We have a few gaps to fill in the northern section of the walk. Two of these have now been done.
Saturday, 7 September
Omaha Valley Rd to Govan Smith Rd (12 km)
Today, we did the Matakana loop, from where we were picked up on 3 August, to the start of the Dome Valley walk, which we did on 8 August. We could take Zoë with us because we were not crossing any farmland or DOC areas. The tramp was all on the road margin, which had the advantage of allowing us to expand our quirky postbox pics. We found the heaviest butterfly in the world and a pukeko with a facial expression indicating it was unable to make its mind up concerning the position of its supporting post.
Highlight of the day was the public toilet. Since I raved about the Paihia toilet, it would be Inconsistent and also Very Wrong Indeed not to mention Matakana’s artistic public convenience. This photo doesn’t clearly show the doors, which are pointed like those in a gothic cathedral. The toilet has pride of place in the centre of the village at the traffic circle. It looks good enough to be a monument.
Sunday, 29 September
Puhoi to Wenderholm (8 km)
This comprises the stretch of river between the Puhoi village and the seaside reserve north of Orewa. Puhoi was settled in 1863 by migrants from Bohemia, and the residents are proud of their heritage. When we arrived today, we saw three women looking flash and fabulous as flags in their traditional dress.
You may remember that on August 13, when we trudged through Puhoi, I considered drifting down the section to Wenderholm while clinging elegantly to a pink pool noodle. Only two things stopped me. 1) The river is slow moving and I would not so much have drifted as bobbed around in one spot; 2) My husband brutally vetoed the idea. I asked the family members what they thought of my noodle notion. Their responses are characteristic.
Etienne: (patting me kindly on the knee) Follow your dreams, Mom.
Hannah: Why the *%@# are we doing this walk for me when you’re the one who needs help?
Marius: I will disown you. In fact, I’ll push you under the surface with my paddle.
So Marius and Etienne shared a double canoe and Hannah and I shared another. The blokes launched first and managed to do things reasonably smoothly. Considering that Hannah and I are not “boaties” (New Zealandese for watercraft literate), we did well. By “well” I mean
- we did not fall out of the hired canoe
- we did not lose our paddles or sink the canoe
- no-one had to be rescued or resuscitated or comforted in any way
- we completed the 8 km in less than the prescribed two hours, without heavenly intervention
However, we did not score any points in the dignity stakes. Hannah sat in the front of the canoe, which meant that I had the horrid task of controlling the rudder. I am the shortest (read “endearingly fairy-like”) member of my family, and even with the foot pedals adjusted by the canoe hire staff to the position closest to the seat, I still had difficulty steering. We were asked to paddle upstream for 30 metres, turn and paddle down past the jetty, to check if we were managing the most basic flotation and aquatic locomotion techniques. Our first achievement was to ram the nose of our craft into the opposite bank. Using our oars as punting staffs, we reversed, turned and then rammed the other bank, causing some mirth to spectators and indignation to a family of ducks.
After that, things improved. We aimed vaguely for the sea, managing to zig-zag our way there with only 20 or so clashes of out-of-synch oars and no more than 12 vigorous intellectual disagreements.
Hannah: Mom, left. Steer left! Leeeeeeft!!!
Me: I am! My left foot is flat!
Hannah: Right! Steer right, Mom!
Me: I am!
The scenery starts in farmland and as you travel downstream, it includes mangroves. The water is olive green, but it is clean, and because we are out of Africa, there is no danger of bilharzia. As Africans, we truly appreciate the water being free of this potentially deadly parasite.
When we arrived at Wenderholm, both kids, who had been reluctant at the start, agreed that the canoe trip was “not too bad”. I pointed out to Hannah that the Te Araroa trail includes a 41-km river section in Whanganui, as an alternative to walking. Was she prepared to paddle that bit too? She said nothing, but turned to look at me with her head slightly on one side. The lower half of her face was expressionless, but her eyelids dropped to half-mast. The southern hemispheres of her eyeballs looked like two lime segments. As a communications specialist, I can interpret the cross-cultural non-verbal cue here as “glee”.