Day 21 : ~25 kms
(Kraak road to Puhoi)

This was a day of trials. First I discovered I went 4 kms in the wrong direction (from Smyth's Reserve go down, not uphill!). Next was the weather-- all day rain.  It was forecast for a week but I decided to take my chances in "light, scattered showers..." I arrived to Puhoi completely drenched and ready to call it a night.

The only place I could go was the town Pub. They offer rooms at $60/night and while I took one it was a matter of convenience rather than value. Sure the building is a bit rustic but the place is comparable to a city hostel of $25-30 value.

The last major setback was discovering my phone water damaged. I put it in a ziplock of rice and woke at 1 am to discover it mostly functional again. I did not sleep well and spent the rest of the night catching up online.

Day 22 : ~30 kms
(Puhoi to Stillwater Motor Camp)

It's funny how much can happen in a day. This time I started on the freeway, feeling like frogger as I walked a few kilometers. At one point I tried hitching but soon relented. It was prime "running late to work" time--6:45 am--on the direct road to New Zealand's biggest city. 

Later the path involved some beach but was more hopping rocks than walking on sand. At the end of it I find myself up 60 steep steps (yes, I counted) and in someone's personal driveway. She gave me a lift to the public road and back to the beach I went. This is still before 10 am.

Then I made it to the first city of the day (Orewa) where I stopped to splurge on a soy cappuccino ($5.50 NZD). I had a lovely chat with the café staff who were quite curious about the walk. One basically convinced herself to start as soon as she finishes her studies (let me know when you do, Megan!).

The rest of my day can be summed up as: more chats with curious strangers, more road walking, a bit of getting lost, wonderful trail angels, and a very long day with lots of stops. The best thing was coming to the motor camp in Stillwater. The owner lets walkers stay for free (indoors!) and tops it with lots of great tips and info about the trail and outdoor survival. Before turning up here I planned this post to have a sour ending. One act of kindness changed it all.
Day 23 : ~8 kms
(Waiake Bay to Albany)

I wanted to stay in Stillwater to rest but the weather seemed okay for walking (overcast but no rain). I figured it best to keep moving while I could and took a lift with the motor camp owner to bypass track closures. Bad idea.

Light rain started before I even got in the car and continued for the first hour. It grew stronger and I arrived to Brown's Bay soaked. From there I had the choice of continuing at least two hours in the rain, or waiting it out and calling in a few favors... I took the latter. I stopped over at the library to get myself organized then headed off-trail to my old workplace, a retreat centre 5 kms away. There a friend warmly welcomed me to her place, offering me a chance to recover until the storm passed.

Day 18 : 25 kms
(Cove Rd to Te Arai Beach)

I started early today to avoid getting in trouble with my makeshift camping spot. The weather got hot on the road sections but the last few kilometers ended on overcast beach.  A local guided me from horseback and advised me to camp at Te Arai point. Although there were signs stating this was not allowed I took her word for it. I was comforted to notice camper vans also sneaking in to the area after dark.

Day 19 : 31 kms
(Te Arai Beach to Matakana)

Long, tiring day! I took my time but walked from sun up to after sun down. Lots of the up and down hills I despise! This combined with a muddy off-season track lined with thorn bushes made it dirty and painful too! Instead of hitching, I walked the extra 6 kms to Matakana until after dark, thinking all hope was lost. Fortunately, another kind kiwi saved the day, offering me a room in his beautiful 200-acre farm home.  :)

Day 20 : ~15 kms
(Matakana to Kraak road)

Today was short in distance but a full on day hike. I started out feeling fantastic after my night indoors and a delicious breakfast (poached eggs, potatoes, and mixed veggies). This combined with a better formed track made all the difference in my mood through all the up and down hills. Just before dark I lucked out when a family offered their garage to me as protection from the rain. I'll just keep my fingers crossed so I can walk tomorrow!!