Law of the land

The big smoke was amazing! Water on tap, wifi everywhere and most importantly friends and family. While resting up I traded out my dad’s army fly for a poncho/fly that was smaller and I ended up with some toe shoes for the roads.

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With my feet looking less like something out of Lord of the rings I headed for the next bush section the hunua ranges. And let me tell you it was some lovely tracks to be walking, well maintained, little bit of a climb but nothing to worry about no mud or fallen trees.

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I also met a guy who used to catch eels out of the steam when he was a kid. Telling him what I was up to he was happy to help find the best spot and best method for the job. It seemed like me he hadn’t done a lot of the outdoor stuff as an adult. We didn’t catch much but I may have reawaken an old passion. 

People ask me what the rules are for this adventure and to be honest I only really have one. Respect the laws of the land. This can be difficult when you’re caught between places to camp but you do your best and locals tend to understand your in a fix. This is where I found myself coming into the hunua falls car park after a late start. The sign said no tent camping, and I knocked on the local doors near by they all suggested I risk it. And with both toilets and water it beats camping on the trail (you are asked not to wander off trail to protect the kauri). Come the morning the ranger found me and let me off the hook even warned me about the trail being closed off ahead. So road walking into hunua township for lunch I hitched to the next section on moumoukai rd (it means to waste food I wonder what that’s about).

Here I was dropped off at the biggest dam in the region and spent the day walking down a biking trail down to a campsite by a steam. Looking at the sign it said no fires not wanting to be told off again after breaking the camping rule in the hunuas. This left out hunting as I gave up my pot and pan to save weight back in Ahipara. And there had been weed spraying throughout the area making a vegetarian dinner out the the question too. As the night rolled in this became a test of will, the big fat birds sang near by, rabbits frolicked by my well hidden tent and eels swam. My brain thought of all the ways I could get around this fire thing but in the end I ate muesli bars and sipped at my tea from behind my cover while the wild life went about their lives uneaten.

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The next day was a big one, the trail notes saying there wasn’t a designated track and the guy who dropped me off telling me how hikers wander onto his land all the time because of it. I was determined not to be one of them after my last off trail adventure. Getting my head into the game I put on my bamboo glasses and began the 7 km trek. The markers were surprisingly good and trail easy to follow but come lunch time I turned on the gps just to see how far I had gotten and it said I was off trail! I panicked what? How? But?
I swear I never saw a turn off, I took a breath looked at the map and figured that if it was the trail I was supposed to be on then it would follow a ridge back towards my destination. I would continue walking for a half hour and see if I was right. Luckly it was the case, I may end up starting a cult to the orange markers. Always trust in the orange markers!

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Along the trail was a lot of supple jack and I was tempted to take some to fashion a supple jack frame but I knew better then to try fix what isn’t broken and carried on. Further on I saw pig sign as I stepped into where it looked it had been laying I could feel it’s body warm on my bare feet. An unexpected and slightly disturbing advantage to walking barefooted and I saw a hare the size of a dog!

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Coming out of the forest and back onto more road walking I figured I would hitch hike to the nearest camp site. The guy who picked me up recommended a place in was in miranda so a little off track but it did have a hot pools so I wasn’t complaining. 

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Getting to Huntly the next day I began the climb over hakarimata, the locals use this range for fitness carrying heavy bags up as they run up the stairs to the lookout. Seeing them run by me in a singlet and running shoes made me feel over dressed. I felt sluggish getting to the top, it was still early in the morning but I wasn’t really motivated to walk. Over looking the waikato river I sat with my first kawakwa tea on the trail and tried to get myself in the zone.

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Alone amongst the tangled roots I began to think about my walking technique. The water bottles tied to my pack were a real aid swing against the bamboo frame this brought my attention to how unstable I was. As I held myself more upright the swinging stopped only the sounds of the birds and the rain softly hitting the leaves like a giant tent could be heard. I placed each step with certainty and I began to float my way across the uneven track. Aside from the straps digging a little into my hips I felt no real pain or exhaustion. It was more like controlled falling then tramping. By the time I arrived in Hamilton later that night I was back in the groove.
Currently I have taken another detour to rotorua to talk to some folks with bushcraft expertise but that is a story another blog (the next one I swear).

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The luck of misfortune

Waiting for new bank cards to arrive I had been given an offer of an old army mate of dad’s to stay at his till they came through 5 working days. This gave my feet a chance to heal up a bit more and the weather wasn’t looking great for the next week anyways. Jackson and I got onto the topic of fish hooks and mine not being very successful. Jackson happened to know a bit about making your own fish hooks and once he explained how they work differently from modern style hooks the penny dropped and I began putting together a bunch of them over the next few days. If you haven’t realised by now I can get a little single minded once I get any idea in my head and my brain was all about the fish hooks.

