Green Bus camp (km394.5)-Dragon’s Spell (km434)
Today we had to coordinate another boat ride across to Marsden Point, site of NZ’s only oil refinery and a large port that loads massive amounts of lumber onto ships for export. Just as we were leaving, Terry was coming down his driveway and offered us a ride 5km to the bay where we were meeting the boat. I needed to stick with the group and could tell they wanted to take the ride. Plus, Terry drives a truck just like mine, which here is called a Toyota Hilux. His is a lot newer but it looked pretty much the same on the inside, except that the wheel is on the right side.
Since we didn’t have to walk, we arrived earlier than expected and only called Duncan, the boat guy, when we arrived. But 5 minutes later, he was already there, towing his little boat with his tractor. He charges $15 pp and does this a couple times a day sometimes. He’s also on call to go pick up logs that fall into the water when getting loaded onto ships. The trail notes suggest getting a ride in the early morning with a worker that commutes to the refinery, but as it was Sunday, there were no other boats. The launch went as smooth as you can expect from a person that’s done this thousands of times (even I’m not that fast) and I was even more impressed by his docking skills. He came off a plane into the dock, throwing it into reverse at the last second and greasing it in. A+.
Since the tide was high, Duncan suggested we walk the roads 10km to Ruakaka, in order to get across the river on the bridge. Otherwise it’s a deep ford from the beach. This road walk was not pleasant, since it was through a rather industrial area and there was lots of traffic, even on a Sunday. But at least there was a shoulder to walk on. The monotony was broken when a van pulled up next to me and 2 smiling people were peering out . “Remember us?” they exclaimed. It took me a second but of course, it was Cathy Jones’ daughter Tammy and her husband Tris that I met on day 8. They were the very first family that invited us (Mike and me) to tea. The 2 of them keep their bus in this area and are fixing it up to live in. How funny that I’ve only been here a few weeks and I’m already like a local, running into people that aren’t just other tourists. Walking like this is really different than driving around in a car. It’s very humanizing. It’s how we used to travel throughout much of our history and it’s a part of who we are. I guess that’s a reason people like me undertake such long walks.
We finally got back to the beach, finding a very pleasant scene. For a Sunday afternoon so close to the holidays, there were hardly any people. I suppose the beaches might get crowded near Auckland but for the rest of NZ, this is it for people.
There were also great views looking back to Bream/Whangarei heads, which I had climbed the day before.
The 5K beach walk took us through a nude section, which was mostly old men (sorry no pictures!). I try so hard to keep my skin covered from the intense sun down here, it’s funny to see people exposing it all. Of course Damian (learned in the dangers of skin cancer…his parents are both doctors) scoffed at the display, too. We both could care less about people being naked but skin cancer on your private parts is not cool. Then there were some cute miniature horse being driven down the beach.
You just never know what you’re going to see.
I had lunch in Waipu with Damian at the Pizza Barn. A large pizza was $29 (only $20 US) but I made lunch, dinner and breakfast the next morning out of it. The small pizza would have just been a waste of my time and they only had two sizes.
For pizza lovers, know that pizza sizes are not supersized like they are in the US, so a large is more like a medium. But this one was topped with bacon, chicken and lots of other goodies, so it was very filling and worth the price.
Damian and I felt kind of in a funk after all the road walking this morning. Steffen had already dropped off at the previous town. Damian said he was done with road walking, at least for the day. We didn’t have much of a plan as to where to stay tonight, so he went off to buy some food and kind of disappeared into the vortex of town. I found a Wi-Fi hotspot and caught up on some things. While doing so, I read a facebook post about a really cool-sounding retreat 14km away, up in the hills, with campsites for only $5. That gave me a carrot to keep going. I kind of just wanted to get out of town. I’ve grown a bit feral I guess.
There was a really nice pathway along the road for about 2km, then like all good things, it ended. It was back to a narrow road with lots of traffic.
If these kinds of pathways could built much of the way along the route, it would be very good for walkers/cyclists, and a relief to motorists too. After awhile, I turned onto Cullen road, which had no cars and turned to gravel shortly. It led up into a logged section then finally into the bush and past a few houses. Dragon’s Spell retreat was the last house on the left. I hesitated upon seeing all the ‘private property. Keep out!’ signs, but kept going. It is kind of strange, just showing up unannounced to all these places and hoping they take you in. I had strapped my pizza box on top of my backpack, so when the guy answered the door, I yelled “pizza delivery!”
Then I explained why I was really there. Johnny was very nice, showing me all around the place and letting me stay in a cottage for the same price as the tent, since I was the only one there. I had a hot shower, hand washed some clothes, played with a cute cat, ate some more pizza, and had a walk around the property.
There was a really crazy flying fox (zip line) down the hill. It looked pretty steep and fast, with tires tied to the pole at the end to stop your momentum. Sketchy as, but man did I want to do it. Had there been anyone else around (to view my death), I would have gone for it. There was also a tree house viewing platform. That one I did go for, staking out a perfect spot for the sunrise.
Finally I settled in to the large bed and crashed hard. This night, I did sleep very well, save for the possum that appeared to be scuffling around and nesting in the roof.