Day 20 to 25 – The beach is back! (and the mud)
Monday 5 November – Saturday 10 November
Whangarei Heads to Dome
Day: 20 – 25
Cumulative km’s: 497km / 3,000km
This week saw us return to where it all began… the beach. Thankfully the distances involved were not as punishing as 90 Mile Beach, which was nice. We also were able to break up the beach walking with a few headland tracks with stunning views up and down the coast, making it more than worthwhile.
With more tidal areas to contend with over this section, a decent amount of on the fly planning was required in order to avoid an impromptu swim. Fortunately, luck has largely been on our side so far and we have been able to sync up with the right tides when needed.
The mud also made it’s glorious return for us through the Omaha and Dome Forests, with plenty of energy sapping hills thrown in for good measure.
Still, we are enjoying the trail more and more every day as we get into the swing of things and our bodies get used to hiking every day.
Day 20 – Monday 5 November, 26km
The Green Bus Stop, Whangarei Heads to Waipu town
A later than normal start today (8:30am wake up instead of 7am) as we had time to burn before our 11am boat pick up to get us across to Marsden Point.
Literally just as we were about to bid farewell to our accommodation for the previous night, the owner, Terry, pops his head around the corner, offering us a lift down to the jetty. What a legend! This would save us 5km of road walking on unsafe sections of narrow road, so we jumped at Terry’s generous offer. It also had the added bonus of allowing us to swing by The Deck for some breakfast pies!
In a flash we were at The Deck – I think it actually took us longer to choose our order than it did to drive there with Terry. It wasn’t until the cashier recited our order back to us that we realised it sounded like an excessive amount of food for two people. Leigh told her that we were also buying things for someone else in the car to keep any suspicion low.
We ate our breakfast of pies, mini sausage rolls, quiches, rocky road and blueberry & apple slice overlooking the scenic oil refinery on the other side of Reotahi Bay.
Our hiker friends from the US and New Zealand arrived in time for the 11am boat and Blair the boat captain had us on our way without even needing to get our feet wet. The crossing itself was a quick one – we were glad to have coordinated a group of people to share the mandatory $100 cost with.
On arrival at Marsden Point we became reacquainted with our old friend the beach. With the smell of benzene in the air from the oil refinery and the wind blasting us in the face, we powered on down the first stretch of beach.
Opting to skip the Ruakaka River crossing due to missing the low tide timing, we headed into the town of Ruakaka for some lunch at a local bakery. Two hours later we started feeling guilty about not walking, so we hit the road again making ground towards our second section of beach walking for the day.
With the wind dying down this was much nicer walking than earlier that morning. We stopped about halfway along the beach with a local fisherman who proceeded to regale us with stories of his extensive travels across Australia, including NSW’s most central point (it’s a town called Tottenham apparently), as well as being one of the first people to drive up to Cape York.
We finally made it off the beach and headed back to the road to get to Waipu where we would be staying for the night. Our timing was spot on as we were greeted with rain just as we reached the end of town. A quick stop at the local supermarket to organise dinner we had arrived at the local backpackers for the night. A few burritos, a block of Whittaker’s chocolate, a hot shower and a load of washing later, all was good in our world again and we were ready for the next few days on the trail.
Day 21 – Tuesday 6 November, 13.5km
Waipu town to Brynderwyn Walkway
With no more scheduled rest days between here and Auckland, we decided to split the 30km+ walk into Mangawhai into two days. This meant we would only be walking a half day today so we had time to burn in the morning.
I even had time to weigh myself on an old set of scales in the bathroom. Apparently I’ve lost 5-6kgs in three weeks, which is more than I was expecting, so I’ll need to keep an eye on that going forward!
After a sleep in, we headed out to Logan Maclean Cafe in the Scottish-inspired town of Waipu for a morning coffee and to use their wifi to catch up on a few things. We arrived back at the backpackers we had been staying at shortly before our scheduled check out time, thinking that they would be pretty relaxed about letting us hang out there for an extra half hour or so while we packed our stuff up. We were instead greeted at 9:45am by a pretty abrupt cleaning lady who basically kicked us out so she could start cleaning.
