Nikau Bay Camp(210.4)-Taiharuru Estuary/Tidesong B&B (228.5)
Campsite Elevation: 134ft/40m
Despite trying to sleep in, Becky and I still woke up pretty early. The three of us agreed to sleeping in today, and having a relaxed leave time after the last two pretty long days. It’s funny out here how much more tiring it is than other trails. Looking at the elevation chart and distance, it would seem like the days aren’t that tiring, but somehow they are. Around 6am, we both were pretty awake. I had a long blog entry to write and Becky surfed the internet. By late morning, many of the other hikers had headed out and Will and Becky made breakfast while I wrote (I made dinner last night). We were pretty happy with our decision to buy a ton of spaghetti and chicken last night and had leftovers for breakfast including fresh eggs that James gives to hikers that stay there. It was a great breakfast.
We got going just before 11am and knew the majority of the day would be road walking. It was a beautiful blue sky day with white puffy clouds after a quick and hard morning rain ended this last front of rain clouds. It was fairly uneventful most of the day. The first 5mi/8km were on dirt and gravel roads. I know people rag on all the road walking, but when it’s on these quiet back roads, it’s more like being on a beautifully wide and relaxing trail. I really like being able to walk three abreast rather than in a line all day. We all just cruised and took in the greenery and rolling hills.
Up next was the Mackerel Forest Track. We weren’t sure how slow this track would be. On the trail notes and on the signage at the start of the track, there are estimates of time it would take to do each section. TA hikers tend to do them much faster, and it does kinda give us an idea of how slow the terrain will be. There were two river crossings that could be thigh high that we were a little anxious about given rain much of yesterday and overnight. Both crossings turned out to be simple and low. We were determined to hike the upcoming paved road with dry shoes, so we gladly took the extra time to take our shoes off at the crossings.
At the far side of the second crossing, we came upon Bill and Emily (US) and Joanna (France) having lunch in a perfect spot by the river. We joined them and had a nice shaded and relaxed lunch.
I have a tendency to push miles and have been very grateful to Will and Becky for doing some tough days the last couple days. It really is tough to find people that match my hiking style out here. There are so many opportunities to lounge in towns, stay leisurely at paid campgrounds, or hitch these road walks, that it’s amazing that I’ve found the two of them who have a similar style to mine. It is extremely rare to have a hiker out here actually hiking the full trail and not hitching. While we are hiking, we are still keeping pace with those taking it more leisurely and hitching chunks of the trail. So, although I have been leapfrogging with some people, there really are few like-minded people actually hiking the trail and not hitching. I feel really fortunate to have found Becky and Will, and we are becoming a nice unit that organically clicks without any of us greatly needing to compromise. We are planning legs together, and just seeing how it goes one leg at a time. Although it may not look like it on paper, our group is known for doing a much faster pace and bigger miles than others. Just something to note for anyone using this blog to maybe pace out their own hike.
Knowing we’d already done some back-to-back tiring days, I agreed to let Becky and Will set the pace this leg. We have intended to do more relaxed days, but it seems that there is always a reason or carrot for doing more miles that have made the days longer. Today, we were pretty set to just take it easy. In my mind, I realized we were were doing a pace, that if we pushed a bit, we could make a nice spot to camp at a B&B that hosts hikers. I was showing self-restraint and not mentioning it, and then Will realized it at lunch and suggested it. I was so excited, proud, and happy that they wanted to go for it and it wasn’t my idea! Knowing it would be another long day after we swore today would be relaxing, I was happy, but wanted to make it clear that this was all Will’s idea and he happily accepted the responsibility on this one. Yep, they may be addicted, muahaha!
We had something like 9mi/15km of paved highway walking the second half of the day. Once again, the headphones went in and we all settled in. Becky flies on these highways with her heavy metal music and took off like a bullet. I love seeing that!
We spread out a bit on the roads, but are never more than a few minutes from one another. I didn’t grab much water at lunch because I saw we were walking by a river on the road walk and I figured I’d grab from that when I needed. I stopped an hour or so into the walk and climbed down to a side stream for water. I drank the remaining water I had and grabbed a bag to filter. As Will arrived and was doing the same, I took a swig of the water to find out it was salt water! Dang it! I had no idea something labeled as a river could have salt water! I knew there were sources ahead and walked on with a salty taste in my mouth. Fortunately, Will still had a small bit to keep for himself and Becky had extra to help me out and get that salt taste out of my mouth.
