The Rurus - Adventure Before Dementia

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Month: November 2016 (page 1 of 2)

26-27/11/16 Waitangi Layover: The Heritage Side Of The Natural Tourist In Us!

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This is the place where on the 6th February 1840, a Culture and a Heritage joined hands in partnership with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and the words, “We do.”

By coming under British Sovereignty, it kept the French from stamping the Tricolour on these lands.  However, from our visit to the place, we felt more the tourist outnumbered by both the French and Germans.  There are just so many of them!

Wish we had of worn our New Zealand cycle tops so as to distinguish us being bred and born here.

Piahia is a lovely spot that buzzes with life, both off the water and on.  Para-gliders being towed behind jet boats interrupted the horizon.  The flag pole over on the Waitangi grounds prominent above the tree shrubbery.  Sidewalk Café patron dishes bellowed cuisine smells to drool over.

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dsc08958-1280x853Our Bar-tailed Godwit (Kūaka) are the most wonderful migratory birds we have – 90,000 fly from Alaska to New Zealand the back, every year.  Some of them will leave Alaska and be in the Bay of Islands 8-9 days later.

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As soon as they land, they fall asleep and who could blame them?

Unlike other seabirds, they cannot rest on water or feed at sea, so this 11,500-kilometres journey is the longest non-stop flight undertaken by any bird.

With that written, we set sail to then take more steps again tomorrow to tick off maps 14,15,16, 17 and 18 of the TA.

Huh, I know which side of the partnership will want to fall asleep just like the Godwit as soon as we reach land after the water taxi even before we walk.

The heritage side of the natural tourist in us!

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25/11/16 Kerikeri to Waitangi – 21 kms: The Spikey Looking Mohawk One

dsc08905-1280x853Leaving Kerikeri, we visited New Zealand’s oldest building – Kemp House (1821).  Beside it was the oldest Stone Store (1832).  Its significance is where the Maori first met missionaries and history was changed forever.

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The different types of flowers that escorted us up the road were just spectacular. The bottle brush was easy to distinguish; the spikey looking mohawk one, no idea.  Leaving suburbia, Clydesdale horses shared accommodation with sheep on pastures green.  The tropical climate threatened moisture from above, but not until we went off road again into the Waitangi Forest.

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Thank goodness for GPS.  A diversion had us going in a spinning compass dial and the undulation sometimes took us above the tree line to see more trees.  Fantails squeaked as they darted about just above the heads and the punga ferns with huge fronds fanned the canopy somewhat.

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Not enough though when it started to persist down.  Torrential.  But we were snug under our jackets and with covers over out packs, we trudged on.  We exited the forest near Mount Bledisloe and on top of the hill was a map dial.  Worth going off the beaten track for a squiz even though the rain mist still clouded the distance.

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We found the road down into Waitangi passing the grounds where the British and Natives signed the Treaty.  Everything was shut up as by now we were way passed our finishing time.  We found a bed (Capt’n Bobs Beach House Backpackers) versus set up in the rain and shed the back pack just on quarter past seven in the evening.  Having left Kerikeri at 9.30am, it was kind of a longish day.

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The view of the Bay of Islands (first discovered by Captain Cook in 1769) from the dorm room was stunning and the waves making shore could be heard.  The bunk bed in the same room with a couple of lads was a whole new experience.  The stench from shoes unbearable but we knew being exhausted would put us into unconsciousness quick.

Plus, you can’t smell when you breath through your mouth!

24/11/16 Ahipara to Kerikeri: Losing Five Toe Nails

Without risking further damage to the feet, we made the decision not to walk the Northern Forests – Herekino, Takahue, Reatea, Omahuta/ Puketi and took a bus to Kerikeri.

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There is always apprehension with decisions like this.  It’s not in tune with our ‘keep going, never give up attitude’ however, we know when we have bitten off more than we can chew to stretch the rubber band.  This is up there.  Biking is by far a heap easier.

Getting off the bus, we be-friended a fellow TA walker Steve who had made the same decision.  We ended up sitting at a Café for three hours just talking about stuff.  Steve quit the rat race in Australia and returned home to New Zealand.  Walking the TA is his way to defrag, find himself and put perspective into life as he knows it.  He was refreshing and enlightening and certainly affirmed our decision to taking the bus to enjoy the experience versus let it destroy us.

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If the conversation wasn’t enough, Steve losing five toe nails along Ninety Mile Beach did it!