In any event, once we had packed all of our stuff we headed back to the cafe for another couple of hours, grabbing a bite to sat for lunch before setting off for the day by early afternoon.
More road walking was to be ahead of us today, starting with a few km’s of cycleway running parallel to the road (which was amazing compared to walking on the road!), followed by another few km’s of busier roads with not much space to walk, ending with a 5km uphill climb on gravel logging roads to our accommodation for the night.
At a certain point while climbing up the hill we looked back to some stunning views of Waipu through to Whangarei Heads where we had come from the day before. The afternoon light on the hills was amazing!
We finally reached the end of the gravel logging road and after some initial confusion about the location of our accommodation for the night we stumbled down the Langsview Track to Dragonspell.
Our host for the night Johnny couldn’t have been more helpful, showing us around the property and encouraging us to take any vegetables we wanted from the garden. While we were intending to camp, the lure of a comfy bed was too much to resist as we decided to stay in one of the guest rooms available at Dragonspell.
Day 22 – Wednesday 7 November, 17.5km
Brynderwyn Walkway to Mangawhai Heads
As today was my birthday, we had planned for a relatively short day on the trail and to stay at a nice B&B in Mangawhai Heads as a bit of luxury.
After a good night’s rest at Dragonspell, we set off along the Langsview Track. The track itself was nice with occasional views back over the coast but nothing overly spectacular. It was a great trail for getting through an audiobook or podcast. Still, the constant threat of a fresh spider web to the face being the first person on the trail that day keeps you alert!
The track eventually spat us out onto a short road section before climbing some farm roads, followed by a few farm paddocks which were home to some pregnant cows, sheep and one slightly intimidating bull. The incline was tough going at times and the resident bull definitely looked at little hostile to begin with, but we made it through unscathed.
The farm trail led us to the beginning of the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway which was absolutely stunning. Following the coastline, this section of the trail overlooked the beach and the weather really turned it on for us. Amazing views as far as the eye could see.
We ran into a local kiwi hiker by the name of Russell around this time who was on day 12 of his hike and had covered the same distance as we had in 22 days. You don’t do those kinds of miles by standing around chatting all day, so Russell was off and gone almost as quickly as he had arrived.
The cliff walkway eventually came to an end and we followed the trail down to the beach. Staying on the beach, we accidentally disturbed a birder long-lens photography class before rolling into Mangawhai Heads just after lunchtime.
With h-anger/h-agitation levels peaking and not much open, we headed to the local takeaway shop, smashing down some burgers and wedges before topping it off with some icecream.
After checking in at the B&B, we headed out for pizza and drinks – a great way to end the day!
Day 23 – Thursday 8 November, 26.5km
Mangawhai Heads to Pakiri
After a few shorter days, we were up early for our complimentary B&B breakfast at 7am. Before we knew it we had finished stuffing ourselfselves silly and it was time to hit the road again.
We welcomed the footpath walking through Mangawhai Heads to Mangawhai Central, a pleasant break from road walking without a footpath or shoulder. It also brought with it some unusual advertising…
Small town roads eventually turned into dusty gravel roads and we followed our breakfast with a healthy amount of dust, caused by cars flying past us as we walked on the dusty back roads towards the beach.
After about 10km of road walking, we switched gears exchanging road for beach after crossing a construction sight of some sort. Ahead of us, 15km of beach walking and a potential river crossing at the end of the day to get to Pakiri Holiday Park.
While the morning had been cloudless and hot, it wasn’t too long before the clouds rolled in which allowed us to do most of our beach walking under more kind conditions. Once we got through the first 5km of beach, we didn’t see another person on the beach which was actually quite nice. We did, however, share the beach with a variety of local bird life.