Awhile later, we came to a closed cafe that’s only open on Sundays and is attached to a cool trail system. There were two women there having a meeting and we asked if they had a little water. They gladly filled all our bottles, offered us a new box of BBQ flavored crackers to share, and some sandwich cookies. So great! I swear the three of us have some good mojo going together.
We passed Bill and Emily and came up to Joanna taking a break. From there we called the Tidesong B&B and they told us they were just 1mi/2km after an upcoming bridge. Joanna decided she too would aim to make it there and we told her to let Bill and Emily know. The last couple hours felt like they stretched on longer than usual and we were ready to be done. We hit a residential area and crossed a major bridge over the river. As we walked through town, multiple people said hi, directed us the right way, and even offered rides. They all were so nice. We were dragging a bit as we were told the B&B was about an hour further than expected. Apparently, they were talking about being near a smaller bridge and not the big one that crossed the river. As we walked a small boy about three years old yelled to us from inside his doorway across the street.
He had an adorable accent and we couldn’t tell what he was saying. We had him repeat it a second time, and then I had to cross the street to hear it a third time to get what he was saying. He was yelling, “would you like some tea!?” Aww, it was so heartbreakingly cute! If it wasn’t so late, we would have taken them up on it. It was really quite adorable.
The final obstacle of the day was the Taiharuru Estuary, which goes along the shore and leads to a crossing. The tide was coming in and it is recommended to only do it on low tide. I had called for directions to the B&B from the coast, and there was even a hand written sign explaining it a bit better at the start of it. I mistakenly thought they had said to stay up on the coast rather than out in the water and we had a terribly draining and annoying end to the day. We should have read the trail notes, but figured the sign was explanation enough. Oh man, were we wrong.
We followed some footprints and ended up hugging the shoes in deep shoe sucking mud in the mangroves. We all were tired, and it was a rough way to end a day where we had kept so dry and clean. We ended up having to push through the mangroves and along a terribly mucky area with deep cow water and mud to wade through.
At least there was humor in the ridiculousness and Becky and Will said at least now I have something to put on the blog for an otherwise uneventful day. It was fun to jokingly blame Will for this idea to go this far today after he swore he was determine to do a shorter day and take it easy. It’s always something on this trail it seems.
We eventually hit the gravel road we needed and got up out of the mud. We called the B&B and they directed us and we arrived around 6:20pm. The owners are awesome and have a great setup! We didn’t get to talk much because we were so tired and just needed to decompress after that ending to the day. We will get to chat more in the morning as they do pancakes for hikers in the morning! The couple’s name is Hugh and Ros. Ros did the TA a couple years ago and did it as a fundraiser for awareness of kidney transplants.
A few years ago, she donated one of her kidneys to Hugh, and wanted to hike the TA as a show that she could do it after giving a kidney. Hugh followed along in a camper van, and Ros biked the road sections, which would be fun. They are amazing hosts, and even have a small comfy cabin and a new outside shower they just got hooked up. Becky convinced us to splurge the $10 each to have a sleepover in the cabin. They accept donations from hikers just pitching tents and say it’s free, but we wanted to give something. We figured why not go with the cabin and embrace this whole TA thing of being pampered each night. We had a great time having dinner on the porch of the cabin as the rest of the hikers arrived, all with their own harrowing story of the incoming tide and trying to avoid that mud. Good to know we weren’t the only ones to have trouble with it. Everyone came in just a drained by the experience as we were. Joanna, Bill, and Emily stuck it out today and walked the full road, and others chose to hitch it, so we are with most of the same group from last night. In the morning, there will be pancakes that we can’t wait for and then Hugh will take us across the short crossing by boat because it won’t be low tide to walk across. Another classic TA day with a ton of variety and experiences. I have to say, I’m pretty darn happy in this cabin as I am writing this in the middle of the night and it’s been raining on and off. Didn’t expect that one. Well done Becky for convincing us to pamper ourselves! Nothing better than the sound of rain on that tin roof after a long day of hiking.