Distance: 17km Total:156km
Smell factor: 7/10
Quote of the day: "I'd rather be shot in the head than do that again" (Mandy - fellow TA tramper)
We had been warned that Raetea forest was the hardest section of the week. Herikino forest had taught us that it was slow progress through the dense bush and mud sections of the forest. With this in mind we rose early and got going at 8:30am with a goal of 15km to reach the forest end. It took 11 hard hours of hiking to go 17km that day. On a normal day we would consider that an abismal pace and distance. However, under the circumstances, we were fast. There were three other couples in the forest that day that all started in front of us. Throughout the day we overtook them all and managed to be the only ones to truly make it beyond the forest and it's relentless terrain.
The terrain of Raetea forest is best compared to Jurassic park. Mile on mile of varying ascents and decents in an environment where I would expect to find prehistoric predators. In parts the track was virtually non existent; we bulldozed through dense bush guided only by the occasional orange marker. Then the track would become all too obvious. Mud pits would emerge littered with deep footprint's from the pained walkers before us. At first, we delicately tried to guide our way through using fallen trees, or else skirting around the edge where possible. However, the final decent left no option but to wade through these rancid pools with the mud rising to beyond our gaiters.
Frustratingly, we lost the path towards the end. The result was an unneeded half hour detour. Nonetheless, we eventually broke out of the forest with the hope of the promised stream. The stream was little more than a dribble. So, we made the decision to carry on in search of a comfortable camp where we could wash the day off. We added 2 more kilometres on to our exhausting day but were rewarded with a freedom camp next to a river. We washed our tired bodies in that freezing stream under moonlight (separately).
It is not a day I will forget in a hurry. Not a day I would repeat. Nevertheless, as the memories of our effort and pain already fade it's a day we look back on with awe.
Diatance: 14km Total: 139km
Snell factor: 4/10
Inbetween forests. Not much happened, we walked a bit and met a nice farmer chap and he let us camp in his cow field.
Distance = 10km Total = 111km Smell Factor = 2/10
We set off mid afternoon with the aim to camp on the edge of the forest, therefore making the next day a little more manageable. We met a fellow tramper in the forest. She was mega creepy. We started pitching our tents in the only spot possible nearby to the girl. She started playing her flute.... badly.
This week has been testing. The first day was full of enthusiasm and excitement which masked any pain but the days that followed were a shock to the system. The diligently researched base weight was blown apart by the weight that our food and water added. We spent 3 hours in the supermarket beforehand working out the calorific density of food (saddest day of my life), and even this meticulous shopping seemed to make no difference to the initial weight. Luke and I struggled to get used to this. We scheduled 5 minute bag drops every hour to recoup. On the first few days my bag drop would literally entail me just droping my bag; lacking the strenght to carefully place it. This is where being a small Oakley has it disadvantages. However, I don't think being an lanky Abendroth was much better.
It has taken 4 and a half days to cover the first section and on day four we actually had a fun day (most of the day). There were still niggles and blisters (little toes are good for nothing) but I felt much stronger. Completing the section has also meant that we have escaped the devil invention of sand; sand made it into every aspect of our camping life. It was in our sleeping bags, boots, food and water. I must of even brushed my teeth with the damn stuff. Sand and I are not friends.
We gladly made to a hostel yesterday. A shower and a sand free night was certainly needed. It's been a tough first week but we should only get stronger. Also, very importantly, the hostel has chocolate and other food that doesn't require a calorifc density of 100 or more.
We have a 6/7 day forest section next as we head to the first major settlement of KeriKeri. We expect it to be hard; the trail notes describe dense bush, weather extremes and threat of flash flooding! However, we have dealt with plenty of floods at the Dial House and I'm pretty sure that wash-up at the Pigs is similar to dense bush. How hard can it be?
Oh and beard progress is poor.
