The eco-camp site was a place we decided to take a layover day at yesterday.  Mike, a fellow TA trekker joined us and we had the whole place to ourselves just chilling.  Ashley whom we shared Ninety Mile Beach with were amongst the newbie arrivals.  Being referred to as her adopted TA ‘Dad’ to another trekker was humbling.  Didn’t make one feel old neither.  Honestly!

A group of us hitched a ride with James the camp owner to the forestry track start 8 kms up the private road.  It had meant de-camping at 5am in the morning but worth it.  Distributing a bag of carrots purchased yesterday to the team was more to get the weight down versus being a nice person and sharing.  What was I thinking in buying a bag of them?  People telling me where to stick them as they too didn’t want the extra grams wasn’t pretty.  Created the hilarity banter before we started the first steps.  A horse in a paddock shortly after ended up with a belly full.  The art of giving at its finest!

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There were two river crossings on Mackerel Forest Track.  Enough to take off the boots and use the camp footwear – a pair of crocks.  I walked my pack across and returned for Claire’s.  The plan then was to throw the crocks to Claire to wear across except a mis-throw at the first crossing meant one of them started off down river.  I had to run with one crock on and one bare foot to recover the thing that gave the group entertainment at someone else’s plight.  Bugger me if the same thing didn’t happen at the next river crossing!

As we exited the forest track, the others had left us due to their pace.  No sooner had we checked the direction we needed to go in, I decided to stick the thumb out and the first car pulled over.  We got in for a 13km road section hitch from Elizabeth a German surfer.  As I lay in the back, I watched as we passed the forward walkers and knew they would eventually catch up.  I could see them fade into the distance with all the carrots I’d eaten.  Okay, it was more like a bend we went around.

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It was a further 2km walk once we trod over the Pataua footbridge.  Getting to a reserve by 10am had us picnic for 4.5 hours as we had to wait till low tide before we could follow the trail so as to skirt the shoreline.  One by one the walkers arrived to join us and naturally we received jib at our tin arse quick hitch pick up.  We were a group once more!

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We started the estuary crossing two-hours shy of low tide wearing our camp footwear, ensuring they were firmly affixed to feet this time.  Black gooey sludge oozed between toes as we navigated around mangroves.  At one point, a voice from up a tree on the cliff screamed at us that we needed to go back and follow the markers from point to point otherwise proceeding in the direction we were going, the sludge would be up to our waistline before we knew it.

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And so we did.  Entering the water at first was a little nerve wracking as it looked deep.  It came up to just below the crown jewels and then receded as we stepped up onto a sand bar hidden beneath the water.  It was plain walking then by following more markers protruding from the water.  Mike had decided earlier to go the road way round due to not carrying any second shoes and when we saw him descent down the road to our destination way off in the distance, we couldn’t believe he had beaten us.  We only had to go a km or two; him four!

Exiting the mud flats was through another mangrove patch of sludge, the thing that swam between Claire’s legs sped up the pace as eels and sting ray are known to live in the estuary waters.  It took longer than anticipated, however, when we arrived at Tidesong our destination, the hosts Ros and Hugh gave us a brew and slice of banana cake to welcome us.

Ros had walked the trail two years ago, Hugh doing parts of it in tow with a camper.  Their story is featured in a documentary episode with a Kiwi celebrity Pio walking the TA as to how they host walkers along he pathway.  More significant was Ros donating a kidney to Hugh who needed a transplant beforehand.  They were just the coolest of people and inviting us down for supper to carrot cake and milo was just the bees knees.

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The day started out with carrots and ended with carrots.

It was icing on the cake.  We got to eat that too.