Project K did wake at 4.30am apparently but we didn’t notice. They quietly did their circle thing, ate breakfast and packed.

They weren’t dour like the small group of Duke of Ed girls who were in the bush earning gold medals or something. When we got up they were confidently and cheerfully going about the business of packing out. It was so weird…in a good way.

They all posed for the obligatory photo and left. We ate our breakfast and bagged our stuff too before heading down the track after them. They were lugging huge packs, some of which towered above the smaller kids, so we knew we’d be catching them shortly.


Project k before leaving Waitawheta hut

We met all up again at a small campsite twenty minutes from the hut. The site’s grass area had recently been torn up by wild pigs and rendered unusable. As we came upon the group Brendan came out of the bush decked out in dead fern leaves. Perhaps he was showing them all how to hunt pigs? We watched them cooperatively cross the river and left them to it. It had been a pleasure meeting them all.

Project K cross Waitawheta River

The walk out is over an old Kauri logging railway. We’d walked something similar at the start of our journey when we’d headed into Waitewaewae Hut. The different geology made the Waitawheta trip a lot more enjoyable. The local rock is much more stable and slips -throughout the Kaimai- were comparatively rare.

The river cut its way through really interesting landforms while the railway track gently followed. It was a lovely end to an interesting and varied tramp.

Jigger line track Waitawheta

Jigger and log

Once the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust get the last huts in and the tracks sorted it’s going to be a great walk.

At the entrance to the park we came across our first Kauri Dieback cleaning station. It took us a while to get the detergent hose going because the container of cleaner was nearly empty. The boot brushes were nearly worn out too, but we did the best we could. There’s no way the remaining thirty or so trampers on the track that day would’ve managed the same amount of cleaning.

Kauri dieback cleaning station

Signs at the station also told trampers not to walk on Kauri roots. As the track takes trampers directly over Kauri roots I doubt anyone will be obeying.

Millions of cubic metres of Kauri was ripped out of the Kaimai to make furniture and house fittings more than a hundred years ago. The great tree is making a strong comeback in the northern part of the range but it might not be for long. Once our boots were clean we walked the seven kilometre road to the Karangahake CHECK Gorge. Fiona’s cellphone has an FM radio in it so she listened to the Kim Hill Show. My phone doesn’t come with such luxuries so I tried to listen to the same show on the Radio New Zealand App. It was a strange and frustrating experience. Fiona would laugh at jokes about twenty seconds before I got to hear them then we would walk behind a hill and my 3G reception would die. Aaaaargh!

As we approached the gorge we were met by a welcome sign.

Bistro. Open.

Falls Retreat Bistro sits just off the Hauraki Rail Trail and was humming. Dozens of bikes were piled up outside and more customers spilled outside under large pines. We got in just before a party of 19 arrived so our Pizza, salad, chips, beer and cider weren’t too long.

It was a great way to celebrate a successful section but the booze made the ten kilometre walk into Waihi a bit unpleasant. It probably also clouded our judgement when we most needed it to be clear.


Bridge to civilisation

As we walked along the track to town we went past the Waikino Train Station where its historic and admittedly slow train waited to take us on board. If we had been sharper we could have taken the train on to town without ‘breaking our trail’ again because Waikino was where we would be starting our Coromandel section a couple of days later. For some reason we thought we needed to walk into Waihi.

It was a long and hot walk that was punctuated by large groups of cheerful cyclists zooming past. Walking two abreast was tiring as we had to listen out for people coming up behind us before ducking out of their way. Invariably they were riding two abreast as well. It was way better than roadwalking but we still felt like we were at the bottom of the ‘foodchain’.

Shared pathway to Waihi

Once we got to Waihi we headed straight to New World for wine and the food for our next short leg to Whangamata. A quick hitch and we were with friends in Whiritoa, a small coastal settlement just up the road.

We had a zero day planned for the next day and it was a zero day we had.

Cliff Graffiti, Whiritoa Beach

Zero day at Whiritoa

Katherine and Gary run the local dairy and cafe, so while they served ice creams on a busy school holiday Sunday, we ate most of a loaf of Vogels Bread for breakfast, washed our clothes, hung out with their crazy staffy Monty, charged our batteries and explored the beach. Some good catching up with friends was achieved and a bit of telly was watched. It was only one zero day…but it did the trick.

We were ready for the Coromandel.