Grey Lynn to Castor Bay
Suburban tenting is awesome!
The great thing about pitching a tent in a backyard is that you don't need to have all your gear in the tent with you. It can sit across the lawn under the deck...where the neighbourhood cats can inspect it...and spray on it.
At least that’s what I spent my night worrying about as I lay in our little plastic bedroom. I should’ve realised that Grey Lynn cats would never do such a thing.
We rose with the sun, got a feed of poached eggs, then made our way down to the harbour with Tania, the old school friend who’s backyard we’d pitched in.
One of the advantages that New Zealand hikers have over foreigners who take on Te Araroa is that “we” can call on friends, relatives and workmates to help us out along the way. This saves money, of course, but it also makes the whole thing a little more social...and comfortable. Friends and family often come with furniture.
We met one kiwi hiker a few years back who used his job connections to great effect. Being a cop meant that he always had someone in a local police station somewhere, who could deliver him to a bed or a Four Square at the end of a tough day...if he needed it.
Friends also know stuff about the place they live in. Stuff like where to buy good coffee. On our second morning Tania guided us through the leafy suburbs of Auckland, down to the harbour and in to Buoy Cafe.
Her wisdom was much needed after the caffeine calamity on the train the day before - it was over 24 hours since our last coffee and we were suffering from the DTs - but it was also slightly fitting as her cafe of choice had recently had its own stoush over takeaway coffee cups.
Shock horror! They’ve stopped giving them to people who are drinking on the premises! They make their customers drink from REAL CUPS!
Shock horror! It was a national news story!
“Trespass threat after Auckland cafe stops takeaway cups for dine-in customers” cried the NZ Herald headline.
Buoy is our kind of cafe...AND the coffee was great.
With the magic brown beans casting spells inside us (gurgle gurgle) we made our way to the Devonport Ferry, a goodbye hug from Tania, and the real start of our trail. The Te Araroa map made it look easy, but we soon found ourselves sweating through North Shore streets under an intense Auckland sun. Relief of sorts came with the occasional visit to a volcano and several sporadic Saturday beaches. As crowds lay baking on the sand, we wobbled past with our fully loaded packs. Yes...a swim would’ve been nice, but we had a day’s walk ahead of us and had no time for such frivolity.
As we negotiated narrow paths around rocky outcrops, impatient weekend walkers nudged past us. This wasn’t the kind of hiking we were used to. For us southerners, hiking usually means negotiating a path through trees not beach goers. Unnervingly, the beach goers also ignored us. We’re used to offering smiles and receiving hellos in return from the people we meet.
Picture this. You’re sitting on a beach in your bikini and an old man sporting a big grey beard, wearing a kilt and carrying his home on his back says hello to you.
A: Call the police?
B: Get your boyfriend to beat him up?
C: Say hello back?
It wasn’t just us being ignored.
At one stage Whiona came across a young boy lying face down on the sand. He was coughing, spluttering and sobbing. He was also being ignored. As the crowds sunned themselves it was left to Whiona to find out what was up. After a gentle interrogation the decision was made not to set off her PLB and the boy’s mother found us all. Thanks were given and we walked on.
Te Araroa was born on the North Shore. Geoff Chappell is from there. As we walked we could see how he came up with the idea of connecting this beautiful city with the rest of New Zealand via a long walkway. We imagined him going for a walk on one of its beaches and wanting to just keep going.
But the North Shore seems to have forgotten about Mr Chappell’s grand idea. Te Araroa markers are few and far between which meant that we spent much of the afternoon following maps and missing the scenery.
As we walked on we were surprised that we didn’t feel like we were on the trail...until…
As Whiona made her way around the ragged rocks a ragged rascal ran towards her.
Will had left Cape Reinga 15 days earlier and had an appointment with a friend and a beer in Takapuna beach. When the two of them saw each other in the distance they both raised their walking sticks and made a beeline for each other. I could see Will’s grin from a hundred metres away. Hugs ensued. Yes hugs.
Will is a Wellington ultralite and ultrafast section hiker. He wasn’t carrying much more than the 15 days of grime and sweat he’d picked up along the way but was ironically a refreshing change from the throngs we’d just spent the day with. We swapped notes about places and people and let him head off for his beer.
As Will’s stench wafted off to what we imagined was a poncy North Shore pub we felt like we were finally on Te Araroa. Home on the trail.
Feeling like we belonged, we walked around more bays and through more streets as the afternoon came to an end. It had been a long hot day of sweat, sun and blisters. We were shattered.
Did I say there are advantages to being a New Zealander on Te Araroa? Today’s second advantage came in the form of my Godmother, Wyn, and her husband Steve. They were waiting for us at their home in Castor Bay. I hadn’t visited their North Shore home for more than thirty years and we spent the end of our first day catching up properly and eating what would be our last home-cooked meal for a month.
They even had chairs to sit on.
As we went to sleep in actual beds, with actual sheets and actual pillows we realised that city hiking wasn’t as bad as we’d thought.
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