This was a section we were slightly apprehensive about. It has a reputation for being very tough and we can now vouch for that. It is VERY tough! We started on a bright sunny morning in Ahipara and hiked the back roads up to the start of the Herekino Forest. This is around 15km’s of muddy, jungle, steep and not very well maintained trails with not a single view in sight. What a joy. Harriet was superb on this section, somehow managing to be very positive when all I could do was muster 4 letter expletives. Anyway, we made it through the forest in about 7.5hrs and found a lovely patch of flat grass to spend the evening wild camping. About 10 minutes after arriving at our campsite for the night we were joined by Leslie (a fellow TA hiker), who we had met on Ninety Mile beach and was travelling at a similar pace to us.
Day 2 started with a walk down some forestry roads with views over rolling countryside which was a welcome change from the closeness of the Forest. After 11km’s of dirt road we found ourselves at the entrance of the Raetea Forest. This has a reputation for being harder than Herekino and with very limited water supply. So we stocked up before heading in. The initial climb in the Forest was dryer than expected and we made reasonable time, as the bush got thicker and footing muddier our ambition of getting through the Forest in a day subsided. We met Leslie again who was enjoying the Forest as much as I was (again Harriet was still very positive!). We camped on the second highest summit in the Forest and set-off early the next morning to get to the Dairy (corner shop) at the next town. It still took us another 3hrs to get out of the Forest by which point we were out of water and were thankful to find a stream just before we met up with the road.
As we headed down the State Highway 1 a passer by pulled over to ask what we were doing, after a quick chat she insisted we take a ride with her rather than walk the road section. In the end we took a lift with Margaret all the way to KeriKeri, we didn’t need too much persuading and Margaret was great company. After we were dropped off we had about a 10km walk to a hostel in KeriKeri, where we had a very welcome shower! The following day we re-joined the Te Araroa trail from KeriKeri down to Paihia, following forestry roads and finally along the beach. It was a super hot day, but we were glad to be out in the sunshine and enjoying the scenery. We’re in Pahia for a day to rest and then back on the trail!