Rainy in Raetea
We woke early to finish our beach walk and resupply in our first trail town, Ahipara. We passed the elementary school as session was starting, and headed out along the road towards the hills south of town and the Herekino forest. Our tour bus guide had told us this was a challenging section, so we were prepared for something more physically difficult than the beach, and were not disappointed. The trail quickly enters a dense jungle and starts to climb steeply. There are no switchbacks here, so any increase in altitude is pretty much straight up, and the trail was often overgrown and muddy. Thankfully the weather was good, and we were afforded some nice views clear across the country from our high perch. We also met a woman named Pippa and her friend who offered to put us up for the night when we pass back through Auckland; the first bit of trail magic so far. Later, as we were seated for lunch, a pair of hikers named Lighthouse and Silent Knight caught up with us. They are both Appalachian Trail hikers who are traveling together over here as well, and after leapfrogging with them throughout the day, we stopped to camp by ourselves next to an abandoned road on top of some long grass, making for a comfortable camp site.
Unfortunately, our good luck with the weather ran out the next day. We awoke to some light rain, which persisted and gained in intensity as the day wore on. The trail ran through a small town named Takahue, where there was a supposedly a campsite with showers which we couldnt find, before winding its was up and up along a gravel road past increasingly secluded houses and a mysterious "eco-village". We eventually found ourselves in the clouds as we started into the Raetea forest, another dense and muddy jungle, but this time much more treacherous due to the slippery and cold conditions. The trail topped out at around 650 meters, but it felt much higher in the wind. Luckily, it was well marked, and we managed to push our way through the 8 hour slog of muck and vines. Lighthouse and Silent Knight caught up with us (apparently we had passed them while they camped in Takahue), se we finished this challanging section together and made our way down to Route 1, a well traveled road that led to Mangamuke Bridge, where a store and pub supposedly resided.
We decided to hitch the 6 km to Managamuke, and luckily Kate and I got a quick ride with a man named Cameron, a friendly local who informed us that a) there was no pub in town and b) it was a holiday weekend, so the store there was closed. He was heading east and aggreed to drive us to find someplace to stay the night, and we eventually settled in Kaikohe, a good sized town with 2 hotels... both of which were full. They called down the road to the Ohaeawai Hotel 10 km and found a room for us, bus hitching there was not going so well on account of the rain. Kate managed to talk a young German man who was traveling alone with a car to give us a ride, and, wet and shivering, we arrived at our destination. The hotel was above a pub that served hot food, and the whole thing (pub, hotel, and kitchen) was run by one man named Ray. He also informed us that the NZ rugby team, the All Blacks, were in the semifinal for the world cup, and their game was being broadcast at 4 a.m. if we wanted to watch (sadly, we did not). We took some much needed hot showers, dried our belongings as best we could, had some fried pub food, and passed out after dark.