The last stretch of beach seemed to pass quickly, but we did still have a short river crossing to contend with. We ended up missing the low tide by almost 2hrs, however, it turned out fine with the water only knee deep (even though the sand was like quicksand and you would sink up to your shins with every step).
Finally, we arrived at Pakiri Holiday Park, where we would be staying for the night. We’d heard a lot of negative comments about Pakiri but our experience was great – $20 for a tent site and they let us set up directly opposite the kitchen and toilet blocks which were technically powered sites. Save for 3 other TA hikers, we had the entire holiday park to ourselves and with a few hours of daylight left, we set about testing all of the play equipment in the park – a giant inflatable bouncing bag, swings, fuseball and table tennis. It ended up being one of our best holiday park experiences so far!
Day 24 – Friday 9 November, 11.5km
Pakiri to Govan Wilson Rd
After deciding to break the Dome Forest walk into two days, weren’t in any great rush to leave Pakiri. After a lazy morning, we eventually bit the bullet and packed down our tent.
We would only be walking to Govan Wilson Rd today – rain was expected overnight and we had heard of a family that had a big shed that hikers could sleep in. A quick text to Matt and Jas confirmed that they would be happy to have us stay for the night.
A couple of km’s of road walking to start the day and we were straight into a steep climb over farm land. I’m not sure why but this climb sapped a lot of energy and left me feeling pretty flat for the rest of the day.
After an hour or so we had reached the top of the farm, with pretty great views back towards Pakiri. It made the climb slightly more acceptable to me in my fatigued state.
We were then into the crux of the day – the Omaha Forest. What followed was half a day of relatively steep ups and downs, and mud… no shortage of mud. In contrast to some of our earlier mud encounters on the hike, this mud was harder to avoid and always seemed to pop up in the worst possible places, where the likelihood of you slipping over was at its highest.
A well timed break at the summit was just what we needed. We enjoyed the spectacular views of Omaha Bay and a chance to rest our feet while we chomped down on lunch.
It wasn’t too much longer before we popped out of the forest, muddy and ready to chill out for the afternoon. A few km’s down the road we reached Matt and Jas’ place and were greeted by Matt and his young son.
Matt told us his history of helping hikers out over the past four or five years unofficially, before being convinced to advertise his property in the official trail notes. His son is tasked with greeting hikers, offering them a cold drink on arrival and organising coffee orders for the morning. In exchange, he gets to keep the money paid by hikers for the privilege of staying there.
A cold beer later, we had a chat with Matt before setting up for the night in the family’s shed. We were grateful for the roof as it saves getting your tent and gear wet when it rains all night.
Day 25 – Saturday 10 November, 16km
Govan Wilson Rd to Dome
After a comfy night’s sleep and Matt and Jas’ place to a backdrop of falling rain on the shed roof, we met Jas at 7am as she brought out some freshly brewed coffees. We also got to meet some of their family pets which was a lot of fun. It was a great start to the day!
After taking up Matt’s offer of free wifi access to download a few bits and pieces to plan out our day (and most importantly our arrival time at the Top of the Dome Cafe), we were ready to tackle Dome Forest.
It wasn’t long at all before we were off the road and back into the forest. We weren’t sure what to expect in terms of trail condition, but after starting off with some fairly good condition trail, it didn’t take too long before the mud returned! Muddy downhill sections were in abundance as we focused all our energies on staying upright.
I was grateful for my hiking poles, but even that wasn’t enough to stop me from ending up on my butt a few times throughout the day when a slip in the mud would throw your entire balance off.
Despite all the mud it was still a really beautiful section of trail to walk through.
Thoughts of lunch at Top of the Dome Cafe at the end of the forest spurred us on, and we eventually arrived at the Cafe in time for a late lunch… or, in my case, a late lunch shortly followed by an early dinner. We also had a hungry but polite rooster join us for lunch.
We had heard that there was a small space to camp a couple of km’s on from the cafe. It didn’t take us too long to reach the spot in question – a “camp here” sign next to a small farm shed marking the spot that we would call home for the night.