December 19th 2016
Tent site – tent site
18.8 miles
Total distance: 285.9 miles

Thinking back to this morning is difficult, it feels like it was about a week ago not just a few hours.

I felt absolutely terrible this morning, I felt like I had an elephant sat on me squashing me to the ground. I felt like I had to peel myself up slowly. My eyes were puffy and my energy and desire to walk anywhere was very very low. It took a superhuman strength to get up, get dressed and pack up my things. As we were packing up our tents a few cars drove by, all of them waved and one asked us if we were ok for water.

We started walking and within about 2 minutes we saw they were all just up the road, workers in a logging operation. We carried on along the gravel road and at 7:30am it was already scorching hot and we were sweaty. Not a good sign for later in the day. We climbed up through farmland and through a field of sheep.

We went the wrong way for a bit, missing a very obvious trail marker. The correct way was actually straight up a very steep grassy field. My calf muscles are so tight it was tough going. The good thing about these steep climbs is you gain a lot of height very quickly but on the downside you cover very little distance. We continued on climbing up and down, very steep in both directions.

Unfortunately I had to break the no nature poo streak.

We met a section hiker who was very boastful about the weight of his pack and gave us all sorts of unwanted ‘advice’. We continued on along the trail, near the top of the climb we got some great views looking back across to where we had come from over the last two days. After a little road walk we seemed to do a pointless little loop, and although the track was very nice and very well maintained we could have walked an eighth of the distance along the road!

We saw a man with a couple of dogs on a tractor, he told us it was going to rain later today. Some more steep climbing through farmland brought us to the Mangawhai Heads coastal tack which was really beautiful. Rugged coastlines, beautifully coloured seas and enviable properties made this a great part of the day. I normally prefer going down than going up, but the stairs weren’t a problem going up other than the usual out of breath issues, but going down was a killer on my calfs.

The clouds started to gather and it was a welcome break from the intense heat of the sun. Down off the cliffs we started our short beach walk, and as we turned and came off the beach we saw some public toilets. Never passing up the chance to use a loo we stopped for a bit and emptied the sand from our shoes. When it started to rain we sought refuge in the changing rooms. Nice and clean and sheltered from the wind. A couple of excitable little girls came in to get changed and asked us a load of questions, including ‘are you an explorer?’

We stayed in the changing rooms for longer than we should have but neither of us had the enthusiasm for hiking.

We eventually removed ourselves and hiked on to Mangawhai Heads and the shops and takeaways. We were going to resupply here, but we had to eat first. Fish and chips and two Fanta oranges perked me up a bit momentarily before making me incredibly sleepy. The rain came down quite hard but was only brief. Again neither of us wanted to move anywhere so we stayed here for longer than we should have. After deciding to carry on for 2.7 miles to Mangawhai and do our resupply there so we could take another soda stop, we saw two girls on the way out who asked if we were TA hikers.

One of them was Marjolen, we have been hearing about this girl from Belgium for days now, with people telling us she is just a day ahead. People also have a lot of trouble pronouncing her name. The ‘j’ is more of a ‘y’ sound (marry-yo-len) and although I am able to pronounce it properly now it just sounds like I am putting on a terrible accent so I will refer to her as Marjory, as we have already been doing. I told her this and she didn’t seem to mind. And the other girl was Erin (American), the girl with the umbrella we were told was just ahead of us on our beach walk yesterday. They were both really nice and their laughter was very infectious. We stopped and chatted to them for a lot longer then we should have.

Photo by Erin

We carried on along the road to reach Mangawhai and had to stop to shelter under a tree in the next rain storm. The tree did a pretty good job and we managed to stay dry. In Mangawhai we checked out the toilet that talks to you and gives you 10 minutes before the door opens. It also plays some nice piano music after it has delivered its instructions.

We headed to the 4 square to resupply for the next two days. I still have some bits left over so I just topped up with chocolate, chicken in a can and more biscuits. I brought a litre of juice to drink before we left. We sat outside the bakery, too full to need to eat anything, and I busied myself with making faces at the little boy through the glass while Julia tried not to fall asleep. We stayed here much too long too, and it was about 6:30 when we hiked out of Mangawhai to do our last 3.5 miles of road walking. Only a very small portion was on paved road and the rest was on a gravel road. Gravel roads are just like a big trail. No problem.

We saw a hedgehog in the middle of the road and I was very concerned for its safely so I encouraged it to move to the other side with my trekking poles. I think I terrified it but at least it’s still alive.

A man pulled up and stopped next to us, he advised us that there was no camping by the beach and if we couldn’t find anywhere we could come back and camp on his property. That was nice. We carried on to a site that was listed on our app. It was only 1.3 miles away but that litre of juice was making its presence felt and I couldn’t make it without having a wee. Having a wee isn’t simple in New Zealand because there is so much private property around, but we found a little gap in the bushes. The camp spot was another works site. Not the most desirable of camp spots but we figured that no one would have a problem with us being camped there given that the land is already a mess, and we hope to be gone in the morning before the workers arrive. A few cars drove past but no one said anything. And we still made it by 8, even with all the very long breaks we had taken.

I crawled into my tent and got myself organised. My calf muscles are so sore that it hurts to put my long legs on. I am very happy to be lying down tonight.


I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.