Click here for photos of Section D
Section Summary: this section continues the southward march along the east coast. It must diverge inland in some places because of intervening bodies of water and peninsulas, and because the only through-routes going south are in some places not close to the coast. The section first follows a bush tramping track near the coast, then continues along another section of 25-km beach before heading inland to another tramping track and then considerable paved and forest road walking, with some additional beaches and coastline, until the outskirts of Auckland are reached on the East Coast Bays Walkway, which then proceeds directly along the coastline right into Auckland.
Route: Waipu Cove Road, Cullen Road, Brynderwyn Walkway, Waipu Cove Road, Mangawhai Heads Road, Molesworth Drive, street to boat ramp, [water crossing of Mangawhai Harbour], beach walk past Te Arai headland to Pakiri River. Ford of Pakiri River, Pakiri River Road, Tamahunga Trail (starts past 4-way junction and school on direct-line continuation of Pakiri River Road), Omaha Valley Road, Matakana Road, State Highway 1, Mahurangi forest road, Moir Hill Road, track down to Ahuroa Road, Ahuroa Road to Puhoi. Kayak down Puhoi river to Wenderholm Reserve, Wenderholm perimeter track, State Highway 1 across Waiwera Bridge and on to Hatfields Beach. Walk around bluff to Orewa Beach, beach walk to Highway 1 at Orewa River, East Coast Road, Carlisle Road to Browns Bay. North Shore City East Coast Bays Walkway.
Towns: Waipu (stores/meals/lodging), Mangawhai Heads (unknown), Pakiri (no services), Matakana (stores/meals/lodging), Warkworth (meals/lodging), Puhoi (store/hotel), Silverdale (stores/meals), Browns Bay (stores/meals/lodging).
Maps: Q07 Whangarei, Q08 Maungaturoto, R08 Mangawhai, R09 Warkworth, R10 Whangaparoa, R11, Auckland.
Supplies: package to Waipu Clansman Motel, tel. 09-432-0424 (4 days food).
Route notes: (1) The Brynderwyn Walkway is only open on Sundays, but it appears that the section east of Cullen Road, which is the section used, is just bush tracks and the continuation of Cullen Road, and that the prohibition against Monday through Saturday hiking applies more to the section west of Cullen Road through private forest land. In addition, the Walkway ends in a very inconvenient spot, requiring a road walk over the hills to Mangawhai Heads. An alternative paper road starting from the two hilltop communications stations towards the end of the walk is marked with a DOC caution sign saying to stay on the regular route because of nearby dogs. Well, that road would have saved quite a bit of walking, so I started down to ask a nearby resident who I heard working outside. The resident immediately told me to proceed no further on account of the dogs, and to take the regular walkway route as the DOC sign said. (2) Just south of Te Arai headlands is a Carter Holt Harvey picnic area with bathrooms and a water spigot from a water tank. Not too potable, though. I started to drink the water when I noticed things swimming in it, so then boiled the rest of what I used. (3) The sign for the Tamahunga Trail in Pakiri is hidden behind another sign saying that entry to the land is only allowed by permit, so only the tramper with the intention of violating the first sign, or someone who knows the Tamahunga Trail is there, will proceed far enough to see the second sign. I saw the first sign and went back to the school to ask about the track, but since they didn't know anything, went back and proceeded cautiously up to the first sign, from where I then saw the Tamahunga sign saying it was legal to walk within 30m of the fencelines over the property. One 80-meter section of the Tamahunga Trail needs more work: a steep downclimb over loose dirt on the ridge in a narrow 2-meter-wide corridor between two fences, one of which is a brand-new barbed-wire fence. It is difficult to get through on one's feet while still staying away from the barbed wire. (4) Map R09 Warkworth shows a bridge across Pakiri River less than 1-km inland from the beach, which I had planned to use by exiting the beach onto Rahuikiri Road and crossing to Pakiri River Road. This bridge does not exist, and no evidence was visible of its ever existing. Rather than backtrack to the beach, I forded Pakiri River where the bridge should have been and it was an OK ford, except for the deep black mud below the normal mud, which got over everything and wouldn't come out! Better to ford on the beach, I imagine. (5) The alternative Te Araroa route from Warkworth along "Pendred's paper road" was not tried. (6) It reportedly remains possible to hike directly downhill from the top of Moirs Hill to Ahuroa Road leading into Puhoi. (7) Kayak rentals at Puhoi River Canoes can be reserved in advance at 09-422-0891 (www.puhoirivercanoes.co.nz). The service will transport your pack to the end of the river and collect your kayak when you are through. The trip takes about 1.5 hours of continuous paddling. No prior kayak experience required, although it might take longer for beginners. (8) State Highway 1 from Wenderholm to Hatfields Beach has some quite dangerous sections, particularly the bridge over Weranui Road at Waiwere, which has no space at all to the side of the white line, and is on the outside corner of a blind turn at the bottom of a steep hill with constant fast traffic (my nomination for most dangerous part of the route so far). But the only alternative, until other rights-of-way or tracks appear, is a long road detour west that ends up in Silverdale. Exiting at Hatfields Beach at lower tide, one can round the bluff to Orewea Beach on coastal rocks. (9) I skipped the Okura Bush Walkway, part of the Te Araroa route, as the access road walking distance itself was equal to the road walking needed to bypass the walkway.
