December 22nd 2016
Possible camping – Stillwater holiday park
Total distance: 350.3
It was difficult to sleep last night because there was so much activity in the bushes. I was convinced something was going to chew through my tent. But, in the morning everything was ok, no holes in my tent and no creatures to be seen.
We had a big day ahead so we started walking at 6am. I feel so tired, but there are only 2 more days until a rest which is the only thing keeping me going. We started going over some farm land, and we went the wrong way, well not the wrong direction, we just found ourselves the wrong side of the fence. We threw our bags over and climbed over the fence, thankfully no barbed wire.
The clouds were hanging low in the valleys either side of us and looking beautiful. We crossed back over the fence this time over a stile which should have been easy but I scratched up my knee on the barbed wire. Some of them have plastic coverings over the barbed wire which is nice. But not this one. We walked through a field of cows then along some farm roads before branching off onto a track with long grass up to my shoulders. The grass was wet with morning dew and pretty soon my shoes and socks were wet and squelching and my shorts were wet. Everything was so overgrown, it was a struggle to avoid the giant thistles. At the end of the track I was covered in little seeds, as I was the first down the track I got covered the worst.
Then it was across a little swing bridge and onto the Puhoi river track. A very nice smooth easy walking track through the forest. A popular track with day hikers I imagine. Gravel path and steps built into the ups and downs. I am just so tired that I could only just manage to propel my body forwards, so uphill and downhill were particularly hard. I fell behind the others but it was nice to have a bit of solo time.
Soon enough we were in Puhoi where there was a public toilet and a general store. Great things for a town to have. Public toilets are everywhere in New Zealand so far. Posh ones too. Tiles and a flush and a sink with running water. Posh. We headed over the road to the store and I got my first soda of the day. My sprite craving has changed into craving something a little fruitier so I now go for L&P – like sprite but more lemony. I get a salami and avocado roll for breakfast and the others get pies. As we are sat on the picnic bench outside the store in the shade we see Erin and find out about her swim across the river crossing the other day!
The next 5 miles is a road walk, unless you want to kayak down the Puhoi river for half a day. We have a kayak section coming up and it would have meant waiting around for high tide so we decided to do the road walk. Erin said she was getting a bus so she didn’t have to walk the road, Kristen decided to get the bus too but as we were discussing it the owner of the shop offered her a ride.
So Julia and I waked the road, a little bit of it was on highway 1, which is a bit like walking along a motorway. The cars go so fast, but we were grateful to have a wide shoulder to walk on. Getting run over is a concern of course, but Julia has a bigger concern which is a stone being flicked up into her eye by one of the big lorries. A valid concern. After about a kilometre we had to cross the road which was a bit dicey but we managed it without any problems. We then walked the rest of the way to Waiwera along a smaller road with a smaller shoulder.
Before we knew it we were at the minimart and I was enjoying my second and third L&P soda of the day. Kristen was waiting here and after about half an hour we took the short road walk through town which led us to the Hibiscus coast route. It states in our trail notes that it is walkable at low tide and to stay on the road at high tide.
It was low tide so we stuck to the coast, walking on little bits of beach, then hopping over the rocks. The water was low and the rocks were easy to walk over. As we continued on things got a bit tricky. The tide had started to come in a bit and around the headlands we didn’t always have nice flat rocks to walk on. We found ourselves having to wade through the sea, trying to avoid the waves and the slippery rocks underneath. The highest the water got was up to hip height. Once you get your shoes wet the walking becomes easier because you don’t get too preoccupied with keeping them dry. It was quite fun scrambling around on the rocks, although it would have been more fun without a pack to worry about! There was only one particularly sketchy part where we were high up on the side of the near vertical rocks with slippery wet shoes (but here is where trainers / sneakers are great, you are much more nimble in them than in boots and they will dry much quicker), a fall into the sea here could have been pretty disastrous. But we all made it around without any problems.
We saw a group of kids in one of the small coves, they looked about 7/8 years old. I was a bit ahead and waiting for Julia to come around the corner after a tricky bit when all these kids started to come around, jumping over the rocks like mountain goats. I was quite surprised to see such small children in this environment but they seemed to be coping with it, probably better than we were! After more rock scrambles and dips into the sea we finally made it around the coastline, onto the beach where we could walk around the coast no further so we went up onto the road. We were now in town and looking for something to eat!
One of my least favourite things is walking with wet shorts and knickers, but it was warm so hopefully they would dry quickly. We came across a McDonald’s. Julia and Kristen were very into the idea of McDonald’s so we went in. I really don’t like McDonald’s food so I was just going to sit with them and use their wifi. But when they came back with their food hunger and laziness kicked in and I got sucked in to ordering something.
This is the most high tech McDonald’s I have even seen. They have little touch screen things to order your food which gives you a number. Nice and efficient. Unfortunately the human part is where it all falls apart. They seemed to be just milling about, chatting to their friends and casually getting food without any sense of urgency. We had made friends with the cleaner when we first arrived and when she saw me still waiting for my ‘fast’ food 25 minutes later she went and spoke to the supervisor (I didn’t ask her too). My food came within the next 30 seconds. When I got back to the table it was raining outside, a very heavy downpour. Glad we missed that.
