Friday 27 November – Day 13
Today was my earliest start since being on the trail. Up at an ungodly 5:30am so I was packed and ready to travel with Ngawai to the start of the Helena Ridge track. Justin handed me a coffee as we were heading away. How’s that for service! It is a long and tough section today with many strenuous up and down hills to conquer before reaching Whananaki so I am glad for the early start. Although it’s only 23 km I’m anticipating an 8 hour day of hiking for this reason. The Ridge track starts out with a really nice track that hugs the hill side. Grass and manuka are overlooked by stands of Puriri. It’s more of a stroll around here. However I’ve hiked this section in 2017 and I know it will be changing real quick. Even so I have high hopes of reaching Whananaki this afternoon. Soon enough it’s time to climb. Firstly up a ridge of manuka which is easy enough with morning energy in reserves. The track then turns into the bush and it’s continual uphill from here. Following the track markers up through manuka, kanuka, bracken, totara, miro, rewarewa, kahikatea and even kauri trees. Some of the bracken patches are really lovely, like a soft forest to sidle through. When going uphill I’ll take any distraction I see and use it to forget about the strain. I don’t see any pig rutting in this Bush like last time. After two hours uphill I finally reach farmland again and follow a farm track for a way. There is a DOC cleaning station here but it is empty. The track then went back into bush for a few km before it reemerged on a farm lane that leads to the road. A further km down Kaikanui road brings me to the start of the Morepork – Onekainga section. It consists of two tracks – the Morepork is DOC administered and Onekainga is over private land. Another cleaning station here has solution for spraying shoes with a drench gun.
The Morepork track is around 4 km along a 4wd track. It weaves around the tops through tanekaha mostly although I do see kauri in places. It’s not mature bush and there are old fencelines that hint at this being pasture at one time I guess. Like the start of Helena Ridge it’s deceptive to the ignorant who may think, or hope, that the whole way will be this untaxing. Soon enough the terrain changes and down the track goes to a dry stream before an ungainly climb up to 218m. Supposedly there are views out to the Poor Knights from here but the trees obscure the view I find. There are some really nice grass knolls with puriri and nikau however that would be perfect for a lunch stop if I didn’t want to get the next hills out of the way. Down again the track went losing over 200 vertical metres that need to be made up for on the other side. My trekking poles are getting a workout today. Me too, I’m huffing and puffing and sweating like mad. At the bottom is a stream so I guzzle my water and refill the bottle from it. My water bottle has a clever filter in the nozzle so I take my luck with this water. Up and down to another stream running in the opposite direction to the last. It’s done a bend and I’m crossing it again. Up and down to another stream running in the opposite direction to the last. Third time, this is deja vu. Then it happens for the fourth time. And the fifth. Hilarious. What’s not so hilarious is the climb to the next top. It takes me just shy of an hour to get up this beast. The eventual reward is a glimpse of the ocean and the land cascading down from such an elevation. Unfortunately embankments landscaped by the wealthy owners of the adjacent subdivision mean no further views are possible which peevs me off. Last time there had been a dodgy fence that I crossed for better photos.
What goes up must come down and gosh it was steep. The poles were supporting me a lot plus I’d need to hang onto trees for support occasionally. Another DOC cleaning station at the exit was again dry. It was a relief to get back onto farm paddocks. I was glad to see a distinct trail through the grass from previous walkers. Although the internationals are not here in droves this summer there is a fair swag of kiwis doing it. James in Ngunguru keeps a tally so will update once there as to how many have passed through this season so far. Back onto a main road for a wee distance before joining the fourth track today along the estuary and right to the Whananaki Holiday Park. It’s taken almost exactly 8 hours. I’m definitely more tired and dehydrated than before so consume plenty of liquid and an ice block. There are three other TA hikers here tonight. Fiona and Tony from Wellington and Jazz, a kiwi from Perth. None have I met before. It is a pleasure to shower and do some washing after the sweat and grime of today. Looking forward to tomorrow when I have visitors..!