Day 7-13 | 245km Through the Muddy Forests of Herekino, Raetea, Omahuta and Puketi
On our last day before the start of the hike we saw some tired trampers walking through Paihia. Back then it felt like a distant future but here we are – having a 0-day in Paihia with 245km under our feet.
After the 90 Mile Beach the scenery changed drastically as we entered the notorious forest. The forest section consists of four different forests and it is advised to complete it in 5-6 days. The conditions in the forest depends much on the weather – and since it being one of the wettest years that NZ has seen – we knew to expect lots of mud!
The first forest, Herekino, was only 14km in distance but estimated to take 9 hours to get through. We hit the trail early in the morning with some luck of a ride to the start of the forest. As soon as we got into the entrance of the forest, we put on our gaiters on and went on. It was amazing from the beginning! Despite the mud, it was so gorgeous and the hills brought about some broad views of the area. After the beach section, the forest felt like a technical path full of little tasks to solve with some concentration. We were on it and as soon as you hit the first mud up to your knees you stop worrying, which makes the rest of the muddy hike a lot easier.
Right before the end of the Herekino forest, we heard a helicopter hovering around and wondered if everyone was okay. We reached the hut, Tramp Inn, where we had a beautiful view, cold shower and dry beds. When the rest of the hikers arrived, we found out that the helicopter was in fact for one of the hikers that injured herself. Luckily the injury was not too severe and she managed to get back on the track a couple of days later.
Weather wise we had some luck for this section, with the worst rain and storm hitting us while we were staying in the Tramp Inn. The morning after staying in the hut it stopped raining and we continued with a later start to the next start of the next forest. A couple of kilometres before the next forest a fellow hiker, from Australia, mentioned that he knew someone in the valley that gave him a cider on the beach and their address a couple of days before. We managed to find their farm on the way but with no one home. We decided to take a rest on their lawn and wait for a while. The region, Takahue, lies between the Herekino and Raetea forests with a small farming community. We soon got to experience this community through their humbleness and generosity. After about 10 minutes on the lawn the farmer arrived from work. “Hey bro, you look familiar, would you like to go chase some pigs? It does mean a bit more walking for you tho.”
We laughed, and all of a sudden we were on a pig hunt in the hills with two local young men. What an experience, dogs, knives and a gun. A real local experience. They shared their life stories, and how this place had always made them happy with their families staying there for generations. Destined to become farmers and hunters.
We were not lucky with our pig hunt, and lost the farmer’s dogs on the forest chasing a pig. Let’s hope they find their way back home soon.
That night we had some fish & chips, good conversations and a good night’s rest at the home. This was a wonderful break from staying in a tent and eating pasta and rice. This was also our last chance to shower for a couple of days.
The second forest, Raetea, was the toughest. There was plethora of uphills and downhills, mud, and overgrown paths. Also, we had more to walk because of staying in town (it was still worthwhile!). That day, Dylan and we (the Aussie guy) tramped 27km in total. The trail notes did not warn us that there would still be another 8km to get to a local dairy to stay in, so we hitched a ride on the tar road. A local Maori man gave us a lift with his truck, which was a good thing for our sore feet. When we told him about the pig hunt, he got very excited: “You are the first pakia (white) girl to talk about pug hunt ever! Made my day!”
At the dairy, we got other hikers again. The manager of the dairy also lets trampers sleep in an old shop next door. On the way, we have given local people lots of business tips.
We told the lady running the dairy that if she built a shower in, everyone would stay after that daunting forest experience. From the dairy, we broke away from the group again as others were worried about the weather forecast in the last forest. It is advised not to enter the forest in bad conditions, and apparently not many people finish all the forest – either because of the weather or just getting fed up with it. We, however, decided to give it a try. Eventually, we got a very beautiful sunny two days (the weather in NZ changes very often). The Omahuta and Puketi forests were gorgeous; there were heaps of river crossings, walking in the river and diverse birdlife. We pushed 33km on that day and set our tent in the middle of the forest next to a river. It was quite something, to be swallowed by the thick forest that could get you lost at any time.
The following day, we woke up early and pushed ourselves out of the forest onto a steep ridge. Every now and then, it felt as if the nature was trying to kill us – the branches, steep hills, and the path giving in under your feet. After Puketi forest we got into a quiet recreational area where we made a nice lunch (noodles) and took a rest. We had made it.
We tried to push through Kerikeri on the same day, but had to set our tent few kilometres before the town and stealth camp next to a field. It was very pretty way down to Kerikeri, we were hiking with sheep and cattle, got free oranges and lemon from local farmers and saw a stunning waterfall right before Kerikeri, a soft sunrise and a river flowing next to us – idyllic.
At last, we met other hikers in Kerikeri, and decided to hike with them to Paihia to have a rest day (0-day). We’ve spent a great amount of time with Kelvin, a great Maori man with a great life story. The way Maoris are connected to the Earth and nature is very unique. For some people, this hike is perhaps a challenge, but for us it is also a spiritual journey – and the more you tramp the more connected you feel to the nature and your roots. You learn to accept what is behind and yet to come, and everyone you meet on the way leave their mark on you. Gratitude – that is the feeling that grows by each day you tramp.
Now we are in Paihia, resting next to the ocean, collecting oysters and staying close to a place where the Waitangi treaty was signed in 1840 by the British and some of the Maori chiefs. Up to this day the country’s laws and policies as still based on this document. There are, however, some controversies around the translation differences between the English and Maori version of the document.
A very historic place to take a 0-day.
Tomorrow we’ll take a ferry over to Russell to start the next 6-day forest-section (don’t worry it won’t as tough this time!) along the East Coast.
Kia Kaha – Stay Strong!