On to Kerikeri: Friends, Food and Fun

It has now been some time since the last night I blogged about. Therefore, I don’t remember how I slept or how we felt when we woke up. I remember packing the tent–we moved it to a sunny patch to let it dry for ten minutes, and I remember climbing the next fence while admiring the cute baby calves watching us in the early morning. But what I most remember is the first of many electric fences. We had been hiking for five minutes or so when the the trail continued over a white rope crossing perpendicular over the path. We walked parallel to some of these the previous day, but every fence we had needed to cross had had a stair structure (called a stile) built over it. This white rope had nothing. The markers clearly said we needed to cross over it, so Georges (with his stupidly long legs) stepped over it and turned back to help me if I needed it. I threw a leg over and then the guy from the house we had camped by yelled something from his backyard. I stopped, straddling the white rope, and looked back to see what he was saying.

I don’t know what he was saying. I think, maybe, he was warning us that we were crossing an electric fence–but who knows, he could have been inviting us to tea or giving us a send off. Either way, with the rope between my legs, I realized a couple shocks later that I was touching my first electric fence–that it was, in fact, between my legs and shocking the shenanigans out of my left arm. Seemingly with the intellectual speed of a slug, I realized I was straddling an electric fence and managed to pull my remaining leg over and step away from it. I was not, unfortunately, able to do much with my left arm. So I waved kindly at the guy in his yard with my right arm. Georges was as surprised as I was but not as shocked (hahaha). He touched the rope with his pole and found that it was indeed electric and that we must have been close to the battery, because he said it was particularly strong.

Thus began the chapter of our hike we have not yet left–we call it the, ‘Is it electric?!?’ chapter. My heart beating a little extra fast and my left arm clutched to my body, we moved on in disbelief that we were forced to cross that fence. I had been wondering the day before if those white ropes were like the first stage of building a fence, but now I knew they could carry electricity just like the thick wired in the middle of all the fences. It wasn’t sixty seconds before Georges discovered our second electric fence we had to cross. The track was following along the Kerikeri river on one side and fence filled fields on the other. There was no way around any of these fences. After getting shocked, Georges found a way to hold the wire down with the plastic bits at the end of his trekking poles so we could both cross over. But not even two minutes later we again had to cross an electric fence. It turns out, when a girl asks, ‘Is it electric??!’; a boy will typically reach out and discover whether or not a wire has electricity pulsing through it. All the ones we were crossing did. By about the tenth stupidly electric fence and half a dozen more shocks; we decided to get off the track. The fields were only a couple dozen meters wide and then there was a neighborhood on the other side. The maps showed us that there was a road running through the houses parallel to our ‘trail’. We decided to cross the field and get on the road–what’s the worst we would find? An electric fence on the other side???

We did find an electric fence on the other side, but we crossed it like pros, hoping it’d be our last. Trying to be as respectful as possible, we crossed through some people’s yard staying close to the hedge line and got to one more wire fence between us and the roads.

“Is it electric?!?”

Very cautiously, G tested the fence. “Nope; just tall.”

It was tall. We couldn’t get over, under or through it. We followed it for a bit until there was a heavy tree growing over part. We used the tree to help us get over the weighed down fence. A road at last! After an hour of climbing carefully and fearfully over electric fences through tall, wet grass, we picked a beautifully paved, neighborhood road. That was a stupidly sucky stretch of trail, and we were happy with our decision to get off it.

We found ourselves instead in a wealthy neighborhood of glamorous, huge houses–which we enjoyed WAY more than those fences. We walked though a couple streets, thoroughly enjoying the beauty and grandeur of the houses. We met back up with the trail as it entered into Rainbow Falls near the north center of Kerikeri. We looked back down the trail we hadn’t walked and found it muddy and narrow. From there the trail continued to follow Kerikeri River, but now we were in a maintained park focused on a waterfall and the subsequent beauty of the river from there. There were lots of people on the trail for their morning walk or jog. We took our pictures and continued on our lavishly maintained trail (weirdly without any electric fences to cross). It was very pretty. The river (clear and without fish) meandered around huge rocks and boulders. The forest was kept at bay, making it more enjoyable to look at. We saw a very rare golden headed pheasant in the forest, pointed out to us by a Kiwi. We hiked past a few orange trees where a couple of (very very sour) mandarin oranges made it into our hands. We saw and read about the first electric power plant was and proceeded to the oldest house (made by Europeans, is my guess) and shop in New Zealand. We were surprisingly tired by this time. It surely wasn’t even lunchtime yet, but we were pooped from the day before. Talking about it, we decided to stay a night in Kerikeri. At the oldest house (which wasn’t open for viewing that early in the day) we enjoyed the manicured gardens and civilized people strolling about beneath the trees.

