Thursday, 3 October
Totara Park to the Wairoa River (24 km)
En route to our start in Manurewa, we stopped briefly at the Albany shopping complex for supplies. We parked outside Bivouac, where we bought freeze-dried food before going to Pak ‘n Save for the other stuff. “We’ll drive there,” said Marius, easing the car 300 metres around the parking lot, “because it is too far to walk.” At this, his wife and daughter emitted pious shrieks of indignation and abused his manhood. “I can’t compete,” he protested. “I can’t help it if my women are Amazons.” Hannah quite liked this new identity. “Well, I am the taller and stronger one,” she staked her claim. “Yes, but your mother is the scary one,” he replied, thus very adroitly saying the only thing that could mollify his outraged wife. He is much too clever.
From Totara Park, we did the 13-km road margin connection route to the start of the next Te Araroa Trail section, the Kimpton’s Track. We don’t look forward to road connections. They are hard on the joints and sometimes dull, but we cycled this section and the second half was pretty where it passed through farmland. Spring oak leaves, in their yellowest and softest green were a treat and the lambs, as ever, were delightful. Best view of the day was a ewe with twins, one all-black and one all-white baby. They were on their knees, suckling simultaneously, with their tails waggling. At the lower end of the field, four sheep lay quietly in the shade under a trampoline.
At the stile over the farm fence where the trail departed from the road, Marius, who was our man slave of the day, took our bikes and brought us our packs, which we strapped on with a sigh. Oh for a permanent back-up team and maybe a Sherpa or two for the areas beyond daily vehicle access…
This section was extremely steep and there was no path until about 3 km in. We had to rely on the orange triangles to keep on track. Clearly, not many people walk this bit. At the highest point of the trail, where we climbed yet another stile into a pasture, we saw a sign saying “Dogs will be shot”.
Towards its end, the trail joins the well-constructed Clevedon Reserve Circuit. This path is gravelled and stepped, making it easy walking. There are also information plaques, one of which explains that the kauri tree is now endangered partly because its gum used to be “much sort after” [sic] as a component of varnish and paint. It is my opinion that people earning salaries to write and check such information signs should be shot. I would then be able to squirm self-righteously into a vacancy. I need the salary. First, though, I have to identify the grammar culprits, entice them into wearing Scooby-Doo suits and take them up to the high pastures for a happy release.
As we walked through Clevedon, we saw cheerful, life-sized child portraits hanging on the school fence. We were both keen to stop in this village, but decided to push on for another 6 km of road margin connection tramping to get to the start of the Wairoa River Track. There was more pretty farm scenery here, but also an increasing number of threatening signs. “Press the bell at the gate and wait,” one advised, “Dogs will bite.” These signs are not common north of here; so maybe this area has had trouble? Time in NZ has taught us not to expect the ubiquitous beware-of-the-dog signs we had in RSA.
We camped on the roadside next to the river, above a bank of snowdrops. If grass is green hair, then snowdrops are a really vigorous case of dandruff. You only need pitch your tent near them to be olfactorially reminded that they belong to the onion family.