Mention Herekino or Raetea forests and the very words can strike fear into potential Te Araroa thru hikers, rightly so because these two forests should not be taken lightly, particularly during or straight after wet weather.
We made a decision in the planning stages of this hike, to swap out our trail runners for hiking boots and knee high gaiters for this section of the trail. And wearing boots was huge help in getting through the forests, in fact neither of us got any mud at all inside our boots, wet yes but no mud. The other essential equipment is good quality hiking poles (see our gear list for recommendations), How anyone can even attempt this trail without hiking poles is beyond belief.
We took an extra zero or Nero in Ahipara because of the wet weather forecast, but took that opportunity to slackpack the approximately 1.5 to 2 hour road walk from Ahipara to the start of the Herekino thus giving us a bit of a head start for the next day, which proved very helpful. We both enjoyed the Herekino with it’s magnificent stands of giant Kauri and diverse bush. We took the hike through at a leisurely pace and at around 3pm, took a breather at Taumatamahoe summit as there was only 1.8 kms to go and it was all downhill. It turned out to be the hardest part of the day and that 1.8 kms took over 2hrs to complete mainly because of how steep and slippery the track was.
This part of the track in the photo was near vertical, but did have some rope to help with the descent. We exited the forest around 5:30pm to the welcome sight of “Tramp Inn” with a hose to wash off the mud and a warm bed for the night.
An early morning start as a few hours of road walking lay ahead of us before we would arrive at the start of the Raetea Forest. Our aim was to make the summit of Raetea and camp the night. It ended up being a very hot and humid day which drained our energy levels and also made it a constant battle to keep hydrated with limited water. At the start of Raetea we had a bite to eat and filled up at the last water source before starting the mud slog.
It was very slow going in these conditions and as evening approached we knew we were not going to make the summit before dark, so we found a spot on the track about an hour from the summit, to camp for the night. As it turned out it was the best night on the trail thus far and those that did camp at the summit told us that they woke up to a frost the next morning.
The moral of the story is that it pays to keep your schedule loose and be prepared to change if required rather than wearing yourself out trying to get to the goal you set yourself in the morning. We would have missed this memorable night if we had of slogged on to the summit.
So the next day was spent “enjoying” the rest of Raetea finally coming out on Makene road where we found a place to camp ready for the road walk to Mangamuka Dairy and breakfast the next morning.
From Omahutu to Puketi forest, in our opinion, is the most likely place in the Northland forests that you are likely to take a tumble, especially after rain as there are a lot of tree roots and a very slippery track. Taking a fall also comes with the risk of breaking your poles so once again slow and easy and don’t get fixated on how slow the kms are going by. We were near the summit of Puketi at 5pm with 10kms to go to the DOC campsite when we decided to call it a day and make camp.
Another great night which we would have missed if we had of trudged on to the place we thought we could of got to at the start of the day.
The last forest of note in Northland is the Russell forest and where you camp for the night will depend on what time you arrive at Waikare landing. We arrived at 5pm because of high tide so could only get to the start of the forest before dark. We were plagued with possums all night so that was also a memorable night but in a different way. A beautiful early morning river walk in cool clear water through a magnificent forest soon made us forget about the previous night.