Sun 20 December – Day 36
Everyone is keen to get going early today as it is over 30 km to the DOC campsite at Pureora Forest. The Frenchies are already packed up and ready to leave when I get up. They were aiming to leave at 6:30 but it is more like 7am when they set off. There has been a heavy dew last night. My tent is the wettest it has been and the grass is wet through as well. Once I’ve packed up my gear I hang the tent on the clothes line hoping it may dry or at least shed some water (and weight). An hour later when I’m ready to depart camp it is still wet so I stuff it into its sack as is. There are no clouds in the sky so there will be opportunity during the day to dry it out. Steve has left and Neil will leave after me. Although the sun has been up for hours it is only now peaking over the hill to the east and leaving a golden glow on the paddocks and the hills to our right. It’s going to be a scorcher today. I’ve already made up my mind not to walk the whole way to Pureora. It is road walking the entire distance and my achilles is causing me to limp so I’m not keen to pressure it too much. A few km down Mangaokewa North Road I take the main road to the right which will connect me with SH30 to Benneydale and further to the Pureora turnoff. There is not a single vehicle on the road, just me and the curious cows and bellowing bulls. Once at the highway I take off my pack. I had thought about leaving it on in order to look like an authentic hiker and therefore be more likely to get a ride. But there’s no shade so off comes the pack and I’ll just have to use my thumb to good effect. It doesn’t seem to be working. There is little traffic on a Sunday morning but what there are have not stopped. There’s been waves and toots but no offers. Twenty minutes pass. I wonder if it is possible to not get a ride all day. That would be deeply unlucky and unlikely but it crosses your mind nevertheless. Another twenty minutes pass. There are two mailboxes no more than 20m away and out of curiosity I want to go over and see if there is any mail. Childish yes but in my boredom the urge is strong. I don’t give into it. Hallelujah (it’s Sunday after all) a car indicates and pulls over. Ken has been at a tangi and is on his way home to Hastings. Perfect it will get me to the turn off in one ride. We have a good chat on the way, somewhat on my part so he slows down. Its like the ad on TV with the drivers who speed and the passenger is gripped in fear. We’re almost drifting around the corners in his Subaru. In one piece, I get out at the Pureora exit and walk the three km to the “village”. There’s nothing there. A DOC information centre may have been here at one time. The DOC houses are hidden from sight. A little further on is the entrance to the Timber Trail with car parking and a few hundred metres more is the campsite.
A 4wd with a pine tree tied to the roof is parked beside the camp information board. I walk up to read it and a dog races out of the bush. We both get a fright, it retreats then comes back barking with another dog. I’m ready to throw off my pack and grab my hiking poles for defense when the owner emerges and calls off the dog. He asks if it tried to bite me? Thankfully no! Then he shows me the pikopiko he’s been collecting. Nice big green curled pikopiko shoots. Funnily he laments that someone else has already been in there picking them but he has enough for a feed. Apart from a caravan and a motor home I am the only tenting this early in the day. The tent is out drying along with anything else I can put in the sun. Lunch consists of pate on flatbread, airplane lollies, dried apricots and tea.
I now have the afternoon to relax so I take a stroll back to the timber trail entrance. At the previously mentioned sign is now a couple of Maori ladies with an infant under a big colourful hat. They are chopping open a massive pile of kina and scooping out the flesh. Of course one has to wonder why they would be doing this in a remote campsite, far from the ocean and not at home..?
But I continued on my way to the trail entrance where there is also a walking track through the bush. The Totara walk loop takes 30 minutes and is really stunning. There are gigantic native trees, lush undergrowth and many information boards. I was enthralled, plus I found and ate some pikopiko for myself as well as some for the Frenchies to try once they arrive. The ladies are still working on the kina when I return. Apparently they are from the west coast.
The bird life in this little part of the forest is amazing. There is a kereru in the fuchsia tree above my tent. Tuis and kakariki are flying around singing and chattering. Robins are singing and the kaka are making a racket. When Steve arrives we are standing chatting when six kaka fly above us. I hope it’s the same when I’m in the forest on the timber trail.