What a delight to spend the evening at Peter’s overlooking Ahipara Bay. Wine under the olive trees, alicoop drying in between rain showers, pork belly dinner with a lovely Pinot Grigio, lots of conversation and finally singing for one another.
I’m hardly surprised he set aside one of his ten pairs of crocks, laced up boots and decided to join us for the first three k.
I did cheat – a bit – and ‘betrayed the mission.’ We drove past green pastures, cows lining up crossing the street, and a Maori Marae or meeting place to the giant PaknSav in Kaitaia, then picked up Irene up a steep farm road. Fair is fair driving around the awful detour, but then we drove as far up the Takahue Saddle Road as possible before cracking up the track into the Raetea Forest past stunning Nikau Palm, Kaihikatia, Remu, Mamuka, and Black Trunk Fern with fiddleheads larger than a man’s fist. Peter came a long way before kissing us goodbye as wev turned up the ‘real’ track, directly into ankle-deep sucking mud.
But I loved it.
My pictures hardly tell the story of the sweet pungency, the dappled light pulsing in a gentle breeze and the insistent, slightly obscene sucking on the trail. The Kiwis call it Bush. You and me might say jungle.
Thank goodness for the Lekis which saved me from a muddy bum, though I walk with an animal gait, reaching forward and sort of crawling through.
Straight through is the best. You’ll get muddy anyway, so don’t bother balancing on slippy roots, just plunge right in the soft muck.
Irene reminds me of HikerB on the Border Route Trail nattering the entire way. I love that we’re sharing these days. Bonding over squishiness, rather refreshing squishiness as the water inside my trail runners is cool.
Finally we’re at the Mangamuke Saddle. Slip-n-slide is all fun and games until you’re hauling up a fully re-supplied pack straight up-hill in it.
One minute cut off to the radio towers and a sunny meadow. Tomato soup, Hungarian salami, cheese = heaven.
Back on the mud path longing for 10 meters of joy and usually getting about two. The day is waning and camping by a river –and a chance to rinse – is a long way off.
The trail plays tricks on me. Blue sky opens up and a summit appears near, but the the orange triangles point down and around. I carried three liters of water in this clag as camping will likely happen near the summit and not out of the forest. No rinsing tonight.
As we got closer to what was purported to be a grassy spot big enough – and flat enough – for tents, Irene said, “It’s getting easier.” But next was the biggest turn-you-around-on-trail blow down, the deepest suck-off-your-shoe mud patch and the widest obscure-the-tripping-hazards giant ferns you’d ever seen.
I tell her I want my money back.
Kidding, of course, but this has got to be the hardest trail I’ve done. It’s the Vilcabamba and Torres del Paine and Pennines on steroids. It didn’t get easier and my trail app ‘Guthook’ had the helpful suggestion that the grassy flat spot was between km marker 148 and 150. Considering we were moving about 1 k/hour in some spots, that is a long distance to go not knowing.
Of course we found it, a wide patch in the trail. Tents went up fast. I used nearly every wipie to take the mud off my feet. Praise the goddess for my camp shoes! It’s cold as a Tue – and other birds exotic to my ears – pipe in the bush. All my clothes are on, and dinner is served.