Camping on top of a hill close to the ocean I expected a windy night. But it was the possums and other night creatures that kept me awake. Possums are these cute and curious animals native to Australia that have become an unwelcome pest in New Zealand. Throughout this whole trail there have been traps to catch them and poison baits to kill them. Apparently none on this particular hillside camp.
After a couple of hours descending on often times steep trail I reached yet another road to walk on which led me to Whananaki. But not before a stop at the ever present boot cleaning station to remove any soil and fungus from my shoes. Very necessary to prevent the spread of the disease that can kill the native Kauri trees.
It was 10am when the general store cooked me up some fish and chips which was washed down with a liter of milk. Sufficient calories to get me a bit further on the trail. 10am photo below.
Whananaki is home to the longest walk bridge in the southern hemisphere. No doubt that is the reason the trail is routed across the bridge. 400 meters or a quarter mile long.
The trail sweeps around the scenic bays and inlets for several hours. During this section I met my first hiker in 2.5 days, Oliver. We met briefly in the main street of Kerikeri a week earlier. We hiked together for the rest of the day.
We followed a manicured section of trail that followed the coastline. This was obviously a trail used by locals for their morning and afternoon walks. Safe coastal inlets broken up by wild rocky coastline with the all too often sign warning of trespassing, private access only or no public access to the beach. So many beautiful areas locked away for private holiday homes.
This section of trail walks from one sleepy coastal village to the next. Most have a small dairy, that’s the new Zealand term for a convenience store and most have a hot grill. They cook up all sorts of greasy foods that us hikers crave. The dairy at Matapouri provided an oversized burger with a generous serving of chips. For North Americans, chips are French fries and ketchup is tomato sauce.
During our late 2pm lunch burger we heard several other hikers were here 4 hours earlier. Looking at the map we knew where they would be staying. This is a social trail in many ways. Already there is a private WhatsApp group set up by a group of hikers that hike at a similar pace. They are spread out over about 50km of trail but we use it to communicate our plans, food supply tips, free camp spots and more. I conveyed our plans to make it to camp a further 16km away. The note came with a request to buy beer for the thirsty and tired hikers.
At 6.30pm we boarded a small boat to cross a river and camp on the other side. Many enterprising locals are making some useful income from us Te Araroa hikers. Three beers later I was asleep, dreaming of what would be an error in judgement crossing a river on a rising tide.