Devonport, Auckland, Monday, November 10, 2003
Today was one of the best days of the trek so far, if only because the beautiful East Coast Bays Walkway leading right into Auckland, which is a 15-km combination of cliff-top coastal walkways, beaches, tidal-level cement pedestrian causeways, and low-tide coastal rock hopping, was so welcome and refreshing after days of roads. And fellow pedestrians were on the walkway! I even walked along for awhile talking with a woman carrying her young daughter. As the first time being around other pedestrians on a walkway in New Zealand, this was also my first experience of being directed by oncoming body language to pass people on the left side, rather than on the right, mirroring auto traffic. I got to play music, which can't be done on the roads, and Gaelic Storm accompanied my walk all the way to Cheltenham Beach, from where a one-block walk then led me to the front door of friends John and Julie Irving. I'll stay with them to rest for awhile, catch up on email, and handle all the logistics for the next sections. Thanks, John and Julie!
Section D was the most exhausting so far because of much road walking, with steady streams of closely-passing traffic on most roads, often at 100 km/h (60 mph). As I said in the Section C journal, the road walking crushes my spirit and exhausts me. And gravel road shoulders are usually sloped, so that my right foot was constantly being stressed at an angle and is now quite sore. While Section A had no road walking, Section B about 15 km, Sections C and D were more than half paved (sealed) roads. Section D was punctuated by a few nice stretches, including the Brynderwyn Walkway, 25-km of beach from Mangawhai Heads to Pakiri, the new Tamahunga Trail, walking on closed forest roads nears Moirs Hill, kayaking 10-km down the Puhoi River (if for no other reason than to avoid a very busy stretch of Highway 1 with no road alternatives), and of course the East Coast Bays Walkway. But the paved roads dominated the experience. And available drinkable water was in short supply along the route, which meant dehydration over most of the section and fewer cooked meals (I suppose I could have asked local residents; I did get water from the school in Pakiri). However, Section D was also punctuated by a number of little stories, told below.
1. A Friendly 4-Minute Boat Ride. At Mangawhai Heads one must either cross Mangawhai River by boat or take a long road detour around to get to the beach. So late afternoon I hung around the boat ramp on the river for half an hour, and the first boat to launch was happy to take me across the river to the sand spit, from where I continued on down the beach 25-km all the way to Pakiri. The boaters were four young guys going out to fish at the end of the work day. Thanks, guys, for the ride, and for your offer of a cold beer as well.
2. The Curative Powers of Tamahunga Peak. The new Tamahunga Trail, another linking section in the Te Araroa route, heads straight up through private pastures, along a fence line, to the ridge and eventual assent to Tamahunga peak. I camped right on top of the peak, which seems to have had restorative powers. When I arrived I had a headache and fever, feeling perhaps like I had caught a virus, perhaps from bad water, and went to bed even before sundown. The next morning, after 11 hours of sleep, I felt wonderful. (And the descent from the peak was a great trail, not at all like the cliff-downclimbing I expected.)
3. The Cow That Wouldn't Move. At the end of the Tamhunga Track, the route once again briefly enters farmland, and the tramper is supposed to remain right on the fence line. Trouble was, a cow seemed awfully interested in the grass right at the fence line and wasn't at all spooked by an advancing tramper. I stopped, expecting the cow to move. The cow looked me over and went back to eating. I advanced some more. The cow gave me a look that seemed to say "and what do you think you're doing, buddy?" So I had to detour around through the field and hope that the other cows nearby would understand. I don't know how close is too close for cows, so I spaced myself as best I could!
