Host to Northlands highest peak, and may I add, the muddiest (!) - Raetea Forest is steep, rooty, rugged and most definitely not for the faint hearted. It really does make you feel 90 Mile beach was in fact a relaxing holiday in paradise. With a turn in weather and the brewings of a storm blowing in, my hike up was humid as hell! It was great to chat in passing to so many female hikers taking on the TA, YOU GO GIRLS!
After popping out the forest I had 6.5km of State Highway 1 followed by what I thought would be another 6.5km of a dirt road…this turned out to be over 10km and counting…my watch had died and slowly was I. Dusk was drawing closer and with it a giant rain cloud, whilst unfortunately Apple Dam Campsite was still nowhere in sight. To top it all, I seemed to have developed quiet a fat foot that I was choosing to ignore…this was going to be an interesting night…
I didn’t make it to Apple Dam Camp, I could feel the gremlins of negativity creeping into the corners of my mind so I made the executive decision to wild camp just off the disused forestry road and under protective tree cover from the approaching storm - no dead trees in sight don’t worry, I didn’t want the rude awaking of a tree branch snapping onto me. My foot, yes that thing, although it wasn’t painful I was definitely afflicted with an acute bout of elephantiasis! Or more precisely acute extensor tendonitis - only I imagine from tightening my shoes that bit too tight to avoid them coming off in the mud and then walking down some very step terrain working my foot extensors really hard with an added 10Kgs on my back (12Kg when I’ve full water supplies!)…
oh look what I found, H2-glorious-Ooooooo
Now the bit you’ve all been waiting for, DOGGO story time! I’m super please to have powered it through Puketi, knowing at 4pm it was going to bucket down with thunder and lightening storms and how changeable the Waipapa River could be with flash floods I felt pretty relieved to have crossed it when I did. With the voices of Outward Bound Instructors in my head of how to cross a river safely - thanks Nick & Freya for the last min low down - I raised an eyebrow at how fast the river was flowing. It’s HERE I MET DOGGOOOO, deep in the depths of Puketi Forest, I just turned around and he was there, no barking at me, no warning of his appearance, he was just magically THERE! After realising there was no owner in tow and his eyes were just pleading with "CUDDLE MEEEEE I’m LOST & LONELY" I fed him what I could and enticed him along the trail. (I have since been told you should never feed a dog chocolate, I’m sorry I had no idea and its the first thing I pulled out my pack, he woof-ed (hehe) it down and then followed that with tuna and closely the can if I hadn’t pulled it away from him, he was STARVING and skinny and I think the choco gave him the energy to hike with me another 4 hours to escape - I'm sorry I promise to never feed a dog choco again!!) Anyway, it seemed to give him the perk he needed and we were instantly best friends, oh my heart flips thinking of him!
He’s safe and sound now with Kerikeri’s SPCA, I totally wish I could keep him as my trail companion. I’ll tell you more tomorrow about my friend Mel, missioning into the forest to save me from this suspicious sounding ‘male’ - oh Mel, how I love you!
Article by Natalie Gallant
Article by Natalie Gallant