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The Raetea Forest – So It Begins!

Someone who said that crossing the 90 Mile Beach entitles you to think that the most difficult part of the TA is behind you, he was in a BIG mistake. I think the real prologue to our trip began with the departure from Ahipara. What happened in the first forests of NZ completely changed our idea about Te Araroa.

We spent the last day on the western beach of the North Island for reorganization. In Ahiparadise we did the laundry, airing, drying, breakfast. We could afford it due to the fact that we planned to cover only 14 km on that day. The distance chosen by us later turned out to be a mistake. The roadwalk part did not reallz charm us. It is surprising, however, that when we do not trz to catch a ride, it happens that someone just stops asking if we need a lift. Besides, New Zealanders do not tend to respect pedestrians on the road. In NZ there is probably no concept of “walking” at all. There are footpaths here, but other infrastructure such as street crossings is just missing. You cannot say that New Zealanders are unkind. It often happens that someone is waving to us, or simply greeting with a hand gesture. Although traveling on the road is not the most pleasant part, we could easily do another 14 km on that day. We decided, however, to stay in Kaitaia, get prepared for the next days and enter the forest section of the route in the morning with full vitality. The next day, we made more wrong decisions. On our route, there was a hot-rod show. We could not pass the dozens of beautifully restored cars without having a look. We entered “just for a moment”.

 

The moment extended a bit and instead of being on the trail at 8 am we started our journey at quarter past 10. We planned to go 25 km. Easy peasy. Having some experience from the beach, we quickly calculated that we should be around 3-4 pm at the campsite. There was “some hill” to cross, even if we came there around 5 or so, pitching tents and cooking meals should be done before the sunset. Everything started quite innocent – a gentle climb with beautiful views.

It was perfect weather. We were stopping for pictures, jokes, filling the water.

After 15 km where we checked in around 4:00, the hell began. The wide 4WD road turned into a narrow, muddy, densely overgrown, 40 cm wide path.

That’s how the Raetea Forest greeted us. For a moment we thought it was great fun.

Unfortunately, it quickly turned out that crossing through mud, roots and dense vegetation would not be a piece of cake.

We moved with an average speed of 2 km per hour. To the top (740m) we had to climb another 380m in almost vertical angle. We quickly counted that the camp we initially planned was too far away. More problems occured. In such a thick forest there was no way to set up a tent. Due to the temperature and humidity of the air, the problem was the water distribution. One moment of inattention would put us at risk of injury. It was really hard … In the guides we checked any chances of setting up the camp. It turned out that you can stay at the very top of this great mountain of mud. The grassy helipad was our last chance. We only had 12 km to this place. It’s around six hours of a dreadful climb. There is no way out. The return would take as much time as the way up. We can do it. Bullsh*t! I was dying several times on this terrible mountain. I was slowly robbed of my last remnants of strength. It was just 120m up to the summit and the worst started. Taking my obese body along with 16 kg of gear to the top completely ripped me off of any forces. We climbed the last meters at a snail’s pace. Each 40m up was resulting in a 10-minute break. I had to calm down my breath and pulse, so that I could carry on climbing the ladder of roots and mud. Finally after 7 pm we got to the top. I did not have the strength or will to either eat dinner or enjoy the view around us.

At the moment I am glad that Piotr was with me. There was no chance of any other help on this swamp. Five steps in this forest was enough to lose one another from sight. Piotr was patient and forgiving. With his attitude he motivated me to continue the effort. He was equally tired, but he kept it to himself. We climbed there together and finally it was worth it. The next morning we woke up above the clouds and watched them rise from the ground with the sun. What a beautiful view…

The next day reminded me of why we chose this way of spending our holidays. This forest was just wonderful.

My excitement, however, did not last too long. After 2 hours of walking it turned out that the lack of dinner the day before and excessive dehydration ripped me off of my strength even for descent from the top. And so there is no way out, it was necessary to carrz on. We were absolztelz exhausted, so after 9 km when we found a camping site with water sourece we decided to use it. We managed to get down from the mountain. We cleaned our things from the mud, we ate a double dinner, filled up with the electrolytes, dried the wet stuff and recovered a bit

Raetea Forest has in fact shown the true face of TA – the trail that does not forgive, does not let go, is not what you want it to be. You take it as it is. But on the other hand it’s just a trail, right? The whole fight takes place in ourselves. “Will I make it? Do I still have the strength to climb up in this mud? And what if it does not work, who pulls me out of this jungle? “- these questions accompany us every time there is a crisis and we are losing strength. Such adventures allow you to get to know yourself and your boundaries better. And we have not reached these borders yet.

Instead we reached the campsite. After a night in the middle of the jungle, we thought that this day we will have to go through next kilometers after the forest, probably hitchhike to the store, supply for the next days and find a place to camp in a place where we do not even know if we can pitch a tent. Especially since it was Sunday and the chance that we would make it before the store was closed was low. Bad scenario.

That’s why this unexpected camping after the forest saved our moods. On the map there was a stream marked – the first water source since the beginning of the forest. We were thirsty, we walked on the last drops of water – this was our priority. It turned out that in addition to the usual descent into the stream there is a small camping site on private land. There is a makeshift privi, a string with clips to dry wet clothes and tents, a table with benches, a donation can and a stream.

We dropped our backpacks, Michał immediately rushed to drink water, I recorded a short movie, then went to clean shoes, pants, gaiters, myself – I was seriously muddy. We drank, set up tents and cooked dinner. In the meantime, more people started to join. Just as dirty and tired as we are after leaving the forest.

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