The 8th of dec I was sitting in Kerikeri - Northland east coast - sipping a cold pale ale on the last hours of my first 'zero day', meaning rest day in thruhiker language.
After the painful 90 mile beach, I took half a day off, but felt like there was no problem to continue after that half day. Some foot massage and yoga and I was all set to go. After 2 hours of road walking out from Ahipara the trail takes you in to Herekino forest, followed by some road walking, Raetea forest, some road walking, omahuta/puketi forest and some farmland/road walking before reaching Kerikeri. In total 4,5 days.
We all heard rumors about the muddy rain forests, but no rain in a week should make it fairly okay, right?
The first two forests, Herekino and Raetea, both proved to be muddier then I thought possible after a week without rain. But over all the mud was manageable and usually there was a way around it. But I would not want to be there in wet conditions. Even when dry, some parts were sloow, roughly 1,5km/h and then I really tried hard to haul ass and my pulse was about 140bpm after one minute of rest. A lot of elevation and tricky obstacles to tackle. Far worse than any OCR I would guess... But so much more beautiful and less harmful than the beach! Max pulse is totally better than painful feet.
Herekino showed me the most beautiful place for a break this far. A little stream with a lush green canopy and the sunshine just barely making it through.
Raetea was cold at night, but it was nice and soul warming to share camp with a Belgian, a Taiwanese and an American that night. The American guy, Jonah, brought a guitar and played some sunset jazz/blues. Apparently this was his sixth thruhike, so he was pretty fast even though carrying a guitar. Kept up with him for 1,5 days and did the puketi forest partly together. Really nice guy with big ambitions. The puketi forest included some walking in the stream, incredible!
Of course we got heavy rain when in the stream. No problem since we were getting wet anyway, except for the fact that the stream is sometimes subject to flash floods in heavy rain. A bit worrying at first but the rain reduced and focus switched to the beauty of this place.
After pushing a 37km day in rainforest and forest roads I was quite sore and eager to reach Kerikeri for my zero day.
The last part before Kerikeri was mostly farmland walking. Nice with some open landscapes and approaching ocean. The trail takes you through some stiles with grazing sheep and cows. The sheeps are totally fine since they run away as you approach, even though you try to take the long way around them. But the cows are tricky. I was a bit anxious when entering the stile with cows. They were a bit too close when I entered but I thought "I take it easy and try to make my way around them, what's the worst possible outcome?"
It turned out that the cows felt threatened by my trekking poles that accidentally clashed together at one point so they ran of to regroup and started a "counter attack" towards me. 50 running cows are intimidating I tell you that! So I started running away from them, then stopped and looked back. The cow had stopped, but when they saw I also stopped they started to run towards me again. I tried to stand my ground smashing my poles together and be loud, but no success. Surrender was the only option and I started sprinting towards the nearest gate and exited as fast as I could. The cowgressive creatures made me take a 2 km detour.
Next stile were full of young bulls laying in the entering corner. I took the way around, but they followed me along the fence looking like they would want to eat me. I've now gained a great respect for cows in a heards..
Last part into Kerikeri was routed along the Kerikeri river, past rainbow falls. Pretty ending to a cool, sweaty, muddy, fresh, beautiful and threatening stretch of trail.