The next morning we continued along the Te Araroa track to the town of Kerikeri. The route took us along a quiet road that crossed the waterfall and continued past farmland into Waitangi forest. We walked through the forest, ignoring a sign at the entrance that said the route was closed due to logging. While we occasionally spotted loggers in the distance in their high-visibility jackets, thankfully we didn’t encounter any trucks on the narrow forest roads. We discovered early on that we had underestimated the length of the walk – instead of being 14ks it was closer to 19ks by the time we added the extra distance at the end to reach the campsite. We staggered into camp hot and tired, a little grumpy at the extra ks, but grateful to have reached a place where we could finally offload our packs. After a short rest, and some soup we were good as new and marvelled at how fast the body recovers. Once again we had a beautiful campsite, just above a river, with plentiful decking, gazebos and ducks for company. The only downside was the cold showers (it was 3 degrees that night), and the barefoot midnight walk across the almost frozen grass to answer nature’s call. Definitely an incentive to forgo the hot brew before bed! We seemed to weather our first full walking day fairly well, with the injury count as follows:
Ann: 2 full and 1 half blisters on undersides of feet, probably from her boots being wet from her ‘swim’ the previous day!
Daniel: His inflamed heel is tender, and he has a line of bites on his feet from the nasty NZ sandflies picked up while being barefoot around camp.
Clara: blisters and bruising on the hip bones, even though I have the most thickly padded hip belt. More natural padding required!

Next day was a rest and planning day, and while exploring the surrounding area we stumbled upon Northland’s best cafe (not just our view, but a genuine award winning place!). Not only did they have excellent coffees, fresh oven-hot scones, a beautiful outdoor seating area, a warm and comfy dining room, but they had FREE WIFI! Everytime we go anywhere these days our first question is ‘do you have wifi?’, with free wifi usually just a distant dream! We squatted there several times as we revised our plans, deciding not to go any further North. The hiking tracks further North are all in dense bush with limited views, or on a relentless 60-odd mile beach, and overall we weren’t feeling the love for it. So we have decided to head to more spectacular open scenery which we both enjoy much more. (We are very happy to be essentially ‘planless’ so that we can do what suits us, and adapt as we go.) Our first stop will be the Coromandel Peninsula, where we will hike for several days on cliff top paths along the undulating coast, and camping at various beaches.
Before leaving Kerikeri we hiked a few ks along the river to Rainbow Falls, where we had lunch and enjoyed the stunning 27m drop. After lunch Daniel and I hitch hiked the half an hour trip back to Paihia (Ann had already gone ahead on the bus), and were rewarded after about 15mins with a lift from a beekeeper cum pastor. After discussing his bee stings (20,000 to date) we moved to religion, which made for an interesting topic between a pastor and 2 atheists 🙂 It was great to meet a local, and his kindness surpassed expectations – although he wasn’t going as far as Paihia, he brought us there anyway! Once in Paihia we were reunited with Ann, at possibly the world’s best backpackers, and there is every chance we will spend an extra day or two here enjoying the facilities.

A little treasure close to our camping site

Rainbow falls

A healthy snack at Rainbow falls

Ready to…hitch-hike back to Paihia

Got the monster camera out (finally) for a shot in Paihia


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