Te Araroa day 21 – back to Auckland 

December 23rd 2016
Stillwater holiday park – Auckland 
20.2 miles
Total Distance: 369 miles

It rained really heavily in the night which woke me up, I remember having a brief thought of ‘I’m glad I’m inside’ before quickly falling back to sleep. We had a luxurious late start today because we had to time the river crossing at low tide which was at 9:38am and only 2.3 miles away. 

I managed to write about yesterday which I was too tired to do last night, I ate my cheesy bread from my sleeping bag and some chocolate for dessert. When I can put it off no longer I slide into all my wet clothes. I know they will dry soon only to become wet again at the river crossing. We hike out along a costal path and continue along the beach to the crossing point where Erin was waiting for us. She is travelling solo and she didn’t want to do the crossing on her own so I’m glad she hooked up with us. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it on my own either. 


We had instructions from the TA notes and another girls blog about how to cross, but we weren’t sure which was the ‘fourth post’ which is the point where the crossing should be shallowest at ‘hip deep’. We walked out into the sea, following the sand bar, at some point we had to cross but every time I tried to it seemed to get very deep very quickly. We faffed about a lot, by 10am we still hadn’t crossed and we were aware the tide was now on the turn and coming in so it was just going to get deeper. I wondered if this was the most sensible thing to be doing, and seriously considered turning around to go the long way round. 


We were basically in the middle of the sea now, the weather was turning too, it was cloudy and so windy that it was making the sea choppy and rough. Julia decided to just go for it and went across in water up to her neck. Now she was over we had to follow so we went for it. I shouted a lot and at one point I was off the ground and swimming. Somewhat luckily my pack was floating and pulled me up rather than pulling me down which I had feared. I had waterproofed all my stuff, but I was worried about my phone, even though it’s in a waterproof case, you just never know. 

As I was coming out the other side I realised that my hip belt pockets had gone under water and I was very concerned about my snacks having gotten wet. I came out the other side and kissed the ground. It was so windy, I was now freezing cold. I took off my wet top and put on my puffy vest and waterproof coat, I didn’t want to make my vest wet from my shorts so I tucked my vest and jacket inside my shorts. A strong look. We spent a while trying to dry off and I got really cold. 


I checked my snacks. The sweets were fine but the sea water had infiltrated my chocolate supply. Bugger. We walked along a beautiful coastal track and then found ourselves on another beach. The weather couldn’t make up its mind and alternated between cloudy, rainy and sunny. Very inconvenient when you are wearing a waterproof. We took our shoes off to let them breathe a bit after being wet all morning. The beach walk was quite short, we saw some ‘sandmen’ on the beach, New Zealands answer to a snowman. 


We stopped at the end to clean our feet and put our shoes back on, we took a wrong turn somewhere but we found ourselves in the town of Torbay which had lots of food options. Of course we went for the greasiest option, and Julia and I shared chips, fish, sausage, potato cake and a spring roll (?!) for just NZ$10, washed down with a litre of sprite. 

On our way out of town we saw a charity shop and decided to pop in to buy outfits we could wear on our 4 days off over Christmas. I tried to go for the most hideous thing I could find and ended up with a red Hilary Clinton blazer and some stripy trousers which I intend to cut off to make shorts. We were in there for quite a while and now had to get a move on to make it to meet my friend Sandra in Takapuna. 

We got a move on a with Julia blazing ahead in the front we made a really good time (and I was actually able to keep up with her!), we passed through towns and coastal walkways and past some very beautiful houses. The last bit was along a rocky coastal walk which was fun. 


We met Sandra and her sister and granddaughter. Sandra is a friend from England but is Kiwi so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that she was out here. It was lovely to see her and she gave us a bit of trail magic buy buying us a drink and she brought me some sunscreen over from England. Thank you Sandra! 


We had 5.4 miles to go to get to Devonport to get the ferry over to Auckland. Kristen decided to get the bus and we continued walking. We missed a turning so rather than go along the coast we walked on the roads through towns. Which wasn’t too bad because we passed shops which meant we could stop to buy ice cream and soda! Approaching devonport things got fancy, the shops and the restaurants, everything smelt so good. 


