one does not simply walk out of ratea forest unscathed...
173.6 kms on TA
Apple Tree campsite (Kauri sanctuary), 30 november, 2019
This time I am not referring to a hiker trailing us on the trail but to that scene in which Smeagol happily proclaims that he had found the path through the marshes to the gates of Mordor just as he had promised Frodo.
Sometimes on a hike we must embrace muddy trails, over grown shrubs, slick roots and a dearth of viewpoints or even a dry place to rest your pack for miles on end.
Other times you must achieve Bodhisattva state to push thru an unrelenting jungle.
That pretty much sums up our day today.
Herekino forest track wasn’t that though.
Herekino was our first Northland forest and it was probably one of the best hiking I’ve done in some time. The whole of this forest track place was unlike anything else I have experienced outside some special summits along the Appalachian range.
Our day started well after a good rest at the Ahipara hostel where we met some other thru hikers–some who were petrified of the forests of Northland.
We had several successful hitches that say and had lots about the majestical Kauri trees.
By the way the Mauri pronouns the ‘ri’ ending as ‘dhi,’ so yes it is not Mauri but Mahdhi. Similarly the tree is pronounced locally as Kohdhi. This special tree is one of the reason why new Zealand’s ministry of primary industries is so strict about foreign seeds and biological material entering the country. It is currently afflicted with a disease called ‘dieback.’
Shame really since these giants have stood for thousands of years but in a few short decades we humans have threatened its existence on this planet.
There is no mistaking a Kauri, said our drivers. Once you see it you’ll know. They were not wrong.
After a fairly steep climb to a ridge we defended into a valley and came upon what one of our mauri drivers had called the forest god, Tane Moana(I’m sure I butchered that, may the Kauri spirit forgive me).
There he stood like the giants of folklore, full of life imposing. There was definitely a sense of serene symbiosis about that Kauri and everything that grew around and on it as if he was watching over them all in quiet benevolence.
Both k2 and I couldn’t but help taking a minute to marvel at him, touch his broad sides, feel his ageless presence.
Later K2 would claim that was one of her best hiking moments, ever.
That feeling was quickly followed by what she came to call her worst day of hiking in her life, when we entered the second forest, The Ratea.
You’d have to read her blog to read all about that. All I can say about yesterday’s hike was that you didn’t have to embrace the mud and the bush so much as becoming it.
Yesterday I became bud, became bush.
At one point I seriously thought that forest track didn’t end soon I may not have a hiking partner willing to continue the hike in the near future.
After several hours of drudgery through relentless sinking clay we merged like Frodo and Sam out of the marshes.
At times we were hiking .5 km per hour. It was trial by mud and for those who had never hiked in muddy, rooty bush Ratea must have been a steep, messy learning curve amd introduction to thru hiking.
We finally pushed into a sheep pasture a kind farming couple had set out for trampers around nine pm. I offered to make dinner for both of us while k2 cleaned herself up and patches her blisters. Prior to this she had never had blisters. This woman had walked the entire 2200+ mile long Appalachian trail but the 15 km push through the second jungle nearly bested her.
She didn’t quit tho.
We pushed on in the morning in a flat and monotonous roadwalk to a diary nearby. I had a pine Apple burger, five fried mussels, a basket of kumara chips (yam fries)and sour cream, two cans of fanta, and four scoops of ice cream. K2 did the same minus the mussels but she ordered a milkshake. The lovely store owners at mangamuka diary let us dry our tents, sew up the tears in our gear (dental floss doubles as strong thread btw) and continued on the road to a campsite fifteen kms ahead, promising our selves a great day, which turned out to be nearly 22 kms, after all.
we are inside another Kauri sanctuary, at the Apple Tree campsite. We will traverse the final Northland forest tomorrow.
So far it feels like I have met Treebeared at fangorn (Herekino) , and have run straight into Mirrwood taken over by the evil spiders. I am hoping to enter Lothlorien tomorrow and take the river path.
We have also met another couple from the AT Class of 2014. Yay people!
It remains to be seen whether I would rejoice like Smeagol when he lead them to the gates of moria thru the marshes or lament like Sam that we are going in circles…