Monday, December 23, 2013

A Waipu Christmas

It's Christmas Eve here in NZ, and we're in the small Scottish settlement of Waipu, near the coast.  Town is full of last minute shoppers, it's 70 degrees outside, everyone is planning their Christmas BBQ and it's light 'til 9pm- a very different kind of Christmas! There's a Christmas parade in town tonight followed by caroling that we plan to go to with others at the hostel and the hostel owners. Tomorrow we'll head back to the trail and spend Christmas day hiking.
   The last week has been full of adventure- the trail certainly puts us through every type of terrain.  We've had a LOT of road walking, which is never our favorite but, as the trail is not complete, we connect sections with (sometimes long) road walks.  Sometimes we're on nice quiet scenic back country roads, but a lot of the time we're on main paved roads with very little shoulder, so we really have to be careful. But somehow, even when most of the day is spent road walking, we tend to end up in very beautiful places.
  After a particularly difficult forest trek last week where we ended up misplaced and walking the wrong way for four hours, we ended the day with a beautiful road walk through amazing farmland and countryside next the the coast.  As we turned the corner to end the road walk, we met a couple who were doing sections of the TA and camped with them.  They were only the second people we've met, its always fun to meet other hikers!
After a long road walk, we were rewarded with this view
   We always enjoy looking at our maps and seeing a section of the trail that's blue, meaning we go right through the water ( ocean or river).  This usually means we have to time our walk with low tide, or make arrangements with a boating or kayak company to cross.  A couple days ago we had a 3 km estuary walk, where we had to wait until low tide so we could cross.  Even at low tide the deepest part was up to our shorts.  It was a fun, muddy walk along the mangroves, sand and  (mostly) shallow water.
Brazil Nut starting the estuary walk

  The next day, after a beautiful walk along another beach followed by a steep climb in the rain through a bush/mountain track, we had a major water crossing.  We were at Whangarei Harbor, across from an enormous oil refinery with very deep ocean and our notes told us to hitch a ride across on one of the many boats departing from several boat ramps.  We arrived near low tide in the middle of the day, and there were no boats to be seen.  We called a water taxi company who wanted $100 to take us 1.5 km across the harbor.  We said no thank you and went to another boat ramp.  Several hours later and at dead low tide, we'd had no luck and walked up to the main road.  Because of the landscape, it was a 60 km hitch to get around the harbor, but the second car that passed picked us up! We were back where we needed to be in very little time, no boat ride for us.
  The east coast shore line has been beautiful.  Even some of the road walks have been near the beach and the scenery has been beautiful.  We're in Waipu, and this morning as we were leaving the grocery store we saw some other thru hikers who we hadn't met yet.  As we approached them, Brazil Nut recognized the guy from her PCT thru hike in 2010- only thru hikers would bump into someone in the middle of nowhere NZ who they met several years ago and pick up talking like it was the most natural thing.  It was great to meet them, trade stories, and catch up- the trail is simply amazing!
  Yesterday we took a short trip to the Waipu caves with Steve, the hostel owner and the other hostel guests. The best pat is that there's no guide, visitors are completely on their own. We could walk in several hundred meters into a few big chambers in the cave.  As we went in further and our eyes adjusted, we looked up to what appeared to be the most starry sky you've ever seen.  We were looking at glow worms, which are in fact a fly larvae.  The life cycle from larvae to fly is apparently about a year and during that time they glow, and truly look like little tiny stars.  There were so many, unfortunately pictures do not do it justice, but it was a great side trip to take.

The Waipu caves
A very merry Christmas to all and happy trails!
-Jetpack and Brazil Nut

Tane Moana- the gigantic Kauri tree


The longest footbridge in the Southern hemisphere

Beautiful Whananaki coastal walk

Taking a break

Trail marker

Ocean Beach walk, view from Kauri Mountain

Picking oranges at the hostel :)

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