Distance travelled today: 24 km
Total TA distance covered: 501 km!! Wohoo.
Today started off alright. A little road walking from the Pakiri camp site to begin the first climb of the day. And a biggy of a climb it was. A little under 2km to climb from sea level to around 350m through paddocks. As I started the climb I came across a Macpac gortex jacket that had obviously been lost. Vicky was in front of me but I noticed she had a dark jacket normally secured to the side of her pack and didn’t think it was her’s. There were no other trampers that I knew of in front as everyone else was in came when I left so I’m assuming it was dropped a day or more ago. I’m sure the owner is going to be pissed when they find they no longer have their jacket. The climb was steep to say the least and got the heart pumping. As is often the case I started the day with dry feet, but walking through the long grass collecting the overnight condensation they were soon soaked. That was nothing compared to what was coming.
At the top of the climb and entering into the Ohama the views across the Pakiri coast were amazing and clear. At the distance I was though the point and shoot camera just could do it justice. Views streched out across the coastline I’d been walking yesterday and right around the surrounding hills and farmland. The track entered pines of the Ohama Forest before quickly switching back to paddock for a short while after climbing a stile and moved into an area of long ago harvested pines. I caught Vicky at this point and kept moving through the regenerating area.
Now when I say regenerating area, what I mean is the area has vegetation on it but not pines. The next section was a full corridor of gorse bush mixed with blackberries and mud. The trail descended on some gnarly red clay and was difficult to keep footing. A times it was easier to go into a controlled glissade using my poles to stay up right. While it wasn’t a fight through the gorse it wasn’t much fun either. I was in shorts and t-shirt and constantly had to push spiky branches out of the way with my poles. To make matters worse my clothes were collecting all the moisture off the plants and I was still fighting mud. It was a tough section but at least their would be less moisture off the veg for the trampers following behind me.
After this the trail turned onto DOC land, part of a scenic reserve. The going improved quite a bit and was really enjoyable for a few hours. It was challenging with a few rock scrambles and some rooty sections but I found myself in an amazing state of flow and chewed the kilometres down. I was moving really fast but able to take everything in at the same time; the smell of the flowers; finding foot placements between the roots; the vivid colours of the leaves and understory in the morning light.
Before I knew it I was at a high point of this ridge and came across a constructed wooden deck. A good stop to rest. Initially I had no idea was this was but reading the track notes I learned it was a helicopter platform – makes sense, there was a comms tower close by and no roads. I had seen this tower on the initial climb up through paddocks but didn’t realise it was in the middle of no where. Just thick jungle surrounding it. Another 10 minutes on and I came to the comms tower.
The trail then started to descend through the forest towards the Makakana Valley and I can only describe this as the descent from hell. It was horrible. Very steep. Very muddy and slippery. I nearly when arse over tit on multiple occasions. Walking poles became my best friend. I’m not sure how walkers are getting through sections like this without them. But worse was to come.
The trail climbed a stile and entered into private property. There was absolutely no constructed track along this section at all. It was like the property owners had granted access to their land but neither the TA trust or the owners had done anything other than to define a route through. The route to follow was basically where others had previously past, slipping,msliding and hanging onto vegetation for dear life. Again, incredibly steep and slippery. Long run out sections of 10-20 metres where you slide. This makes for a messy route and highly erodible. Then in the middle of nowhere you find a bridge constructed across a gully only to enter back up hill on similar steep, muddy shite on the other side. The bridge is useless. Enough damage has been caused on either side, and I really don’t see what the bridge is protecting by being there. From here the track sidled around a hill and was of the same standard. Nothing benched out. The sidle was out sloped on muddy ground and was tough going to the road. While the trail has been fairly quiet in terms of numbers up until this year, the route can probably get away with sections like this but I feel that as the trail becomes more popular significant damage may be caused and perhaps some infracture wouldn’t go astray, even a minimal hand cut bench or steps would help. But I can understand the property owners not wanting to take action being out of sight and out of mind, plus they have so much normal property maintenance to do; and I can understand that the trust has limited funds and oversees 3,000km – it can not be everywhere at once to form up nice sustainable trail. Perhaps I’ll start raising money to put towards this cause.
What a relief to have some road. Never thought I would say it. A road bash for around 3 kilometres and it was back into the forest – The Dome Forest. I was making excellent time and had my sights set on marking it to Warkworth for the night. I got to the start of the Dome Forest just after 12pm and stopped for a lunch break.
The start of the forest was on old forestry roads but soon entered into a scenic reserve. This was pleasant enough but soon became tough going. More mud as it descended down towards the Waiwhiu Stream. And the mud kept coming!
While it was bad and slow going I’m thankful that I completed all of the northern forests and experienced mud there. Now everything is relative and comparable and I can say to myself yep this is muddy but lucky you are not walking through the Reatea forest and lucky it is not raining. For all the trampers who avoided the northern forests, I can only imagine what they will be thinking heading down into the Waiwhiu valley.
At the bottom the trail crossed the Waiwhiu Stream itself. A beautiful tranquil stram. So quiet. I plunged straight in and wash my shoes, socks and legs that were caked in thick orange mud. But I needn’t have bothered as the Dome Forest had more in store.
The day was getting away from me and it was around 3pm when I crossed a larger river, hitting a forestry road. I found a nice camp site with access to water (my water was getting low) but I was determined to keep going to get to Warkworth. That didn’t happen.
The Dome Forest proved to be a bit much and I under estimated how long it would take to get through to the SH1. The trail was very rooty and difficult to find foot placements. For long sections you are basically walking on roots and not even hitting the ground. This proves difficult for the feet, particularly in trail runners with thin soles and not much support. Progress was slower than I would have liked but I pressed on.
There were not many camp sites within the forest given the jungled natured of it and the vast amount of protruding roots. It wasn’t looking good to make it out to the highway but I thought a mountain with a name, The Dome, must have a cleared stop for a camp and so I aimed for this. To reach it though required another major climb up steep, muddy ground. I pushed on but became extremely frustrated when the trail would dive off down hill. This is a climb yes? Why is the trail going down hill instead of following the high ground? This happened on several occasions.
Time was getting away and my water situation was not good. I knew I wasn’t getting out of the forest today and on second thinking realised I didn’t really need to get to Warkworth anyway. I had enough food for the night and probably just enough water at 600ml if I had a dry dinner.
So new goal in sight – The Dome. Depending on which map series you refer to, the Te Araroa 500km mark is either just before or just after The Dome. That would do me for the night. Continuing to climb and topping out at the trig point I was done for the day. It was disappointing to find that the Dome doesn’t have a cleared top and no where really suitable for a tent. I made do setting the tent up right there in the middle of the trail. At 5:30pm I didn’t expect anyone to be following up behind – the sensible trampers have already found digs for the night and are cooking tea.