I ate a double cheeseburger, fries and my fourth soda of the day. It was, as I imagined it to be, pretty gross but it filled a hole. I then got suckered into getting something else because I wasn’t full so I ordered an apple pie and a chocolate milkshake. It appears I will never learn and I will repeatedly make the same mistakes. I left Julia and Kristin in McDonald’s and popped over the New World supermarket to pick up a couple of thing to get me to Auckland tomorrow. I chose a big bar of Dairy Milk, a bag of the Natural Confectionary Company Forbidden Fruits and a loaf of cheesy bread. That’ll do it. My things were on offer but it turns out only with a club card. The nice man at the checkout scanned one for me.
On return to McDonald’s I had to make a quick visit to the toilet because once you’ve eaten maccy ds it doesn’t hang around long! We had 10 more miles to go and Kristen decided she was going to hitch rather than walk so Julia and I hiked out through town, there were so many nice looking places to eat! We walked the road until turning off to the estuary walkway. A very nice paved path along the estuary. Julia is having some blister issues so we sat on a bench for a while to deal with those and carried on in some light drizzly rain. We had our waterproofs on but it was so hot we were burning up inside. We continued on through little towns, very odd to be strolling through towns with our packs looking as dirty as we do. We found a public toilet and tried to sort ourselves out a bit. My top is comparable to how dirty it was at the end of Oregon, it’s so grimy it can almost stand up my itself!
We road walk through some more towns, past Silverdale shopping centre, and along more roads. One particularly busy one we had to cross which seemed impossible, after about 10 minutes of standing on the side of the road we found an underpass. Safely over the other side the rain started to come down again. This time we opted to not bother with our coats because it was still too hot. A man outside a pub called us over to get out of the rain but we continued on. The rain got harder and harder and within no time at all we were soaked to the skin. A guy pulled over and told us to jump in the car and he would give us a ride. We declined and he gave us a roll of the eyes and sped away. It’s difficult to describe to people that you have to walk, the man seemed a bit offended that we had turned down his kind offer. A quick check of the GPS said we had a left turn so we turned left at the end of the road and continued walking. It was raining so hard now, we were in some kind of industrial estate and we found a doorway to shelter in which Julia put her non waterproof things away in her bag. I occupied myself with taking a picture of us and then we continued on. A caravan pulled over and offered us a ride. No thank you! After they had gone I said to Julia that this was the most tempted I had every been just to hitch a ride. I was soaked through with wet uncomfortable shorts, rain dropping off the ends of my fingers and off my nose, and I was now getting cold. But of course I wouldn’t get a ride.
I thought the GPS had suggested a straight road for a lot longer than we had been walking and we had come to a left bend. It was so wet that I couldn’t operate the touchscreen on my phone so we went into another doorway to shelter. I had nothing dry to dry it with and just ended up repeatedly wiping it on my shorts until I could make it work for a few seconds. I had to hold it up high because all the water rolling off my face was splashing down onto the screen. We saw that we were off trail, we had taken a wrong turn and had to go back up the hill we just came down. Bugger. If I had checked the GPS instead of taking selfies we probably wouldn’t be in this mess! We set off back up the hill and got ourselves on the right road. It was a busy main road and the cars were driving very fast in the wet weather creating lots of spray, not that it mattered as we couldn’t get any wetter. People complain a lot about the road walking. There is no shoulder for the most part which can make it sketchy but I find the biggest problem is the drivers of the vehicles. Some of them don’t slow down or move over at all. I feel like passing a hiker should be the same as passing a horse ‘pass wide and slow’.
After a few miles we thankfully turned off the main road and turned left onto a long windy road that leads to Stillwater. It had also stopped raining so hard, thank goodness it’s summer here and it’s not too cold! We started to dry out a bit with our body heat. A man smoking a cigarette pulled over and offered us a ride. It’s a long way he said. We know, we had about 5 more miles to go. We declined the ride and continued on. There was less of a shoulder on this road but much fewer cars so it wasn’t too bad. A little while later a lady in a car stopped and asked us if we were ok and could she take us somewhere. Thanks but no thanks kind lady. 5 rides offers in one day!
One thing that rankles me quite a lot is people that beep their horns. I never know what it means. Is it a friendly beep or an annoyed beep?! Mostly I just ignore them. With about 2 miles left we were so tired. Everything was hurting. My feet especially, my shoes that had dried out after the coastal walk were now soaked again with the rain, so the soles of my feet were so tender. My ankles, knees and hips hurt from the road walking and I was starting to get a stabbing pain in my left bum cheek and lower back. Unpleasant. Julia added a pain in her shoulder and blisters on her toes to our long list of ailments.
The closer we got to town the more pavements there were so we were less likely to be run over which was nice. It continued to rain on and off but only lightly. We were still soaked through so it didn’t matter. As we were checking the GPS Kristen and Erin came towards us. They were heading to the pub for dinner. They directed us where to go and we found our way to the Stillwater holiday park. The owner here lets TA hikers stay for free and as it was so wet we were allowed to stay in the pool hall where there were mattresses we could sleep on. He even gives you a token for the shower.
We got there and stripped off our soggy clothes and headed for the showers. The holiday park is a great location and I don’t want to bash it too much because they have been so nice, but it is very much in need of a facelift, it’s looking a bit tired, like its last facelift was sometime in 1970. My shower token got stuck in the box and I couldn’t get it out or push it in. Disaster. I managed to push it in and jumped in the shower. No hot water. Well, I waited for a while to see if it would get hot like Julia’s did but no joy. I gave up. I didn’t want a cold shower so I just changed into my sleep clothes and went to lie down. My whole body was pulsing. It was our biggest day so far at 25 miles, it felt like a 40 mile day on the PCT.
I shovelled in some cheesy bread and some chocolate, reviewed today’s photos and videos with Julia and then went to bed.
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.