December 16th Taiharuru Estuary/Tidesong B&B (km371)-Green Bus camp (km394.5) Mileage: 14.6mi/23.5km As anticipated, breakfast with Ross and Hugh did not disappoint. We had to be scheduled at 7 am, since the other guests were due at 8, but I was ready even before that. There were fresh fruits from the garden, muesli, wheat bix, fresh-made yogurt, french-press coffee, bacon, sausage, poached egg on toast, and the most delicious scones I’d ever had. My hiker-hunger has come back so I ate it ALL. I almost never have a big breakfast but this hit the spot. I wasn’t hungry the rest of the day. As soon as we were done, Hugh took us across the river in his boat. He even provided a bucket and towel to rinse and dry out feet (no dock on the other side). Then we were on our way again. Captain Hugh with Tidesong in the back. The house is completely enveloped by the bush. Steffen and I. I wondered if I would find such great hospitality again, kind of sad that everything else might be a disappointment when compared. On a side note, I was happy to see that Damian has upgraded to a smaller container of sunscreen. We climbed a gravel road up and over some hills, with great views of the estuary below. Tidesong house is completely enveloped by the bush. Then it was a 6km beach walk, with the grand Bream head in view, moving ever closer. We knew that we had to climb the behemoth later, so we savored the flat beach while we could. Bream Head is the big headland on the far right. Later I would be standing atop one of those rock pinnacles. Arriving at the end of the beach, we tanked up on water at the surf club and had lunch. Then we put on upbeat playlists and rocked out. The Te Whara track ascends to about 1300′, drops down to about 700′, then goes back up to over 1000′ again. The ups and downs are so steep that half the trail is stairs. It reminded me of the famous Stairway to Heaven route that I did in Hawaii, but not quite as steep. It was perhaps the greatest Stairmaster workout, with some of the grandest views ever. At the highest point, one can do a rock scramble to the top of one of the pinnacles for 360 views. I left my camera with Damian to get shots from below and didn’t want to climb up again with the phone, figuring I’d pushed my luck enough. But I still got plenty of great shots. We spent probably a hour up there since the weather was absolutely perfect and the views so incredible. Many more ups and downs followed, with another big climb to the top of Mount Lion. Then the trail dropped relentlessly all the way back down to the coast, utilizing stairs almost entirely. I can’t imagine how much money was spent on this trail in building all the wooden stair sets. But I sure appreciate the effort, as its one of the best trails I’ve ever done. It’s a butt, calf and thigh burner to be sure. If I ever lived nearby, I would try to do it as a workout at least once a week. We had originally hoped to get across the harbor that same day but this section took us the rest of the afternoon. Thankfully, just a few kms down the road was Terry and Jen Gills place, the Green bus. The bus isn’t finished yet but will eventually be a cabin and shower. But the tent sites were absolutely perfect in the grass, surrounded by the garden. I couldn’t believe that once again we had stumbled onto a beautiful place to stay, complete with hot shower, toilet, electricity, and a cooking facility. And of course there were fresh eggs, lemons, and garden treats to supplement our dinner. We had salad and fried eggs with parsley and basil. I suggested squeezing lemon on the eggs, which Damian proclaimed was “monsterous.” We squeezed it on our salads and in our water and tea instead. There was even a hiker box, the first I’ve seen all trip. These are a mainstay on the long trails of the US. It is a place where hikers discard things they don’t want to carry anymore and other hikers get to sort through the goodies, hoping for a score. You can find everything from a complete tent to 1/2 full jars of Nutella. I find them particularly useful for scoring razors, shampoo, batteries, and oatmeal. This one was particularly sparse (but I did find a razor!), given that it’s a new concept over here and the box is also new. Terry said it had been suggested to him by another American hiker, not surprisingly. I suggested my own addition in that he provide WiFi. He got an inquisitive look on his face and stated “wow that’s a great idea. I would’ve never thought of that.” Now I feel terribly embarrassed by even suggesting it. I’m afraid it made me seem ungrateful, as though all that he has done was not enough. We thru-hikers have gotten so pampered the last 3 days that we are now a bit spoiled. But I do appreciate each and every little thing that has been provided to us and expect no more. Terry and Jen even let us come right into their home to take showers, giving us towels to use. All this again for only $10, just enough to cover expenses. How can so many people be this welcoming? It’s so refreshing.