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Sue and Jackson out at Ruakaka really helped me out, I was well looked after and sometimes even over fed, they really embodied manakitanga. I always joke about being the only TA walker who will put on weight on the trail but I am now starting to think it will happen.

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While I waited I also got to catch up with a north bound hiker Adam, he showed me the lay of the land ahead of me. It never occurred to me to trade information about the trail and this is a trait in Adam I will try to emulate in the future. Giving me some of his old maps and tons of advice for the long trip ahead.

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With repairs to my pack completed and feet itching to get on the road I said my good byes to new friends and began to walk again. I managed to arrive at waipu cove by midday the easy beach walk gave me a chance to get back into the routine. The camp grounds were empty and I was keen to test out the new hooks. With the weather fine and the tide turning my timing was perfect. Sadly I didn’t have a enough line to get past the breakers so it was canned fish for dinner and an afternoon of making rope.

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This is when I met two guys from Sweden samuel and erik they were on the trail also. So after the usual exchange of stories and comparing gear we decided to set off over to Mangawhai together the next morning. With my gear beginning to settle the hike was a long day but with less stops then before. On the roads I wore my beaten up shoes so not to slow down my pace and in the forest my bare feet moved easier then before. Slowly I began to see the improvements I have gained over the last few weeks on the trail.

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Staying the night at another old army friend of my father I was feed and watered, and sent on my way onto te arai beach. This was a longer hike and despite my attempts to walk correctly on easier sections of trail I was having real trouble with my right ankle. It had been playing up since I started and my time wellington with nick curry a postural expert and told me I was doing something wrong. By the end of the day we made camp a pakiri and I had my feet up trying to figure out what I could be doing wrong.

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Sleeping on my problem I had a moment of enlightenment, my hiking stick was always in my right hand. So as we made our way over Mt tamahunga I placed my stick in my left hand to see if it did the trick. The track itself was incomplete so after climbing the mountain by lunch time we begin our decent into the barely marked trail. With three people it was much easier to find the next marker, we would move to the last marker (orange tape around a tree) and if the next marker wasn’t visible from there two people would head off in the two most likely directions with the third holding position. Though it sucked if you picked the wrong way. By 3 we had finally made it to the road.

We had been told on a place we could make camp marked on the map Adam gave me but ended up deciding on heading off into the dome forest instead. Trying to cover a little more ground while we had day light. We were beat but there is something about seeing where you were in the morning in the distance to make you feel like you achieved something. Also my foot stopped hurting so changing my walking stick to my other hand helped.
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The next day our goal was to head for Warkworth to resupply, I had eaten mostly from my pack since starting back on the trail and the swedes were getting sick of noodles. The track itself had many tree roots and as I walked I remembered the foot work exercises from old Maori weapons training. Lifting my foot behind me made it much easier to move smoothly over the irregular surface and tangling vines. As we got closer to the end of the trail we bumped into many people who were coming up from the state highway one for the view. They seem a little confused by our large packs as they were just doing the 30 min walk up to the look out. We made it to the cafe at the end of the trail by 2 pm and I introduced the swedes to Kumara chips. Their reaction was priceless. 

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Hitching to Warkworth we re supplied and waited for dark so we could camp in the park (no campgrounds round there). But as luck would have it a local happened to be from the same town as samuel and he took us in. The next day the swedes decided to stay awhile longer in Warkworth to do some woofing and I continued on to puhoi.

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Puhoi is a lovely town and I just happened to arrive on time for the monthly farmers market where I wasted money on great salami (my favourite tramping food) and cider while i finished off a complicated fish hook I had been working on. Here I met another TA hiker Naresh he had heard he could catch me and boy did he! His ultra light gear and sweet tramping sandles made me green with envy. We both told stories of our time on the trail so far and with that he was gone. Spending the night in puhoi the next day I made it to one of my best mates house in time for his birthday. I was happy to be in the big smoke cos as always I needed to make some repairs, replace gear and rest my feet. This also gives me time to see old and new mates before I hit the waikato region.

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The far north has been a great trial of my make shift gear and after getting this far I have a better idea of how to move better. The good news is I can definitely hike long distances the next challenge with be to be a little more proactive with my hunting and gathering. But knowing my luck I will meet more people on the way who can help me to improve my skills.