Te Araroa, Stage 2 (Forests to KeriKeri)

Day 6: ~15 kms (Mangamuka Bridge to Apple Dam Campground)
I slept so well in Kaitia (Main Street Lodge - $30). If only I would have slept longer! I woke at 5:30am naturally, ready to start the day. Once I prepared lunch and dinner (rice), I stopped by the Pak N Save for more food and visited the Te Ahu iSite.

The representative there confirmed I should skip the Herekino and Raetea forest sections. "We don't advise anyone to go there. Especially if they don't have to", she told me.

I hitched a direct ride to Mangamuka within minutes and started to walk around noon. It was mostly uphill along a combination of paved, gravel and dirt roads. Apple Dam felt forever away but it was a clean, simple campsite. No apples though.

Day 7 : 26 kms (Apple Dam to Puketi HQ/Recreation Area)

I woke up cold and wet from the moisture of the dam. Once packed, I set off around 7am for my most challenging day so far. It included a 2km river walk and getting wet couldn't be avoided. I tried without shoes but the rocks were too painful. The water reached mid-thigh in some spots but was generally mid-calf or less (I'm 161cm).

Then it got dangerous. In the forest section I  climbed, slipped, slided, squatted, and descended backward at many points. I felt like I was rock climbing more than hiking.

After 11 hours I arrived to the hut, where a small group was celebrating the end of their "farms skills" course. I learned all about possums (they must die!) and Kauri Die Back disease (they must live!). When I feel asleep, their conversations lingered in the background. Drunk people don't know how to whisper...

Day 8 : 29 km (Puketi HQ/Recreation Centre to KeriKeri - Aranga Backpackers & Holiday Park)

I woke at 4am ready to start but after stepping outside to pee, I realized I still wanted to stay in bed. My feet ached from yesterday and while I slept deeply, it wasn't enough.

The trail started on a gravel road and after a fence hop I was on farmland. I passed many lamb, cows, and eventually a person too. My first Te Araroa cross! The Frenchman started backward, from Bluff six months ago. 

Most of the day alternated between dirt roads and hopping fences through pastures. The markers were a bit more distant than the forest and there wasn't paved through trail. I had to double checked my path often.

At the end of the day my shoes and socks were wet from the muddy cow printed land. My feet began to ache as I approached KeriKeri. I called it a night at the Aranga Holiday Park. The fee was $18 --too much for tenting, so I snuck in the lounge area to sleep.