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From Cape Reigna to Kerikeri

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the local story – what happened

The journey by public transport from Auckland to Cape Reigna in the north is a long one due to poorly coordinated bus connections. It took more than 2 days to get to the destination. The last 100 km there are no scheduled connections available anymore, so I had to book a tourist tour, which besides the journey to the northernmost point of New Zealand also included an excursion to former amber excavations of the 19th century and a 3rd classic lunch at a gas station.

These amber fields were very interesting because there you could admire well preserved, exposed and not petrified Kauri trees from huge moor areas, whose trunks were about 100.000 years old.

On the trip I had met Leicester, a chubby New Zealander about 65 years old with an impressive handshake. We got to talking relatively quickly and when it came to sports, it turned out that 40 years ago he had played rugby for the New Zealand national team – the “All Black’s” – for a relatively long time and very successfully. He was a tourist here himself and comes from the South Island of New Zealand – a reunion is arranged when I come by his place.

Cape Reigna divides the sea – to the left hand is the Tasman Sea, to the right hand the Pacific Ocean. Cape Reigna is a touristic hotspot, as many tourists have visited the lighthouse.  It was already after 1 p.m., a several hours daily stage was still pending, so there was not much more time than for the obligatory photo with the directional signs. Shortly after that we went off in southern direction.

The start was connected with a strange feeling. 2 backpacks around and a photo bag – the load of 35 kg or more is teaching humility. On my last tour through the Himalayas the luggage was almost the same, but felt much lighter – at least in my memory. Anyway – the first steps from the cliffs down to the beach were quickly taken. The sand is hard and very easy to walk, only in the dunes it gets more uncomfortable. Soft sand, sun and gravity let the blood pressure rise and gave a first impression of what to expect in the next months.

The first camp for the first night was reached with a slight delay, three other hikers were also on site. After they had all taken untreated water from the rain tank, I did the same for them. The next day I had to stop the daily stage at about half of the planned destination. Sudden depression and nausea made it impossible to go on. Shortly after putting up the tent I started. After I threw up twice, the throat was closed. The nausea was annoying, nothing went down anymore. Luckily the chosen campground was at a suitable stream with fresh water.

Having been plagued by cramps and nausea during the night, the next morning was a state of emergency. Normally it takes 1 1/2 hours from getting up to leaving. That morning there were four of them. There was no improvement, the neck was still tight. Nice slowly I was getting worried, not even boiled water went down. Early in the morning some fishermen came along the beach in their jeeps, when I came out of the tent, there was nothing to see of them far and wide. Waiting here didn’t seem to be a good idea, so up the backpack and on.

It took about 14 tedious kilometres when the first seal flew in front of me and tried to get out to sea. 300 m further on I met Mike.

Mike was a Maori fisherman who parked his white jeep on the beach and agreed to take me to the next medical station for a proud price. The stomach infection and dehydration were quickly combated with expert help and the appropriate means. Nevertheless, a two-day break was advisable, not back to the beach but further to Kataia, the next bigger town. In the Main Street Lodge this meant to lick wounds, get the sand out of the clothes and optimize the luggage.

Everything that I (hopefully) wouldn’t need, or wasn’t sure if I would ever need on this tour, was put into this backpack and sent back home ahead of time by New Zealand Post. This meant for the further way 6 1/2 Kg psychologically effective and carrying lighter load on the back.

Back on the Trail now forests expected me, whereby the New Zealand forests are not to be compared with the thinned out conventional Austrian forests. The Kiwis call them Bush – a wild (primeval) forest that grows without human intervention. You enter the forest here on the west coast at Herekino saddle and cross the north of the North Island over several days towards the east, to the Pacific coast.

The undergrowth is very dense – ferns, man-high grasses, creepers, palms, trees, confusing roots and other tropical plants made finding the right path a challenge – although the path is excellent. The scenery was like in some of the famous children’s fairy tales – the deeper you went into the forest, the darker it got. There was no need to be afraid of the big bad wolf, although there had been a suspicious rustling a few times. It is known that the Kauri trees existed in their present form on the primordial continent of Pangaea 220 million years ago. These forests could also be taken back to that time as a whole. In my fantasy it would not have surprised me if suddenly a Velociraptor or a Tyrannosaurus Rex had jumped out of the undergrowth, looking for a big, fat Heinzi burger.

During the two days of recovery it had rained extensively – climbing narrow gorges and steep slopes under extremely muddy and slippery conditions reduced the fun factor to zero. Especially the descents were quite tough. Crawling out on all fours after a header into the undergrowth about 15 times a day is extremely exhausting with the heavy backpack on your back.

But even such Jungle-Camp days pass by – when you come out of the forest after 9 hours, the free view of the farmland seems as if you were on any Austrian alpine pasture.

The wild camp sites in such a landscape are gorgeous, the only drawback are the wet and loamy shoes from the day before, which only have to be dried during the first few hours of the following day.

To get to the next forest, one walks for hours through farmland, along forest roads, through pastures and farms

Also in the second forest on my route to the east the conditions were the same. Before the third forest here in the north that had to be crossed, I had a talk with a farmer. The next forest is twice as long and extremely dense, it takes at least two days to get through there, he told me. Recently he had lost one of his dogs during a wild boar hunt – it seems he had got lost in the forest and never came back. With such muddy ground it was too dangerous, he said.

My legs and knees were bruised and scratched, my clothes dirty, the motivation after these countless involuntary flik-flak’s and splits anyway at rock bottom, so the decision was easy and I turned off towards the main road about 10 km away. There will be many more forests and beaches for me to walk to the south, I didn’t have to hurt myself more seriously right at the beginning.

Hitchhiking works great even at my age in New Zealand – probably the mighty backpack is a pathetic argument. It did not take long and Kerikeri was reached earlier than planned .

Kerikeri is a town of about 5000 inhabitants, just off the Pacific coast. The main attraction is the Stone Store House and the Kemp House, the two oldest houses in New Zealand with about 180 years. They are largely preserved in their original form and freely accessible to visitors.

In Kerikeri there was again a rest day announced, from here the route runs first still approximately 20 km in the east directly to the coast of Waitangi and Pahia, in order to turn off then in the south to Whangarei.

See you soon, Henry

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