Mountain top campsite on the Morepork track (km307)-Nikau Bay Camp(km342)
I had a long day planned to get to the place I wanted to stay, plus needed to coordinate a boat ride across the estuary. And I was out of water. I paid for my dehydrated state with a headache. So I hit the trail at 6:20 am. Shorty I found a stream and was able to top up. Finishing the Morepork track required a lot of climbing and descending. Then it started to rain lightly, which was odd since the day seemed clear only an hour ago. In NZ, if you don’t like the weather you just have to wait a short while for it to change. It made the downhill a bit slippery but then I broke out into paddocks and was following cows. The notes said that this land belonged to the Harman farm, my long lost relatives in NZ. I had intended to knock on the door and say hi but I never saw where the house was. It was beautiful property though and I’d love to come back someday.
The trail wound down to the Whananaki estuary and across the longest footbridge in the southern hemisphere at 395 meters.
On the other side, I caught up to a German couple hiking the TA, Good Grip and Too Tall. They have trail names since they hiked the AT last summer. They were both taller than me.
The coastal track to Matapouri was one of the most enjoyable yet, made even better by their great company. Green hills with livestock contrasted with postcard-perfect ocean bays along a mowed grassy track that felt like walking on a golf course. Forget the renowned Great Walk of the Able Tasman, this was just as good, with no other tourists. I cannot believe the views these lucky cows and sheep have. Anywhere else this property would have millionaire homes all over the hills.
Another German thru-hiker, Steffen, caught up to us, then we were passed by a pair of French thru-hikers. Suddenly I was in a bubble! A bubble is the term for when you get caught up in a big group of thru-hikers, all with similar speeds and distance goals. Six hikers hardly qualifies as a bubble but it was the most I had seen since the first couple days. I’d read a lot of blogs saying how many other hikers you meet doing the TA but so far it’s been rather desolate. I did start pretty late in the season. We all had lunch at the Matapouri general store. I had a burger, ice cream cone (passion fruit of course!), and my new favorite kiwi soda, an L&P. Thanks to Lost Kiwi Mike for turning me onto that one.
Then we continued onto another bush track through a logging area. We had to wait to get the all-clear signal to move past the active logging site. Pine lumber is a big business here, more lucrative than farming, if you have the resources/patience to wait many years for the payout. The track went past Tane Moana kauri tree, a very wide one but not very tall and sadly all by its lonesome. It made me sad to see it there, more a relic than the grandest of living things of a community. The forest of kauri trees in the sanctuary is how I prefer to remember them.
At Ngunguru, the German couple stayed in town for a planned zero day. Steffen and I bought some grocery food and then met James at the boat shuttle. James is quite the character. He whisked us off for a tour around the mangroves and then to his property, where he has gone to great lengths to make it an awesome camp for TA hikers. The TA Trust even rerouted the trail to take advantage of his boat shuttles, hospitality, and facilities, while also reducing the amount of road walking on a busy road.
Here the trail goes right across the water, one of many places it does this.
James has put so much effort into the lodge, cabins, bush showers, and toilet. It’s all relatively new and a real treat for recent walkers. He gave me the hook-up in staying in one of the single cabins because I was the only girl there that night. I got a boat shuttle, hot shower, fresh eggs, and my own place for $30. It was the first night I haven’t slept in my tent since starting the trail.
The TA lodge at Nikau Bay camp.
There were quite a few others there. Dillon from Rhode Island, Tobias from Australia, Steffen, and the 2 French guys, who’s English is not so strong so I didn’t get their names. And lo and behold, there was Damian, my favorite Aussie that I rode the bus and started the trail with. After the 90 mile beach, he had gone back to Auckland to finish an application and get different boots. Then he started again from Puketi just a day or so ahead of me. It was great to see him again. All the socializing was good for stories but bad for getting blogging done. Ah well.