11/2 Ducky Camping

Kerikeri Holiday Park to Waitangi Holiday Park

25 km Day 15

Interestingly, this pricey little room did not come with housekeeping included, so we clean it before we leave this morning. We have a selection of wonderful vegetable quiche-like pastries for breakfast at a cafe called Zest. (Are there this many amazing bakeries in the US that I’m just missing?) I resolve to bake more this upcoming summer. One of my favorite things about this cafe, as well as many other little places in NZ, is the birds seem welcome to come and go as they please. Several little sparrows or finches swoop in, perch on this chair or that chair, chirp and flit, cock their heads coyly, then swoop out again. At Waipapakauri a little bird unabashedly invited itself in to stay at the hiker bunk room, and at Ahipara there were at least a dozen that were distinctly at home hopping about in the cavernous community room. They must have a deal struck with the owners, though; there is no bird poop that I’ve noticed anywhere inside.

Back on the trail next to the river, the treats continue. We pass another waterfall whose name I do not know; the remains of an old powerhouse from a hydroelectric project in the early 1900s, to satisfy the wives of the British settlers who refused to homestead unless they could have either house servants or electricity; a wooden reconstruction that displays signage about an old Maori village and the whirlpool the warriors used to furiously row their warships around the edge of to show off; the oldest house in NZ called Stonehouse.

There’s a gorgeous set of gardens, and a beautiful little tea shop called the Honey Cafe, which uses stacks of old bee boxes as the center pedestals for the tables. We do time on a narrow shouldered highway in town, then are rewarded with hours on a quiet untraveled road that winds through pine trees, passing a set of mountain bike trails with names like Dead Possum and Trap #15 that splinter off.

Late afternoon we get to a monument- the first TA marker driven for the trail.

While we are taking a break, two hikers we met briefly in the pine forest catch up, Ellie from Germany and Mikkel from Denmark. We chat a little, Parker elects to stay and nap, Prana and I hike on.

We pass a turn off for a view from Mt Bledisloe and decide to check it out. Amazing! It’s a walk of less than ten minutes, and it looks like something from Lord of the Rings.

There’s an intriguing stone pedestal with a set of ceramic tiles inlaid in the top, showing a close up of the Bay of Islands, which is the bay we are about to walk around, and then in further rings out, the distance to other points and cities. Surely it has secrets encoded in it.

We have heard that the Bay of Islands for a period was the primo place for the pirates to gather for their time-off debauchery. A past-century Mos Eisley. It’s easy to imagine why, looking out over the Bay, with all its nooks and crannies, its coves and hiding holes.

The trail takes us through a golf course, with a road sign that tells it like it is:

and then past the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The Waitangi Treaty is a founding document between the Europeans and Maoris signed in 1840. I am disappointed that we get there at 5:00, which is the time they close. Since we are no longer staying for a layover day, seeing the Grounds will have to happen another visit, if ever. We are close to the coast, we’ll basically be walking along it for awhile, and pass a large canoe with intricate scrollwork on the ends, and a permanently docked ship that used to be an active shipwreck museum until 2002. What a neat idea! Meta-shipwreck. Its all boarded up now.

The Holiday Park we are staying at tonight is also home to quite a few ducks, it seems. They are not tame enough to tolerate petting, but tame enough to be fearless when it comes to seeing if they can beg food. Prana names this one Alfred.

His MO is to nonchalantly peck at things that aren’t really there in the grass until he practically stumbles on a food bag under a tent fly. Peck. Waddle. Peck. Peck. “Oh my. I didn’t notice this food bag before!” Peck. “It has just appears before me. How fortuitous.” Peck. Peck. “How nice there are no humans around.” He seemed to say. At night all the ducks squat down on the same designated tent square, as though they are splitting it to save on the overnight fee, and tuck their bills under a wing.

An intriguing development of camping in a wet country, after three nights of sleeping on other mattresses, we blow up our sleeping pads to find them speckled with mold.

Ellie and Mikkel walked into town with Parker, and Prana walks them through the low tide high tide plan, which they are adopting as well. Prana manages to secure a shuttle boat by calling around, and there are seats open for two more people, so it works out the whole way through.

A newly minted flock, the 5 of us set up our tents, then tuck our bills under our wings for the night.

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