Rest day and Kerikeri to Paihia
Here is where things get messy. Upon arrival at the recommended backpackers in Kerikeri, there was doubt whether they would have a bed for two nights- and I was dead keen to have a rest day. So as a insurance policy I phoned ahead to Paihia to ensure that if there was no possibility of a rest day in Kerikeri then Paihia would be plan B. However, Cherry, the owner of the “Pickled Parrot” in Paihia said she would come and pick me up – a mere 40k round trip. Talk about a trail angel! And that was before we’d stopped for fish’n’chips on the way to the hostel- which she ordered and put on my tab, as she insisted I go to the supermarket across the street to grab some provisions for breakfast.
So day XI became a rest day in Paihia, and day XII I walked from Kerikeri to Paihia. Needless to say that Cherry was heading into Kerikeri for an appointment, so she dropped me off near the trail, after having first stopped at the place selling what she believes are the best pies in the north, as she figured I would need lunch (she was right on both counts).
The 26 km walk was pleasant as far as trail sections go, mostly on an undulating forest access road through a pine forest, and exiting just before Paihia at the Waitangi Treaty grounds – one of the most significant historic sites in New Zealand. The walk was also a test for my feet, and despite only carrying a day pack, the discomfort was significant by the end of the day. The blisters have long since healed, but the burning sensation in the balls of my feet is very unpleasant. After Paihia it is not so easy to leave the trail, therefore I have decided to bail out and take a bus to Auckland on Friday. The 250km of the Te Araroa is less than 10% of the entire route, and the Northland forest sections are legendary for their difficulty (so much so that while walking them, I decided that the trail was designed by sadists and undertaken by masochists). While the next sections to Auckland are nominally easier, nothing is easy if you are carrying a heavy backpack on painful feet.
While it’s disappointing to quit, there will be other walks, and likely ones that don’t require carrying a heavy backpack. Perhaps my sensitive feet are better suited to the European model – light load and regular cafes!