Aripaha HP to the corner of Digger’s Valley Road
16 km / 10 miles
Today we walk not on a beach. Today we enter the forest! I actually loved the beach and I’m a bit nostalgic it’s over already; it continued to grow on me, and I had expected the opposite. But then, new scenery will be exciting too.
It’s about 7 km up a country road from the holiday park. We grab a few sundries on our way through town, and then the buildings start to spread out. We pass shipping crates in the middle of a field, and someone pulls up and opens them. They are rental cabins! Clever.
There are horses fenced in here and there, and several old barn and farm buildings. The flowers are already gorgeous, and supposedly spring isn’t fully underway yet. Cala lillies and gladiolus bloom wild, and riots of periwinkles cover the road side. A gnarled type of bare tree is ladened with showy red clusters of flowers, the green tips of the leaf buds starting to peep out.
There are too many unfamiliar blossoms and colors to keep track of, so I just ooh and ahh to myself as I walk. The road starts climbing at a steep grade, and the shoulder shrinks to non-existent as the curves become snakier. There are steep high ridges encasing the road, displaying the forest fauna like butterflies on a pin board.
We make it to the start of the Herekino track, which abandons the road and burrows into the wall of jungle. At the entrance we notice these carvings. Auspicious? Ominous? Who knows? Maybe both.
The trail shoots straight uphill,sometimes aided by thin boards hammered longways into the ground to create steps. The mud is squelchy and grabby in the flat pockets, and slick as when it’s on any kind of incline. I push and pull off the tree trunks and trekking poles to struggle up, then slide and skate down as the trail takes a straight line right angled across the corrugated country. The hiking is full body and all-absorbing, and any attention not demanded by the roots and mud and keeping track of the track in the undergrowth is quickly used by wonder at this exceptional landscape. Occasionally there is a clear ridge top with views to the bay or the ocean. There are clear streams tinged a strange deep aqua from percolating through clay of that color. There are so many birds that flit and sing, it is the densest sky music I have heard in a long long time. Celebratory. The trees are exotic and enchanting; the delicate weeping Rimu, the dense shaded spindly armed Camanku, the prehistoric Ponga tree fern with its fiddleheads called Koru, and the gem and giant of them all, the singular Kauris.
Parker is struggling with his shoes, and has switched to hiking in flip flops. He has removed the hand loops from his trekking poles and fashioned heel straps, which work surprisingly well. Alternating between these and hiking barefoot, he seems much happier.
Later in the day we catch up with John, who left before us. He knows so many of the plants and trees, as well as what their timber looks like and what you can make from them. He can also name many of the birds by song, and history of the place names. He seems as eager to share as I am to ask. He is a treasure to hike with.
We are all on the look out for some old logger encampment ruins, but we don’t find them before we all run out of steam for the day. We camp on the intersection of two logging tracks, and sink into the quiet satisfaction of miles well earbed, listening to clear crisp notes float down out of the canopy.
“A gray warbler” says John. “It deserves to be called by its Maori name, I should learn it. It’s too beautiful to write off as warbling.”
The birds make all their sounds, composing and proclaiming about the doings of their daylight hours in neither Maori nor English, and the dapples of light in the trees wax a deeper gold.