Day 15 (Tues 24 Nov): The Farm to Whangaruru Beachside camp
Started 8.15am, finished 11.30am, 14k
Pain in the head status: Woke up feeling sluggish and a bit ‘off’. Migraine developed after we had been walking for a few hours, took some medication and the pain mostly subsided but continued to feel an intense lassitude. After many days of no bothersome migraines, I speculated on what might have brought this one on. Change in the weather? Heavier pack, weighted down with food for the next week or so, pulling on my shoulders? Having a cup of tea for breakfast instead of coffee?? None of the above, all of the above, something else entirely? Who knows.
Word of the day: Lassitude, a state or feeling of being tired and listless, weariness
We woke to the pattering of rain on the tent, which was a marked disincentive to get up. The forecast was for rain continuing most of the day, and tomorrow. We pored over our options, eventually deciding to aim for a campground near Oakura, which was 3k or so off the official Te Araroa trail but plenty of TA walkers reported staying there. The thought of slogging it out in the wet to Helena Bay, where we’d planned to go, set up a soggy tent in ever-increasingly soggy conditions, was not appealing. This is supposed to be our holiday after all. We felt like a bit of lounging-around-by-the-beach holiday, as a break from longer-hours-and-more-exertion-than-work holiday.
The rain wasn’t that bothersome once we got into it, however, only a light continual sprinkling, posing no threat to our wet weather gear. We trudged along the road again, which wound through more farmland, offering tantalising glimpses of the ocean to the east, and regretful vistas of Russell Forest to the west, which we had missed tramping through. A few kilometers from Oakura, kind Susie from Puriri Bay stopped and offered us a lift, clearly sympathising with the pain of road walking and our dampened state. She dropped us off at the Oakura dairy, where we diverted from type and bought bananas and cheese for lunch instead of ice-creams, but true to type bought a packet of biscuits (Shrewsbury’s this time), which didn’t last to see the sunset.
As soon as I saw Oakura beach, and just over the northern headland, Parutahi beach, where the campsite was, I was pleased we had made the diversion. Simply stunning, with pristine stretches of pale blonde sand, sea flat as marble, barely a sound as the waves lick the shore, and attractive, decorative islands out in the bay. In contrast to Paihia, quiet and serene and bereft of tourists, although plenty of enormous holiday homes that likely fill up on the weekends. It was such a stark contrast to the road walking, with its mixture of wearying repetitiveness and ever-present risk of vehicular impact, that I felt an immediate sense of calm and relief.
We booked a caravan for two nights, and I reflected nostalgically that I hadn’t stayed in a caravan since our family holidays when I was a child. Although I don’t ever remember our family caravan being disturbed by chickens scratching and banging about under the floor. It wasn’t enough to stop me having a nap and catching up on the news. It was the first time I’d properly looked at the news since we started. Nothing much really seems to have happened, which makes me wonder why I bother looking at it at all. I tried to learn some native grasses, discovering that most of the things we call NZ grasses are actually sedges, at which point I gave up.
Looking at the TA app, another trail diversion has appeared, replacing another forest track south of Whananki with more road walking. Sigh. I’m guessing we’ve hit another kauri dieback response. All the locals we’ve spoken to have been rather disgruntled about the Russell Forest closure – everyone has a different theory about why, and none of them are positive.
Heartwarming moment of the day: I found an email from work, notifying me that one of the papers I’d written up had been rejected by the journal we submitted it to. It took more than a few moments of deep contemplation to recall what that paper had even been about. I’m truly in tramping mode – work, what’s that? Although technically, I’m still on annual leave, so am not quite unemployed until next month.