Distance = 31km Total = 101km Smell factor = 3/10
Ouch! What a tough day. Following a good nights sleep in an actual bed and with clean clothes on we started off strong. The first couple of hours flew by and the kilometres rolled by. The tide was a bugger, we were constantly chased back up the beach after trying to find the harder sand closer to the sea. The soft sand started taking it's toll, niggles became aches and pains. We reached a camp around 3pm but the lure of the end of the sand was too great so knowing we only had about 4 hours of beach walking left we pushed on. The last couple of hours were incredibly hard, my walk became quite comical but the end was in sight. At 7 o'clock we finally saw it.... Tarmac! 5 days of almost relentless sand was over. With the sun setting behind us we left 90 mile beach. Goodbye sand, you absolute sod! The Tarmac only highlighted all our aches and pains, not what we had hoped for. Both broken, we checked in, pitched up (Tom helping me with my tent as I was in a bad way), and enjoyed a dinner of crisps and Coke. It was good to know we could put in a long day but it was better knowing we had a day off the next day.
Distance = 18km Total = 70km smell factor 5/10 (before shower).
On day four we lost any sort of distant landmass as a target. It was a little demoralising. It was just more beach, sand and a healthy dose of pain. However, to keep us going we did have a some killer eighties hits playing on the speaker. Likewise, the monotonous beach was broken up by our seal encounter! That night we made it to a campsite which was a nice change to the previous nights of freedom camping. It was so nice to not put the tent up and be out of the wind. It was pretty stormy too which made paying for the cabin all the more worth it. We soaked our feet, showered and cooked some Mac and cheese. I then demolished Luke at cards in the evening. We needed that pick up
Written by Tom
Day 3. Distance = 20km Total = 52km Smell factor = 5/10
SAND!!!!! We hate sand! That is all!
Other stuff from today in brief (due to my hate of sand)
- Crap nights sleep, the condensation was a massive issue
- I hate sand
- Feet are getting pretty mangled
- Tom hates sand
- This beach never ends
- Wild horses joined us at our camping spot
- Sand is the worst
Distance = 20km Total = 32km Smell factor = 2/10
Not such a great nights sleep. A big storm came howling through in the night bringing with it strong winds and driving rain. Pitching in the dark had not helped, a poorly pitched tent and strong winds meant I woke at 2am to find my walking pole (also my tent pole) on my face. After 10 minutes, and everything getting soaked, I managed to sort out the problem. The weather was still pretty rough in the morning so it took a while to get everything ready and for us to leave camp. The bags were still uncomfortably heavy but we made good progress. It was a steep start and a good chunk of the track had turned into a new river but this all added to the experience (notice the use of the word experience rather than fun). We were rewarded with unbelievable views of 90 mile beach though, the sand disappeared into the haze on the horizon with lush green forest to our left and the Tazman sea to our right. The descent to the beach was again steep but the use of different muscles was welcomed. Another astonishing beach, azure blue sea with turquoise waves raising before crashing down with brilliant white spray. The beach was relentless but we marched onwards. We found a good spot to set up camp and a friendly Swiss chap had made a similar decision. At this point sand got EVERYWHERE, I won't use the words I would like to use but you can imagine the annoyance. It grew cold quickly and the condensation in my tent was a concern. All in all another good day, tiring but good. Lots of lessons learnt and already a fantastic experience, but hopefully the 'fun' will start soon.
Distance = 12km Total = 12km Smell factor = 0/10
After successfully hitchhiking from Kerikeri to Cape Reinga we found ourselves at the start of our little wander around 3pm. Having taken the obligatory photos we started our journey, no pomp, no ceremony, just an awkward handshake. And so it began, one foot in front of the other it was as simple as that. The views were incredible as we made our way down the steep cliffs onto Te Werahi beach. The tide was out and the beach was beautiful, it was late afternoon and the perfect temperature for walking. We crossed the beach and having made our way through a small stream with socks and shoes off we decided it would be best to stop for dinner early so we could push on to camp after sunset. It was tough going in the dark but we did come across a possum and it's baby on the track, both giving us an inquisitive look before scampering off. Twilight beach seemed never ending in the dark but eventually we made it to camp, around 9:30, so we pitched our tents and fell asleep pretty soon after that. It was a great first day, slightly surreal that we were finally starting after months of planning but it felt good to get going. The weight of our bags is a worry but this should get better as we get stronger. Full of equipment, food, water, trepidation, a little fear, and a good dollop of excitement the bags are heavy but our determination doesn't falter. A great first day on the Te Araroha, one step at a time.