Te Araroa Trail Day 7 – Ratea Forest
This morning Te Araroa trail began with a 10 km road walk to the Ratea Forest trail head.
Anja and Markus headed off before me, and having tended to my feet I started walking at 8am. It ws an enjoyable gravel road walk. I passed a huddle of piglets by the roadside, and listened to the morning birdsong. The road progressed steadily uphill and after 8 kms I caught up with Anja and Markus who had also found Bruce. An hour later we found Jinny & the steep, steep climb began through Ratea Forest.
At 11.30am Bruce shared a round of sandwiches from his stop over the night before. Oh the joy of a home made sandwich! This small but very generous gesture sums up everything about Kiwi hospitality and the bond already formed between our little team.
Ratea Forest … it’s Scary!
Ratea forest in Northland is one of the most discussed and feared sections of Te Araroa trail. The summits reach 720m elevation, and the climb is through a gnarly forest thick with supplejack vines, with huge twisted tree roots and mud underfoot. It was littered with fallen trees and we had to watch and consider almost every step. Even though there was a marked ‘track’ (and I use the word track very loosley!!) it was easy to lose concentration and take the wrong path.
We got lost a couple of times, and had to backtrack and find the right track – which we did through a process of splitting up, with a couple of us remaining where we were, some of us retreating a little way back and the others checking the gps/maps and finding the correct route a little further back. We called to to each other to maintain contact throughout. This system served us really well, and we sorted ourselves out reasonably quickly.
We reached the full summit at 1pm and by 4pm we began the start of the full descent. We began fantasising about what we’d see around the next corner – a boardwalk, elevator, pizza delivery guy, a spa pool…
On the whole Ratea treated us very well. After 8 days with no rain it wasn’t as muddy as expected. The mud was only ankle deep, and not knee deep as we’d been expecting. I broke my sunglasses by unintentionally headbutting a tree branch but luckily managed to fix them again. Wildlife highlight of the day was finding lots of large kauri snails shells.
The descent took forever but we unanimously voted to get out of there with the last remnants of daylight.
Beware of the Dogs!
The last part took us through a farm with about 15 VERY ferocious (thankfully chained) farm and hunting dogs barking madly on all sides of us. It was terrifying.
Shortly afterwards we were super happy to find a little bumpy campsite. It was gettng dark as we made camp and washed off in the river. We all had a quick dinner by torchlight then fell into our beds. We’d walked an almost 12 hour day!