The scales registered 6.5 kilograms.  Deduct the newly arrived tent pack weight and the total weight shed was just over 4 kgs.  It doesn’t read a lot but less carried weight is a good friend when you are a trekker.

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Pitching our new abode at the Kerikeri Holiday Park, Karen wandered over to introduce herself and offered us a welcoming cup of tea.  It was just the bee’s knees.  We ended up chatting with her, her daughter Anna and Karen’s sister.  Karen and Anna had taken the year off to walk the TA in sections and had just completed the Northern Forest section.

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But there was a far more closeness with this encounter as we talked.  During a night stay in a hut on top of the Tararua’s during February, they were the only one’s occupying the hut.  At 10pm, in entered another walker doing the TA in reverse.  It was the same Mike that we met on Stewart Island New Year’s Eve who questioned us as to why we weren’t walking our own country first instead of the Appalachia Trail as was planned.

Here we are!

We may have missed seeing the largest living Kauri trees in New Zealand which stand in excess of 50 metres by missing the forests.   The conversations shared with the people we meet this day made up for that ten-fold.  Full credit to Karen, Anna and others who have walked it.

We’ll leave joining that dot for another time.

22 & 23/11/16 Ahipara Layover Day: Meow!

Having arranged a replacement tent to be couriered up from Christchurch, it was the most welcomed reason to rest and recover the soles of the feet.

Ninety Mile Beach is actually 88 kilometres (55 miles) long along the Aupouri Peninsula.  The gigantic northern dunes, looking like a desert landscape, are a tourist destination used for bodyboarding.  In the days of sailing ships a number of vessels were wrecked on this beach.  It is officially a public highway and in 1932, the beach was used as a runway for some of the earliest airmail service between Australia and New Zealand.

Kerry’s adopted cat kept us company.  Cats only speak the one language, “Meow” and they have a knack to include you putting play into a lot of their daily routine.  Something we humans should incorporate more often than not.  Mischief too for that matter.

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A print on Kerry’s wall reminded us of why we are doing what we are doing, seeing our own back yard.  The Pohutukawa is about to flower; the Tui are in song and should be listened to; and to see bee’s in their numbers harvesting the nectar from Manuka is bountiful.

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As were kids riding bikes in their bare feet and no helmets.

Bugger the tent arriving … couldn’t it have got lost in the courier system a while longer!

Claire went for a wander down onto the beach to enjoy the calmness of healing.  Walking towards her was Lasse, he had walked the whole thing.  It was so great to see him and although he was sore and achy, he was in good spirits.

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All the TA family had all been accounted for now.

No more waiting up for the kids to get home!

21/11/16 Waipapakauri to Ahipara – 14 kms: Games On … 2018.

As we walked back out onto the beach off the ramp, a glance to the right in silence with a nod to the skies and under the breath, safe journey today Lasse was spoken.

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We met another trekker staying at the camp from Auckland, James.  His encounter of 90 Mile Beach was similar with getting a lift after the 30 km stretch.  Again, just physically hard.  Then there were a number of instances whilst walking along the high tide mark where an incoming wave reached above his waist nearly dragging him out to sea.  He came close to flipping the button on his personal location beacon he was that fearful.

When caught short like James was, there isn’t a foot hold to grab onto.  Once fully coned sand dunes, some of them are now cliffs due to sea erosion.  Alive clumps of grasses lay on the beach where they have tumbled from and tree roots stick out from the face.  Fence posts and wire hang like tight ropes along large parts of the coastline to.  If you think the oceans aren’t rising, come walk this part of the country and check it out for yourself.

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It was a further 14 kms of beach walking before arriving at Ahipara.  A clear sky and open sea with a slight on shore wind had gliding sea gulls patrolling from above.  Traffic was busier as houses became more detailed.  The landscape rose up too.  We were too fast for the tide sometimes chasing our feet even though our walking was more of a plod.  Coming off the ramp, there was a group hug of achievement.

Just before that though, another glance down the beach in silence.

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Ashley, Meg and John headed for the camping ground with arrangements made to catch up with our trekking family tomorrow.  For us we had touched base with someone we first met ten years ago, in Ahipara when we cycled the length of New Zealand in the opposite direction – Kerry Rolleston.  Her invitation to stay was sincerely accepted and greatly appreciated.

