Passing through Pastures
We slept like logs and woke around 7:00, warm and dry. We stumbled downstairs where Ray, (who was once again running the whole show) was serving breakfast. We filled up, packed up and walked across the street to resupply a bit. Then we had to hitch about 41 km back to Mangamuka. Jeff made our hitching sign and with smiling faces and strong thumbs we nailed a hitch within minutes. They were a kind Indian couple who were heading up to Cape Reinga for the Holiday weekend and were going to be passing right through our destination town. Their names were Pravna and VJ and we will forever be grateful for the fact that they turned around to grab us!
We were back on the trail by 10:00 am with only a few hours lost. Our morning and early afternoon consisted of mostly road walking and then we cut into the bush and headed downward toward a gorge between mountains. The weather was pristine and we waded ankle to knee deep, crisscrossing the stream for 2-3 km before hiking up into the forest on the water's edge. Here the hiking became once again tricky as we were at steep pitch and clinging to trees and stumps while trying to keep footing on a very narrow path above the water. Finally, thanks to Jeff's keen sense for sniffing out campsites, we ended at a lovely spot in the woods that was fully broken in by previous campers. Cooked dinner and lights out!
The next morning (Monday the 27th of Oct.) was chilly, but we had a steep climb ahead of us to get the blood flowing. Out ascent ended on a beautiful ridge at sunrise as the mist lifted from the valleys below. We cranked out 6 km in no time and then road walked for another 9 km before stumbling upon a campground filled once again with mostly Eastern Europeans. We got water, had a snack and kept trekking. Our afternoon was lovely- filled with pasture walking and tramping over fields that afforded lovely views of the Bay of Islands as we made our decent into Kerikeri (The oldest British Settlement in NZ). Our day ended by walking along the Kerikeri river and witnessing the famous Rainbow Falls, a huge waterfall that used to provide power for the town, and continues to be a lovely sight for tourists. We were warned by a father and son, Chris and Eton, out for a walk that "tourists are like walking ATMs" in the Far North and we should be wary of our belongings. We headed into town grabbed some good ol' Mcy D's for dinner. We headed toward the Holiday Park Campground in Kerikeri and much to our surprise, as we were setting up our tent we looked across the field to see Lighthouse and Silent Knight sitting by their tents near by! They spoke to another camper who has hiked the trail 3 times and says our days should be much easier from now on until we hit the South Island. Did some laundry the next morning, took a shower and resupplied in town- ready to once again hit the trail!