We started out early from Ahipara as we knew the first forest would be a long day and very different from the beach. The walk to the forest entrance involved our first piece of road walking and actually covered 8.8km instead of the 4.5km suggested by the trail notes… Note the we didn’t take any wrong turns, we’re just discovering there’s a slight underestimation for any given stretch in the trail notes. Heather also found the Kiwi Christmas Tree (it only blooms around Christmas time) on the way to the track.
After about 2 hours on the road we entered the forest. We immediately went straight up hill and quickly reached a small view point with partial views of the beach. The forest was thick and the trail covered with a mix of mud and roots. For the first section we could mostly see the hardened mud from previous trampers and felt that it had largely dried up. This was probably largely true but there was still enough mud to slow us down. We ate lunch at the stream we came across about two hours in where we also saw a spider that we’re still debating if it’s poisonous or not (apparently there’s one that has recently come over from Australia that it’s poisonous). As you can see from the picture the forest is more of a jungle, it was cool to be surrounded by so many different species of plants that we’d never before seen. We filled up waters at the stream and continued on through one of the largest old growth kauri regions. To provide some perspective on the trail itself, aside from the stairs at the very start there really was very little in the way of trail as we think of them in the US. There were enough orange triangles marking the way but beyond that it was largely either straight up or straight down over roots, rocks, and fallen trees. There are no switchbacks to help with the up and down. When there was a flat patch it was covered in thick mud. The mud itself was an issue to deal with, it proved so thick that it managed to suck the protector tip off my hiking pole twice (unfortunately only expertly recovered once by Heather). We really started to slow down after lunch wore off and struggled through much of the afternoon and evening up and down the thick slopes. At one point we saw a sign that said 4 hours until the end of the trail which we thought made very little sense as it was only 4km (that would normally be 2 hours comfortably). When we exited the trail about 4.5 hours later we understood. This trail was tough! Unfortunately it also wasn’t the most spectacular view we’ve ever seen from the top. Right next to the exit of the trail we discovered the Tramper Inn. This is basically a ~14 bunk bed shack in the middle of a farm field. It’s technically owned and run by the farmer who encourages people to use it and has running water and a roof which was much appreciated. So far tonight we’re the only ones here. The Herekino forest was really tough but also fun. It was out first real backpacking on the TA off the beach and has set the tone for the forests to come. After another long (28kms) day, we’re hoping to do something a little shorter tomorrow to give our bodies more time to recover.