Sep 21 day 21 Puhoi to Stillwater. 32 km 8:00-3:30 (because of high tides, some road walking probably shortened the actual distance)
Today started with another generous act. Two days ago, when I stopped at the Dome Cafe for an early dinner, wet, covered in mud, I ordered food and a beer. When the woman who ran the place brought it, she asked if I wanted any chips (in New Zealand, chips are a large bowl of hot, thick-cut fries). I smiled and said sure, and, even though it was obviously a slow day, she just gave them to me. Last night at the bar, I ordered a Tui’s and the manager charged me 6$. When I ordered the next, the bar tender charged 5$. I asked and he said 5$ was enough. Then this morning, I stopped at the Puhoi General Store and Cafe for a cup of coffee before hiking. It was a cold morning, and while I was sitting outside, the woman running the cafe came out with a large, hot croissant with tomato, ham and cheese. She said I looked cold, and refused payment. And tonight, because I was hiking the long trail, Pete– the camp owner– refused payment and let me sleep in the camp TV room (though the only thing on were game shows). This is often a kind and generous country. The day’s hike was, on the other hand, uninteresting. The tides were high so I was forced up on the roads most of the day. It was pretty much a day of walking on the shoulders of roads dodging ongoing cars. Initially I was just going to go 18 km to a campground at the southern tip of Orewa, but I got there before noon, so decided to trust luck in finding a place to pitch my tent in Stillwater. Lucked out as there is a campground right at the entrance to the next part of the hike. The whole place is pretty empty, but a warm dry place to sleep before the big push toward Auckland tomorrow.