Te Araroa, Stage 3 pt1 (KeriKeri to Ngunguru)

Day 9 : 25 kms
(KeriKeri to Paihia - Seabeds Backpacker)

The guide distances were lies! They don't account for getting in and out of cities and one section was based on the pace of 5km/hr... Carrying a heavy pack can slow me to just half that sometimes. I was so frustrated my estimated 4-hour walk took 7! The track was mostly flat dirt road but I was exhausted at the end.
Photo Credit: Marie of Seabeds
Needless to say, I was overjoyed to arrive at SeaBeds in Paihia. It's a bit more pricey than the other hostels ($28 vs $25) but totally worth it!! Seabeds is closer to the track end point, has great sea views, and a super stylish interior. As a bonus, the owner is lovely! She offered me "jandals" to get out of my walking shoes, a towel and lots of great information about the track! I can't recommend Seabeds enough !!

Day 10 : 0km (R&R in Paihia)

I spent most of the day indoors and I don't even feel bad about it. The weather was cloudy with light rain and I had a lot of planning, blog updating, and emailing to do. I felt like I was on vacation at Seabeds. My feet were thankful too! In the morning they were tender but by noon I could walk without pain. 

Day 11 : 20 kms
(Waikare Rd to Oakura Camper/Caravan Park)

It felt like I today was my first day. Better yet, it felt like I leveled up! My body was back to normal, the pack was no longer a burden and I was eager to get back to walking. Besides another river walk (4km and slippery), it was a light day. I anticipated stopping after 10 km but kept going because that felt too short. 

The caravan looked way nicer outside than inside.
Around sunset I made it to Oakura where I decided to pitch my tent. A campervan park offered me $10 for tenting or $15 to stay in a caravan with electricity + wifi. I chose the latter but honestly wouldn't recommend the place. The couple was nice but some severe hoarders. The property was unkept, moldy and it felt unsanitary to be there (and this is coming from someone tenting with an irregular laundry and shower schedule...).

Day 12 : 20 kms
(Oakura to Whananaki)

The day was lovely. I started a few kilometers on the main road when the couple from last night stopped to give me a lift (again, lovely people but I still wouldn't recommend their place). I didn't want to take the ride but in retrospect, I'm glad I did. They saved me 8 kms of walking along uninteresting highway.

The rest of day went through forest. While markers are plentiful, I managed to get lost briefly. New rule of thumb: one minute without markers = GPS consultation. I caught the error thanks to the offline "Map Me" app!

When I arrived to Whananaki the holiday park owner was away. I waited for a while at the town shop where a friendly cashier convinced the principal to let me free camp at the school. Then he offered me the spare room in his home instead. His family was great and they made me feel at home. I am so thankful!

Day 13: 23 kms
(Whananki to Ngunguru)

Another wonderful day! Though rain was in the forecast the weather remained sunny and beautiful. It was the perfect complement to lovely beach scenery. The toughest part was going through more steep up then steep down hills. A part of me started to question why I want to do this... Then I arrived to Ngunguru.

I was reluctant to pay a camp site just to pitch my tent but quickly started running out of options. Eventually I chose the "Nikau Bay Eco Camp"-- a total gem! It wasn't yet open for the season but the owner took me across the estuary (saving me 13km of road walking) and welcomed me in to his beautiful home. He treated me to a fabulous dinner, great conversation and let me sleep inside!! Hope is restored. :D