There's nothing quite like long distance hiking through adverse conditions to make you appreciate and yearn for home comforts we take for granted. A warm bed, toilet facilities, heating, the ability of a roof to withstand wind and rain. Ok so some might not be a "home comfort" as such, but all are certainly things you don't really think twice about when you have them. We had the outdoor gear and the knowledge so we were fine in the grand scheme of things, but yeah, I was certainly aware of what I was missing. Day 27: Puhoi to Orewa After prising ourselves from the comfort of a bed, packing our still damp gear into our still damp backpacks, we bid the kind landlord of Puhoi pub farewell and left. With a section of the hugely busy State Highway 1 on our route we opted to hitch to the trail head at the mouth of the Puhoi River and start from there. We'd had great fun hitch hiking so far and found that many people were happy to help and curious to know where we were going. The notorious kiwi hospitality is way beyond what we could have hoped for, and for that we were glad. The rest of the day saw us following the coastline for the most part, and having timed our walk with low tide we could explore the many rock pools as we went, the most exciting find being this beautiful nudibranch, which also happens to be the first time I've ever seen one in the flesh!
It wasn't long after leaving the scenery of the beaches behind that we were in Orewa Holiday Park, a place where upon learning we were walking the TA, we were given as much free WiFi as we could use to call home and top up our introvert batteries by watching crap on Netflix, naturally. Day 29: Orewa to Auckland After spending some time enjoying some relaxation it was a slightly stranger walk into Auckland. Whereas before passers by would wave, smile, ask where we were headed, now they avoided eye contact, and gawped from behind car windows. To be expected in New Zealand's biggest city I suppose, where most people won't encounter hikers. Luckily for us, close friend Mike was on hand to help us out for a rest, resupply and a catch up over Chinese dumplings. Day 32 to 33: Auckland Botanical Gardens to Drury, to some field somewhere...
A look at our route out of Auckland didn't inspire much excitement, miles upon miles of road walking, through commercial and industrial areas, past the airport and along busy highways. Mike made the suggestion of a lift to the botanical gardens and, after a little thought, we agreed. If we could cut out a few kilometres of road walking and save ourselves a nights accommodation, that would help further down the line. The weather was still brilliant sunshine for the time being and after a quick mooch around the gardens we hugged Mike goodbye and set off. Though we had skipped a good chunk of road walking, there was still plenty to go. I didn't often get the camera out on these stretches though occasionally something would catch my eye and I'd see what composition could be achieved, usually only to scrap the pictures when I eventually got around to looking at them on the computer. Not a huge amount of appeal to me for pictures of roads, traffic, grey clouds. An excuse to have a break and leave the camera in the bag, at the very least I knew I could keep firing away with my phone camera which in wet weather is far better than the effort of getting the camera out of the bag.
After a nights rest we plodded on, further along the road, yet now we our footsteps interspersed with torrential downpours. This was the theme of the day and continued as we reached state highway 2. Now with fast traffic, poor visibility, and not an awful lot of room to walk comfortably away from the busy traffic, we managed to catch a ride with a passing family in their campervan to the nearest pub where we could wait for the weather to pass. Once it had cleared we pushed on and found a nice quiet corner near a river. Seemed as good a place as any for a nights sleep. Day 34: The Field to Rangiriri After a night sleeping to the distant babbling of the Waikato River, punctuated by the occasional possum coughing it's guts up and killing birds in the trees above us (a truly terrifying selection of noises to hear in your tent at night), I awoke early to capture an image of the mist laden river. On this particular morning we find ourselves by the Waikato River, with a fine mist hanging over the water and shapes twisted over the water by fallen branches. It takes a little precarious positioning by the waters edge to frame the shot how I want, but I get there in the end. With a tent to pack away and a fair few kilometres to cover that day, I'm happy to leave it at that and set about the days hike.
Continuing along the river we we're joined for a short stretch by some friendly goats, though I'm sure there interest in us went only as far as the sugary sweets in our pockets. Our arrival in Rangiriri was welcomed by Cathy, famous for her homemade pies which obviously we sampled before a quick pint at the pub to help with sleep. Medicinal you could say.