Zero Day is behind us. We recovered physically and mentally, our moods and morale improved, our feet no longer hate us (at least for now). We dried the tents, ate lots of pizzas, some fruits, and we slept well. We’re back on the trail.
We left Kerikeri around 10 am which was quite late. We were not in a hurry. The day before we planned the next few stages. That day we wanted to reach Waikare. We had several options. One of them was to reach Paihia, take kayaks from there and paddle to Waikare. The second option was to stop one village earlier (Paihia) and take a ferry to Russell, from where we would cave beef locked up by a lady called Sheryl, who is a “Trail angel” – these are the people who support the hikers whether for a “koha” (donation) or for a certain fee, but sometimes for free. In any case, they are available for us and are happy to help, give a lift, invite home, allow to pitch a tent in their garden, etc. Sheryl’s number was given in the trail notes – I called her and asked if she could take us from Russell to Waikare, where she had a campsite. Canoes were a tempting option, but we felt that the price of about 80-90 kiwi dollars per person (for some 3-4 hours) is just ridiculous and we chose the second option.
We were supposed to meet with Sheryl at 8 pm – we had a lot of time. The forest turned out to be a wonderful place. After the two previous ones, reminiscent of the jungle, this pine forest reminded us a little of our Kashubian region.
In the meantime, we managed to get to the viewpoint and take some pictures.
We left the forest. We went through the golf courses and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where in 1840 a treaty was signed between the British Crown and Maori, establishing New Zealand. In the end, we came to the town of Paihia. We hade some ice cream (two scoops, each size four standard), and then we got on the ferry to Russell. There was nothing happening there, even less than in Paihia, which was a bit surprising, because as Sheryl told us, Russell was the first capital of New Zealand.
So we sat down on the bench and stared at the sea, from time to time checking the weather and eating jellies. About seven o’clock we went to get some fish & chips. However, I did not take ordinary fries but those made of Kumara – these are red, sweet potatoes characteristic for New Zealand. Delicious!
Sheryl turned out to be a lovely old lady who for 30 dollars took us from Russell to her land in Waikare and took another 30 for the night. In total, for two people with transport and one night we paid less than for one in a canoe…
On the way, we talked about different things. Sheryl asked about countries in Europe and wanted to remember their names (mainly the Baltic countries). From the conversation, I learned that Kiwi travel a lot, but they often come back. They are studying in New Zealand – I thought they were going to the USA or Australia to study. To be a real Kiwi is to come back to New Zealand. I mentioned that we are both architects. Sheryl said that the market needs people from the construction industry, not only for laying bricks. Kiwis like to deal with stuff themselves stick to DIY principle – it often happens that they build their homes alone or with the help of friends. However, if they have money, they hire a crew. Just by looking at the quality of some homes, it is easy to tell which are which.
Sheryl took us to her property. In car she offered to stay in her caravan. Knowing that it is raining this night and having in mind the late hour (pitching the tent in the dark is not nice), we accepted the proposition. On the way, we helped Sheryl feed her cows, and then we were driven back to the forest. It was dark and we did not realize where we were. The morning surprised us a bit because the caravan appeared to our eyes.
Bearing in mind the fact that the weather is getting worse, we set off. That day we had to cross the river section. It was clearly going ON the river. We used to go down the Kerikeri River before, but then we did not set foot in the water. This time it looked completely different. After a few kilometers of gravel road we came to the river. Earlier Sheryl said that she was responsible for marking the trail on this stage. For this purpose she used white ribbons. And as soon as we saw this, we thoughtlessly followed them. The route wound like a river that we crossed from time to time. The water level was not high, but the bottom laid with stones did not allow you to think about taking off your shoes. Sheryl’s signs led us mainly through a thick forest. Unfortunately, there was no one clearly indicated path. Sometimes we were confused and could not find ourselves in the bush. The journey began to be tiring. We kept stepping in and out of the river. We climbed up the forest and down to the river. When we were lost again, we decided that something is not rightbhere. Our shoes, socks and feet were completely soaked, so we decided to continue our journey up the river along its bed.
The height of the water in the highest place reached us a little above the knees. The current was not strong so this episode was quite pleasant. Much nicer than that marked by Sheryl. Thanks to the change in the concept, we managed to finish the river section before the noon. That was good news, because from then on the forecasts predicted rainfall. And so it happened. As soon as we got to the small shelter it started to rain. We hiked the next road section in constant rain. All wet, we decided that we would shorten the distance today and instead of going to Oakura, we will stop in Puneruku. The kind lady met us in a garage adapted to the living room with a kitchen and a bathroom. We had a fireplace at our disposal. We used it, thanks to which our shoes and clothes were dry and ready for the next day. There were also some couches in the living room, on which we slept. No need to pitch the tents is – well – convenient…