Probably our best day of hiking yet, in terms of both how we felt and the terrain. We were pretty nervous heading into the final forest knowing that we again had to push through, it was also the longest stretch of forest at about 25km that we’d be doing in one day. The American couple headed out about 30 minutes ahead of us and given their speed so far we didn’t expect to see them again for a few days. We did have a great night with them and it was nice to have somebody to talk to and share our experiences so far. The trail itself started out on fairly standard 4WD track with a steep but not to muddy decent down to the Mangapukahukahu Stream. You then enter the stream and spend the next few kms crossing back and forth from shoal to shoal while getting up to mid thigh deep in the stream. This was really fun and being in a canyon we had great views of the towering forest surrounding us. The stream was super pleasant to walk through and the cool water felt very refreshing, washing lots of the previous days’ mud off our shoes. The stream joined up with the larger Whakapaku Stream and at their intersection there was a large sunny spot with some deep water that we decided to throw down our packs and jump in! The water was cold but refreshing and probably equivalent of an ice bath for our sore muscles. We stopped for lunch here as well and dried out in the sun. After lunch the notes recommended following a very rough trail built just above the side of the stream. This was muddy and washed out in a lot of places and very difficult to cross, it quickly felt as though we were back in dense jungle. Luckily, we checked the notes again and realized that we could actually drop into the stream and continue to wade through if it was low (which it was). We did this and it probably saved several hours and painful falls. We broke off from the stream and climbed up a steep ridge passing through a grove of young Kauri trees. The climb was hard but great trail and followed the backbone of the ridge nicely. After a few hours of this we came to another 4WD track that led to our campsite 9km away. The shot of me standing in front of the tree is a Kauri tree for those who haven’t Googled it yet. We ended up running into the American couple at the camp. We’re again spending the night with them but they’ll be pushing on further than us tomorrow. It feels great to have completed the beach and forests at this point and by the time we’re back in Kerikeri tomorrow (and in a hostel!) we’ll be 10 days in. Fish and chips for dinner tomorrow!