Day 26 (Sat 5 Dec): Pakiri to Dome Forest
Started 7.30am, summit of Mt Tamahunga 10.05am, Waiwhui road/stream/campsite 3pm, 19.5k
Pain in the head status: Didn’t sleep well and a migraine grated away at me all morning until I finally succumbed and took meds, then the pain eased off, leaving me feeling deeply lethargic – but no snoozing on the track… Just to make sure that no part of my head was neglected, the migraine returned to the other side of the head and neck in the evening as I was resting, but the medicines defeated it again. Poor sleep is a major migraine trigger for me and I’m not sure why I had insomnia last night (sigh). One of life’s mysteries.
Word of the day: Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing
Friday night at Pakiri Beach Holiday Park is boom time – the party tent next to us was pumping past our bedtime of 8.30pm (but they did quieten down later); but more disturbing was the wafting scents from the poo ponds on the other side of the fence. We were told this part of the campground was quiet (wrong) but weren’t warned of the stench. Advice to any visitors – camp away from the far fence.
The weather was perfect for our morning slog up Mt Tamahunga along the Te Hikoi o te Kiri trail (opened by Sir Edmund Hilary himself in 2001) – overcast and cool – though not so great for photography. After a brief warmup on the road from Pakiri, we started the climb firstly through farmland, then through bush, with a fair amount of exfoliation by gorse. Tony took the role of Chief Cobweb Clearer for the day, and did a fantastic job, although he did miss a few, which I subsequently wore. We had our first glimpses of Great Barrier and Rangitoto Islands in the distance, had views down over Sandspit and Matakana and got in a good amount of shinrin-yoku, which was calming for my brain if not my feet. We passed the weather radome that monitors conditions for Auckland, and can report that it was making suitably industrious pops and squeaks that hopefully translates to mild temperatures and low winds.
After this track, a bit more road walking led to the Dome Forest and Dome Valley track. Accommodation on this section of the track is scarce – we thought about aiming for the Dome cafe, at Dome Hill; although the cafe is currently closed, the sweet mad TA runner, Shae, had offered us a place to tent on his grandmother’s lawn, not far from the Dome, should we make it that far. But the signs said that would take another four and a half hours of walking. Other places that had previously offered camping have disappeared. So we found a secret spot beside the Waiwhiu stream, just above a forestry road, which no one should be policing on a Saturday night. This must be our first experience of proper back-country tramping on this trip – cold wash in the stream, dig your own toilet hole, dehydrated dinner and no ice creams.
My fun inequality-themed fact of the day (derived from another episode of the Freakonomics podcast), may be posed as a question: How much does the CEO of General Motors earn in a year? US$20 million. Follow up question, for on-going contemplation: What do you do with US$20 million a year?
Day 27 (Sun 6 Dec): Dome Forest to Remiger Road DOC campsite
Started 7am, reached the Dome at 9.35am, reached Remiger Road DOC campsite 4.35pm, 29k
Pain in the head status: All good today (and a solid sleep).
Word of the day: Perforce, by necessity, by force of circumstances
A rain shower acted as an alarm clock this morning, waking us up at 5.30am, and then passing on, which was very obliging of it, as we had wanted an early start on the long day ahead. Perforce, we had 29k to complete, as the next accommodation option was a new DOC campsite just north of Puhoi. After I had inadvertently exterminated a snail which had found (terminal) night-time refuge in my boot, we set off in the cool of the morning, so cool in fact that my pack was squeaking and creaking (which it does when it’s cold – bit like me). The track up to Dome Hill was a solid climb, with the expected undulations, but it only took two and a half hours, which goes to show that the walking times on track signs are entirely arbitrary, and almost useless for estimation purposes. But maybe the four and a half hour time was for tired TA walkers at the end of the day, whereas we were fresh and full of beans (or lentils, as it happens).
The Dome Forest contained a small kauri grove and lots of beautiful trees, including a putaputaweta that had mushrooms growing from holes in its trunk (usually the abode of weta, so maybe this was a putaputamushroom tree). However, it is much diminished from its former glory as a remarkable example of temperate NZ forest, due to the usual ravishings inflicted by humans.
After Dome Hill, we scrambled across SH1 and began a wiggling mishmash of a voyage across gravel roads, forestry roads, tarsealed roads, shared tramping/mountain bike tracks, farm tracks – through farmland, regenerating native bush, pine plantation, weeds and grasses higher than my head, up Moir’s Hill with a cluster of telecommunications towers, and past an unexpected rash of large houses with expansive green lawns on a wide road that led to the Dunn reserve, a bit of forest set aside as a Queen Elizabeth II covenant that walkers can access.
The campsite was not far from here, dropping down through the farm, at the end on a narrow strip of walkway with an electric fence on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other, which felt very unwelcoming. But the campsite itself is excellent – flat, recently mown grass, an outlook onto a piece of bush where we can watch kereru ride the updrafts and dive into the trees and the background noise of sheep shouting at each other, which I find rather precious. And a long drop, so no toilet trowel required today.
We had thought this might be a 10+ hour day so celebrated the fact that it was only 9 and a half by eating all remaining chocolate and planning what time we might reach Puhoi tomorrow, and what we might eat there. We had learnt from the day walking Bream Head that more food powers more exertion, so we had had extra rations of porridge for breakfast and a double serve of lunch (i.e. two wraps with peanut butter). Still a bit hungry though. Thank goodness Orewa, with an abundance of food venues, is just around the corner.
Podcast highlights: I’ve almost finished listening to the podcast Drilled, which exposes the shenanigans of the oil industry, so I can stop regaling Tony with scandalous stories about fracking and how the shale oil industry in the US is not only horribly polluting but not even economic; the nefarious links between the oil and tobacco industries; and the invidious investments that petrochemical industries are making in plastics (just what the world needs more of).
Inequality-themed joke of the day: Why does Bernie Sanders hate icebergs? Because only 1% floats above the water.