Twig Adventures

Day 20: Auckland is waiting

December 22nd

Long Bay (km568)-Auckland CBD (km595)

Mileage: 16.8mi/27km

So a few nights back, I thought I heard kiwis (the bird) screaming in the night. They supposedly make a pretty horrid sound. You’re more likely to hear one than to see one, since they are nocturnal. But now I’m certain it was pukekos making the noise. They seem to be everywhere in NZ, but especially where there are fields. This area was chocked full of them. I noticed the night before that they had chicks nearby. Like many birds, the adults make a big racket when an intruder gets too near, trying to draw it off. These birds seem to operate in big family units, with many adults and teenagers helping to raise the chicks. When alarmed, they cluck and flick their tail, showing the white on the underside. They may even charge you. They can fly, just barely, but are made for walking. They have really long toes, apt for walking in marshy areas, which makes them look pretty comical. Even the name make me smile.

It was raining lightly when I woke up but oddly my tent was nearly dry. I made coffee with what was left of my first fuel canister, which was perfect timing since I just got the other canister the day before. While packing up, I realized something was missing. I had left my foam sit pad at the cottage across the river. It was only 2 km back from where I was, but it might as well have been a 100 miles. Where there was all sand the day before, the estuary was completely flooded with the tide. At least my foam pad is the cheapest and most non-essential item of my gear list. I sent a text to Mike, who is behind me, so he might be able to still retrieve it.

Today I just had to make it to Auckland. The route was a mix of beach, coastal pathways along the beach and up and over headlands, and residential roads. There was even a section that followed a pipeline right along the water’s edge.

I could have slept here in this hammock in the park.

The areas on the northeast coast of Auckland are very affluent. It was nice walking past all the millionaire houses, staring longingly through the windows. Even though it was drizzly and overcast, it was very warm, so many urbanites were out enjoying the beach. By now, most are on a long vacation for the holidays. Here, Christmas and New Years are combined with summer vacation. Most of those in the states would find it weird to be celebrating Christmas in the summer but I am actually quite used to it, living in Miami. Everybody seemed in good spirits, an infectious atmosphere of joy. I think most kiwis live a pretty high quality of life and are very family-oriented. I wonder how they don’t rate as the happiest country in the world.

I stopped for a bit to chat with a guy walking a chihuahua. Even the chihuahuas are friendly in NZ! Everyone asks if I’m out for a training hike because a) I don’t have much stuff and don’t look like I’m prepared for a 2000 mile walk and b) why would anyone backpack in the city?

I broke for lunch in Takapuna (like a scaled-down version of South Beach). There was a WiFi hotspot and a thai place with lunch specials…perfect. I walked the last 10km down and around North Head in Devonport. There were great views of all the surrounding volcanic cones. The volcanic field is thought to still be active and will erupt somewhere again someday. Not good for all the people living in Auckland.

Devonport is a neat section of the city, with older Victorian houses. From there, I had to take a $5 ferry across the bay to the city center. I got in with just enough time to buy my hut pass before the DOC office closed. A 6 month pass is now $92NZ, which gives you unlimited access to stay in most huts. The first time I visited, an annual pass was only about $40. It still is a good deal and worth supporting DOC projects.

The NZ navy, I think.

On the wharf were several tall-ships that I had to check out. One was the spirit of New Zealand, which is painted all black with the white fern and sponsored by Hyundai. I’ve never seen a tall-ship with sponsorship. It looked pretty flash. There was also an American ship that is used for semester at sea programs…the Robert C. Seamans from Woods Hole. Hmmm, that could be an interesting job.

I also went to the Icebreaker store for an upgrade of my socks, which had holes. Probably to stay competitive with Darn Tough, they honor a lifetime guarantee, no questions asked. I did have to hand over the old socks to get the new…gladly!. Then I hopped on the Britomart (electric light rail train system) to go to Onehunga where James lives. He is a trail angel and also hiked the TA last year. Trail Angels tend to be former thru-hikers hikers because they know how valuable the support can be. When I contacted him a few days ago, he also invited me to his family’s Christmas dinner on the 23rd. This without having even met me, mind you. James and his girlfriend Nina were so accommodating. It was great to take a shower and do laundry for the first time since Kerikeri. And his couch was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept on. My heartfelt thanks to James and Nina for sharing their home so unconditionally.

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