Day 15 - Peach Cove to Tide Song
800 steps. 76 flights. According to legend.
Of course being the skeptics that we are we had to fact check it.
Whiona started well as we made our way up the side of Matariki's steep saddle. Her job was to count the steps.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6...27.28. 29…
You get the picture.
My job was to count the flights. As there are supposedly 76 of the bloody things I figured that my job would be easier. It’s a smaller number so of course it must be easier to count to.
1. 2. 3. 4.
Here's a tip from an amateur:
When you're hyperventilating your way up a small steep mountain and counting flights of steps, you kind of have to repeat the number of the flight you're on as you walk it otherwise you'll accidentally start counting the actual steps and forget which flight you're on.
Am I making myself clear?
For example. Flight number 27 has 9 steps.
27. 27. 27. 27. 27. 27. 27. 27. 27
Flight 28 has 10 steps.
28. 28. 28. 28. 5. 6. 7. 8. Damn!
In other words I lost it at 28.
Whiona's task was also easier because previous step counters had left her some clues.
Sadly for Whiona clues aren't facts. Several learned individuals had scratched their count into the steps in 100 step increments, but none of them matched. For example, there were four different steps marked 700 by budding yet failing mathematicians.
How many steps are there out of Peach Cove and up to the saddle? How many flights of steps are there? We wouldn't have a clue. I think a professional might need to make that call.
As we left the "little" mountain and the bush, a pair of likely Kaka squawked a raucous farewell.
There's quite a bit of predator control going on in the area and as we wandered down onto the beach we met a couple of locals out on patrol. Armed with rubber gloves and bottles of rat poison they were setting out along the sand dunes to check their handiwork.
We crawled our way in and out of more blue bays, over more meandering farm tracks and through more tiny fragments of Kauri forest. As we walked down the final hill for the day we turned on our radios and listened to excited reports of the first school climate strike. Opinionated adults pontificated on the worthiness of the next generation as we negotiated our last field for the day. After avoiding a herd of excitable young Hereford bulls we waded through a deep swath of kikuyu grass to the end of our day's walk. At about 2.30 we came to the estuary crossing to Tidesong, our destination.
As we waited, the captain of a small dinghy manoeuvred an ungainly path across the stretch of water. Once he got into the mangroves on our side of the inlet he stopped and tied something to one of them before struggling through a small channel to the beach we stood on.
“Do you remember me?”
“Er...there's a small light flickering somewhere,” I thought to myself.
“Um…” I replied.
“I'm Murray. You came and saw me give a talk about my Te Araroa trip at the Manawatu Tramping Club a few years back.”
The dim light became a brightly flickering bioluminescent bulb.
“That's right! How are you Murray?”
One of the strange yet inevitable things about Te Araroa is that it's a trail of coincidence.
Murray and his camper were following his nephew Kyle through this section of the trail. Kyle was the Nobo hiker who'd stayed at Peach Cove the night before us.
Murray wasn't much of a boatman and we all paused for a bit as the small dinghy was loaded.
“Can it take three people and two heavy packs?” we asked each other.
We all assessed the situation.
On the plus side there was no current and the water wasn't too deep. On the minus side...aw...what the heck.
Murray kept getting his oars tangled in mangroves, but otherwise the journey was made without incident.
As we approached the wharf another familiar figure came into sight.
Roz, who we'd met briefly in Whangarei, greeted us and took us along a mangrove-lined boardwalk, through her lovely gardens and up into the house to meet the mysterious Hugh.
If you've done your homework (see day 13) you'll know exactly who I'm talking about. If you haven't done it I'll explain why Hugh is mysterious...to us anyway.
We'd met Roz in the summer of 2015 just north of the Mavora Lakes in Southland. We were walking the South Island section of Te Araroa northbound and she was doing the same southwards.
She'd just given one of her kidneys to her husband, Hugh, and was walking to raise awareness of the possibility of live kidney donation. Hugh was waiting at the end of her day at the Mavora Lake Campground in a campervan. He was riding support. So we'd heard all about him but never met.
We only spent a few minutes with Roz on the side of the trail all those years ago, but as Te Araroa often does, those few minutes had been enough to create a strong connection. We'd always known that we'd track the two of them down for a proper catch-up sometime and this was our chance.
It was great to see them both. Hugh had just come out of hospital after going through spinal surgery, but he was looking well...considering. We were treated like royalty and got to share a nice evening with two of real Te Araroa's northern stalwarts, Murray and a couple of Christchurch sobo section hikers, Al and Di.
After tea Murray made us all jealous by playing a video from a recent boat trip to Antarctica he'd been on.
As the credits rolled, our eyes did too...into the back of our heads.
It was 9 o'clock...way past a hiker's bedtime.
Note: Our arrival at Tidesong coincided with breaking news of the Christchurch massacre - and that's all I'm going to say on the matter...