4. The Saga of Wenzlick Road. From Warkworth to Puhoi, the Te Araroa route takes a long detour west along the Moirs Hill walkway and forest tracks, about 7 km to the west of a direct route along busy State Highway 1, and right to the top of 350-meter (1000 feet) Moirs Hill before descending straight down into a valley with a road leading back east to Puhoi. There is no other way to get through; no other roads. However, looking for a more direct route, I asked a local at the entrance to the forest about a forest road I saw on the map, which would take me down into the valley much closer to Puhoi, coming out at Wenzlick Road, a short dead-end stub shown on my map. He said yes, there was a bush track that could be followed, but if I wanted Wenzlick Road, just go straight to the top near Moir's Hill and come down into the valley. Thinking he was just referring to the Te Araroa "long-way-around," I tried to find the bush track. Upon getting to the right place, all I saw were barren clear-cut slopes with forest debris everywhere and slopes so steep that the few trees left behind were barely clinging to the hillside. So I set off for the top of Moir's Hill, resigned to come straight down to the valley and then back 6 km east to Puhoi. However, almost to the top of Moir's Hill I saw a forest road leading not just down into the valley, but back in the direction of Puhoi, which would have saved some road walking once I got down into the valley. The road sign said "Wenzlick Road"! So was it a new road, not shown on the map, that now went all the way down to the valley, linking with the Wenzlick road stub shown on the map, close to Puhoi? Perhaps this is what the local meant with his second suggestion; it must be. And local mountain bikers had told Te Araroa that it was possible to bike from Moir Hill to Puhoi, so surely it must be this road and not the steep straight-down route from the top of Moir Hill. To become sure, I flagged down the rare passing car and asked if Wenzlick Road went all the way down, and was the best way to Puhoi. The person in the car, who looked like a local, said "yes." Great! It was getting late and would be dark soon. Maybe I could still make it to Puhoi before dark.
At this point in the Wenzlick Road saga, I should inform my dear readers that walking on forest roads like Wenzlick Road through private forestry land is not allowed without a permit. Mostly, the timber companies are concerned about fires, I've been told, but there are also liability issues if someone gets hurt. (Of course, practically speaking, what could happen on a gravel road?) Therefore, in the interests of avoiding any possibility of self-incrimination, let me simply say a few things: (a) I arrived in Puhoi well after dark; (b) Wenzlick road, I have it on reliable information, does NOT go through from Moirs Hill to the valley, but instead ends short of the valley floor in a series of clear-cut slopes with all manner of forest and bush debris thickly littering the hillside, which would make further progress quite dangerous, but through which an outline of a road and then afterwards a trodden trail do exist; (c) no pictures of said debris slopes are available; (d) I only needed two band-aids that evening; and (e) in the future I am going to avoid roads that are not on my map.
5. Camped in a Rugby Field in the Middle of a Celebration. Walking along the road to Puhoi well after dark, I saw fireworks filling the sky ahead of me. When I got to Puhoi, it turns out the whole community had turned out for a delayed Saturday-evening (November 8) celebration of New Zealand's traditional November 5 fireworks. So people were milling around, there was a party going on in the community's "domain" (common park area) clubhouse, and the Puhoi Hotel was full. As I stood around talking with a few teenagers about other places to stay, they suggested I just camp in the rugby field in the domain. There was a spot in the back out of view of the clubhouse and no one would bother me or care, they assured me. There was probably a sign somewhere saying "no camping", as such signs are all over public parklands, and I was hesitant to do something like that, and perhaps give trampers a bad name in the area. But their assurances were enough, and so I fell asleep in a dark corner of the field listening to ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and other 70s favourites emanating quite loudly yet soothingly from the clubhouse and echoing across the valley.
6. Getting Through to the Next Beach. After a dangerous section of walking Highway 1, I got onto the beach at Hatfields Beach and was then faced with a rocky bluff to get to much longer Orewa Beach, or going back to Highway 1 to go up and around. As the rocks became more challenging and I still couldn't see all the way around to Orewa Beach, my uncertainty grew as to whether I could get through. A little bit of climbing up or down with hands now and then, but still nothing dangerous. Then the final barrier: either put on my water shoes and wade for a bit among the rocks in the surf, or get past a small ledge that required jumping from rocks in the middle of the water. A fisherman from Orewa Beach was passing by, and noticed my predicament. Out came a helping hand, first to grab my pack as I swung it over my head up to the ledge, and then to grab my hand as I swung myself up next. A small matter, but it was nice to be helped by someone to get through nevertheless. It also gave me the confidence to push through other coastal rocky sections on the East Coast Bays Walk at low tide, rather than going up and around bluffs.
7. The Kindness of Strangers. As I arrived in the town of Browns Bay after a long road walk all the way from Wenderholm, it was getting dark. I was elated that the road walking was finally over (the East Coast Bays walk was all that remained), but also exhausted and sore. I walked through the main part of town looking for a motel, but couldn't see anything, and a few locals couldn't help either. I came upon an elderly man returning to his car and asked. He was from out of town, but told me to get in and he and the three others he was with, also quite elderly, would drive around looking for one. The other three got in the back seat, giving me the front seat, and we put my pack in the truck. After driving around for a few minutes, he stopped at a gas station and suggested I go inside and ask. We managed to find the one motel in town, which was just a block from where I first walked into town, but well hidden! One room left. As I thanked him profusely, he replied "what is life for if not to help others when they need it?" Such kindness to strangers would have been rare in many places in the U.S. Also, would I ever have trusted my pack in the trunk of the car while I went inside the gas station? They could have driven away and left me with nothing. I hate to admit that visions of a senior citizens' backpack-snatching ring crossed my mind as I was inside the gas station! Hard to lose my conditioning, I suppose, born of other places and times.
Page updated November 11, 2003