Well. I made it to Pataua with a day to spare. pretty impressed with myself (someone has to be!) that I’m 2 days ahead of schedule to what I planned months and months ago. But I must temper this with another confession that I have skipped the notorious Nunguru loop road ( there are 2 unwadeable rivers between nunguru and Pataua so the route is a whopping 15km road margin walk where there is little margin on what is a busier road into Whangarei.
I was dropped off by Hilton right on the Mackerel Forest Track around 7.30am yesterday so managed to get to the Hora Hora River junction where Murray surprised me and came to pick me up right at the spot Marie and I had walked to at Christmas time. So yesterday was a mere 3 and half hours of walking in the Rain! yes the rain has finally appeared after 19 days. Not totally unpleasant as it is cooler and refreshing but I’d prefer it dry!
Since my delightful swim at Whale Bay I talked with a couple of flourescent jacketed ladies who were volunteering on behalf of the school to supervise the car park, donations to help support Outdoor pursuits centre for the school was the reward. I duly donated as they looked after my rucksack while I went for the swim.When I told them what I was doing i received a blueberry muffin as a reward, they also suggested using a bush track to Matapouri rather than the road which was much nicer.
Some cute kids had set up a stall outside their drive selling home made lemonade and meringues. I bought one of each much to their excitement (I may have been their only customer!), I then caught sight of the dairy and indulged in a bacon and egg pie, large bag of crisps, 500ml of cold apple drink and an ice cream which was devoured with gusto on the bench outside the shop.
I overheard talk of the cyclone so decided to press on. Pretty hot day and harder going with a full stomach! After a few kms road walk got to the Matapouri bush track which climbed up steadily. Began to feel hot and weary after an hour of this so decided to have a nap next to a lovely native bush stream. This was a very pleasurable experience, I took my sweaty top off to dry and just laid down for over an hour listening to the gentle breeze in the canopy, the trickling stream, and the bird calls while watching the sunbeams dart around the forest floor and began to doze. It reminded me a bit of the Old Forest in LOTR but luckily there was no Old Man Willow to cast a spell on me.
After this most satisfying interlude I rejoined the track for the next 3 hours occasionally getting tantilising glimpses of the coastline. I visited the 4th largest Kauri tree “Tane Moana” so I have now seen the 2nd, 3rd and 4th biggest Kauris in the world on this trip. Tane Mahuta id by far the biggest but is not on this trail (maybe I should suggest another 80km or so added to the TA so it can be!)
The track descended into plantation to reach a gravel road a few kms short of Nunguru so trudged along road margin which got a bit harder every step. Finally got to Nunguru road junction and phoned Melva and Hilton to see if they were ok to put me up for the night. Think I caught Melva on the hop as they were about to go out to get a take away and sit somewhere to enjoy it. They offer a free meal to TA trampers but I said it didn’t matter and that wanted to meet them and thank them for the maps. We arranged for me to get to their place and we’d all go out for meal and a sit down. Their Riverside Lodge is about 3kms out of Nunguru so put my boots back on and headed off. Found it ok, a lovely house and piece of land with its own swampy area, nice veggie/fruit garden and native bush encircling the house. I met Hilton and Melva and thanked them, I had a lovely hot shower before we went to get the takeaway ( it would not have been very nice experience for them in the car if I hadn’t).
At takeaway I bumped into Steve Anderson, it was one of those moments of joint recognition, I was really pleased to see Steve ( He was a supervisor at the pools when I managed them and I’d not seen him since). He looked great and is a police detective around Whangarei, he said his sons Isiah and Johan were all grown up (not quite as tall as Steve yet who must be 6 foot 4), gave him my blog and email addres and also let him know about mike and Sonia looking to move to Aussie. Hilton and steve introduced themselves. reacquainting over I went with Hilton and Melva to a nice spot overlooking the estuary entrance where we ate, drank a very nice red wine and chatted about lots of stuff while watching the birds, fishermen and a couple of sting rays in the channel. all very pleasant before heading back for a second course of delicious salad.
Hilton and Melva are a lovely couple, they certainly have had an interesting life, travelling for 15 years in a yacht (6 month working following by 6 months sailing) before buying this section to build their own house and create a little bit of paradise for themselves. I was introduced to “Ratty” a glove puppet who has also extensively travelled the world and is Melvas Alter Ego of sorts. There was something quite fairylike about the place (<Melva has actually seen real fairies) we talked about lots of stuff (education, rates, the trail, predators, trapping undesirable humans, LOTR, native birds etc) and shared tips on films and books to read (they were really into Wind in the willows and weren't aware of the 1980's animated version). I will now find Nichoals Monserratt book the Master Mariner as it sounds like a great read. I then retired to the comfy mattress but struggled to sleep with the ticking grandfather clock until I used its steady rhythm to lull me to sleep.
up at 6m as Hilton was going to work in Whangarei just after 7 (he works for the Council on the highways side and also ensure signage for TA is there). After a fantastic selection of muesli, fruits, honey and yoghurt said goodbye to Melva as she went to tend her veggies and converse with the birds, bees and fairies, Hilton pointed out the wizards little door in a fence post which led up spiral stairs to another door where there was actually a little wizard standing.
As we drove Hilton explained about the history of the area and i hadn't realised that atone time over 1000 homes were here along the river, this is because coal was mined, clay extracted and kauri timber felled and milled. Very little trace of it left now. Captain Percy provides trip up and down the river to show the history of the area and Hilton has produced a guidebook to try and link together a lot of the feature of this coastal area which I think is really needed.
The Mackerel forest track was a bit patchy really, Recent felling has left lot of the area denuded and the path was hard to follow as nowhere to stick the orange markers to. Got scratched by Gorse and thistles etc (*did you know Gorse isn’t too bad, it nitrifies the soils and helps natives establish which when they do kill back the gorse).
Track was only about one and half hours walk, it began to rain heavier when reach the Pataua road. The “man on the tree” was looking a bit bare so I added apiece of Dad’s shirt and put his santa hat back on to brighten him up.
Plodded on for a while and then got text from Mike asking where was and if needed lift, said i was only about 8km away but was fine. However Murray did come and pick me which was great really as it was the section we’d already walked. It was great to see Murray and Maxine after all this time to be back at the beach in one piece!
Had a shower , Maxine made me 4 slices of toast and then helped pack up before we headed back into town (they had been at beach mostly since new Year and had just hosted the rotarians party the day before. Got back to Kamo around midday and ate again (lovely sausage rolls and fruit)\, i’m staying in double bed in Maxine and Murrays house. Went through all my stuff i’d left and sorted into what taking, ehat posting to Wellington and what going home. Maxine kindly did my laundry (first proper wash?). Went up to Mike and Sonia and had a chat with Sonia (mike working) and Trent and Brooke. We all pigged out on Pizza for tea, must have been 10 boxes between us, even i was stuffed before we gave up eating the whole lot.
Caught up on couple of emails and comments on the blog (Jan and Pete Gleeson and Kerry anne had out nice comments on)
Written a list of jobs to do today and also need to work out how best to get next section done.