I woke to the birds again and was on my way by 0730. It was a nice easy downhill for 15 minutes before joining the road.
After about 30 minutes on the road I saw someone coming out of a drive way who looked familiar. When the walking pole was raised I realised it was Patrick and the other 3 who I had called with at Pukete Forest HQ. They had also taken a rest day in Paihia but took the water taxi which is how they got ahead of me
I thought the footprints in the river were quite fresh yesterday.
I decided to walk with them for a while and their pace was perfect. It was nice to have the distraction of people to talk with for the road walk. I even remembered to ask their names and learnt the American was Patrick and the Canadian called Serena. After a while we took a break to wait for the other two to catch up and I continued on by myself.
The road turned to gravel after Teal Bay and was nice and flat until turning a corner and seeing a road at the top of a very large Hill in the distance and I realised there was a bit of climbing ahead.
Thankfully the gradient wasn't too steep and my fitness had improved so I was able to make it up without resting and without puffing too much. At the top I passed a road works crew who looked at me really strangely as I walked past. I guess it is not really on the normal beaten track to get people walking there.
I was looking for the track start and it seemed I had gone further than I should. I was a little worried as the track notes did say the track was unsigned but eventually I came to lovely TA and Whangarei Council maker at the turnoff. The trail was beautiful to walk. It was an old 4wd track that was clear underfoot and despite what the notes said very well marked. The only trouble was my thigh was starting to hurt again.
The track followed a ridge line then started going steeply down hill. I passed the 300 km mark so built a little marker for the obligatory photo.
The trail crossed into private land and continued steeply down to some streams and then all the way back up, 170 meters of climb, however this felt less than it was. At the top we joined farm and forest tracks and then back down to sea level.
My thigh was screaming by the time I reached the bottom and it was a painful limp the rest of the way which was road for a few km then a lovely, though rough, walk around the estuary. Normally that walk would not have been an issue but with my sore thigh I was noticing every irregularity on the terrain. I then came around the final corner to see the Whananaki Footbridge.
After a shower I selected my pizza ingredients and it was cooked in the Pizza oven. It was fantastic. I then talked with Mathew, Tracey and some tourists and later with Alan and Lauren, an Irish couple doing TA for Irish Heart Foundation. I have been reading their blog and it is entertaining (Trek3000.wordpress.com).
I ended up having a late night as the conversation was good.