Shelter from the storm for Monarch butterflies and for we two fortunate Te Araroa trail trampers.
Not as Bob Dylan sang; maybe more as in ‘Willow’, (Shelter in a Storm) a Joan Armatrading favourite. Trees were felled, as were power lines, interrupting power to thousands throughout the Auckland region, cars and homes damaged as an unseasonal storm raged with over 100kph winds. But we slept like babes, on double mattresses, in a campground hall, safe and snug, ironically in Stillwater. Shelter in a storm.
Peter and Maxine, managers at Stillwater Motor Camp will not take payment from Te Araroa trampers. They are appreciative and supportive of people making the effort to walk this trail. They also make their camp hall available for tramper use and provide tokens for showers. The kindness of strangers.
Monarch Butterflies are yearly visitors to this same camp. Peter showed us many photos of Monarch chrysalis dangling from walls, hoses, furniture and Swan plants. Maxine rescues the vulnerable especially in the advent of a storm and spends ages hanging them in a safe place in her home. Shelter in a storm.
Puhoi to Hunua Ranges National Park.
On the last few kms into Puhoi an executive decision was made. The road with the Puhoi cheese and cafe shop called to our deprived sensory nature. Rather than climb over the top through first, pine forest, then native bush down into the Domain at Puhoi, we answered that call. Coffee! Made it with 10mins to spare. They close at 4pm. John was determined to make it and raced ahead. As we walked we enjoyed views of beautiful native bush…from the outside. Often don’t have a chance to appreciate it when walking through the bush as constantly watching where we put our feet! The New Zealand native bush is very beautiful. The coffee was a pretty good treat too.
Stayed at historic Puhoi Pub with its Old Farts Corner sign and a ‘neat’ collection of eclectic memorabilia around the walls, upstairs and downstairs. Pub meal and beers. A comfy bed and we slept well.
It rained on the way to Orewa. Haven’t experienced much of the wet stuff and needed to resort to wet weather gear. High tide along Waiwera prevented a coastal walk along the beach so more road walking over the hills. Stayed two nights at Orewa Campground. Some quiet R and R where a walk to the coffee shop was the only walking undertaken. Stunning sunrise as we left for Stillwater.
Stillwater and shelter in the storm. Having phoned ahead for a camp booking we were informed by the manager, Peter, that a storm was expected and we could stay in the camp hall at no charge.
Following the Coastal estuary walk and cycle way out of Orewa our trail was mostly road walking. No shops or facilities at Stillwater motor camp except for the Boatclub which serves evening meals. The beautiful Macrocarpa Tree (a very large spreading conifer) in the Campgrounds, which we had admired while eating our Boat club dinner survived the fury of the storm but lost one of its huge branches. Luckily noone was camped beneath. The TA trail from the Campground was littered with storm debris. As we neared Auckland, downed trees and branches were a common sight.
Getting closer to Auckland. Leaving Stillwater via the Okura Coastal Reserve trail was winding and pleasant although damp underfoot. On local advice we had decided against wading through the low tide estuary because of the rains and higher levels of the low tide. Despite the extra kms, I’m very glad we walked the pretty bush of regenerating Kauri, the ever present Pohutakawa and other natives. (We later met a Swiss TA walker, Noemie Cotton, who had attempted the river estuary. She retraced her steps when the water reached her chest, her backpack held aloft. I would have been swimming!)
The section of beach walking along the marine reserve took us past the nesting grounds of endangered Dotterills and Venerable Oyster Catchers. An enthusiastic bird watcher gained our attention explaining the importance of protecting the area especially now that visitors to this area had substantially increased.
The many Bays on the trail to Auckland were pleasant in coffee supply and in beach walking vista. Low tide allowed walking along low concrete walls that carried danger warning signs and day walkers enjoying the post-storm calm and sunny day. The views of beach and ever moving closer views of Rangitoto Island were glorious, ‘good to be alive’ views. However, rain downed as Devonport was reached and the ferry crossing into Auckland CBD was bumpy amid low hanging grey skies.
Auckland is a spread of variable coastline. At it’s narrowest Auckland is 2 kms wide (between Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea). The Te Araroa trail meanders through central Auckland via many beautiful parks with extinct volcanic cone summits affording panoramic views. The Domain, Mt Eden, Cornwall Park with her controversial One Tree Hill/Maungakiekie and further on, Auckland Botanical Gardens. One Tree Hill; its symbolic single summit tree felled because for many it represented historic Pakeha dominance and injustice over Maori. Of emotional significance for many Aucklanders, however, One Tree Hill is sadly lacking without her iconic tree. New trees in a small fenced and padlocked area on the summit are being nurtured.
Leaving central Auckland, the trail is long with many road walking kms via Mangere, Onehunga and Auckland airport. The road to Clevedon is not easy walking. Nearby quarries work large trailer trucks; constant in both directions. The road is not wide, the verge narrow, the camfer tricky making walking with ease and in safety more difficult. However, we made it to Clevedon Village. Nice little village with quirky shops and a good little co-op selling coffee and local produce.
Interesting mural on an underpass at Onehunga
Back to nature through Hunua Ranges National Park. Pretty bush. Some tracks easy grade walking, while others, overgrown and more difficult underfoot. Lovely waterfall at Hunua Waterfall. Enjoyed camping at Lower Mangatawhiri Campgrounds with a pleasant stream nearby, drop toilets, views of beautiful bush (the following days tramp) and interesting fellow campers. The Black Powder Shooting Club on their annual tournament weekend were dressed in 18th century costume (picture The Last Mohican). Great people, happy to give beer to thirsty trampers, share tales of their passion and for one, John, a 70yo architect who makes his replica 18c long guns.
Coming off the trail Nearing our ‘time out’ destination, we came off the track at Pokeno (renowned for its very large icecreams. Would love to know how many litres of ice cream sold in a day).
Our granddaughter Sunni has completed a 3 week outdoor adventure course, at Outward Bound Anikiwa in the South Island. Before she returns to Perth on Friday and we return to the TA trail…where we left off, we are doing a spot of ‘tiki touring’ together in Hamilton, Rotorua and Hobbiton by car!
Thoughts From The Trail
The kindness of strangers. We have been blessed often by the thoughtfulness of New Zealanders; those offering lifts on busy truck laden roads (we decline their kind offer), providing beers or other drinks on arrival at accommodation or campground or even just stopping us to engage in conversation, to encourage us in our endeavour. All food for the soul.
More manna for the soul in wild blackberries. Ours for the picking enroute to Lower Mangatawhiri Camp. Loved this and loved them for breakfast the next morning. At this point after 4 days camping, our only fresh fruit or veg was half a cucumber!
At 708km we are nearing the halfway point Of 1700kms to Wellington from Cape Reinga! New trail shoes are needed. They are bush bashed, road, sand and water wracked and thinning. The souls are worn down and the mesh on the upper has holes. They’ve done well, comfortably so. So have we. Tiring long days, some days, in the heat, but we are bearing up better than our shoes.