Spine of the Fish  Day 56 – Walking access omission

Walking in ditches is the best way to see the real New Zealand

Opoutere to Broken Hills Campsite

After a breakfast of muesli and feijoas from the camp’s bountiful tree we said goodbye to Elspeth and Martin before heading off on our forestry road shortcut. They would be going in the same general direction but their GPS was going to take them there via the main road to Whitianga.

Elspeth and Martin


We walked northward up a gravel road as the morning sun sucked the glistening dew off rolling green and odorous dairy fields.

Opoutere at dawn

Leaving Opoutere


At the end of the valley we came to the forest gate and made our way up and over Ohui Road through lovely cool pine forest. It was a long and often steep trip but there was no traffic and it was soft underfoot. We came out of the forest on the road to the coastal town of Pauanui and headed inland.

I said in the previous post that road walking was inevitable in a journey like ours. Sometimes it’s not too bad, but often it’s a painful and vaguely humiliating experience.

Most of New Zealand’s state highways make no allowances for walkers or cyclists. Cyclists are probably more at risk than walkers because they can’t jump into ditches if they need to, but walking for hours at a time on uneven, often loose gravel edges, and on an ankle-punishing camber, plays havoc with the feet.

The road to Broken hills camp


Jumping into ditches as trucks roar past is bad enough, but having to walk along them is one of the most disheartening things a person can do. It’s not as bad as having to clean out DoC long-drops, but it’s not far off.

Spend a few days on the country’s roadsides and tell me that our New Zealand – 100% PURE brand is real. We are a nation of delusionists. Our countryside is filthy. Rubbish, industrial waste, rotting animals and millions of hectares of herbicide-treated verges form the backbone of our country. I know…I’ve walked it.

We met a guy underneath the brand new motorway bypass near Waikanae as we walked in to the Tararua Range a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday and he was out riding his bike. He worked for the New Zealand Transport Authority as a roading engineer. As we marvelled at the four-laned super structure that loomed over us he told us that he thought cars were evil.

‘Look what they’ve done to the place,’ he said miserably.

On days like Day 56 his analysis gets our backing. We like to laugh at unfortunate countries like Cuba because they’re not as free as we are, but we ignore the fact that we can’t walk or cycle from one town to another without putting our lives at risk. Of course we can use a car or catch a bus, but these options all cost money. That’s not freedom. That’s being fenced in. It’s also why I crave the freedom of the hills.

And what is it with Eclipse Mint tins? The country is covered in the things. Sorry about the rant, I just had to get it off my chest. A six or seven kilometre walk in the gutter brings out the worst in me.

Just before we got to the main road to Whitianga we saw Elspeth and Martin bike past. The road looked busy, but they were moving fast. Things improved markedly once we crossed the highway and headed into the valley that would take us to the Broken Hills campsite. The traffic was almost nonexistent so we often found ourselves walking on the flat centre of the tarseal.

Pinnacles in the distance


As is often the case in these autumn days there was a small grove of feijoa trees to scavenge breakfast and pudding from.

Half way along the road we left farmland and found ourselves walking a road lined with forest. Again it was a cool way to walk but this time the shade came from mainly native trees. We soon entered the Coromandel Forest Park where the campsite sits.

 

At about 2.30, after five hours of road walking we arrived at our destination. A basic campsite of small and not very flat grassy areas set amongst bush. The Tairua River flowed below our tent site.

As we set up shop the camp manager came to check us out. He was just about to finish his six month summer stint so had unfortunately put away the camp tables and chairs. Surprisingly he seemed to be expecting us. When we were staying in Whangamata, Fiona had rung through to the nearby visitor centre to ask about the status of the track. They must’ve let him know we’d be coming through.

We’re not used to this sort of attention to detail from DoC. As we dozed off on a chilly night, we had the strangest sensation that our movements were being monitored…it seems the bush telegraph is still working in The Coromandel.

Wilderlife