Where: Rawene to Pouto, Hokianga, Northland, New Zealand
Distance & Time: Six days of hiking, approx 200km, one rest day
Take: Sleeping bag, tent, hiking clothes, toiletries. Food, showers and toilets provided
Amenities on route: Breakfast and dinner provided each day, packed lunch from the food provided. Medics available each day, toilet and shower truck also available.
Cost of the walk: The cost of the trek differs depending on whether you walk, bike or horse ride.
Last year I walked the inaugural Stage One of Trek for Life. This year was Stage Two as we continued our trek down the country, this year starting in Rawene, Hokianga and ending all the way down at Pouto. Approximately 200km of walking, much of it on the beach, spread over six days of walking.
While last year I went on my own, this year Mum came with me after she saw photos and heard my stories from the previous trek. It meant I had someone to share a VIP tent with as I was adamant after last time that I didn’t want to spend time each day putting up and taking down a tent – with the VIP option the amazing volunteers at camp do it for you, and each tent comes with two campbeds, mattresses, and camp chairs. Just the fact it was set up and waiting for us at each camp made it totally worth it to us!
We drove to end camp at Lake Kahuparere where we left our rental car and jumped on the bus to be taken up to start camp. Well, that was the plan but the bus ended up being delayed while we waited for people to arrive who got stuck behind a cycle race that was happening in Dargaville! But eventually we got underway and nearly three hours later we arrived at start camp. We were a wee bit nervous on the bus as our names weren’t on the list so I was freaking out slightly that there was no tent/registration for us on arrival but I needn’t have worried, everything was fine.
Mum + I got settled in our tent and had a look around camp before making our way to the marquee for the first muster of trek and dinner. I’d told Mum about what to expect from the food and that we would be fed so well this week, that even though we were walking quite a bit each day it would be highly unlikely we’d get home any lighter than when we left.
Muster gave us lots of information we needed for the week ahead, introduced the key people, and welcomed all the ‘trek virgins’, of whom there were quite a few – Mum included!
Back in the tent we settled in ready for a big week of walking ahead.
Day one – 38km Rawene to Waimamaku
Last night was a chilly one in the tent, lucky I’d convinced Mum that she needed to bring her warm jacket with her as she ended up wearing it in her sleeping bag last night! We were up early to get ourselves ready and to the marquee to eat breakfast and prepare our lunches. Lunch every day was a riff on the same theme – salad/sandwich/wrap ingredients, fruit, a sweet slice and a muesli bar/bliss balls. Occasionally there would be leftovers from the dinner the night before as well.
The walkers were all lined up ready to head off at 8am, with the bikers following us at 8.15am and the horse riders at 8.30am.
We headed up through Rawene before crossing into private land, where the owner had his digger out a couple of days earlier clearing a path for us through the flax! It was a nice, easy start to get warmed up, before we entered into more farmland and baby pine forest plantation. The grass was really high around here, it was up near our thighs at some points!
We had been told at muster that we would be walking through an off-grid settlement that had kindly given us permission to trek through on the proviso that no photos were to be taken. It was a collection of a few houses with a creek running through. Lots of old wagons and ancient food storage solutions. A couple of the kids were waiting to see us all trek past and waved to us. That was one of my favourite parts of treks, all the locals that came out to wave at us or have a conversation as we trekked by.
We were in the zone walking through the village and by this stage the horses had caught up to us so we just followed them to the creek where we promptly sat down to take off our boots and put on our sandals to cross, after which we looked back and saw other walkers using the bridge which we had just not even seen. Ah well! We still had dry boots and that’s all that mattered. We came to a muddy bog area while we still had our sandals on so I’m calling it a win as we didn’t have to change shoes again. After a bit of road time we veered off up a side road to our lunch stop. After what felt like too short of a break the hiking boots were back on and we set off again, for an afternoon of pretty much gravel roads – one of my least favourite terrains to walk on. I knew that I wanted to do a full day of walking today so I just had to do knock it out but there were definitely moments where I was tempted to catch a lift on a quad bike! We ventured down in to some long grass again to be met by another child who had a table out the front of her house with cups of water for us – very much appreciated!
It’s always a mixed feeling when you see camp in the distance – knowing that you’re nearly there but also that it still feels so far away! I think we had about 4km to go from where we could first see camp and those 4km seemed to drag on for a very long time.
Coming in to a tent that was already up that afternoon was a godsend. After showering we felt like brand new women and I was stoked that I didn’t have a blister yet, unlike the same time last year.
I think we were both in bed by 8pm that night and fast asleep within minutes!