Removing the socks revealed bottoms of feet that weren’t pretty.  The raw flesh under the rotting was so sore, a re-think of strategy going forward was on the cards.

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For Sale – back pack with full trekking gear (tent with ripped seam; two cooking stoves; sleeping mats and bags; metal pots and water filter; with sundries), boots and poles.  Used but in happy condition to a motivated idiot not knowing what the hell they get themselves into.  Owners going overseas to lie on a tropical beach as soon as sold.  All offers considered!

But the evening conversation had with Kerry over a lovely home cooked meal allowed minds to wander in thought and forget the aches below the table.  Ten summers of swapping toasting and roasting stories all ending up with the hatching of perhaps re-walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage walk in Spain.

We know of two people who would be keen (Sharon Meredith and Mark Hogan).  And now three (Kerry Rolleston).

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Games on … 2018.

And for the record, it wasn’t wine talk!

The strategy for where to from here regarding the TA, two more nights of wine bottles to be corked.

Something will eventuate we are sure!

20/11/16 The Bluff to Waipapakauri – 47 kms: “Are We Able To Get A Lift To The Next Camp?”

There was no up and adam at first light from any tents this morning.

It was more a stumble out of sleeping bags because one was busting for a pee.  Eventually, bodies appeared and like us, although rested, there were hobbles in the steps.

A fleck of rain during the night had water globules on the external fly.  Thank goodness the duck-tape held on the internal seam.  We need a plan b for the tent.  Sleeping under only a tarp with monsters about after the hours of darkness isn’t an option because neither of us is prepared to stand guard to protect.

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Slowly, camp was de-bunked.  Once the boots were on, feet moulded into the inner soles and gave some comfort to popped skin folds.  John had already made tracks; Lasse was going to be another twenty minutes and so, with Ashley and Meg, we wandered back onto 90 Miles Beach for another day of living the life on the TA.

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Ashley’s face was a circle of red.  Sun burn too had fun yesterday.  What wasn’t covered was now reddened.  For Claire, behind the ears.  For me, backs of my legs.  Sun screen was our ally today.

The general consensus that to walk another 30 kilometres to the next camp was a stupid idea.  Experience always wins out over some qualification hanging from the wall!  As a collective, we decided to trek 20 kilometres and freedom camp in the forest.  Bugger the rules of engagement.  Health and safety applies.

The first 3 kms were easy.  That’s because there was a lot of chit chat about histories of each other.  Talking seems to make the distance shorter for some reason, if you could get a word or three in.  The next three and a half kms seemed to take a little longer.  The bodies quivered quickly to the aches and pain conditions from yesterday.  John was a silhouette in the distance up front getting fuzzier; Lasses was a silhouette in the distance behind us and catching up.

Buses and vehicles sped past us in both directions making good of the low tide.  We were able to cut a straight line from point A to a point B versus follow the true line of jutting out sand dunes and inlets.  It didn’t take long for grins to become grimaces and if anyone has ever done the beach of 90 Miles, it was again tough physically and so early in the walking.

There had been banter about hitching a ride up the beach.  Debate for and against had pro’s and con’s.  A large four-wheel drive suddenly came toward us going in our direction.  I don’t know what prompted me to stand up without consulting the others to step forward with thumb out to catch the eye of the driver.  She slowed, turned around and pulled up where the others still sat.

“Are we able to get a lift to the next camp?”

By now, Lasse had caught up so there were five of us.  But Lasse declined the ride and to leave him behind was hard.  And easy in the same breath.  It is one thing to push the body to its extreme limits; it is another to know when to pull back the body from extreme physical abuse.

As I sat in the front with the three girls in the back, Elly the driver said that she does this all the time due to the challenges inflected on trekkers bodies from walking on the beach sand.

As we approached John, we slowed to ask if he too wanted a lift.  Four became five TA walkers now speeding along 90 Mile Beach in a vehicle.  It was ironic that those who were against now too sat with the for’s.  Only they were now debating with themselves as to whether what they did was a pro or a con.

Arriving at Waipapakauri Beach Camp ground, checking into a shared cabin and conversations with other fellow trekkers, there was a sigh of relief that everyone was now on the same page regarding limiting the steps trodden today to look after the body frames.

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Boots left outside due to stench and unpacked stuff strewn about the room, the place looked like a bomb had gone off.  It didn’t matter, we were all in a happy place resting and recovering.  Aloe Vera plants applied to sunburn as a moisture coached by Ashley was a newby for us.  There was hope that the soft texture moistness would smooth out wrinkles too.  Nope!

