Sunday, 18 August
Kerikeri track to Waitangi Forest (13 km)
The day started inauspiciously with our only juuust missing the Intercity bus from Orewa to Kerikeri. It was pulling away from the stop as we drew in behind. Marius raced to get ahead of it at Waiwera. Fortunately, the driver was kind enough to pull over in response to our anguished roadside gesticulations and lollopings.
Close to Warkworth is Sheep World, where sheep dyed pink graze in the roadside pasture and lure the traveller to read a billboard advertising “Sheep Shows”. These creatures are not known for much beyond crude Australian legends and belonging to Mary. I asked Hannah what she thought the sheep did. “Jump through a flaming hoop?” she suggested. My thought was that there was a transcription error on the board, which should have read “Peep Shows”. Hannah did a charming impression of a coy ewe, bleating seductively while unzipping a woolly top.
On the back of the seat in front of us was a sign originally saying “Please keep feet off”. Someone had scratched away most of the letters, leaving behind “ease p ee”. The same had been done to the sign across the aisle, where two kids bickered and wrestled good-naturedly for most of the trip. I heard the boy daring his sister to lick the sign. Oh the hideous pressure of being a sibling! My sadly infrequent meetings with my 52-year-old brother are enlivened by a similar rewarding silliness. For those siblings who actually grow up and become dignified, I pity you, I really do! May the madness continue…
On the streets of Kerikeri, it is not immediately evident where to go to join the trail. We asked a shopkeeper, who stared at us in the same way he would have if we’d asked if he stocked mauve, scrodgehewn frighteners. This is the response from most people you ask about Te Araroa. Why have so few heard of the trail?
Kerikeri is exceedingly pretty. If it wasn’t for the mangroves and sea views that keep emerging, I could imagine myself back in KZN’s Hilton and Winterskloof. We found the last section of the Kerikeri track, which took us through forest with some amazingly gnarled trunks. Hannah said this one has a face of an old man with a spade-shaped beard and a rather distressing skin condition. I can see him too, so she’s not hallucinating, and neither are you. We also passed a derelict Victorian water powerhouse, before ending at the historic stone store.
The next trail section starts near this building, but we struggled to find the path, returning with increasing annoyance more than once to where we started. However, the visual highlight of the day was the mini sheep show afforded by a little black lamb on the jetty with its human flock. They had taken it fishing with them! That family scores 10/10 in my book.
The auditory highlight of the day was a harassed mother threatening her toddler, who had wandered too close to the water. “Do you want to go to the naughty corner?” she cried. One could see the child’s logic popping up, “Ga-ching!” behind her eyes. There she was, in the glorious outdoors, with never a corner in sight. The legal opportunities were endless.
Eventually on track, and referring to the trail notes, we read: “Walk SE up Pa Rd and turn NE into Kerikeri Inlet Rd”. I can see the purpose of compass points for direction in the bush, but in an urban area, what is wrong with “turn right”? Another problem is that not all roads are signposted. We met an elderly couple who were romantically holding hands and asked them if we were going in the direction of the Waitangi Forest. “Yes,” the old lady reassured us, “but you have to keep a sharp eye open; the trail is not well marked.” No kidding!!
In the late afternoon, we erected Samson on pine needles, which made a dry and comfortable floor. During the night there was a strange bird call which I have difficulty in transcribing. It comprised three hoots, preceded by an occasional chattering sound, as the bird appeared to egg itself on for more. Maybe someone reading this blog can tell us what it was. Or invent something idiotic that sounds zoologically convincing, folks. Go on, be daring and make a comment!