Today 24 km. Total 584.4. (+8) km. 6 hours (1045-1645).
Despite knowing I could sleep in this morning I was awake by 7. I had a great sleep on the mattress in the TV room. Taking advantage of a kettle I had a coffee and a tea with the pastries I brought yesterday in Puhoi and then I just relaxed until 1045 waiting for the low tide. I said my thanks to Patrick and was off on the Okura Bush Walkway. It was a nice little trail that actually contoured the hill rather than climb it. It was a little wet in places but I would not call it boggy after previous experiences.
After a while the condition changed and the trail was right beside the Mangroves and Estury. At one stage there was some big things in the water moving around but I couldn't see anything - The Taniwha (Maori water monster) of Okura?
I was able to cut across a Bay and saw the sign giving the option of up and over a Hill or around on the mudflats so I choose the latter. This mud was great as it was so firm, nothing like the mud slog of Patea. Once around a few corners my next destination was in sight, the Coastal Track. All that was in the way was a wide expense of mud and a river. The mud stayed nice and firm and it was an easy crossing with just the river left.
The notes said to cross at the 4th marker and I was pretty close and I could see what looked like a trail marker over the other side. It was now dead on low tide. The trail said expect it to be roughly hip deep - and it would be on a tall man. Unfortunately that meant that for someone of my height it was nearly chest deep. I struck the river at the perfect time when the tide was about to come back in which countered the normal flow meaning it was almost at a stand still. I rolled up my shorts (pretty funny and extremely optimistic in hindsight) and entered the river. Once I felt there was no real current I was pretty happy. The level stayed rising gradually and I realised when it reached hip deep at a third of the way across it might be higher than I was expecting then it started dropping again and I thought great I am through the worst of it. Informally that was just a little sandbar and three steps later it started getting higher again, and higher, and higher until it was just below chest height. As there was no current I was stable and not worried and by this time I realised I was being observed by 2 people so I figured if I got swept away someone would call it in. I also realised that my pack floats well and would serve as a life jacket if required as it is effectively a large Drybag and very boyant. Now a note for those thinking I was stupid to cross such a high river. I am well aware of the dangers of NZ rivers and most times I would never contemplate crossing a river that is hip deep (or shallower for faster rivers). In this case the lack of flow meant I was able to maintain firm traction at all times which made me comfortable with the greater height. Unless you have a lot of river crossing experience to judge flow vs height vs traction do not cross any steam over hip height. Go another way or wait for water to go down - lecture over.
I walked up to the two people who had watched and we started talking. Apparently crossing a deep river is a good conversation starter. Gil and Peter were out for a day walk. We talked about the TA trail and a little about gear. I explained about Cuben Fibre and showed them my pack. It turns out that they both like waking and Gil has done a bit of tramping including Milford Track and Lake Waikerimoana circuit as well. After more taking about life on the trail the topic of accommodation for the night came up. I explained I was booked in for a Backpacker tomorrow but would need to phone them to see if I could arrive today and Gil offered for me to stay at her place in Takapuna - fantastic. I really enjoyed talking with her and it meant I could have a shorter day so I greatfully accepted. I fished my paper and pencil out of my hip pocket and realised there was a bit of water in it. The hip pockets have stayed perfectly dry thought all the rain but apparently they are not designed for underwater operations. Luckily I came prepared with waterproof paper and pencil so she could write her address.
I then started walking the trail. It was lovely with a meadow of long grass and flowers on one side and river and sea the other. I caught my first glimpse of Rangitoto Island and the Auckland Skytower.
It was then a combination of beach walking, street walking and rock hopping down the coast. I loved the different rock formations that changed so quickly from one type to another.
I was feeling ready for a break so I decided to stop at the next cafe but I didn't see any. This is Auckland the NZ cafe capital and I couldn't find one. I had to settle for a park bench with a Pixie Caramel Chocolate Bar and water.
On one path a lady recognised what I was doing and congratulated me on the achievement. I had been starting to feel tired with my feet getting sore but after that little pick me up I felt better for a while. On Milford Beach I met David and Judy when David asked me about my walking poles and the benefit of using them. He and his wife (70 + & 68 years old) were planning on doing the 5 day peninsular walk in the Corimandel. I hope I am up to something as adventurous as that at their age. After a bit more of talking about life on the trail they offered for me to stay at their place for the night. I explained I already had a place but encouraged them to pick up tramper strays if they saw them in the future in the beach now they knew what they were doing. Fantastic and motivating people with kind hearts. I hope someone is lucky enough to stay with them in the future as I think they will have fun.
I had one more encounter with a runner who knew what I was up to and congratulated me for doing the walk. On the whole there were many more people about than I expected for a work day. I received a lot of curious looks walking along with pack and poles. Parts of the day I really enjoyed like the path between the rocks between Milford and Takapuna Beaches. Parts I did not enjoy were anytime I was on a hard surface as my feet were sore and I had a new blister on my left foot on the inside bottom of the heel. I have decided to get different shoes for the rest of the North Island as while these shoes are great on the trail they are not padded enough for road walking.
Today seemed to take a long time as it was hard to get into a rhythm as the trail was constantly changing but it was an interesting day.
I left the trail on Takapuna Beach and walked to Gil's house. She gave me a fantastic welcome. First up was a wonderful shower and a real towel to dry myself with. Normally I use my camp towel which is the size of a man's handkerchief. I put on a load of washing for smelly clothes, including camp clothes which are usually worn while everything else is washed (I didn't wander around naked- Gil loaned me some clothes).
Gil then gave me a lovely cup of tea and we talked while she finished off dinner preparation. Gil had some great stories about cycling around France, her background and her immigration to NZ-twice. Diner was great. A spinach and feta pie (has a more fancy name that I can't remember) with a lovely green salad, complete with avocado (just as i had fantasised about on Day 19). Understanding a hiker appetite she let me have a huge amount and the remainder is coming with me tomorrow. Desert was big juicy sweet strawberries, mint and yoghurt. After Dinner we had a brew and talked and talked. It is great to have such an easy free flowing conversation. Later Gill's flatmate Melanie arrived and we talked even more. Overall a great evening and I have been blown away by Gil's amazing hospitality to a total stranger. She definitely deserves the title of Trail Angel.
I drift off to sleep luxuriating in the Queen size bed.