Saturday, 6 October
Wairoa Dam to McIntyre Rd
We woke with enthusiasm at a very low ebb and feeling pathetic after Friday’s exertions. I had a large, technicoloured bruise on my knee so I asked Hannah to kiss it better. She gave me her lime-segments-for-eyes look. In our family, everyone gets injuries kissed better by the relative in closest proximity at the time of anguish. The problem is that at 15, my daughter views this civilised healing practice as incredibly stupid. After only a moment’s consideration, she savaged my arm with her teeth instead. She also made some growling noises. Hastily, I reminded her to take her medication.
What were we going to do about our walk now? Luckily, still being within reasonable driving distance of home, we could call on our man slave once more. We decided to walk out of the debris-strewn hills to a road that runs roughly parallel to them and eventually joins with Lyons Rd, the exit for which we would be aiming anyway if we were doing the southern part of the ranges trail. Marius would drive to meet us with our bikes so we could cycle the tarred road from wherever he met us until this connecting road joined with the next cross-country trail section.
Oh the joy when he arrived bearing Brown’s Bay boerewors rolls from Fred’s Fine Foods! Fred’s boerewors has a restorative effect; consumption becomes an almost spiritual experience.
Temporarily relieved of our packs, we cycled to the end of Lyons Rd where we again exchanged our bikes for the backpacks. Here, there was a strong silage smell on the wind. Unfortunately, it verged on a parmesan whiffiness, but we left before it permanently disabled our passion for cheese.
As we started the Mangatawhiri River Track, I limped pathetically and cast Marius the same mournful look that Manuel gave Basil Fawlty when Basil tried to deprive Manuel of his Siberian Filigree Hamster. “Man up!” shouted the husband and father of Amazons, as he drove off in the comfort of the family vehicle.
After the Hunua Ranges, the stopbank (embankment or levée) walk along the Mangatawhiri River is a great surprise. Instead of steep hills with almost impenetrable vegetation, there is a massive, flat open space. There is no sound apart from the pattern of your shoes on the grass. I felt my spirit expanding joyfully into the sky and pressing out against the distance.
It must be lonely to live permanently in such a place, though. The only human we saw for the entire afternoon was the driver of a tractor. He was towing what looked like a lime-dispersing trailer across a distant field.
We emerged onto a road leading through swamps belonging to game bird hunters. Signs promised us we were under CC surveillance, in case we had the evil urge to snaffle a duck.
In summer, vigilant posses of mosquitos probably make this area unbearable, but the insect levels seem fine in spring. We camped close to the Kellyville Road turnoff, where, throughout the evening, we heard a bird call that sounded similar to the African hornbill. It spoke a single, deep, round-sounding note, as if breath were blown over the top of a big, empty bottle.