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River, Oh River…

After a night at the beach among the campers, we went on our way. We stopped at Matapouri for supplies and followed the trail towards Ngunguru. The most interesting attraction of the day was probably Tane Moana – a giant kauri tree.

To see the tree, you had to slightly step off the trail into a small path that soon turned into a wooden deck. Walking towards the tree, we talked about what we will see in a moment. Suddenly, when a giant trunk appeared to our eyes, both of us immediately paused the conversation and at the same time we slowly expressed the amusement in words that in Polish can reflect a lot…

On the plate under the tree it read:
“One tree does not make the forest, but Tane Moana symbolizes what we are fighting for and what we are slowly losing” – it is a reference to the disease that destroys these beautiful trees. We needed a moment to fully admire this miracle of nature and take it all in. But of course not with an empty stomach! So we took a break for lunch and photos.

After taking the majesty of this monument of nature all in, we returned to the trail and after a few kilometers we reached Ngunguru. We only had to cross the river with the same name. For this purpose, I contacted a man called James at whose place we were supposed to camp this night. We let him know where we are, we came to the agreed place and waited. A couple who we met the day before, was already waiting there, but they were not ready yet. After a while, James arrived – unshaven Kiwi in a wool sweater, around 45 years old. He jumped out of the boat and asked:

Are you guys from Poland?
– Yeah, how do you know that? – I replied.
– You have a reputation!

While getting on the boat, we exchanged a few sentences and we moved on. It was a small boat with a back engine and nothing more. James left us ashore and instructed where to go to pitch the tents. He had a house by the water and a piece of land. He built a large shelter in the garden with an open kitchen and dining table. There were also showers. Next to there was a cabin for several beds, and further a platform leading to the toilet. The kitchen was powered by one PV panel, there were also gas burners. The showers were open (partly without roofing), hot water was provided. The toilet did not have use water for flushing, it was a composting toilet (with sawdust). Everything was well thought out and made with care. On the roof of James’ house, the team assembled further solar panels. There was also a big trampoline in the garden – we jumped for a while with great pleasure.

After a bit of rest, we went to the kitchen to make some dinner. Tortillas with cheese and sausages. As soon as we ate, James announced that he is going to start a bonfire and make some BBQ with sausages and steaks. No need to say that I was open to that offer!

Just before the barbecue James briefed us (and 6 other hikers) about how to cross the rivers that on the trail. The conclusion was that in order to be able to cross both rivers at low tide we should get up at 4 am. After James’ lecture, we knew that the lowest tide would be 5.40. More less about this time we left the camp. We reached the first river after 40 minutes. We took off our shoes and jumped into the water. We crossed the Horahora river without major problems. The water was only knee-high. We were a bit late there, but anyway we forded it without major struggles. This gave us confidence that we would be able to continue without problems. Uhm…nope! After passing Horahora and a small section of the muddy marshland, we came to a road. We quickly put on our shoes and rushed on. We covered the six-kilometer section of the road in one hour. Another success. Charged with positive energy, we took a break for breakfast and then we carried on to cross the next river – Pataua. At 9.30 we were at the bank. Hell lot of water. But whatever, we jumped in.

We took off our shoes and after passing several meters along the shore the water was hip-high. The riverbed began to become more and more rocky, sharp and unpredictable. We stopped again and put on our shoes. Another waste of time, and the water level kept on raising. But we were not giving up. We’re going to the other side. Maybe somewhere it will be shallower and we will be able to cross the river. We walked a dozen or so minutes along the shore. More and more water, and we had 15 kg backpacks over our heads. How ridiculous it was to think that we can cross the Pataua River at almost highest tide, we realized only when we put over extra 6 km to get around it. That day we got to the camp a bit more tired. Apart from failing to cross the rivers and walking extra kilometers, the fact that we still have to walk the last 3-4 km on the beach significantly influenced our moods. We’ve already managed to forget how boring and tiring it is. Maybe if we were on this beach a bit earlier and slightly less tired, we would be able to enjoy the charms of this place.

We started the next day quite early. Just after an hour of walking through the beach, we finally approached the mountain we were supposed to climb.

Te Whara Track leads through two summits. The first (probably not named) with a height of 445m and Lion Mountain – 371. Although these heights may not look impressive, the climbs themselves are quite demanding. We managed to get on the top of the first one within just an hour of climbing. We also took a 30min break there and at 10.00 we climbed down.

We went down to the middle of the mountain to and then climbed up to 371m again. The route was very well prepared. Numerous stairs allowed us to keep a good pace. We were on the top of Mt Lion at 11.45. We met an Australian couple at the summit, who admitted they have heard about us before. It is strange that once again it happens that someone has already heard about us – two Poles wandering across NZ.

We were at the bottom at 12.15 pm, which basically resulted in 3 hours 45 minutes spent in the forest. We read earlier in the Trail Notes that you need about 6-7 hours for this route. Cheered up with this great news, we rushed to the store where we took a half-hour break for a drink. We were planning to get to the other side of the Whangarei Harbour the same day. Just before entering the forest we read the information on fb, that the man who usually takes people across for 100 bucks is now inactive and we should find another way to get across. Either hitchhiking around the port or catching a boat that goes through. While having a break, we decided to follow the trail to the shore, from where the boats are usually going to the other side. Maybe someone will give us a lift. It turned out to be a terribly small beach with almost no people whatsoever. There was always an option of catching a ride and going around. We waited maybe 2 minutes and saw that someone is coming with a boat to take other people. We ran quickly towards them and it turned out that we can join another pair of hikers for 20 bucks each. Lucky us! That saved the day. Fifteen minutes later we were on the beach on the other side of the harbour. It was around 14.15. We still had to walk 7km on the beach. We were in good moods and the water in the bay was so warm and had such a beautiful color that we decided to take a short swim and cool down our sweaty bodies. Around 16 o’clock we were almost at our destination. We still had to get across one estuary. The water was belly-high and the current was quite strong, what made it a bit difficult. After an hour we checked in to Ruakaka Holiday Park. We took a shower and went to the store to resupply for the next days. Piotr managed to catch the ride in both directions. Not only did he catch it in town but it was the same guy both ways! That was a beautiful day. In the end we had a lot of luck!

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