Day 18 (Fri 27 Nov): Kaiikanui Forest to Whananaki
Started 8.05am, finished 2.20pm, 16k
Pain in the head status: Nothing significant. Some burning in the hips- my weakest link- most bothersome at night, but improving; being treated with daily yoga.
Word of the day: Mellifluous, pleasantly smooth and melodious
After being disturbed by growling possums in the night, it was soothing to wake to the mellifluous tones of the grey warbler, shining cuckoo and tui (although I concede the tui can also be rather rasping, when it starts hawking and croaking).
After a short walk through farmland, we re-entered the bush, on a beautifully graded and cleared track (the Morepork track) which lulled me into a false sense of complacency, not having checked the topo map the day before. This ended way too quickly and we reverted to the usual style of NZ forest tracks; straight down, straight up, and again, in a sweaty huff-and-puff-athon. Today’s track had the novelty of half a dozen stream crossings, but none significant enough to wet the toes. There were a few more boot cleaning stations today to protect the kauri, but it’s hard to believe this is really being taken seriously when at least a third of the stations we’ve been through so far have run out of disinfecting fluid.
We reached Whananaki campground via a walk around the estuary, ringed with mangroves, and I had cause to be grateful for the forest walk as it was burning in the sun. This may have been the first day we had clear skies for most of the walk and we would have roasted without the shade of the trees.
Met a couple of other TA walkers and we all ordered takeaways from the local shop, and had to break the news to multiple disappointed customers that the shop closed at 5pm, so they could watch us eat fish and chips but could not order any. We had the most expensive shower yet- 50c for 4 minutes of hot water.
Wildlife highlights: lots of different fungi, orange toadstools, a flat mushroom the size of a saucer with a dark wheel-like rim, tiny orange-brown round ones in a cluster, ones just like white button mushrooms. Probably all highly toxic.
Day 19 (Sat 28 Nov): Whananaki to Ngunguru
Started 7.30am, finished (at cafe) 1.45pm, then another 1km to the estuary, 25k
Pain in the head status: Gloriously nil. I’m beginning to wonder whether TA walking might be an alternative treatment for migraines. Don’t want to get too optimistic though, as a thumper could arrive at any moment.
Word of the day: Vicissitude, change in circumstance or condition, particularly one that is unwelcome
Today’s walk started out along the Whananaki Coastal Track, which offered some truly stunning views of the soft sand beaches and pohutakawa encrusted coast. The cows in this bit of farmland were unusually unafraid and watched our progress with what appeared to be mild interest, although more likely was due to digestive ruminations.
The next part of the walk was back on the road, due to another diversion to skirt around a forest. [Rant commences – skip if desired.] I would say that the vicissitudes of the TA trail in Northland due to land closures have diminished the experience. We wanted to walk every step of the way, and we mostly have, but the road walking feels needlessly dangerous and is hardly the immersion in NZ’s natural beauty we were seeking. We’re chasing the tide of kauri dieback, racing to keep ahead of it as forests close before and after us. In a few years, there may be no forest walking in Northland which would make much of the TA trail in this region hardly worth doing. To be honest, I think trampers are far less of a threat to kauri than pigs and other pests and as long as there is local opposition to eradication of these animals that people want to hunt for food, the kauri are doomed.
[Rant ended.] One benefit of road walking is I get to listen to all my favourite podcasts, and try some new ones (but with only one ear bud in, to keep the other ear out for approaching vehicles). From the BBC’s The Documentary, I was horrified to learn that a child goes missing in India every 8 minutes, victims of kidnapping and trafficking. From Radiolab, I was intrigued by their episode on deception, with items about how to recognise a liar from micro facial expressions and the usefulness of self-deceit (apparently, people who lie to themselves tend to be happier and more successful; I think I’d rather be self-aware and slightly miserable). Hidden Brain had an inspiring piece on the power of gratitude that instantly motivated me to count my blessings. Freakonomics had a two-part series on the effectiveness (or not) of advertising, exploring new research that has shown that the return on investment for advertising was way way less than the traditional wisdom. I started thinking about what I would do with this information if I still worked at the Health Promotion Agency – but, No! Work thoughts are banned.
Back to the trail – we stopped off at the Sea Salt Cafe in Ngunguru for a muffin, then restocked at the local store, boosting our supply of essentials (coffee, toothpaste, sunscreen) and delighting ourselves with bananas, strawberries and tomatoes. We caught up with one of the other TA walkers from last night, Mark, and contacted the owner of our accommodation for the night, James of Nikau Bay Eco Camp. James then powered us over the tidal estuary in his small dinghy with an outboard motor, and I re-discovered something that I knew about myself but had mostly forgotten – I don’t like small boats, despite being from Scottish fisher stock. Fortunately the experience was soon over and we arrived at this beautiful sanctuary, all built by James, including outdoor hot showers with trees growing through them, extensive green lawns for tenting, a huge open-air kitchen and lounge area and a boardwalk through a stand of nikau to get to the toilets. We put up the tent and lovely James lent us real pillows to use for the night, and supplied salad leaves, tomatoes and eggs for our dinner. What a gem. I love James.
Joke of the day: The other TA walker we’re sharing the camp with tonight, Jaz, asked what the blog was called. I told her ‘Tramping with Migraine’ and she looked at Tony and said, ‘When are you going to get rid of him?’