Since I'm a bit behind blogging, I feel the need to place the posts in time. This post covers December 18th until December 26th. Right now I'm in Napier after the Kawekas. Slowly catching up..
Hunua ranges is a small mountain range south of Auckland. It's fairly rugged with a lot of native bush. We spent three days there, doing roughly 60 km. The days have been slow ever since, probably because we've created our own route and no longer feel the urge to crush miles, achieve glory and generate likes. Doing so is apparently a big part of the American thru hiker community. I somewhat get it because you need to keep on pushing yourself to do the miles if you shall have a chance of finishing the American trails. The season is short and the trails are long. Te Araroa is not as long and the recommended season lasts from October to April. Even if I get it, I really don't support it. I'm in it for the experience rather than the glory. And the experience of going slow and doing yoga three times a day is truly a calming and beautiful way to soak in the country.
First hiking day ended in a shelter after 18 km, at 16:15 after passing a cool Kauri grove and a lot of tourists. An hour of yoga and then dinner. I went to bed at 20:00, needed sleep. Second day was not a sunny day. It started pouring around 10 o'clock and didn't stop until sunset. Muddy trails and a lot of technical vertical meters made us exhausted and we stopped for lunch at piggotts Hut. At a couple of high spots before the hut you could actually see through the clouds down on the lakes made by dams in the area. Piggotts hut was perfect to wait out the rain under the porch roof. Long lunch, a lot of yoga and some tent stake rhythm exercises later, we decided to stay the night at the porch, since the hut smelled mold. The porch perfectly fitted the three of us for 'cowboy camping'.
The evening gave us a beautiful sunset and a double rainbow after the heavy rain. After all a good day, even if the hiking wasn't especially rewarding. We also saw the Kokako, a rare (3000 individuals alive) and native NZ bird. That was kind of cool!
I actually don't remember the hiking in Hunua on the third day as anything special at all. The absolute highlight on this hot and sunny day was the afternoon stream dip! I think we stayed an hour just enjoying the flowing fresh water in combination with lee and sun!
We camped around a shit smelling shelter for the night, with a couple of km to the exit road. The nose gets used to bad smell when you're hiking hard in the heat.. So the bad smell around the shelter was quickly absorbed by your own smell..
Played around with my tarp to find some useful setups. The tarp has grown on me so far. I'm getting faster at pitching and usually there's good ground for staking it taut.
Fourth morning we descended into farmland and made it out to the road. On our way out we saw some sulphur crested parakeets (parrots from Australia) but they sounded more like 'vildvittror' from the Swedish fairytale 'Ronja rövardotter'. Link below.
We actually thought we would make to a small town called Miranda, for some shelter and bird spotting. But it was too much road walking and the sun burned hard on this day so we decided to try and hitch to the city of Thames instead. We apparently hit a bad hitching spot at first because we were standing in the sun for almost two hours before Joel, the kiwi I met on 90 mile beach, came along. That was quite convenient since he also was doing his own NZ route. We stopped the hitching for a moment and had a great chat, some guitar playing and a couple of oranges we got from a lady in a house on the other side of the road. We exchanged contact info with Joel for some future route sharing. Actually, he is the one who's sharing and we're just kindly accepting his help. But hopefully we'll be able to return the favor on the South Island if we stumble across some great trails there!
We changed our hitching place after chatting with Joel and all of a sudden, the Orca guy came along, giving us a ride to the nearest pub. He and his crew were done for Christmas holiday and wanted to celebrate with a beer. He bought us a couple of beers and we had a good chat, then he decided we were so nice that he wanted to take us to Thames, 45 minutes in the wrong direction for him. He was a diver, doing construction work below the surface. A long time ago, before he started diving professionally, he had been in close contact with orcas below the surface. A mother and a calf, looking at him and his friend almost within touching distance. He was so overwhelmed when he spoke about it. Obviously the most humbling experience of his life. Need not to tell that he was a very kind man.
After he dropped us of in Thames, we charged our devices and used McDonald's free wifi for an hour or so, and then resupplied at pak'n'save before we headed out to Coromandel ranges.
Coromandel started, as every mountain range, with a steep climb from sea level up to roughly 500 meters. We started late and decided to cowboy camp on the trail, a small ledge with gorgeous views.
Next morning we headed of early to get going before the rain, that never came. At least not until lunch. Hiking was calming in the Coromandel ranges. No hard winds, sun and clouds in a lagom mix. We headed on to Crosbies Hut where we stayed for lunch, and along came the rain. We thought we should wait out the rain in the hut and went for a 'nap'. Two and a half hours later I woke up and the rain was still highly present. Two more hikers had arrived and I didn't even notice. Of course we followed the newly undertaken slacker style and stayed the night after this humongous 13 km day.. But we did yoga, calisthenics and played guitar!
The pinnacles was third days' target. The aim was to reach the pinnacles via moss creek track. The trail junction sign said Fuck moss creek track. People wasn't to happy about it.. we decided to try anyway. At a side trip from moss creek track to see a cool ravine, Jonah stepped into a wasps nest at the same minute as Sarah fell into the river. Too much bad luck in one minute to continue moss creek track. We went back to the trail junction and straight to The pinnacles hut where I of course managed to tell the hut warden that we stayed in Crosbies hut without paying (hut passes wasn't valid) and ended up paying an extra $45. We all do our mistakes I guess..
We put up our tents, had a massive dinner and finished of the day by doing the pinnacles. Top 3 in beautiful places of 2016 (Yosemite and Rapadalen was the two others). We ascended in gale force winds but it really didn't matter in all the beauty.
After a good nights sleep we took a road less traveled down to the small town of Coroglen and hitched into Whitianga for celebrating Christmas! We stayed at 'At the beach hostel' for two nights, celebrated Christmas by taking a swim in the ocean and doing a grand Cajun style BBQ.