December 15th 2016
Whananaki – Nikau bay nature escape
Total distance: 211.2 miles
I woke up exhausted, like I have been doing every morning. But this morning I felt like I had been hit by a train. I remembered the bump to the head which probably wasn’t helping the way I was feeling. It was really nice to be able to go to the loo and the clean my teeth in the sink. That’s something I really miss, that little luxury of cleaning your teeth with running water.
We packed up and were on the go by 7, over the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere and then we went straight on instead of turning left. Luckily we realised pretty quickly we were off trail so didn’t go too far out of our way. We walked a short distance on the beach and through some farmland saying a quick hello to the horses and cows before joining what we thought was the Whananaki Costal Track. About a tenth of a mile down the road we heard a lady shouting at us, ‘you’ve missed the turn, the track is up there where that orange marker is’. Bugger! We went wrong again!
Back on track the costal walk was incredibly beautiful with views over private bays. How nice to own your own bay! We were cruising along, I was lagging a bit behind because I kept stopping to take pictures. Up ahead julia was stopped for a water break and she had some bad news. We were off trail again!! On the established tracks the trail is well marked, on the rest of the trail it really needs some work. A few small trail markers would be a great help in some of the sketchier places, and consistency of markers would be a big benefit! We saw that we were very close to a monument so decided to drop our packs and go and take a look. It was a monument to a sunken ship and the crew and passengers aboard. Rather sad but the views were spectacular.
We went back up the hill we just came down and found the junction where we went wrong and carried on. It managed to get prettier and prettier as we went. Secluded bays, rolling hills, rugged coast lines, a nice wide dirt road made for easy walking. Eventually we came to a short road walk followed by a quick stint on the beach. The sand was squashy and I walked in Julia’s footsteps and Kristen walked in mine to make the journey a bit easier. A bit more road and a steep descent brought us to the town of Matapouri. After 2 consecutive days of disappointment when it came to getting fish and chips we were hopeful for the general store. But our 10:30 arrival was too early because they don’t start cooking until midday.
By now I had eaten all but one of my snacks for the day. Banana cake, cereal bar, shortbread, crackers, sweets, chewy fruit thing. I made do with a cookies and cream ice cream and a Fiejoa drink, which I heard someone saying was similar to Guava. Fiejoa – not like Guava at all, not to my taste at all, it’s fairly medicinal.
Kristen was having some more issues with her knee so decided to hitch to the next town – Ngunguru – and wait for us to complete the 8 miles to get there. So we parted ways at the store. The next 8 miles were mostly through the Matapouri bush, dense forest it felt like it was about 5 billion degrees. Sweat was pouring off my face. On the steep bits, which was most of it, the lump on my head began to throb. Pretty unpleasant.
I would say the trail is pretty poorly marked around here, just a few more TA signs at important junctions would be nice. We joined an old forest road and it was fairly easy walking from there. We stopped to take a look at the giant Kauri tree (Tane Moana) which was very big and provided some nice shade. We left our bags in the sun and when we got back to them our trekking poles were too hot to hold. Intense heat today.
We made it to Ngunguru, met up with Kristen and headed straight to the fish and chip shop, finally we got our fish and chips, and I also had 2 sodas and another ice cream. We hung out there for a while and then walked down to the water to meet James.
James noticed the TA route did a big loop around the estuary and approached the TA trust about re-routing it through his land. So for NZ$10 he now offers boat rides across the river. It’s too deep to ford (unless you want to swim) even at low tide. We arrived at 4:04pm. 4 minutes late and there was no sign of James. Julia had called him from the Whananaki camp ground via Skype. Neither Kristen or Julia have active cell service and mine operates off a UK plan. James didn’t accept foreign calls so we were a bit stuck when it came to contacting him. We waited around for quite a long time until I managed to download Skype to my phone, and we contacted him through that (which by the way is brilliant. Don’t know why I haven’t got into Skype before).
About half an hour later he came to get us and we took the 3 minute boat ride across the water. We had plans to carry on another 6 or so miles to a camp site you didn’t have to pay for as the campground stops are adding up. James invited us in for a cup of tea and showed us around his set up. Oh man it was nice! It looked like something out of grand designs. We didn’t take long to convince to pay the NZ$15 to stay the night. When else do you get to stay somewhere so cool for just 15 dollars.
We had tea and biscuits with James until he had to go and pick up another hiker, Martin from Utah. While he was gone we took the opportunity to explore the vegetable garden and the tree swings and the trampoline. James gave us some eggs from his chickens and told us we could pick vegetables from his garden. Well, none of us had a clue what we were doing so when James came back he gave Julia a lesson. We had spinach, kale, lettuce, sorrel (never eaten that but it was delicious, especially for a leaf), spring onion, celery, basil…and we made cheesy scrambled eggs and salad and veg. Look how green my plate is! It was delicious.
When Martin arrived James brought out the bubbly as he was his 300th guest. We sat around chatting in this wonderful place. I mentioned that I would like a small creature to sit on my head while I’m walking to massage the lump on my head (like a smaller version of Dobby from Harry Potter) so James, who gave me some arnica for my lump, also gave me a little head massage which felt wonderful!
We ended up going to bed at 11:30pm which is way too late! Especially when you didn’t sleep well the night before. We laid out mattresses on the floor of the hut instead of pitching our tents. There could be rain in the night.
Info on James’s nature retreat can be found here: tutukakacamping.co.nz
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.