As the ball in the sky slipped down toward the sea horizon, thoughts of Lasse being out on the 90 Mile somewhere on his own were shared.   A natural sadness that he wasn’t with us.  Even worse for me.  I still had my lighter that he borrowed to ignite his cooking stove.

F@#k!

19/11/16 Twilight Beach to The Bluff – 28 kms: A Hard Tough Day At The Office.

The snorting during the night came from Claire’s side of the tent.

At first we thought it a pig but it turned out to be a marauding Opossum.  Turning on the head light had it scurry off in another tents direction.  I forgot to place food under someone else’s tent fly before retiring which is a habit of the past.

Fellow trekkers were all smiles and full of life, de-bunking their sites and re-packing stuff to make it more comfortable to carry.  We were no different.  It was a bid farewell to new friends made not knowing if we were see them again on the trail.

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Didn’t take long.  We caught up to Ashley and Meg from the US.  It was Meg’s first trip outside the US and we raised eyebrows at her coming down under to do the TA as her first overseas destination.  Both had done parts of the Appalachia Trail so considered this to be a safer destination to venture out onto the planet and do.  Very inspiring.

Discussing Meg’s ‘Mumma Birding’ food preparation technique was also a new experience for us when she prepared dinner last evening!

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From the elevation, 90 Mile Beach expanded into a distant sea haze.  We descended the board stairway and were soon leaving imprints.  There can be a shortage of water along this stretch so we topped up water bottles at Te Paki Stream,

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By now we had trekked 8 kilometres.  Lasse had caught up with us and too filled up.  A discussion ensued as to what further distance we should walk.  The next camp site was another 20 kilometres.   A hell of a long way still full kit with extra water.  Do we venture off into the forest at a lesser distance and wild camp or push through to the Bluff Campsite?

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John caught us and both him and John being half our ages had a pace that allowed us to keep up for a short time.  We managed 3 kms per hour and after 9kms, our pace slowed down due to body fatigue.  When it did, we assured them to walk at their own pace and soon, they were a distant blur.  Ashley decided to hobble with them because if she had of sat down she would not have got up again.

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To the left, the coastline was a combination of eroded sand dunes with sand grasses and a back drop of planted pine forest.  To the right, the sea a combination waves breaking with the water depositing a whipped lather of suds where the water reached.  In-between lay bodies of blue bottle jelly fish in their thousands.  They were accompanied by washed up debris of all types of stuff.  Sand hoppers, crabs, Shags and Herons the wildlife along the beach.  Sea gulls too circled waiting for us to keel over from tiredness so that they could peck out our eyes.

Departing from Twilight at 8.30am, we finally shed the pack for the final time at The Bluff Campground at 6pm.

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The last 3 kms were hard playing with both body and mind.  Exhaustion does that to you.  Beach walking is way more harder than expected.  The blisters had arrived, both of us, both feet.

Pitching the tent revealed a tear in a roof seam on the inner shell.  Shit.  Not a good situation to be in with so many more days ahead having to shelter with the thing.  Duck-tape as a temporary fix, worry about the dilemma tomorrow.

It was a case of attending to the feet (duck-tape has multiple uses), getting some food and water into the bodies and then, to bed to rest them.

It didn’t matter which way we lay.  It hurt.

18/11/16 Kaitaia to Twilight Beach – 14 kms Part Three: Have You Got A Thong?

At least the sun was still shining and one of the people we saw scaling the hillside earlier greeted us with a grimace of it being a hard day at the office.  So too did the three other trekkers following.  Once we had pitched the tent and got a brew on, the chit chat was enlightening and lifted spirits amongst the group.

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The young German chap (Lasse) trying to ignite his white spirit burner was our entertainment.  He just happened to get the laughter and banter back on track so as to forget the day’s perils.  It was the first time he was using it so was reading up on the instructions.  When he said that it’s a long journey, he was referring to getting his stove working and not the trail as we all had cooked and eaten our dinners before he managed to get some traction.

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When he asked if anyone in the group had a thong, there was total silence.  What he was actually meaning was a tool so that he could unscrew part of his apparatus.  Once deciphered, one was provided, then instructions were re-read.

