Day 30 (Wed 9 Dec): Britomart to Wiri
Started 7.40am, finished 4pm, 37k
Pain in the head status: I’m experiencing what I expected to happen at the beginning of the trail – migraines at the end of the day and in the night, which has been a common pattern on other tramping trips. I’m hoping this will settle down soon, as they always do (the only question is ‘how soon’). I’m always cautious about having a run of migraines turn into a chronic migraine, but if they persist for more than five days or a week, I take some time out. We have rest days planned for Friday and Sunday, so that should help.
Word of the day: Affogato, Italian coffee-based dessert which consists of a scoop of vanilla ice-cream topped with a shot of hot espresso. In contrast, an iced coffee is a chilled coffee, either brewed cold or brewed hot and then cooled before serving, e.g. by pouring over ice or cold milk.
Today was a trip down memory lane for me. Having lived in Auckland for 30 years, walking what is known as the Auckland Coast to Coast track (from Britomart in the Central Business District, on the shores of the Waitemata Harbour, south to Onehunga on the Manukau Harbour) took me through places so familiar it was like I was reliving a ghostly past. Through the grounds of Auckland University, my alma mater, and up the Centennial Walkway from the bottom of Grafton Road through the Domain, which I walked daily for years to attend 8am lectures at the Auckland Medical School. The Domain was also the place where I welcomed in the new millenium, along with several thousands of other people, where a friend and I dressed up as dryads to celebrate the trees (and pretend that Narnia existed, just for a moment), and where I once overdosed on ventolin because I thought I had exercise-induced asthma (I was just unfit).
Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill was also saturated with memories of previous visits, but although I have been there dozens of times, this was the first time I had noticed the yellow-flowered pohutakawas in the carpark by the kiosk (now a bistro) and heritage buildings. Sometimes I wonder whether I used to walk around with my eyes closed to nature.
The Cornwall Park Bistro held another revelation. We dropped in for a drink, and there it was revealed to me the difference between an iced coffee and an affogato. It turns out what we had at Takapuna Beach was some kind of affogato/iced coffee hybrid (delicious) but ice-cream and coffee is technically a dessert. I don’t know how I could have lived so long without being fully cognisant of this indulgence. What a sublime pairing – espresso and ice-cream. It makes life worth living, knowing that there are always more delights to be discovered and enjoyed. I intend to enjoy this one on many more occasions.
After winding through more streets and parks, we passed from the Coast to Coast track to the walkways around Mangere, some of which were diverted on the road because of work on the Central Interceptor, a massive tunnelling project that may provide relief from Auckland’s wastewater woes. The area around Mangere has certainly been transformed since I last lived in Auckland – from smelly poo ponds to a wetland sanctuary. I remember driving on the causeway through the poo ponds out to Puketutu Island, to look at the emu farm there, with adrenaline pumping because we knew if we went off the road, we’d end up in sewage.
I’d been thinking this was quite a pleasant walk, much better than I expected from walking through a city, then we hit the airport back roads. No footpaths and lots of trucks – every time one passed, it was like being caught in a mini tornado. It was a relief to pass through Ihumatao, where the road is still closed to traffic (but we were kindly waved through).
We met up with a few other TA walkers at Puhiniu Reserve, which had a cute pond and bridge that could have been transplanted from Hobbiton. These poor walkers had full packs on, which made me appreciate once again how much easier it was as a no-packer.
Regret of the day: We thought we could buy a drink from the gas station by the airport – but it has long gone. We had to give revenue to McDonald’s instead – although fast food industry versus gas industry – what’s worse?
Incredible scientist of the last century award goes to Maurice Hilleman. Heard of him? I hadn’t, until the latest Radiolab episode. He was the world’s most prolific vaccine creator, developing vaccines for mumps, measles, chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, pneumonia and more. He averted a major pandemic in 1957 by recognising how genetic mutations in the influenza virus would require annual variations to the flu vaccine. An unsung hero whose work saved millions of lives. If only we heard more about people like this and less about the Kardashians.
Day 31 (Thurs 10 Dec): Manukau to Ramarama
Started 8.30am, finished 2.20pm, 24k.
Pain in the head status: I woke up at 4.30am, which was about eight hours after I went to bed, but I so wanted some more sleep! Developed a migraine mid-morning while we were walking. Am glad we are having a rest day tomorrow as I don’t want to take any more migraine tablets for a while.
Word of the day: Supererogatory, do more than God demands, go beyond what is required
After the supererogatory walk of yesterday, we had ambitions of walking to Bombay (not India) today, but it turned out that a supererogatory walk jellifies your legs earlier than usual the day after. The day started well, with a train trip from Britomart to Manukau station (we did skip a kilometre or so as the Puhinui station was closed). I do love train trips. This one was particularly fast, quiet and non-crowded and plenty of time to check emails, write blog and text friends. Tony took the mindfulness approach of actually observing his surroundings on the journey, but I’m of the opinion that people who practise such well-being activities disperse benefits to those around them, so I must also have profited.
We picked up the Puhinui stream at a park behind Rainbow’s End, and followed this to the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa, which would be a lovely place to wander around at leisure for a few hours (put on the to do list). Since I last visited, probably decades ago, it has a fancy visitor’s centre, which was also relegated to the to do list.
The trail hit a low point after this, with hours of tedious walking through the back blocks of Manurewa, Takanini, Papakura, Drury. We sheltered in the Papakura Cemetery for lunch, due to the dearth of any other attractive green spaces (this at least had flowers, even though most of them were artificial). We contemplated the transience of life, the mechanics of decomposition and how the new fungal burial suits can return your body to the elements within five weeks. We wondered why several of the cremation boxes appeared to have been forcibly removed from the memorial wall we were sitting against. Cemeteries engender much food for thought.
Things picked up at Drury, where we tried out the ‘limited edition’ Ruby Raspberry Magnum that was being advertised outside every dairy we passed (yes, I fell victim to advertising). I wasn’t particularly impressed though. The ice-cream was suitably cold and creamy but the pink ‘Ruby’ chocolate casing tasted weird. That’s my gastronomical assessment. Mouthfeel: cloying. Flavour: sweet with overtones of weird.
That fortified us to negotiate the un-footpathed roads to Drury Quarry, well-frequented by trucks, and on to Ramarama, which is being transformed from pasture to housing (I hesitate to call it ‘development’, which makes it sound like the land was serving no useful purpose prior to the housing). We had arranged a rendez-vous with the PTS at Ramarama School, and waited outside in the student pick-up area along with the early mothers nabbing the best parking spots from which to retrieve their progeny. Fortunately, the PTS arrived before the progeny were released from school so we escaped the end-of-school chaos.
Yay, day off tomorrow. I don’t think TA walkers have enough days off (I suppose many of them are on a tight time-frame, a restraint we are blessedly free of). We should treat TA walking like a job and have at least one day off a week. Rest and recovery makes you stronger.