Fri 4 December – Day 20
If you were wondering, Govan Wilson is a road. It is about 3km long and connects the Pakiri section to the Dome section. Perched high above Matakana the ridge has many properties which have widespread views either South or North. It’s location on the trail makes it a popular overnight stopover for TA walkers. I’m out the door at 7am as it is supposed to be a 6-7 hour hike to Dome Valley where I can camp at another trail angel place. The Dome track starts from the road and into scrub then pines before reaching regenerating bush. It is somewhat sad to say regenerating i.e. the original bush was felled for farmland. However fortunately it is growing back here albeit with limited varieties to the original. I pass by a giant toadstool, its as wide as my outstretched hand, what’s that about 20cm across. There hasn’t been any hikers ahead of me. In the early morning you know if you are first along the track because you are constantly walking through cobwebs. I’d be the Adams Family relative with a head covered in spiders. To try and combat wearing every cobweb I would raise my trekking pole up to catch them first. It’s my Dalek move. Very successful when in operation however due to the terrain it cannot be employed all of the time so I will end up having to wipe spiders and webs off fairly constantly. I have stopped to take a photo of the track and suddenly a guy appeared. Gave me a hell of a fright. The guy is another hiker, Johannes from Germany (been in NZ since last Nov) and the first time I have met him. We walked for a while him bashing through the bush in front. It was quite good as I only needed to follow rather than look for the track. Although he had gotten lost yesterday and added 5km onto his walk, so maybe not the best person to put your trust in. We reached a stream where he stopped for water and I didn’t see the again today. The track followed the Waiwhiu stream for over a km where you crossed at some large rocks. Then it ascended quite steeply on a pine forest road before entering the Dome forest.
The Dome Forest track skirts the tops of the hills all the way to Dome Valley. Regenerating bush of podocarp and broadleaf species with lots of ferns and nikau. Also a stand or two of kauri. You can always tell where the kauri trees are as DOC improves the track conditions immensely usually with raised boardwalks. The track is the usual up and down over the top of each peak. I pass the trig and soon after reach the Dome lookout platform for a view of SH 1. The road had already interrupted the peace of the forest. I could hear sirens and angrily rooted horns from way back. There was a large totara tree beside the platform which an opossum ran out of when I approached. By the time I reached the Dome summit where the cafe is, it was just after 11am. I had smashed it in 4 hours however this also meant that I would need to keep going to Puhoi, a 40km day. So I filled my water and pushed on.
The next section is through pine forest on forest roads. It makes for easy walking although sometimes the roads can be quite steep. Mostly it is nice to have the pine trees providing shade when walking. The track pops out onto Smyth Road which is walked down to the valley. We are behind Warkworth now. It follows various roads to manoeuvre to the opposite side of the valley. At one point the trail crosses a private farm and it is here that I am invited in by the owners for water and a cup of tea. Their daughter Lois Hart has just started the south island from Bluff two days ago. I will hope to meet her at some point around February. Refreshed from the tea I depart with the thought of Moirs Hill on my mind. I remember the long and steep descent from 2017 and am acutely aware that this time it will be all uphill. For now though I walk along nice country lanes and a cicada has landed on my pack, its distinctive sound right in my ear. Soon enough I’m at the bottom of Moirs Hill and begin the climb up the basic gravel track. It takes an hour of constant climbing before I reach the peak where the transmission station is located. Down the other side I get a first glimpse of greater Auckland with Rangitoto vaguely in the background. There is more downhill through scrub and gorse before hitting another road. By this time it is after 5pm and I’ve had had enough. To walk would be at least another two hours. I thumb a ride with a couple who have visited the open day at the Gibbs Estate today. Lucky them, it is amazing. They drop me off in Puhoi at the historic pub where I charge in for a coke and a beer before taking a shower. Later downstairs I meet up with three hikers, Kat who I started with at the Cape, Dean and Dion. Tomorrow is a late start as we kayak down the Puhoi River on the waning tide to Wenderholm.