We celebrated on the little beach that we had managed to walk back to Auckland in just 3 weeks after our 7 hour car journey to get there. We hopped on the ferry, got a bus to the hotel where we met Julia’s mum. Showered, ate pizza and went to sleep. 


Now 4 very well deserved days off over Christmas! 

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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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5 thoughts on “Te Araroa day 21 – back to Auckland 

  1. Hi Alex,
    I thoroughly enjoy your blogs. Brilliant charity too – I have already donated to your site. Well done and keep it up!! 
    I’m not writing to you for you to publish this on your blog, but I would be very grateful if you reflected on my message before you tackle your next major river crossing. Having just read your Day 21 blog I have grown concerned for you and your friends’ safety when crossing river obstacles. I appreciate your blog is 3-4 weeks behind where you are, so if you have already discovered what I am going to say then please ignore the unnecessary worrying of an old duffer.
    Firstly, my credentials. I’m a hiker but I’m not in your league; my furthest was a mere 200 miles! I do however, have 30 years (and still counting) of military experience as a British Army officer, and I have been trained in and undertaken many river crossings with a large pack. You are well aware by now that your rucksack is your life. Unfortunately, when crossing rivers, your rucksack can also spell your death. Please read on, and if you feel you can learn from this, then pass this knowledge onto your friends.
    You already do the sensible thing and look for the least dangerous option to cross (obvious I know, but not everyone does). My greatest concern is that you and your friends seem to be crossing water with your rucksacks fully secured to you, i.e. shoulder straps and waist belt secured. You have already discovered that your rucksack is pretty buoyant, and it should be because you are using several roll top dry sacks to keep the contents dry. A buoyant rucksack that is secured to your back is likely to stop you regaining your foothold should you slip or get knocked over by the current. At worst, it will stop you from keeping your head above the water because it can float on top of you with you strapped / trapped underneath it and underwater.
    If you think there is the potential that you will end up swimming, then the solution is to make use of its buoyancy by taking it off and floating it in front of you. If you swim then you can rest on it, thus allowing you to keep the top half your chest out of the water and preserve some of your core temperature. If you go across as a pair (safer) then you can use your poles to lash 2 rucksacks together and make a more secure flotation aid. If you are confident you will stay on your feet when crossing, then the ideal is to keep the rucksack slung over one shoulder. If this is too heavy, then use both shoulder straps but keep the waist belt and chest strap undone. If you do slip and fall it is easy to wriggle out of your rucksack’s shoulder straps.
    Below are a few additional points you may wish to consider if you have not done so already.
    • All water depths over 30cm can be dangerous if the current is flowing fast enough. You appear to be identifying very good water crossing points. Identifying an easy egress point (far bank) before crossing, is as important as selecting your ingress point (home bank).
    • If there is a chance you will end up swimming and air temperature is low or its raining, consider crossing the water in nothing more than your waterproof coat and trousers. This will reduce heat loss when you are in the water, trap additional air pockets in your waterproofs to help with buoyancy, and keep your day clothes dry. Your Vibrobarefeet shoes are ideal footwear (I own a pair too) to cross in if your trail shoes are still dry. Look for a sheltered spot not too far from the far bank, or set up your fly so you can get changed afterwards without wind chill / rain to cool you further. Either way, get moving asap and only consider stopping after a further 10 minutes to make a hot brew if you are still not warming up.
    • Consider your ‘what ifs’. This is easier to do if you are in a group as you can look after each other. Have someone from the group positioned downstream in case someone crossing the water slips and is carried away by the current. If someone crossing does slip then getting to shore is more important than trying to save your rucksack, which will float and stop somewhere eventually!
    • In a group, pair strong swimmer with weak ones.
    • In a group walking across, use the strongest person to break the force of the current with the others linked together downstream of the strongest .
    • When solo, face upstream and side step across, with a single trekking pole positioned upstream as a stabilising third leg. A single pole held with two hands is better against a strong current than two poles held single handedly. It is easier to allow the current to move you slightly downstream than try to battle directly across the current. Don’t face towards the far bank as it presents your weakest leg muscles (abducters) to the current.
    Best of luck for the rest of your journey and maybe bump into you one day in Salisbury!
    Lieutenant Colonel Simon Conrad, Royal Army Medical Corps,
    Wilton, Wilts.

    Like

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