Friday, November 29, 2013

Ngunguru to Waipu, Lang's Beach, and onto Te Arai

  I made it to Ngunguru (Nun -ga- roo) and met with the clan. But this is where Laura says "the band broke up."  Realizing we were all hiking at different paces with different intentions we came to the conclusion that we were not all going to be leaving together the following morning.  As the trek began I had every intention of walking the whole trail, every square inch of it, but as life has a tendency to want to be heard, she kindly reminded me one more time, that you only have control of so many things, and plan as you might, not everything will go as planned.  I have learned to give way to other things in store. Sorry if it's a disappointment to anyone who helped me get here, but the truth of the matter is, that this trail on its own is one hell of a challenge, throw the art project on top, which is one giant endeavor as well, and you have to learn to compromise. So here's what I decided, and please feel free to give me some input, as I know many of you helped me to get to this place.

  • injuries happen.  We don't plan for them, but in the end they always win. So, yes I hitched a bit due to injuries, there's not much to be compromised on here.
  • Road walking is a pretty big part of this trail and utter hell on the feet and extremely unsafe.  Bike lanes are a rarity in this country so its just car lane and ditch with nothing in between. Often while navigating through and around town your senses are heightened and you are more than fully aware of the proximity and speed with which cars are flying past you. Reiterated by the mini tornadoes of wind gust that blow you around after they have past at seemingly unthinkable rates.  It can take me one full 8 hour day of walking  to travel the same distance it would take a vehicle to drive 20 or 25 minutes, in case you need some perspective on my sudden fascination with car speeds. So, in the case that a section of the track is fully invested in road walking, there is a chance I might hitch through it. I traveled here for the tramping, not the near death roadside experiences, and to increase the number of blisters on my feet.  You may call it cheating...I call it smart.
  • If, while walking on a road section , you are approached by a car and offered a ride, having in no way solicited said ride from the driver in any way, taking a small jump through the road section is not considered cheating, but rather more of a case of "obliging the locals."
  So there you have it, I hope you aren't disappointed in my stand on the whole hitching thing, but as I said before compromises have to be made...on with the story!!
  That night I camped with Rita and Martin, a German couple who have been in New Zealand for 11 months, and are soon to continue their travels onto Vietnam, and Turkey before heading home in February.  It is all too common an occurrance that the track notes and the maps will indicate some sort of campsite at a location, when one does not in fact seem to exist in said location.  So, again you compromise.  It turns out there was no camp site in Ngunguru, but we had been told there was a man who lived at the top of a hill who was allowing people to camp in his lawn for $25/night...well, that is simply too rich for my blood.  It's also at the top of a hill.  So, we found a comfy cozy little section of grass, slightly removed from the main road, right behind the public library, and made it our home for the evening.  We also happened to be camped right near a small walking path and woke in the morning to the sounds of some judging, and some confused locals, but nothing ever came of it, and we were on our way.
  The three of us split up and hitched to Whangerai (Fon-ger-rye)where we had agreed to look for each other, with no real solidified plans of reconnecting, and just see what was happening.  Fate and travel magic has continued, ever since to land me at the feet of my new friends. We collided on the street in downtown Whangerai and after stocking up food, decided to head south and restart the trek.  I only had a series of days to hike with these guys before they left for Auckland and onto their next adventure, but I was very excited to be with them because it seems, from what I had seen with our little time together, that they hike much more according to my speed and leisure.
  While in Whangerei I stumbled upon a sculpture walk! What luck!!

  We decided to try our hand at hitching together as a group of three, which seemed at first impossible of not entirely improbable, but wonders never cease and apparently neither does the kindness of the Kiwi. Enter Bob Howard, who is actually from the States, but moved to NZ several years ago. On a side note, he has actually been to Idaho for some white water rafting. 

Bob dropped us off at an exit from South Highway 1 to Waipu to help get us back on track and trail.  The second we got out of the car the wind and rain began.  The forecast had said the next 4 days would be terrible, and was ultimately the result of why we didn't get to take the kayak tour from Ngunguru like we had planned.  Lady luck was shining on us again though, and in 15 minutes so was the sun.
  The thing I learned very quickly about hiking with martin and Rita, was that if you want to keep their spirits up and their motivation going, on the rare to never occasion that it dwindled slightly, you mention two things. For Martin you mention pie. New Zealand is known for its small hand held savory meat pies and I think Martin very quickly became a connoisseur.  I kept telling him he should have toured the country and written a book solely on their pies.  For Rita, it was the mention of a coffee.  So, once we made it to Waipu, having told them I had yet to have a pie, we very quickly rectified the situation, and now I know what all the fuss was about.  I will say, however, i don't think I will ever meet someone who loves the pies as much as Martin, but I do appreciate the introduction.
  Beyond Waipu toward Waipu Cove we found this gem of a cemetery, and I was pleased to find I was not alone in wanting to stop for a break. I was also not alone in the appreciation of cemeteries. Some find them sad and disturbing, I find them welcoming.

This tree was incredible

  The trail continued along a section of the coastline which had to be traversed at low tide.  there were several stream crossings along the beach which were difficult to judge the depth of. Picture the scene in The Never Ending Story where Atreyu gets stuck in the mud and loses his horse to sadness, that was me trying to cross parts of the streams. I quite seriously got stuck twice and had to have Martin pull me out of the mud.  I don't think it would have been as tricky as it was if it weren't for the heavy pack on my back throwing me off balance and making me sink further and further into the depths of the oceanic bogs (I might be slightly dramatic here).  Laughter all the while.
May I introduce Martin and a boat.

Barnacle Shoe
Once to Waipu Cove there were two options for sleep, both were campervan sites, where you can pay for a space to pitch a tent for the night, bathroom and a kitchen provided sometimes, but all for a cost. One was booked full and the other was $19 per person, just to pitch a tent, and none of us were willing to pay that, so we carried on to what we thought was the next town, up a very windy road. More dangerous NZ road walking.  Once over the hills to the town we found nowhere to camp and were quickly informed by a local upon asking about a place to stay that Lang's Beach is "Not a town. It's just a beach."  You could have fooled us, it was full of houses, and signs that said no overnight camping. What's a weary walker to do? Pitch a tent right next to a no camping sign right down on the beach, that's what! After all, if it's not a town, then there are no enforcers of rules :)
Lang's Beach

Up again and on the move toward Mangawhai Heads and Magawhai where we stopped for both a coffee and a pie and were greeted by the most lovely of locals who offered us rides, which we didn't take, and cheesy breadsticks, which we did take as well as some appreciated information on the whereabouts of nearby campsites which in fact existed in this world and not just the imagination of maps and track notes.  We walked onward and while doing so I explained how i believed today was Thanksgiving and took the time and liberty of explaining the holiday to the Germans as best I could. Tradition never seems so strange as when you are explaining it to someone outside the circle.  What perfect timing that while i was explaining it, several wild turkeys poked their heads up from the grass. I swear if I could have figured out how to fit one of them into my Jetboil, we would have had one for dinner.
Taunting deliciousness

After several more kilometers on the road along came Barry Atkins, another helpful beekeeper, to offer us a ride. He said he had seen us this morning in Lang's Head and could not believe we were still walking.  He dropped us at our destination a few kilometers away and gave us some medicinal manuka gel made by his bees.  I could seriously bee nerd out on you right now, but I will refrain.
Thanks Barry!


  1. Beautiful! No disappointment here. You're on an's all good! :)

  2. I am glad you are making decisions that make the trek better for you! Keep the adventure going and be safe.