December 29th 2016
Ambury park campground – Brookby road
Total distance: 402.7 miles
The alarm ripped me from my unbroken sleep at 6am. I didn’t wake up once in the night. We had agreed a 6:30 start, normally neither of us moves until we can hear the other one moving about. It was so windy that I couldn’t tell if it was just the wind flapping the tent or julia was packing up.
I felt really groggy, like you do when you wake up and don’t feel well, ‘are you packing up?’ I shout over to Julia. ‘No, I haven’t even opened my eyes’ is the reply. We both drifted back to sleep and didn’t start hiking until after 8. We have just had a great break and a rest yet we are both so very tired. What’s that all about?!
We knew today wasn’t going to be the most exciting day on the trail, but we were prepared for it. Not every day of a thru-hike can be wonderful and we had a lot of road walking ahead. But first we walked down the coastal track which was pleasant, until we went past the sewerage treatment plant and the landfill site. We then got a bit confused with the trail markers and went across some fields of long grass. I’m still not sure if the trail was meant to got that way but it worked out ok in the end. We walked through the long grasses, getting pokey bits stuck into our shoes and socks. The terrain was so uneven with lots of hidden rocks and divots that it was slow progress. We decided to abandon following the red line of the gps and follow the old wall through the field. I got distracted with taking photos and videos and lost sight of julia.
I saw someone I thought was her and followed them, I eventually made it out of the fields and onto the dirt road and saw the person I had been following was wearing long socks and on closer inspection was in fact a man. Not julia. I had a slight moment of panic and she was also having a small panic it turns out, but we found each other and then spoke to the man who we found out was Jim from Devon, England. We chatted with him for a bit and then moved on. Jim had sprained his ankle a few weeks ago and was moving fairly slowly.
After that the road walking began and didn’t really stop. The roads were super busy as we were heading to Auckland airport but thankfully there were pavements to walk on. We knew there was a shopping centre near the airport and we were heading there to get breakfast, which would now be lunch after our late start. We crossed a busy road (something we would do a few more times before the end of the day) and went to a cafe that served the most outrageous amount of Chinese food. We hung out there for a bit and popped into countdown to get some more bits of food (chocolate, cheese, bread and sweets for me), then we had to start walking again.
The trail went through very populated areas and the planes were flying very low overhead on the approach to the airport. We went past some kind of activity centre with crazy golf, a butterfly sanctuary thing, an adventure playground and a pirate thing. The sky looked threatening all day and we had some on and off drizzle so we were in our raincoats all day. It got windier and when we came to some pit toilets (well they were proper flush toilets actually, well done New Zealand!) we decided to hang out there for a while and Julia taught me how to play a new card game. After a half hour break in there and we had collected some water from the sink we carried on through a field of uninterested cows, then through a large industrial estate, which felt a bit odd to be walking through, but again great pavements to walk along.
I mentioned that my legs were really aching and Julia said hers were too. It’s really difficult to walk on the flat all day. We just wanted to bend our knees. When we walked past a petrol station I said I couldn’t take it anymore and I needed a soda before I could go any further. So we got soda and ice cream and sat on the ground outside the shop to eat them. We got quizzed about the trail by a nice man who worked there, his biggest concern seemed to be whether pizza was available.
We carried on once more down the roads, through a more undesirable area which looked a bit like a council estate, it was definitely a change of scene to what we had been used to, then through the edges of Auckland botanical gardens, which is actually really lovely and would have been great to go and see had we not seen it all first hand in all the forests we have gone through. We then found a public toilet and had another little sit down. I really wasn’t interested in walking anymore. We had 4 more miles to go and we didn’t even really have a destination. We were going to knock on someone’s door, or find somewhere to stealth camp as there were no camping options listed anywhere.
We saw lots of household rubbish today that had just been dumped and as we got further out of the towns we started walking along busier roads which had no shoulder. The cars were going faster and we were going slower. Our legs protesting and our knees just longing to be bent. We were getting to the point where we had both had enough. There was no where to camp and very few properties that looked like we could knock on their doors. We were starting to wonder what we were going to do when a man pulled up and asked us if we were ok. Fine, I said, we are just trying to find somewhere to camp. Well you can come and stay with us if you like he says, I’ll bring you back here in the morning.
EXCELLENT! We didn’t need any persuading. Mike and his daughter Sophie had taken people in before and Sophie has the TA on her bucket list. I guess she’s about 11. She was the one who encouraged her father to take in the hikers which is so cool. From there the difficult, boring day just got better and better. He told us we could camp in his garden, or we could stay in the horse trailer which had a mattress inside and electricity. Sold. We were greeted by 4 dogs and a beautiful kitten called Baxter Mike said we could swim in the pool, play tennis and take a shower. The pool and tennis were tempting but we chose the shower option. Sophie and her next door neighbour friend Sam came to give us towels with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate on top!
The shower was amazing, I was offered the use of all the products and the view was great! After that we were offered up things to make some sandwiches for dinner. Mike’s wife was working as she is an on call doctor but she is English so we had branston pickle which was a treat, as well as ham, cheese, avocados and spinach from the garden. So good I had two. He even had a cider for me and beer for Julia.
We then got involved in some card games with the kids, Sophie and Sam were such nice girls, we had a great time playing all sorts of different games with them. I’m not sure if we kept them up past their bedtime or they kept us up past ours! It was a late night but it was so worth it. And to think just a few hours ago we were despondent on the side of the road not knowing where we should sleep.
Now we are in a horse trailer, with full bellies and happy hearts.
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.