TA Day 6 – Blue skies and mud baths

Today – 21km from Ruaroa Rd jct SH1 – Raetea forest summit

Total 142.8km

Today was broken into two bits – getting to the forest, and , the forest itself.

The trail from Ahipara, after exiting 90mile beach used to go through Herekino forest, but unfortunately Kauri dieback is affecting the forest so it is closed until further notice. The trail therefore makes it’s way to Kaitaia – see yesterdays post- and then from Kaitaia walks its way down to the start of the Raetea forest .

The TA trust recommends to find a ride for 5km along SH1 until Ruaroa road, as it is very treacherous walking. After staying in Kaitaia last night and having a good sleep [in a real bed], it was time to pack up and roll out.

Gave a local lady who runs a taxi service a ring and she dropped 4 of us at the junction, saving us some nervous road walking.

The walk on back roads to the start of the forest was great, nice to see some NZ scenery, rolling hills and lots of cows and sheep about . Was really hot on the road but had some chats to some road workers hard at it in the sun.

It’s cool walking past rural houses and farms seeing Kiwis at their every day lives. I’m really appreciating having some friendly chats with people every day.

We made good time and stopped for lunch at the last decent water source before the forest. Knowing we were going to camp in the forest we loaded up on water – 4L – that’s 4kgs! And started the final five km of the day.

Anyone who has done any sort of research on the first forest sections will have heard that the mud in Raetea can be awful. I had my gaiters on after lunch.

Although it has been dry lately I knew with a fair few people trekking through every day it could be chopped up and muddy.

And muddy it was. Best quote from my new American friend Aaron – “Next time a kiwi puts on gaiters before a section I’m following suit”.

The photos can do the talking here.

Had lots of breaks. Even though we were only walking 5km, there was 250m of elevation gain but really we went up and down a lot as we climbed a saddle then dropped down and then gained the ridge up to the summit.

The last km for me required lots of stopping. The forest is sticky and humid and overgrown, and requires a lot of concentration.

I actually enjoy the challenge of mud [weird I know] and find instead of trying to dance around it to avoid muddy boots, it’s better to just get stuck in and get on with it – it also helps if you imagine all of the mud as chocolate. Yum.

But it was worth it! The view at the top was a treat. We are camped at the summit , space for 5-6 tents .

Sunset was a winner. Tommorrow is the forest round 2!

It’s important to note that Raetea forest is a really difficult section of track that most people find extremely challenging and struggle.

In the media there has been a couple of stories with fortunate happy endings about hikers getting lost in the forest. Absolutely can see how that could happen, as you concentrate hard on your feet you sometimes forget to look up and be aware of your surroundings.

The track is very well marked so far to the summit – with DOC orange triangles, but a couple of places care does need to be taken making sure you are on the correct route.

I can see how this forest would be a brutal introduction to tramping routes in NZ if you are used to groomed trails.

My advice – try keep a positive attitude toward the mud, and don’t waste time trying to keep your boots/shoes clean.

Drink lots of water as it is more humid than you think in the forest. Have a topo map and a GPS device – and most importantly, do not hike in the NZ bush in the dark. If you are tired, stop and rest. Make good choices.

Raetea round two tommorrow!

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