This is the end...

Of the Northern Island !

Friday 12th January 2018

Today is gonna be a cool day : good weather, easy walk and only 21 kilometers to hike before reaching Paekakariki ! Even the start of the trail in the city of Waikanae is lovely, along the river, on a small path bordered by flowers.
If you know me, I probably already told you that I'm not a big fan of the seaside and that I prefer by far the mountains ? Well, I must admit that I kind of changed my mind about it. More and more, we appreciate hiking near the sea on flat lands, especially when our backpack is a little bit heavy.
On our way, we meet our first NOBO (northbound) TA (Te Araroa) hiker. We exchange information about the trail with her and she gives us the phone number of her brother, that lives near the trail on the Southern Island.
At Raumati South beach, we take the time have a drink on a terrace above the beach. Emma, the young american girl with who we've already spent a few nights in the Tararua Range, reach the cafe as we are leaving it. We'll see her again tonight at the camping where we'll spend the night.

Saturday 13th January 2018
Starting a day with crrrrrumpets (to pronounce with the scottish accent of our friend Mike, with who we were on Whanganui River) and Nutella is an experience in itself. It tastes soooo good !
Soon, we're able to use the energy we got from the crumpets by climbing the Escarpment track, a path that was recently build above the SH1 (State Highway 1). It's full of steps and we soon start sweating, but the view is awesome.
Around 2 PM, we reach a beach that provides shower facilities. That's so tempting that we can't resist : we get rid of our clothes (except the bra's and underwears !) and we jump into the fresh waters of the Tasman sea. A nice family keeps an eye on ourr backpacks while we enjoy this welcomed break in today's hike.
Walking near the highway : always better with separation between the cars and us
After a short walk near the SH1, we reach Porirua, where our friend Kelvin and his family live. We go to a supermarket for our resupply and we run into him there. How lucky we are : we give him our backpack and we'll join him at his place later, without having to carry them. Now, we've got a meeting planned with Karen, a kiwi woman that started the trail the same day as us at Cape Reinga but that had to go back home after a few days, due to an ankle problem. Karen contacted us through Facebook when she saw that we were close to her place. She invites us for a dinner in an indian restaurant and we exchange news with her.

Sunday 14th January 2018

5:30. We wake up, cook some eggs and bacon, and it's already time for departure. Magnolia (Kelvin's wife) have to drive their 2 daughters to the airport. They will spend 2 weeks at their tribe's marae on the Southern Island, where they will learn more about their local maori language and... spend time with their friends. We go with them and we're dropped at our trailhead.
Today, we'll reach Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. We've got only 26 kilometers to hike, but there we won't stop hiking uphill or downhill the whole way. We start with a trail climbing in the bush before reaching the top of the hills, where we enjoy stunning views on the whole area.
The trail to Wellington is charming, with green hills, 360 degrees views and a comfortable track.
We reach Wellington but we're still hiking in parks and green areas, nearly never on roads. A little before 3PM, we arrive at our hotel. Our first action is getting rid of our smelly clothes, putting them in the laundry and taking a well-deserved shower.
After some rest, we join Vincent for an early dinner (hikers eat early, go to sleep early and wake up early, so we had our dinner at 6 PM). I met Vincent at the World Scout Conference that took place in Baku (Azerbaidjan) in August 2017. We spend a lovely evening with him, even speaking about other stuff than scouting, to Marie-Laure's great relief.

Monday 15th January 2018

We check out and go to the city centre where we meet Jennifer. Jenny is  a French hiker that also started hiking the same day as us in Cape Reinga. Since then, we've met a couple of time again and we've been keeping in touch through Facebook.
We're happy and excited to see her again and to hike the last kilometers of the Northern Island with her. There are roughly 13 kilometers to hike through parks and forests before reaching the seashore again, where the trail on the Northern Island officially ends. While we are talking in front of the visitor centre, another French guy joins us. Florent is a cyclist and travels through New Zealand like us. They had met near Tongariro and we invite him to join us for our today's short hike.
It's again a very nice walk on a steady trail and we keep talking with our 2 friends the whole time. After the lunch, we have to tell them goodbye. They stay a few more days in Wellington while we have our ferry booked for today afternoon.
We reach Picton in the evening and are welcomed by Heather. There is a a parcel waiting for us at Heather's place. Thanks to Frogs in New Zealand, the French Travel Agency based in Auckland that sent us the parcel, we now have our new t-shirts, socks, shoes, etc. It feels good to wear something else than the 2 t-shirts we had for the Northern Island.

I met Heather in Oman in 2015 at the Girl Guide Girl Scout Experience Forum. It's so nice to see her again and to meet her husband and her little boy. Both Marie-Laure and me love spending time with local friends in the places where we are travelling. It adds a dimension to our travels that makes them specials. By spending time with the people, we can understand the country in a different way and I feel that the exchanges and the friendship we develop accross the borders give me a sense of belonging to the human community at large. I mean, I do not think of myself only as a Belgian or as an European, but more and more as a citizen of the World, a small part of a large network of human accross the globe that strive for a better world. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.


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