An elderly guy stopped us on our hike up to the road and asked if we were hiking the trail. We said we were and he told us there was a Backpackers (a place for backpackers to stay) a few kilometers up the road. Thanking him, we set off for this place. After hiking (slooooooooowly) up the road (hill) and down a hill and up and hill and down a hill and up a hill, G checked his phone and found we had walked past the backpackers. We turned around and went back down a hill and found it was hiding under the name Hone Heke Lodge (they usually say, Backpackers….). We hiked up the hill to their building and found surprising news.

They didn’t have any electricity and so were not taking new guests. The gal, Victoria, said she would check with her husband, Dave, to see if we could get a room since we were already there. It was a very lovely lodge–a beautiful main house with an offshoot of a building with the guest rooms in it. Dave agreed to let us stay and when it was all said and done we were in a private room with our own bathroom and shower for free. That’s right, for free. Because they didn’t have electricity, they were not charging for that evening. And the best part was the electricity was expected to be returned by five or 6 o’clock in the evening. So we had only to wait until we could have a hot shower. Not a bad deal at all.

Victoria told us about all the restaurants and stores we needed in town, and she told us how to get to the main road from the lodge. We left our stuff in our fantastic room and headed for town. We had lunch at a delicious Mexican restaurant (nothing like American Mexican, but quite good). We split two meals and a dessert, and we enjoyed every minute of it. After lunch we went to a fishing and hunting shop to see if I might be able to get a warmer sleeping bag. The shop was surprisingly helpful and had tons of good stuff to look at. I did end up finding a sleeping bag. It is much heavier than my other one, but also much warmer. Georges and I hoped it would solve my restless night issues. We then went to the grocery store and resupplied for the next section of our hike. With our groceries and new sleeping bag, we returned to the lodge. I began blogging and we rested until dinner. We spent much of the afternoon watching other guests arrive including Pete, the German couple, and a Australian hiker named Scott. Each of them was only given a room because they agreed to stay for more than one night.

It was really nice and relaxing to take care of all our gear needs–cleaning and repairing–and then sit outside our room and hang out with fellow hikers. The laundry was drying and the tent airing. Pete got a few beers for us to share and we just hung out until the showers came back on. The showers and electricity were returned around 6. We all bathed and made dinner plans. The Dutch couple and Ben were staying at the holiday park in town as well as another hiker Pete or Scott had met previously–Thomas (who is has been in Kerikeri for several days because he has an injured foot, and who is also from Freiburg, Germany). The Dutch couple selected a middle eastern restaurant for dinner and we met up there. Ben didn’t join us.

G and I had been originally planning to find a steak place….but we managed, in polite company, to enjoy rice and minced chicken with pita pieces. The hot cocoa was good. It was awesome to enjoy each other’s company, to exchange stories and experiences from the trail. The others told a lot of scary stories–I guess those are the ones you need to let out–which I found disturbing and had to try to block out in hopes of continuing my hiking and camping in New Zealand. We did learn that, while there aren’t really fish in any of the streams, there are eels. Pete had discovered this while bathing in the days before.

