Sat 5 December – Day 21
18 km & 8 km kayak
Today has more anticipated interest than other days as for the first time will kayaking, from Puhoi down to Wenderholm Regional park. Part of the Te Araroa trail, the 8 km paddle will save lives rather than the alternative which is walking along SH1. It’s a kayaking journey that I have wanted to do for years, decades really. We need the outgoing tide for the trip down so it was a late start as high tide was not until after 11am. Also nothing much happens in the pub until after 10am so all in all a restful morning. The Puhoi pub was however preparing this morning for the arrival of a couple of hundred Hells Angels bikers who were doing a poker fundraising day. The riders all must register, their licence photographed and police escorts present. We hung around hoping for the roar of the arriving bikes to blast into Puhoi but sadly they were still enroute. The local convenience store has good coffee and breakfast cabinet food where our hikers du jour congregated. Kat and Dean plus Johannes (JoJo) who has walked into town this morning from the campsite. Turns out yesterday when he stopped to get some water on the Dome track that he also had a bathe in the creek. It was no wonder I didn’t see him again yesterday. Sadly his father had passed away in Germany and the funeral had been yesterday. He was only 54. Poor guy that he couldn’t be home for the funeral and be with his family. Near the appointed meeting time we walked up to the Puhoi Kayaking Centre. It is opposite the impressive red and white Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Built in 1880 it has an exact copy of the altar painting as does the church in Bohemia, where the settlers originated from. There was no time to visit however as soon we were kitted out for kayaking, paid our $55 and were in kayaks on the river. It is tidal even to this point, the water pretty much stationary with its accumulated flotsam and jetsam from coming in. It was easy paddling with no tidal force nor head wind to detract from the tranquil experience. Instead we could focus on the selfies and pictures of each other. Surprising to me there were many kayakers already on the river. A bustling business today which was great to see. Once we left Puhoi village the river passed underneath the expressway bridge which is under construction and the current SH1 bridge. Then the river meanders through the farming land sometimes turning towards the highway where we could hear and see the bikies arriving. A deafening roar as a group of bikes would ride into town. All too soon we spotted the Norfolk pine tree that we were to paddle towards. The instructor said keep to the right otherwise you’ll end up out to sea. We followed to the letter although admitting that we didn’t see a definite right or left. It’s probably more pronounced at a lower tide. We pulled ashore at Wenderholm, the staff were there to assist us out of our kayaks and our packs had been transported already. At this point we separated again. Kat and Dean had done the Auckland section and would be moving further south. Dion was off to visit Tirititi Matangi and JoJo had remained in Puhoi to catch up with other hikers. I set off alone past Couldrey House and into the bush block above Wenderholm. Although the original part of the house was built in 1857, it was the Couldrey’s who donated Wenderholm as the first regional park in Auckland and bequeathed the house in estate. I followed the Perimeter walk from the house. The path is well formed with wooden stairs where required and many information boards describing the history of the area plus screeds about the flora and fauna. I particularly liked the boards which were mounted near ground level for children. From the summit there is a particularly fine view of Wenderholm, gulf islands such as Kawau, the Barriers and even to Coromandel peninsula. The perimeter track then leads down to the Waiwera River which is crossed by the road bridge leading into the village. It is sad to see the Waiwera Thermal Resort lying idle when it’s hot water has been a healing attraction for hundred of years. The resort buildings really do look forlorn and the village has none of the buzz about it when the pools were open.
At the end of Waiwera beach I skirt a tumbledown wall and push through the undergrowth to get onto the sand. The tide is continuing to ebb and I hope that it will be sufficiently out for me to walk entirely around the coast to Orewa. The alternative is to walk SH1 which has zero appeal. The first beach consists primarily of crushed shells, pretty to look at but tougher to walk upon as it is not firm and your feet slide downwards with each step. Fortunately it is not long before I reach a rocky ledge of ancient lava. The geology along here is fascinating. Sandstone and mudstone cliffs show layers clearly and these same formations continue all the way into Auckland. It’s called Waitemata sandstone. The folds and dips are clearly evident and at low tide they extend out to the sea in dead straight lines. Keeping up the circuit of the coastline there are bays sand and rocks to negotiate. Often I’ll need to dip into the water to clear a cave or fingers of rock that are not yet high and dry. It’s all part of the fun. Under several cliffs there are fallen rocks some the size of a chest freezer and the tide required you walk around them. On one occasion I had literally just passed by when a sizeable piece fell from the heights. By the sound of the clunk when it hit the bottom it could easily have been a head basher. I was relieved with my timing at that point. Other sections required stepping from rock to rock. Good ankle workout as long as you don’t slip. Fortunately for the most part the rocks along here were not slippery. Passing Hatfields beach I was soon at the north end of Orewa. Time for an ice cream (choc and Passionfruit) before walking down the road to the south end. Here the trail goes right through Silverdale which I have walked before so I kept to the main road up the hill and past the fire station which was always a landmark for me as a child when we drove north. Past the Whangaparoa turnoff and down the hill to rejoin the trail at Tavern Road on which the Wade Tavern is located. This turned out to be the start and finish location of the Hells Angels ride today. Unfortunately just a few bikes remained from what would have been a spectacular sight a little earlier on. Who knows I could even have asked for a lift on the back of a Harley – that’d be a great way to ride the trail. I was now trudging up the East Coast Bays Road and nearing 5pm I reached the Stillwater turnoff. The road down to Stillwater is notorious for being unsafe. It is windy and there is no berm or safe verges. Sadly there is also no public transport as an alternative. So I reload the Uber app on my phone and soon after a Prius pulls up for the ride down to Stillwater. Conveniently the driver drops me at the fishing club so I’m I go for a beer and fish n chips. The friendly locals and staff are great fun and very encouraging of my walk. It is the perfect end to an excellent day. No hold on, not just yet. After my meal I continued around the road to the holiday park. The owners Maxine and Roy provide a hall building with mattresses and a hot shower token to TA walkers for free. Amazing. Now it’s the perfect end.
Tomorrow is an early morning start to cross the Okura river and walk down the coast to Devonport.