Day two – 35km Waimamaku to Aranga
My legs were definitely a wee bit stiff this morning before we set out, which made me anxious knowing we had another large day of walking ahead, with most of it on the beach. The organisers had arranged to give walkers a lift in the lunch van along the road for a couple of km to give us a brief head start today as we were going to be doing a lot of beach walking today. Once we got out of the van it was straight into the water for a river crossing (thankfully only shin depth) but it was here that I first changed into my very stylish walking outfit of merino socks and teva sandals. I’d met a few people wearing them on the trek last year and they’d all raved about them so I’d gotten myself a pair for this year in anticipation of the water crossings and sand walking.
I wore socks with them for two reasons: to try and stop any potential blisters that could occur from the sand rubbing on my toes where the straps were, and 2) because my feet were cold! It might not have looked like the most fashionable thing on the planet but heck, it worked.
There were some very interesting structures we passed on our way – beach baches that were barely held together with some sheet metal and nails, others that were at one time quite grand but had been left to the tides and the weather. But what they all had in common was their remoteness and phenomenal views.
While most of today was beach walking there were a couple of parts where we went up into the hills, at the top of which Mum + I both become impromptu photographers for many of the horseriders as we took photos of them with the view back along the beach we’d just walked where you could make out the walkers, bikers and house riders still trekking along.
At the lunch break today once we were off the beach, there was approx 10km to go along gravel roads and farmland. We made the decision to get a lift back to camp which I thought was very smart of us – I’d learned last year not to just keep walking for the sake of it but to listen to my body as I didn’t want to push through today only not to enjoy the remaining few days because I’d gone too hard early on. And 25km of beach trekking is hard!
Back at camp I struck up a conversation with one of the massage therapists and ended up accompanying her back to the massage area where I booked in for my first mirimiri. Holy moly. A massage unlike anything I’d had before, it was wonderful. My wonderful therapist worked on areas that I hadn’t even realised were sore/painful but once she was finished I glided back to the tent like I hadn’t just walked over 60km in the previous two days. I waxed lyrical about her to Mum who straight away went and got one too – word soon got around about her skills among the walkers and I think most of us went to see her over the week!
It was really cool reconnecting with many of the trekkers from last year, and meeting lots of new ones as well. I always find it interesting to find out why people are on trek – for many it’s a way of seeing a different part of the country they couldn’t normally see, to do it in a supported way, or to spend time with family/friends. Many, including myself, have the goal of doing the trek every year, to slowly make their way right down the country.
Day three – 32km Aranga to Baylys Beach
A mix of beach and farmland today as we ventured over farmland this morning which was glorious, before hitting the road to head past Kai Iwi lakes. A few more families waiting on their driveways to wave at us as we trekked past, honestly, it’s one of the highlights for me!
Kai Iwi lakes were beautiful, with a few people camping on the shorefront. We were on the road for this part of the trek so it felt a little bit more like we’d entered back into civilisation, walking past houses and holiday homes. We definitely got a few puzzled looks from the motorists that came across us though – a couple of hundred horse riders, walkers and bikers, I’m sure they weren’t expecting to see that on a Tuesday morning!
Then it was back through some farmland and back on to the beach again. Then back up over farmland to our camp for the next two nights! That night at camp was funky tshirt night so everyone was dressed in bright, colourful tops. While we were all gathered for muster there was a surprise announcement – two people who had met on a trek a few years ago were getting married tonight! They walked up the aisle to the front and got married in front of us all, it was quite lovely and totally unexpected!
Amy’s Advice – if you’re keen to be part of Trek for Life keep an eye on their website or facebook page for details of when registration opens. Even if you’re not sure if you’d like to trek you could always go as a volunteer one year to see what it’s all about and then join in as a trekker the next year!
Day four – Rest Day
I’d already told Mum that I wasn’t going to make it to breakfast this morning as I was planning on having a very good sleep in – which I did! I don’t think we moved from our tent until after 9am but thankfully we had the most glorious day for our rest day and a stunning location to relax in for the day. We headed down to the beach to give our aching feet a saltwater soak (and because even though we’d been walking along the beach for the past two days and had another day to go, I hadn’t had a chance to actually go in the water and relax on the beach yet!)
After some time reading on the beach we headed back up to the one shop in Baylys Beach to get an ice cream and fish + chip lunch – a plan I think at least 50% of the trekkers also had! The day went by far too quickly with a combination of resting, reading and playing cards. That night was auction night and thousands were raised for first responders in the area which is pretty impressive!
Day five – 25km Baylys Beach to Glinks Gully
And we were back on the beach again. Fortunately the sand was nice and hard so it was pleasant to walk on – hurrah! Today actually went quite quickly, likely because we had a decent day of rest.
