We are doing this leg in fits and starts and not in geographically chronological order.
Tuesday 30 July
Dome Forest to Woodcocks Rd (11 km) plus another 7 km getting lost in Kaipara instead of finding cheese
I had a brilliant idea. Since this leg is within easy driving distance of home, it made sense to sleep in our own beds and do the sections as day walks, carrying the bare minimum, especially as camping is not allowed in most of the sections. So before work, Marius dropped us at Kraack Rd, Dome Forest. He reassured us that he would pick us up at the Puhoi Valley Cheese Factory in the late afternoon. We reassured him we would keep the sacred restaurant in business until he arrived. It would not have done to let him go to work crushed with anxiety concerning this issue.
There was mist as we set off, climbing steadily through farmland and forestry before descending and turning onto a track through the Smyth Reserve. In places, the bush was very thick, so we were constantly scanning for the orange trail triangles.
Visibility was poor until the mist burned away, but we saw some black snails and interesting spider webs. We could hear a repeating hoot that sounded like a train in the distance, but as we emerged into a logging area, we realised this sound was an alert from timber-moving equipment. Chained bundles of logs were lifted and sent whooshing across the valley by cable. Now that would make a brilliant flying fox. (We used to call them foofie slides back in RSA in the 1970s).
The view was green and serene and the gardens already showed the optimistic bristlings of spring. I indulged my obsession with farm fences. The old, handmade ones are appealingly crooked and there’s often some happy moss or lichen to admire on the posts. But this is NZ, so we saw quite a few grisly remains of possums and other vermin hung on fences too.
I’d like to play with the colour on a fence photo and turn it into a CD cover. It would have to be my type of music, though; these pictures are too jolly for Hannah’s death metal preference.
It was shortly after taking this picture that we got lost. We had the trail map and the GPS but you might as well put an Encyclopaedia Britannica and a Geiger counter into the control of Christmas beetles. That night, at home, I consulted the trail notes: “Turn right into Old Kaipara Rd and walk 900m to a stile on the boundary of Drinnan’s farm”. Well, if I had also had the trail notes on me, we would have realised after a while that 900m had been and gone. This would have alerted us to turn back and look for the trail sign we’d missed. As it was, we proceeded for 7 km in the wrong direction.
After 5 km, concerned that we hadn’t seen another trail marker, and unable to work out where the hell we were on the map, we hailed two young farm workers. They were in love. They had dark, curling hair, sparkly eyes, were wearing wellingtons and holding hands. They stared solemnly at the map and said they had no idea where to put a “You are here” X.
Twenty minutes later we passed this quaint and tiny building, the highlight of our day. It bears the sign: “Kaipara Flats Library, Est 1878”. OK, so about 135 years ago, some builder knew where the hell he was. Then we stopped a man who also could not put an X on the map, but told us that if we continued in the direction we were going, we’d find ourselves in Warkworth! I moaned to Hannah about local people not being able to find their own location in their own home area. “The education of today is shocking,” I hissed self-righteously.
The GPS indicated that we were in Tauhoa Rd, so we phoned Marius and sat on the verge to wait for him. It was windy and we were cold and cross. I sang a wordless song of cluelessness, regret and despair in a squeaky little voice. I did this deliberately to annoy Hannah.
That night, at my computer, I consulted Google maps again and discovered that when we’d asked the locals for help, we’d already walked off the map. There is nothing quite like setting people an impossible task and then blaming them for failing! Let me hang my head in shame and eat my words. They’ve got to taste better than muesli bars. I am sick of muesli bars. But I’m not sure about the fibre quotient of the alphabet. I cannot risk constipation.