Before Auckland we had a moment where motivation was running low. After two glorious falls in the bush, Eef injured her shoulder and took the last 100km in pain. The trail just wouldn’t stop detouring to include every single hill on the way. Reaching Auckland, passing the 600km mark and taking a couple of days of well-deserved rest got the spirits up again.
Auckland was no ones favourite part so far. It is an endless maze of concrete: from suburbs to the city to more suburbs, industry parks, the airport, the occasional regional park. Signing in Auckland is terrible, making for a lot of backtracking. We got so used to the friendly Northland people and the city crowd was quite the opposite. No unlimited camping and the drivers on the roads we walked were careless. In short, no fun.
It was wonderful when we reached the countryside again. We camped on people’s paddocks, drivers waved from their cars or pulled over out of curiosity to ask what we were doing and if we needed anything. The cows, the sheep, the sound of the birds singing, it was even nice to see the mud in the forest again.
We happily walked into the Hunuas range, Auckland’s final regional park. Upon entering the park we had a small get together at the Hunuas falls campsite, where a total of 6 TA hikers pitched their tents for the night.
We divided the tramp into 2 days to save the signed last 7km for the second day. We didn’t think about water too much, Hunuas is described as a pretty straightforward track. We filled up our bottles in the morning and started moving towards the Wairoa dam, a slow 6,5 km section. We had a late morning so it was well in the afternoon by the time we got there, but we were still determined to make it to the lower Mangatawhiri campsite. At that point, Eef ran out of water.
At around 5 we came to a signpost indicating that our goal was still 4 hours away and that we could either take a roadwalk or a track there. Most people in their right mind would have taken the road, such as Pj suggested. We weren’t thinking straight and tired of road walking Eef and Serena voted track, so off we went, all running low on water.
The lower Mangatawhiri track is barely described in the notes and we found the whole section rather confusing, so we did not realise that we were bypassing the Upper Mangatawhiri camp where there was water. We were also unsure about the location of the Lower Mangatawhiri camp, which is not on the maps and we didn’t make it out from the notes.
The track is badly formed so even though it’s only 6km long it took is about 3 hours to reach the spot where we thought the campsite might be. With the sun setting and the dense forest getting dark we came across a sign indicating that it was still an hour away. To avoid getting dehydrated and lost we decided to set up camp on the spot.
We tried to find a puddle, a swampy area, anything but with no success. It had been a long day and the mood was low. No water, no dinner. Pj was really hungry and Eef was so thirsty she didn’t even think about food anymore, the only thing on her mind was water. And yes, that is definitely a first.
We put out our tent’s storm flaps and left our bottles in the high grass hoping to catch some of the morning dew. Of course, this was the only morning without excess dew and we woke up to a dry tent. The GPS indicated a stream 2 km ahead so we had an early start hoping to find it soon. Everybody felt tired, thirsty and dizzy. to our desillusion, the GPS tracks were wrong and we didn’t find water until 7km further, at 11 AM when we reached the end of the track.
Luckily we met some of our fellow TA-ers we camped with the night before on the way out who shared their bottles with us. Without them, these 20 hours without water could have been much more dangerous and would have been harder to get through.
It was a hard learned lesson. Check up on the water supplies and don’t walk with the bare minimum.