There’s something about beach walking that just enables me to completely zone out as I don’t have to concentrate too much on where I’m putting my feet or checking I’m going in the right direction. As long as the sea was on my right I was doing ok! At Glinks Gully we had a brief lunch break before heading up the hill, I thought we still had a couple of hours of walking ahead of us but it turned out it was less than an hour and we were at camp! So a nice relatively short day of trekking today (which seems odd to say when we’d walked 25km!)
Day six – 35km Glinks Gully to Lake Rototuna
Today was the day where I completely lost my s**t and ended up yelling at a couple of horse riders and then ranting to anyone who could listen. Definitely not my proudest moment, that’s for sure. It had started with having an absolute crappy night of sleep as people were up parting and yelling until 1am which made it nigh on impossible to sleep (and before you say I should have worn earplugs, get in the bin). And then we were up at 6am as per usual and knowing we had a 35km day ahead of us, I just wasn’t in a good place starting the day.
And we were back on the beach for just over 20km today. Which is a lot having just done lots of beach kilometres. Majority of the horse riders had been so good – they’d all been asked at muster to please leave the hard sand for the walkers and the bikers as it makes our job 1200x easier, and to give us a wide berth on the beach as if a rogue wave comes in we need to run up the beach and if a horse is right there, well I know who will come out worse off and it won’t be the horse.
When horses trek too close to where walkers are it means we are constantly having to watch where we place our feet so we don’t stumble into the holes that horses have made, or worse, the mess they have left. If one horse goes through the hard sand then invariably others will follow. The tide was just in the process of going out so there wasn’t much hard sand for us. Anyway, there were a few horses/riders who decided that they deserved the hard sand more and I power walked until I caught up to them and then I let loose. Admittedly, they gave back as good as they got, but their main excuse seemed to be I had lots of hard sand (we didn’t, perhaps 1m width if that) and that their horses were tired. Well, you can imagine how well I took that (not well, in case you were wondering) and told them just where they could put their terrible excuses. Anyway, they rode on, slightly up the beach which I took as a win, but I was still seething the whole way to the lunch stop. At the break I ranted to a few people and all the walkers had felt the same, that some of the horse riders had not been very nice people today. But I should clarify here that 95% of the riders were fabulous, it was just those few on this day that got to us.
After lunch I felt a bit better and made it to the giant sand dunes. I was one of the last walkers by this stage as at the lunch break I had left my walking pole behind and hadn’t realised until after 20 minutes so had to turn round and go back to get it. At the dunes I waited and got a lift over on one of the quad bikes and then got a whole heap of joy out of standing on top of the dunes with a few others to watch what turned out to be a highly entertaining show of getting the quad bikes and side-by-sides up and over the last dune. There were various combinations of horse power (literally), man power and quad power to get them all over but by the time the last one was over an hour had passed and I had gotten over trekking so I got a lift back to camp. We passed mum on route and asked if she wanted a ride but she was good with walking all the way back to camp, go her!
I had my second massage of the trek tonight and it was just as glorious as the first time. There was a bit more a wait for this one as they fill up the longer the trek goes on and the sorer that trekkers get! It was definitely an early bed time tonight.
Day seven – 28km Lake Rototuna to Lake Kahuparere
Woke up this morning feeling like a brand new person. Had a great sleep, and knowing that we had no beach walking today was a great way to start the final day of trek! We started off on a gravel road before veering off on to forestry roads. Which is normally my least favourite terrain but today it actually made for a pleasant change, plus we had shade from the trees. Everyone was walking at their own pace today, even the horses seemed to be taking it slow today. The lunch stop came up quickly and after a short stop I continued on.
The nicest part of today’s trek was heading down through some bush on sandy ground as it was just me – I couldn’t see any other trekkers in front of me and no one passed me during the 40 or so minutes I was in the bush. It was really peaceful! Once out of the bush it was back onto farmland and then along a lake. A couple of quads went back and forth past me a few times carrying other trekkers but I was determined to walk the whole of today. They did pass on info about Mum though and let me know she was about 20 minutes ahead of me!
Rounding a corner I had the feeling that I must be coming up to camp. And sure enough just over a rise I could spot a whole lot of cars, trucks and horses! Heading up the track it was a very cool feeling that I’d completed stage two and had come out of it with very few blisters and no injuries, along with having had a few cool week of trekking!
Mum had already finished so she was waiting at the finish to take some cheesy finish line photos. We quickly went to find our gear to load up into the car as we weren’t staying that night. The weather was starting to get a bit blurgh so a few others had also made the same decision to head back too.
The drive back out to Dargaville didn’t take long at all and on the way we passed our campsite from the previous night! It didn’t feel that far away at all, but when you’re in a car compared to on your feet everything is bound to feel closer.
Another awesome trek experience and I’m so glad that Mum was able to come and be a part of it this year. She reckons she has a few friends who might be keen for next year so maybe our wee group will keep growing each year, it would be very cool if it did!
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