We also first began noticing the great differences in attitudes about the Te Araroa and why each of us was there. G and I hitchhike when we are on the roads. We stay in lodges, hostels and the occasional bed and breakfast when desired. We get off the trail if it’s electrocuting us and we happily take alternative methods of hiking, such as kayaking or water taxies. Of particular discussion was an upcoming water crossing. The trail would next take us to Pahia, a beach town not far south. From Pahia, the trail notes advise the use of a water taxi to get to a location called Warei or the use of a car ferry to cross perpendicular to Russell and the road walk down to Warei. The map counts the kilometers through the water via water taxi. G and I planned to take the water taxi, looking forward to cruising through the very famous Bay of Islands in the ocean. Pete planned to kayak to Warei using his inflatable pack raft he picked up from his bounce box in Kerikeri. The Germans would take the taxi. The Dutch and Scott, though, would take the car ferry and then walk the 30/40 k on the road back down to Warei. Cool. To each his own. But in discussion, we learned that some judged G and I strongly for hitching and taking the water taxi. We clarified that we were traveling through New Zealand for five months while hiking the Te Araroa. G’s opinion is that if we aren’t having a good time, we do something differently. Neither of us are treating this as a thru hike. We are meeting people and vacationing and backpacking and pushing ourselves and trying new things and, above all, experiencing New Zealand in the fullest way we can. We were careful not to judge them back for sticking so strictly to the trail that they don’t enjoy themselves or meet anyone from New Zealand. The trees are pretty friendly and I have found the cattle to be very good conversationalists. We are simply here for different reasons.

In addition to ourselves, Ben, Thomas, and the Dutch couple would be leaving the following morning. Only G and I would take the water taxi (at least one day shorter than the car ferry) so we wouldn’t see anyone else for the known future. Surely we’d meet up again, but the mystery of when made getting to know each other somewhat bitter sweet.

Those of us staying at the lodge left together and walked back home in the cold dark, enjoying the incredible stars visible even from the middle of town. I blogged when I got back while the others stayed up and chatted.

In the morning, Georges and I called to reserve the water taxi and found we couldn’t get a taxi the next day but only the following. This set us back a day. We could choose to hike to Pahia as planned, but we’d still then need two nights in Pahia. A little effective snuggling and pleading, and I convinced Georges to stay in Kerikeri with our new friends for another night, then hike to Pahia the following day where we already planned to stay in the hostel in Pahia–taking the available taxi the following day. Yes we’d be behind, but if we took the car ferry we would still need another day. We checked that we could have our room anther night–paid for this night–and settled happily in for the day.

We enjoyed half a dozen walks up and down the Main Street looking for the post office so we could bounce some of our gear we decided we didn’t need–we got hungry so we had an incredible lunch and then continued to the post office, which was not on the Main Street we had been walking. I spent the day blogging. Pete made us a micro stove and we enjoyed our down day (really I just blogged all day). We went out to dinner with the remaining folks and this time G and I pushed for the meat and non-trail-food option. We all found a great bar with awesome steaks and burgers. Another great night. I actually have a picture from this night!

Starting lower left and going around to the right, Scott (Austrailian), Lena and Carsten (the German couple), Pete (from London), Georges (Luxembourg), me (USA), and Thomas (Freiburg, Germany).

The following day, G and I reluctantly left our friends and headed for Pahia. We knew the trail that day was very easy and only a few hours of hiking. It was a nice walk through broad forestry roads. Great views and impressive pines. The last bit was on the roads; and by the time we reached Pahia, we were glad to find the hostel. We took our bunks in an eight-person dorm and headed out to find a good pizza place. Pizza was ok…not as impressive as we had been hoping. We returned to our dorm and settled in early.

Back to the real trail tomorrow.


P.S. As we were leaving Pahia, Pete encouraged me to take a free avocado from the bowls found in the kitchen. G and I had been enjoying the free kiwis, but the avocados were far from ripe. Pete laughed and told me to just take it and it would be good in a day or so–a true treat in the backcountry. So I did.

Today is October 27th, and I am still carrying that avocado. Some day, it is going to be ripe, and I love avocados. So I keep it in my belt pouch next to my mueseli bars and check it everyday.  It is still, amazingly, as hard as a rock. But on I carry it. Day after day. I’ve had half a dozen other avocados, purchased in stores ready to eat, but this avocado is officially time and effort invested–I can’t give up on it now.

I’ll let you know how great it is when I finally cut it open.

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