Another German (John) then informed the group that Germans read the instructions, then read them again; then once more.  Then they follow the instructions but then read them once more and then, they would ring the manufacturer hot line to question the instructions.  John explained it exactly as Lasse was doing it except with no cell coverage, that bit got omitted.

Lasse’s lighter wouldn’t start the thing so that sent everyone into more hysterics.  Again, a borrowed one was provided and eventually he cooked his noodles.  He was determined and he got there.

Just like we got to where we needed to be on our first day of the Te Araroa.

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It was certainly harder and tougher than we anticipated.  Lights out for us happened before the sun had fully set.  Aching bodies and no pillow, what more could we ask for?

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18/11/16 Kaitaia to Twilight Beach – 14 kms Part Two: No Time For A Health & Safety De-brief.

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The descend down to sea level allowed for body parts to creak and groan.  Not necessarily in that order neither!  It was easy to get lost in the views.  We live on a piece of dirt that is so spectacular, we comprehend why it’s an attraction to many a tourist.  Except the three up a head of us going up the hillside weren’t following a path and we wondered what the hell were they doing?

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There wasn’t one, that’s why!  The tide was too high to scoot around the coastal rocks so the only option was to go up and over.  We tried to follow the tourists scrambling through thick foliage of grasses, knee high scrub, flax and cutty grass but they were too far ahead.  We had to cut our own path.  Steepness had us slip down and then there was moments we were on all fours clambering up.  It would be fair to write that it was very scary with laden back packs.  Turning back was an option but to retrace our steps was going to be as equally challenging.

If that wasn’t enough, we saw another couple further ahead down at sea level running across the inlet whilst the sea had receded.  No sooner had they climbed up onto the far embankment, the sea waves wooshed in to cover up their footprints left in the sand.

We made the decision to descend to the shoreline and follow the cat and mouse inlet running in-between the ocean surges.  Only once did we get caught short that we had to crawl up the sand embankment so as to escape being sucked out to sea.  The pack landing on top of me from up above climbing back down was an error of judgement but adrenalin was high that there was no time for a health and safety de-brief.  Just get to the next highest point before the next wave surge.

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Once we were passed the coastline of danger, the sand dunes gave us peace of mind walking pending the tide going out for which it did.  It made our first river crossing easy where the flowing water teased the bottom hems of our shorts.  A rest stop for lunch and a laugh at what we had encountered so far had us certainly shaking our heads at the trail throwing a heap of stuff at us on the first half day of walking.

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The landscape shifted to a massive sand dune hill that we had to climb and skirt the summit.  It was moon like; even desert like.  It transitioned into more bush (with a track thank goodness) before descending down onto Twilight Beach for more beach walking.  After 3 kilometres more, we reached our first night’s camp site.

18/11/16 Kaitaia to Twilight Beach – 14 kms Part One: Te Rerenga Wairua

Ollie was kidnapped to Northland and has now resided in the area for over twenty years!

He saw an opportunity to shuttle people up to the Cape after the last bus drop off point in Kaitaia and has done it ever since.  His commentary of history about the gum diggers and trees (Kauri) of the swamp to narrow bollock bridges and the old Air Force base co-existed by Kiwi’s and Yanks was interesting.

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We passed a number of lasts on the road travelled – a Butcher, a Fire Station, an English Cemetry, Catholic Church, mobile coffee shop, hotel, and power pole.

It was his effort to calm the anticipation emotions and once he waved us off, we were on our own.  Nerves, excitement, adrenalin didn’t matter as the breeze that greeted us was blustery as was evidenced through white caps on the two meeting waters.  The back packs were hoisted onto the backs.  Eeeeek, they felt heavy and cumbersome.  “Come back Ollie, we have changed our minds!”  That request blew straight out into the Pacific.

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We wobbled down to the Lighthouse standing its ground solid; the pole housing the yellow signs with place names with distances shook violently.  Like other tourists, we took our place below and had our photo taken at the iconic land spot.

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Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga) marks the separation of the Tasman Sea (to the west) from the Pacific Ocean.  For Māori, these turbulent waters represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life.  For us, it was our moment to begin a new adventure.

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But first, we had to ascend back up the pathway toward the carpark before we hung a right onto the Te Araroa trail itself.  The view up the coastline was far, green and brown landscape met blue and white of ocean.  We took a moment to ask that question we often do now that we were laden with packs about to take the first steps due south … “what the @#*% were we thinking?”

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