara. We made a sign and asked the locals for the best spot to hitch. Within the few minutes we were walking to the spot with the sign not even held up, a woman drove up and rolled down the window. "I had a hard time reading your sign because it was turned down, but hop in, I can take you to Ahipara!"
So, a trail report. I'm not going to sugar coat it. Brutal is the best word.
We've walked through 4 main forests (Herekino, Raetea, Omahutu & Puketi), did quite a bit of road walking and passed through some farm land. There were a number of "challenges," in this section.
I mentioned this before, but this trail is lacking a trail guide and is "loosely marked by orange triangles." We printed out the maps and took as many notes as we could to help us. We are carrying a compass, a GPS and a SPOT. Yet, we have gotten turned around every single day in this past section.
On Day 6 when we came out from our first forest (Herekino), there was this nice big orange triangle pointing right for our road walk. But, someone wrote on it to go left for the TA.
We stood there and questioned it for a bit, looked at the map and it seemed going left could be correct. So left we went. After about 3K (1.8 miles), we decided it was the wrong way and backtracked in disgust. Grrrr.
On Day 7, we were in the Raetea Forest and there was a spot with orange triangles going both directions. We pondered with our map and compass and chose our direction. Hours later the markers disappeared and we weren't where we thought we should be. We figured this was another cruel joke someone was playing on hikers. This is how desperate we got. We turned our very expensive NZ phone plan and downloaded a NZ mapping program for $7.99 in the middle of the trail. FYI, we were on the right path.
It's nice when the markers are obvious like this one.
On Days 8 and 9, I'll spare you the details, but we hit a few more frustrating points and wasted tons of time assessing our notes and map and compass.
Oh, and sometimes you are just walking through a river, so who needs markers? No, literally, we walked through a river for 5K. (This was quite fun, actually.)
As I said, we've gone through 4 main forests. Here's the thing. New Zealand calls them forests, we Americans call them jungles.
I've never seen such steep and eroded trail with overgrown plant life. I've gone under and over things that my 5'5" frame shouldn't do. Bob People's (AT reference) could do some justice here.
And the mud, bloody mud. We've seen our fair share of mud hiking the Long Trail in Vermont and the AT in Maine in June. We used to say the muddy sections in Maine were bogtastic. But the mud in NZ, which, btw is multicolored (we've seen white, yellow, pink, orange & brown), is bloody mudtastic. Mixed with the roots and rocks, we were barely doing 1 mile an hour (we can typically do 3 mi an hour)!
Justin turned to me one day and said it right:
"Some people get stuck in the mud and some people walk through the mud."
Sometimes, there are obstacles in our way, like a herd of cows or 1,000 sheep running by (10 sheep to every person here!). I uploaded the video to our YouTube channel, so check it out.
Or bees. We keep passing bunches of these beehive clusters. The trail notes suggest "buttoning up and walking steadily." No doubt I will get stung before I leave NZ.
When we were walking through the private farmland, there were a bunch of electric fences we had to cross. Yes, we got shocked once or twice.
I loathe it and almost would rather be on the beach walking. Well, maybe not, my feet just said. But, we will do quite a bit of road walking on this hike. Former TA hikers would say not to be stubborn and to skip the road walking and just hitch and I may come to that point.
As they say, it's not about the miles, but the smiles! We embrace the challenges and have really enjoyed ourselves overall. I swear. Here are some of those smiles.
We didn't expect to see much wildlife here in New Zealand because there are no native mammals here. Everything that is here has been introduced. For a mammal-less place, our nights in the forests (aka jungles) have been like being in the middle of animal kingdom. Could it be a wild boar? (Seen 1 so far) Mountain Goats? (Seen 6 so far - see pix below) Sasquatch? (Seen 0 so far) We'll never know and just leave it at the things in the night that make you go hmm.
On the wildlife note, the birds here are something else. There's a bird in the forest (aka jungle) that sounds like R2D2. There's also a mockingjay (Hunger Games reference) in the forest (aka jungle). They are really beautiful looking too.
3) Flowers and Plant Life
Everything is so different here in the woods. There are palm trees, kauri trees (see pix below - they are HUGE) and other trees we can't identify.
4) Trail Magic