Te Araroa day 8 – not a great day to be a possum

December 10th 2016
Waikoropupu stream – Puketi Forest HQ
13.7 miles
Total distance: 123

We woke with our alarms and listened to the rain. Reluctant to pack up our wet stuff we delayed getting up. I don’t think the Big Agnes Copper Spur is the perfect tent but I can’t recommend using the fast pitch system enough. On days like this it allows me to dismantle the inner of my tent while the fly is still up so it stays somewhat dry. 

I waterproof up to start. I didn’t want to get wet shorts again. We set off on the dirt road and it wasn’t raining. My shoes had dried out from yesterday and my socks were only a little damp. That didn’t last long! The dirt road finished and we made a turn down a trail with lots of tall grass, and because of the overnight rain our shoes were completely soaked within 30 seconds. 

The sun was trying to make an appearance and we thought we may be lucky with the weather today after all. I got too hot in the jacket but I left the pants on (I have been spending way too much time around people who say pants instead of trousers, it’s rubbing off on me!). We negotiated a bit more mud and then came to what we thought was a river crossing but taking a look at the GPS we saw the trail followed the river, crossing it several times to go from bank to bank. Our feet were soaking wet anyway so we ploughed straight into the water and started walking down stream. It felt really nice on my feet and the nice clean water finally washed away all the mud from our shoes. I left my waterproof trousers on, not because I thought they would keep me dry but because I couldn’t be bothered to take them off. 

Fisherman chic

We waded through the water which was really fun, we crossed over from bank to bank, occasionally going up on the bank to avoid the deeper parts. There were lots of awesome looking swimming holes, and had it been a lovely hot sunny day we would have jumped right in, but it was overcast and we thought it would be difficult to get warm again so we didn’t go swimming this time. We made pretty slow progress, partly because it’s difficult walking through water and partly because we kept stopping to take photos / videos. The water came up to my knees in places and eventually my trousers were sticking to my legs and felt pretty gross, I felt so free when I took them off! 

The Mangapukahukahu stream turns into the Waipapa river which is too deep to cross, so the trail goes high up over the bank to a shallower crossing point. You then turn back on yourself and start walking down the river. We started walking to wrong way to start with so had to go back, thank goodness for GPS! The trail still follows the river but we are now walking along a track high on the bank next to it. It’s muddy and a bit washed out in places so our pace was slow, but we were expecting that and gave ourselves a 15 mile goal for the day. 

Once we had made it along the track and back down to the river, we filled up on water for the next 10 mile waterless stretch and we were going to have a little break, but there were loads of tiny flies that were biting our legs so we moved on quickly. The next bit was the last of the three forest tracks. The Puketi forest. We were expecting mud and we did get a bit but it was nothing in comparison to the Raetea forest. The start of the track was a big super steep climb. It was raining now and really humid. It was too hot to climb uphill in a waterproof so we didn’t bother with them, the rain was only light. We saw these white boxes attached to the trees and saw they were a trap for something. For what we didn’t know. 

We powered up the climb, sweat was rolling down my face and I was breathing hard. Every so often we got a waft of a horrible smell. Maybe something caught in the trap. The smell was putrid. And then we saw one of the traps with a possum hanging from it. It looks like they climb up the tree and poke their heads through the bottom of the trap and something inside it breaks their neck. I know possums are a pest here but it seems pretty brutal. What would have otherwise have been a really pleasant and pretty, although steep and slippy, walk was somewhat spoilt by all the rotting possums. There were fairly fresh looking ones, decaying ones, ones where the body had dropped off and the entrails from the head were hanging out the trap with the rotting body on the ground and ones where just the skull was lying on the ground. The traps were all along the trail, right next to it. We must have seen at least 50 possums in traps along the way. It was the smell that made it so unpleasant. The smell of rotting flesh really hangs around, in your nose, your mouth, deep in your lungs and it really churns your stomach. 

The forest walk was a lot shorter than I was expecting but I was glad to leave the dead possum forest behind and walk along a gravel road for a bit, but unfortunately the traps were all along the road too so we smelt dead possum for the rest of the walk. I don’t mind the dirt road walks, it’s nice to be able to walk side by side. The slippery muddy forests take so much concentration there isn’t any need to occupy your mind, but the road walks can be pretty boring and you need mental stimulation. It was still raining so we hadn’t had a break today, we were both starting to get really tired, and our uphill pace was noticeably slower than it had been. Our feet were tired of being wet and the rain continued so we got wetter and more uncomfortable. Our legs were starting to become really fatigued and we were focussed on our goal of the Puketi campground where we hoped to find shelter, rest, eat and remove our shoes for a bit. 

By the time we found the campground at around 3pm we were wet, cold and hungry. I had finished all my snacks ages ago. We saw the hut which you had to book online, they had a fire going inside it. But we hadn’t booked and there was a key code access on the door, so we found a little wooden information centre to shelter from the rain. There is still 15 miles to Kerikeri and no camping in-between so we decided to call it a day here. Our things were wet and we didn’t want to set up our tents in the rain. There were some nice pit toilets there, I went to use one and sat there for a lot longer than was necessary because it was warm and dry. 

We considered setting up our tents under the wooden shelter to keep dry by then we decided to hang out in the pit toilet instead. It was kinda gross but I have hung out in far worse toilets than this one. This one had a tiled floor – luxurious. It was clean(ish) but more importantly it was dry and warm. We ate our crisps and waited out the rain. 

We emerged at about 6:30pm when it had brightened up a bit and set up our soggy tents. As we were setting up a guy called William came over and asked us if we were hiking the trail. He invited us into his motor home for a hot drink. I had just been saying to Julia how I would have loved a hot drink. 

We had a cup of tea (my first cup of tea in years!) and he brought out a packet of biscuits. Result! We had a lovely time looking through his photo album of his Te Araroa section hikes, and I’m super excited for what’s to come. I saw a few bunnies hopping about outside and I was convinced I would find one in my tent, which I left open. Thankfully it was bunny free, and now I was warm inside it was time to retire for the evening. 

At 10pm there were a group of people right next to us with a fire going. The smoke was so strong in my tent it was hurting my nose to breathe in, luckily it started to rain again and they packed up and stopped being so loud! 

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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. 

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