Day 16 (Wed 25 Nov): Whangaruru Beachfront camp
Rain and rest day.
Pain in the head status: I was glad to have the day off from walking as still didn’t feel 100% after yesterday’s migraine. The quiet day may have affected a cure.
Word of the day: Scarp, steep slope or escarpment, often formed by erosion or uplift
The bouts of intense rain in the night may have sounded worse than they were on the tin roof of the caravan, but there was no doubt that the day was not going to provide settled weather. The wind had picked up so there were now baby white caps in the harbour, and the skies were grey and heavy. We managed to get in a few beach walks, however, in between dumps of rain and despite the wind, reinstating the romance of a walk along the beach, so long as it is at a leisurely pace, doesn’t carry on for eight hours and you can lovingly hold hands with your partner (if you wish) rather than having to propel yourself forward with walking poles. We even scrambled up scarp at the north end of Oakura Bay, to get better views – this was probably the steepest climb of the trail so far. By late afternoon, the sun had returned, although the wind was still strong, but much better walking prospects for tomorrow.
Regret of the day: Ate far too much junk food from the dairy. Am making a resolution – at our convenience store stops, to hunt for the healthiest, most nutritious snacks and eschew chips, crappy chocolate bars and biscuits. Not ice-cream though, that’s a step too far.
Wildlife encounters: We watched gannets float in the air currents over the ocean like hang-gliders, occasionally diving straight down into the water for fish. NZ dotterel scuttled away from us over the sand; oystercatchers eyed us suspiciously and a red-billed gull bombed us, screaming for us to leave its territory. Rock pools were littered with hundreds of cone-shaped sea shells.
Day 17 (Thurs 26 Nov): Whangaruru to random campsite somewhere in Kaiikanui Forest
Started 7.10am, finished walking 1.35pm, 17k
Pain in the head status: Had what is a reasonably common experience of waking in the night with ambiguous pains in the head and neck – I’m not sure how common this is for non-migrainous people. You wake up, try to iron out any kinks from weird sleeping positions, wonder whether this is going to turn bad and ruin the next day, hope that you’ll sleep it off and it will all be fine in the morning. You wonder, did this pain wake me up, or did I wake up for another reason and discover the pain incidentally? Should I get up and take something, or is that overkill? If I don’t, will it turn into a migraine that might have been averted if I treated it earlier? Fortunately, in this case, I went back to sleep and in the morning it was all a bad pain dream.
Word of the day: Celerity, rapidity of motion
The earliest start so far, since we packed up ready to go the night before and even made bircher muesli so we only had to open the fridge and breakfast was served. Back on the road, it only took about two hours to get to Helena Bay, as Tony led off with celerity. Then we got to walk through a forest again, on the Helena Bay Ridge Track. The word ‘ridge’ in any tramping track name is code for up-and-down, up-and-down, then repeat. This track followed this to the letter, and there was some significant slowing of pace. Still, it was a lovely bit of forest, despite the steepness and slippery red clay, with kauri, huge totara, puriri and lots of manuka in the regenerating bush parts. At the top, we broke out onto farmland.
Warning to sensitive readers: the next section contains descriptions of violence.
As we wandered across the farm paddock, we saw a small stoat peeking up out of the grass. It darted away from us, but this time, Tony took offensive action. He stalked the stoat across the field, spotted it hiding in a patch of long grass, and turned his walking pole into a weapon of stoat destruction. By the time I arrived, tardily, the stoat was twitching out its last breaths. I delivered the boot of mercy. This one’s for you, Louise.
After out foray into pest eradication, we had a leisurely lunch at the end of a farm road, just before the track left the fields to dive back into the bush. A few kilometers in, the farmer has set up a water tank for trampers in a shelterd clearing fit for tenting. I’m sending loving vibes to all tramping-friendly farmers.
Short day – only 17k – we’re easing back into it after our beach holiday. We’re sharing the campsite with a group of turkeys, so have to watch out for turkey poo. I spent the afternoon botanising, with the help of Andrew Crowe’s excellent field guides, which are not quite as helpful as the plaques on trees in nature walks, but much better than my memory. I confidently identified a taraire, akatea (white rata vine), the kahakaha variety of perching lily and soft mingimingi, the leaves of which apparently can be boiled up to make a headache remedy. Worth knowing, if I run out of drugs.