Day 14: Road walk (and Boardwalk) Around the Russell Forest
Thursday, November 23, 2023 3:54 pm
Location: The Farm (281.4 km)

A long day with a lot of road walking took us most of the way around the Russell Forest

We got up earlier than usual, so we could catch our 7:20 ferry, but later than we expected, because I accidentally didn’t set my alarm last night.

Carefree and I had an uneventful walk to the pier in Paihia, passing another hiker along the way (who didn’t get on our ferry).

Our boat was right on time, and we were quickly on our way across the bay.

As we crossed the bay, we were able to see the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Waitangi Treaty GroundsThe Waitangi Treaty Grounds from the Bay of Islands.

Russell, a former whaling community gave the appearance of being a very well-off town. Besides some big houses and fancy gardens, there was a waterfront corner grocery store across from our pier, which seemed a surprising use of limited waterfront space.

Immediately, we were on road, though there was a sidewalk, at least while we were going through the town center. After a short while, we were on the side of a road, like on so many other days.

To a road was a bit busy. To help, the trail briefly departed from the road via an overgrown and somewhat hidden track that we nearly missed. It didn’t avoid the road for very long, but we were happy to not dodge cars and trucks for even a short while.

After rejoining and departing the road again, we traveled through a mangrove swamp via boardwalk.

Mangrove Swamp Boardwalk
Mangrove Swamp Boardwalk

After exiting the swamp, we rejoined the road, and spent the next couple of hours dodging traffic, frequently large trucks.

We did get to stop for a break at a cute little school bus shelter, which provided a bench and shade from the sun.

Paroa Bay Bus Stop
Paroa Bay Bus StopA cute sheltered school bus stop, which we used for a break shaded from the sun.

We passed near some farms, seeing both cows and sheep. The scenery in general continued to be quite nice.

Sheep Pasture Overlooking the Water
Sheep Pasture Overlooking the Water

Aside from the two early detours, the whole day was a road walk. The paved road eventually yielded to a gravel road with very little scenery, as we circled around the outskirts of the Russell Forest. The trail is supposed to go through that forest (in a roughly straight line), but that section of trail was closed for Kauri Dieback and land access disputes.

Fortunately, there was very little traffic on the windy road; we saw two vehicles that had crashed off the road (a long time ago, presumably) and were sitting some distance down the side of the hill, stuck in the trees.

We rejoined paved road for the last half hour of the day, as we headed to The Farm, a farm workstay that allows hikers to camp there. (There apparently also was a yoga retreat while we were there.)

For the last kilometer, we got some very light rain. After we arrived, got a small tour, and got settled at a picnic table under the roof attached to the main building, with Peter and Susanna. Shortly afterwards, heavy rain began, and fell for a few hours. We got really lucky in our timing; had we been much later, we would have gotten drenched.

As far as hikers, it was just the four of us. Later, a bike packer staying for two evenings arrived. There were probably another dozed to two dozen other people, but it was mostly impossible to tell if they were workstay or with the yoga retreat.

I was able to get a shower, which was fantastic, except that l forgot to bring my towel, soap, and shampoo. (Oops!) Fortunately, there were communal soap and shampoo (and conditioner). For lack of towel, I just tried shaking the water off like a wet dog. This was mostly successful, and the rest of it dried off quickly.

We also got use of the kitchen. Cooking dinner was stressful. There were way too many people moving through the space, including a young child and toddler that were not always fully attended.

I cooked my macaroni and cheese dinner. Deciding I didn’t want to return to the kitchen a second time to make ramen, I put a little extra water in the pot and threw the ramen in. It turned out much better than I expected.

We set up our tent after the rain stopped. One of the two dogs running loose flopped down in front of the tent to try and get CareFree to rub its belly. It laid there for a surprisingly long time, looking confused that it wasn’t getting its belly rubbed, and eventually got up and ran away.

View from The Farm
View from The Farm

My feet were aching a bit on the last stretch of gravel road we were on, but nowhere near as badly as they were the day we went into Kaitaia. With more weight (from resupply) and longer distance today, I feel they did well.

Tomorrow is, of course, more roadwalk, but there’s a longer section of trail, so we’re looking forward to that.