Marie and Émilie, still an item

Saturday 25th November 2017

Taking into account Marie-Laure's ankle, we decided to follow an alternative itinerary that would be easier. The full-of-holes 4WD track eventually lead us to the State Highway 1 (SH1). We follow this road, full of crazy-driving-kiwis, during 800 meters to reach the Dome Cafe, our yesterday's Graal.
Shroomer wrote that it was there that he ate the best burger he ever had in his life. So we had a burger. Well... it was good. But for the best burgers in NZ so far, we would recommend another place, in Auckland : Burg'z Burgers.

Anyway, we had plenty of good food and good drinks at Dome's Café. Talking about drinks, I was craving for glass of red wine and they had some. But when I saw the price (17$), I decided not to take one. While we were eating, I told Marie that it was the most expensive glass of wine I had ever seen in such place. And she told me "7 is not that much". So we checked the price. And she was right : without wearing my glasses, I made a confusion between "$" and "1". ok. Let's have a glass of wine then ! After the burger, we had a scone with jam and cream. Delicious. It's crazy how much we can eat when we are hiking...
But Marie's  left thigh was very painful, probably something linked to her ankle's pain. So we made a phone call to a homestay that is about 8 km far from here. The homestay's owner can come to catch her and we'll stay there tonight. I decide to continue hiking the last 9 km and to join her there. Less than 2 hours later, I'm at the homestay. Nanekoti homestay was quite beautiful and we got a splendid room and nice bathroom, lounge and kitchen (shared) facilities.
The daughter of our hosts, an osteopath, had a look at Marie's thigh. She needs to see a physiotherapist on Monday. We decide that she'll stay 3 nights there and see the physio in Warkworth, while I continue hiking to Devonport. We decide to meet in Auckland on Tuesday morning.

Sunday 26th November 2017

We wake up early. I feel a bit weird this morning, knowing that we won't see each other during 2 days. Marie is quite sad as well, having to rest while I'll continue hiking. It's cloudy today.
I meet a first other TA walker during a break after about 2 hours. She woke up very early because she wants to kayak on Puhoi river and she needs to reach there by 3 PM. We pass a boot cleaning station where there are brushes and disinfectant available for the hikers. It's made to avoid spreading the kauri dieback disease, which kills the kauri trees in NZ.
A cleaning station met a few days ago

I'm pretty surprised when I see that she sprays disinfectant without a prior cleaning of her boots, which is not recommended because it's not really efficient, so I tell her that she should clean her boots thoroughly first. She looks at me and starts climbing the path. Apparently, she doesn't care for kauris... That plus the fact that she hikes with speakers on her backpack (you better like the same music as her!), I decide that I prefer to stay alone and I don't wait for her.

A little later, I join Joachim, a guy from Sweden. We hike together till Puhoi, where there is a small market today. I'm so hungry that I eat 2 crepes and an ice cream before we go to the pub where I eat an hamburger as well. The pub is quite special inside.
Puhoi's pub
From here, I have 3 options : kayaking the river (but it's quite expensive : 50$ for 7 km) OR hiking on the SH1 and then on another road a bit smaller (which is not really my cup of tea anyway) OR hitchhiking. I choose the last option and go to Orewa with a nice middle aged couple. In Orewa, the walk is on the beach again.

I would like to reach Stillwater today, which means 17 more kilometres to hike. If I do, I know that I'll be able to reach Devonport tomorrow without having to hitchhike again. That's a long day (34km) but I know that I can make it now that I'm trained. By 5 PM, I reach Stillwater where 2 TA walkers, Jenny and Debbie, already pitched their tent. They know each other very well, as they've been hiking together for many days, but they make me feel welcome, which I really appreciate.
Jenny's little (sticky) friend
Stillwater campground is run by a trail angel and we're allowed to camp here for free. It's also close to a welcoming sailing club where I drink a beer before I go to sleep. Perfect place !

Monday 27th November 2017

Today is a special day : Marie will see the physio and we'll know if we can continue or if we have to stop and wait for her ankle .
On my side, I also have a challenge : we need to cross Okura stream at dead low tide. But it's a deep river and I'm not sure I'll dare to cross a chest deep water.

I'm happy to be with Jenny and Debbie. It's reinsuring me and it's definitely nicer than hiking alone. We reach Okura stream at dead low tide. Great. Now we have to find where to cross the river. We try different places before crossing with our backpacks above the head. The water is chest deep, like expected but there was no current so we were fine. Wow, that's the first time that I do that !
We continue hiking on the sunny hills, above the cliffs, which is nice because we have beautiful views on the sea.
We meet a bunch of kids with their teachers. They are hiking 2 days on TA and they reflect about resilience. One of the teachers asks us to meet the kids and talk with them about our experience. They ask questions and it's a very nice exchange time. What do you carry in your backpack ? Why did you decide to go hiking ? How did you plan your trip ?
By lunchtime, we reach Brown Bay where we have our lunch in a lovely French bakery. Yummy ! Jenny's mom joins us and we chat a little bit together, before I decide to continue hiking. I still have many kilometres to walk before reaching Devonport.
The hike is nice, it follows the seashore, often using passages that get a bit wet at high tide. I get some waves on me and it makes me laugh. That's fun to try to pass between the waves.
It goes up and down. I can't stop much because I would like to reach Auckland not too late. From Devonport, I'll need to take a ferry to Auckland and then find a metro or a bus to reach Debra's place. She will host me today (thanks Marie-Laure for contacting her on behalf of me !).
And hike goes on. Beaches, streets, sea and trees.
Just before I reach the ferry, a woman starts to talk to me and we spend 10 minutes together, talking about our lives. She insists on taking a picture of me. Next, I'm seated in the ferry, then in the metro, a few more kilometres in the streets and I reach Debra's place. She's a very nice person, also a TA walker, and a girl guide leader. Two other hikers that I already met are there and we enjoy a lovely evening together. The good news is that Marie can continue to walk and the physio explained her how to tape her ankle. Tomorrow, we'll meet in Ponsonby and go to the Frogs in New Zealand Office.


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