Bob from Capt’n Bobs Backpackers transported us down to Opua wharf. There we jumped onto a water taxi and was taken 13kms up the Waikare Inlet. The boat dollars sleeping on the calm waters of Opua was into the trillions. Only two boat names resonated with our price bracket – Bucket List and Kia Kaha!
The high tide allowed for navigation up the mango swamp and be off loaded onto an embankment. No jetty on this side of the water in rural raw New Zealand. It’s where the other half live and sadly, more cultural than heritage.
A grunt of a cow bellowing out from beyond a treeline too thick to see in the flesh reminded us of the time when a pride of Lions hunted its prey close to where we were camping in the wild on the African Serengeti. We know that the only beast we had to be wary of in our own country were sand flies however, one walking pole was at the ready should the noise advance. Huh, no point in trying to out run each other with laden packs. It hurt too much!
The road became a track and then petered out to become 4 km of walking up the Papakauri Stream. Here we had to cross shoals and boulders with water ankle deep. There were moments of just above the knees and if the conditions were any different, there not advisable to attempt.
So far, this would have been the most beautiful part of the TA. The golden rocks and sands were picture perfect before we rippled the clear waters. The overhanging fern pungas cast shadows to protect us from the sun yet the warmth of the sun extinguished the chill of the flow. Bulbs of flax piggy backed off branches of the mighty Kauri to share cohabitation existence. And the Russel Forest echoed with song from all types of feathered bird.
We exited the stream to climb altitude and summit the hump at approximately 194 metres to then descend down toward Punaruku Estuary eventually reaching tar seal. To the left, the road to Russell. To the right, the road we had to trek. Care not to be collected by on-coming traffic kept our wits about us and sticking out the thumb for a lift proved hopeless. No one stopped!
At the gates of Whangaruru School, we went in search of a tap to fill up the water bottles. The school bell had rung to signal the end of the school day hours before however, our meeting Jamie McQueen (School Principal), Teacher Dianne and Caretaker Sam ended up with a cup of tea encounter and conversation. This school is the pivot of life to 44 children from the district coming from a mix of back grounds. Some of them had never visited Russell just up the road just to give you some indication of demographics.
Yet, from our interaction, we departed with heart felt strings of a strong community doing its best for our younger generation to transition into life as equals. It was so very real and genuine and enriching. It made the next four kilometres of walking easier even though we had already covered distance.
A round Maori faced fella with a beard pulled up in a car to ask if we wanted a lift! We gladly accepted and AJ took us to the camp ground in Oakura and certainly grateful. Being offered some paua was tempting! We decided not to camp there but instead, retraced our steps back over a little incline to where we had seen caravans for let for trekkers on the TA FB page. And so we hire one.
Huh, brought back fond memories of our life living in one except one needed to look beyond the state of repair and spider presence. It didn’t take long to make it homely. And the view, it was absolutely gorgeous.