We left the Raetea Forest behind us, as well as the the mud. At least for some time. We recovered a bit and the next day we reached the highway, then the road to Mangamuka Dairy. There we took a break for breakfast (I took toast and coffee, and Michał got a muffin with bacon and egg) and we resupplied for the next days. We asked the owner about the next section and the quality of the roads. As it was supposed to be another forest, we preferred to know ahead whether there is going to be another jungle or whether it will be a more civilized route. It turned out that this time a gravel road leads through the forest, so we breathed out with relief. The only thing that ruined the humor was the weather forecast. The next week was supposed to rain. Today was supposed to be a short stretch to Apple Dam Camping, and then 33km through Omahuta and Puketi forests.
It is worth mentioning here the kauri trees disease (“kauri dieback”), which prowls the forests of New Zealand and destroys the magnificent and majestic trees from the times of the Gondwana supercontinent. The Herekino forest was closed this year and the trail led around. In the Omahuta and Puketi forests you could camp only in two designated places, which were more than 30 km from each other… without the possibility of water replenishment along the route, on gravel roads (on which you could not walk as comfortably as it might seem), with many exhausting climbs and descents, and worst of all – in the rain.
We came to Apple Dam Camping efficiently and in nice weather. The field was close to the river, in which we filled the water bottles – we flirted, but the color was still not very encouraging. Michał drank and everything was fine – I still had water from the previous stream. A group of people who joined us behind the forest also stopped here. There was a couple of Americans among them who came up with the idea to light a fire (despite a clear ban). However, the people around talked them off this idea.
We came to camping relatively early. We dried the tents (we roll up in the morning, so they are almost always wet because of dew), we stretched the muscles, sat down and talked. Michał started to heal the blisters and I went to see the giant kauri stump. On the way back, I caught the cell signal to check the weather – rain, rainstorms, more rain. Awesome, that’s what we needed for the coming days …
The night was cold. Besides, I could not sleep. I heard the possums roam around the tents – for nothing. I do not know about others, but our food in the morning was intact! We left at half past eight. A few people were on their way. We immediately passed one Slovakian guy then we passed a stoned and cheerful American couple. We knew it was going to rain that day. Raincoats and pack covers were on top and reachable. As soon as we entered the cloud and it began to sprinkle, we stopped and changed (morning was cool, we left in warmer clothes). A really tough day was coming.
The weather was bad for us. From a cold rain, to a burning sun to a cold rain again. As we managed to get out from under the clouds for a moment, the trail turned right back. AAnd then this terrain. Up and down, up and down. As we wanted to stop for food or a photo, it was getting cold. When the sun came out from behind the clouds, we were boiling inside the raincoats … and so on for 33km. Not to mention these gravel roads with strongly profiled corners, which forced putting feet in an angled way. Despite having good shoes and a good strategy with double socks, my little finger started to get bad and I think there might be a blister.
We finally arrived at the Puketi Recreation Area. In the meantime, we passed the 200km mark. Nice camping with toilet and cold shower (I gave up – I had cold showers all day). We set up tents and got ready to cook. Of course, it started raining again. Fortunately, there was a small shelter with a table nearby. I quickly grabbed a bag of clothes from the tent and ran towards the shed. I changed my clothes there. Then we cooked dinner. I did not even realize how hungry I was! I prepared some Chinese noodle, followed by two portions of pasta and sauce, additionally I ate also the rest of the nuts from the day, and finally a few tablespoons of peanut butter. And then a few more … I really felt the calories deficit!
Due to the bad weather, we do not have many photos from this day. But there is one with the best view – Michał insisted that such a view cannot be missed.
In the evening after dinner, I was checking the weather impatiently – no changes. The rain was supposed to start around six o’clock in the morning. And that meant that if we do not want to pack up in the rain, we have to leave very early. We left about 6:20, when it was not raining yet. We returned to the trail and continued on a gravel road waiting for the first rainfall – the cloud was very dark. We went out again in warmer clothes with the intention of quickly changing the route. We were getting ready for continuous rain all day, but the rain turned out to be fleeting.
The route of this day was 25km to Kerikeri. First the road, then the pastures, then the path along the Kerikeri River, up to the town of the same name. And so it happened that unfortunately we missed the trail through these pastures. We only realized after almost two kilometers that we should have turned. But where was it ?? We came back and in fact we should have taken a the steps across the fence to the pasture – it was very easy to miss. We’ve lost around an hour becaue of that.
And in the pastures it is not all that easy – there is grass everywhere, there are no trampled paths, so we had to follow the trail line in the GPS. And so we passed through flocks of sheep and bulls, through subsequent fences, electric fences, etc. We came to the river and followed the trail in the high grass eventually swithcing from one side to the other. Everything would be okay if not for the fact that after some time of walking in this grass (we walked all day in passing rains) our shoes and socks were completely soaked. And the distances somehow did not want to pass quickly…
We made a short break on the porch of a Thai restaurant. We looked like homeless people, but luckily no one appeared who would like to kick us out. A few kilometers remained. It was raining, my ankle started to ache, Michał also complained about his feet – not good. It was here where an important decision was made – “zero day”. The stop in Kerikeri was at 230km. For now, we are walking without a day”s break. We planned to do a zero day every two weeks, but the situation required a change to this plan. Everything we have is soaked, our feet hate us, we lose joy from the walk – we need to rest and regain our strength.
From the restaurant, we return to the trail that leads us along the river through private properties. We simply go through some private gardens. After some time we come to Rainbow Falls – a beautiful waterfall. Its view and desire to photograph made us take a longer break for photos and it improved our moods. Next, we continued the beautiful Kerikeri River Track, a winding path along the river, leading among majestic kauri trees and other beautiful plants, among which some birds were passing by.
In the end, we arrived at Pagoda Lodge. We entered the office, a gentleman named Stephen greeted us. He offered us a place at the campground. We said that we are looking for a room, because we want to stay one more day. Stephen said it would be hard, because the rooms are already booked, and a two-room apartment that is available is quite expensive, but he will talk to his wife if he can put the price down a bit. In the end, he dropped 30% from the price – I do not know if it was out of goodness or because we looked so bad that he wanted us to finally disappear from the office and take a shower.
So we spent an extra day at Pagoda Lodge (an interesting building from 1930), with a beautiful garden. We slept in normal beds, we ate a lot of pizza, we watched New Zealand TV, we washed out clothes, we planned more days, resupplied, and we spent the last evening drinking beer and eating chips and oranges. Next destination – Waikare and another interesting stage of the route will begin – crossing the rivers.