Nanekoti to Goven Wilson Road
We'd pitched our tent in fierce evening sun the night before. The ground it sat on was so heavily cracked from the dry that we had trouble finding soil that would take our tent pegs.
In the morning our tent was completely sodden from condensation and the valley below sat under a blanket of thick fog that in turn, sat under a sky that was a little less blue that we were used to.
We ate, drank our coffees, jammed our stuff in our packs then headed off across fields and down the paper road to a wide, flat and swampy valley before following a dump truck up a long hill that seemed to be in the throws of becoming a lifestyle area. Scrub and pines were fighting affluent northerners for their place in the sun. The northerners weren't winning yet, but the dump truck seemed to be a pretty good sign of things to come.
Eventually the truck came back down and we entered a small piece of DoC land called Smyths Bush. It's a Scrappy piece of regenerating native Bush that's being choked out by pine trees. A highlight for us was the discovery of a giant Kauri Snail on the side of the track. A lowlight was the discovery of an even more giant Kauri Snail's shell a little further up the track. These Snail's are rare...and very tasty snacks for introduced predators.
It was a muggy day, but we made really good progress. By 11.30 The Dome Cafe came into sight - way earlier than we'd estimated. Sitting in the carpark below the Cafe was Reece and his mother Joyce. Reese is a TA section hiker and his mum had picked him up to take him home.
I got my usual hiker portrait, but failed to get permission from Reece to feature his mum in it.
“Doreen would give me heaps if she saw that I'd been picked up by my mum!”
I should have insisted - Joyce looked keen.
After a nice long stop and a bit of a fry up at the Cafe we put ourselves through one of the most sophisticated Kauri Dieback Stations we'd ever used. We gave our shoes a scrub, but wondered how well it would've worked if we'd been as muddy as many of the hikers who come South obviously are.
The Cafe is covered in signs telling people to leave their muddy boots outside. If boots are muddy they probably haven't been treated properly for KDD.
This is the big dilemma that Te Araroa brings with it...hikers get very dirty shoes and boots and the same hikers have walked through a lot of Kauri country. Even the most whizz bang spray station is going to struggle against the ingrained dirt of the average TA hiker.
Aside from fancy looking cleaning stations we’re really skeptical about the efficacy of much of the protection work that’s being done, but when it’s done as well as it has been in the Dome Forest, we feel a bit happier about it.
Kauri Dieback has shaped the route that we’ve chosen to take - we’ve decided to avoid some sections altogether - but we want to walk some affected tracks if only so that we can get insight into what’s going on with a disease that no-one really seems to understand.
The Dome features lovely forest and some pretty grunty ups and downs as well as a smattering of Kauri - all of which had recently been protected with raised gravel track and the occasional section of boardwalk. It is probably the best example of KDD remediation that we’ve seen. We think most of the spray stations are ridiculously inefficient on a microbial level, but the bells-and-whistles spray station at the cafe at least looked impressive and actually functioned. Whether it is capable of cleaning out complex and filthy hiker shoes is another matter.
Our walk through the Dome Forest was a couple of hours faster than the signs lead us to believe, which was good news for us as we're not too fit - I'll tell you about the injury list later.
The track eventually falls to a valley where it follows a 4WD track to the start of another track. At first glance it was just going to be another grunty up and down through some nice forest, but we were soon treated to a fantastic river stop. The day before Ellen had recommended that we take the time to enjoy the stop - we hadn’t really appreciated what she’d meant until we saw it.
The Waiwhiu stream snakes very lazily through some sort of limestone bedrock. The place the track crosses it is idyllic. Cool water oozed over moss covered boulders from one pool to another. The pools don't contain stones, but they are pockmarked by strange round holes.
After a really good cooling down and photographs we made our way up into the last stretch of forest for the day. Our speedy time though the Dome Forest wasn't too be repeated unfortunately - the stated time was two and a half hours and that's how long it took our tired legs.
An hour long gravel road walk finished the day at 6.30 when we walked into Jas's house.
We were greeted with a classic TA welcome - cold beer, friendly kids, a shower and a tent site that we soon put to use. We were asleep in our little plastic hut just after dark.