Saturday, August 25, 2012

Evening under the stars

My place under the stars

In order to get prepared for my bike adventure, I thought it would be a great idea to go out and do some solo camping after I dropped Beth off for her trip to Australia.  Which it sounds like she is having a blast.  She is trying not to get eaten by crocs and diving with the fishes.  It all started at the Auckland airport.  I got behind the of the Nissan Wingroad and tried to find Highway 1.  My intentions were to drive a couple hours North until I started to get tired and then do some wild camping.
Just about to my camping spot for the evening

Those were my intentions.  I did not find Highway 1, instead I ended up on Highway 20 for a bit and it ended.  Then I drove on some residential streets for a bit before I pulled up GPS on my phone.  Thanks 2 Degrees for bumping up your data plan to 600mb until Jan 31st.  I might hit that limit in 2 weeks.  I should state that we are using the $19 data plan by 2 Degrees and for the most part is suits us just fine.  I just happen to use a bit more data than the typical kiwi.  Why because I have a smart phone and like to think I'm important.  Anyway, I find out that I'm not too far from Highway 20 which meets up with Highway 1 90km North of Auckland.  I think to myself "What would Jack Burton Do?" and say what the hell.  Its supposed to be an adventure.

I'm cruising through the rural towns at about 85-90 kph, which is below the 100kph limit, but these roads are twisty and I feel like the car is shaking.  I don't mind driving slower, but some people behind me are pissed as they come speeding past after riding my bumper for minutes.  I see a lot of cool little things here and there and I stop at a reserve for a quick run around.  There are chickens to greet me and a series of 4 water falls, the biggest being about 2 meters.  I was looking for a place to camp even though the sign said no camping.  I opted to continue looking as the entire reserve was a soggy mess.
Beginning of the trail

I continued down the road until I saw a sign for the Mt Auckland Walkway and turned off down a gravel road.  I was going fairly slow and looking at the scenery.  I pulled over to take some photos when a car pulled up next to me.  I was a little taken back by this as it was a pretty deserted place.   How long had this guy been following me?  He asked if I was looking for someone in particular and I said I was looking to take some pictures.  He asked where I was from and I told him.  He also said that there was some good vantage points up the road about 2km by an old barn.  It happens to be the beginning of the walk as well.  It was at this point I saw the side of his car said "Auckland Regional Council".  I ask about camping and I can do it at the beginning of the trail as well.  Cool, I think I'm sorted for the evening.  We part ways and I continue down the road after snapping a few photos.  I should mention that Beth has our camera and I'm shooting with my phone.

I wonder up a steep patch after climbing a set of three steps over the fence.  Since the walkway goes across private land, there are some times a set of stairs to get on to the property so you don't have to worry about keeping the fence in the same state (open/closed) nor have a key if it is locked.  Once I get to the top there is a vault toilet and a run down barn and a head of cattle.  The ground is riddled with crap and puddles of water and the ground is soggy.  I find a small hill behind some bigger brush to set up camp as it is not very wet and hidden from view.  I unroll my bivy bag and put my sleeping bag inside of it.  I then take off my shoes and put my water-proof pants on top of them.  I put my spare clothes in my dry sack for a pillow.  I then slip into my sleeping bag and stare up into the star filled sky.

Let me explain the bivy bag for those asking themselves, what is this guy talking about?  To put it simply, its like a tent, but meant for one person and they come in a lot of different varieties.  Some have frames that keep the water-proof fabric off your face.  Some come with mosquito netting to keep the critters off your face when you don't have the bivy in water-protection mode.  Mine has neither.  It is military surplus and cost about $30.  I can only envision it to be like a body bag.  Its approximately 2m by .5m and zips 90% shut then buttons around your head so you might be able to get some circulation inside.  Why choose a bivy bag?  I wanted something not overly bulky and light as I'll have to drag it around for 6 months and wanted something easy to set up after riding all day. 
Atiu Regional Park Outlook

As I gaze up into the sky, I realized that this wasn't my first time solo camping.  A few years back while helping my friend Mary with her cabin, I camped next to a root beer colored stream for the weekend.  I was eaten alive by mosquitoes and got really hot while putting insulation in the cabin's attic.  This was however, my first time with this new and untried setup.  What did I learn?  I could feel the cold seeping in from the ground.  So use a sleeping pad.  I have multiple pads in the US.  Just not here.  I have to figure out the air circulation as I know that while I slept a large amount of condensation formed on the inside and I would occasionally get a cold wet gore-tex slap to the face.  I will have to figure out a way to rig up some netting as I'm not going to need the body bag look every night.  I also don't want to get eaten by mosquitoes or let in snakes or spiders while in Australia.  So do I forgo the bivy and use a single or even 2 person tent and suck up the weight and set-up time?  Maybe.
Not much to set up.
This night I had some vivid dreams and the one I'll relate, well, it shows how your mind can screw with you.  I feel asleep not really thinking of anything other than how I told Beth earlier in the day that I usually have an internal running monologue.  Its a way for me to keep things interesting when they could be a little dull.  So here I am looking at the sky and running through my monologue.  Shooting stars, bright crescent moon, ah man Crescent Moon Bakery pizza sounds awesome right now.  I hope that cow that is eating right now doesn't get any closer.  I would hate to explain to someone why I had to crawl back to the car with a broken leg.  I doze off.  I awake to hear hushed voices saying there he is, grab him.  I roll to my back and try to sit up.  I'm being pinned to the ground.  I can't breathe.  They are starting to hit me.  I wake up realizing its a dream and that my bivy bag is over my face and its cold and wet and making it hard to breathe.  I open the bivy sack and take some deep breaths.  I fall back to sleep in a couple minutes.
Atiu Regional Park
I wake up in the morning with birds chirping and the sun just starting to peak over the horizon.  I sit up and eat my yogurt.  I'm packed up in under 5 minutes and drop my gear at the car.  I'm looking to do the walkway today and it should take 3 hours return.  I get about 30 minutes into it and I come to a fence and a nasty looking trail of standing water and lots of mud on the other side of it.  I turn around as I don't really fancy cleaning all my gear before heading over to Australia.  If they are anything like New Zealand, they want your gear to be scrubbed before entering the country.  Instead I opted to drive to the nearest town with gas, about 40km.  On the way, I saw signs for Atiu Regional Park.  I opted to give it a spin.  The park is actually a working sheep farm which accounts for about 40% of the parks size.  I decided to take the long loop around the entire premise which should take 3 hours.  I finished in 2.  I got to see a lot of fog and food.  I mean sheep and baby lambs.  I wonder if they smelled that I was wearing wool?  They kept running away from me even though I didn't have a fork.

After getting really muddy and my water-proof boots not living up to their name.  I will be returning them once I return to the States (January 22nd as I sorted my issue out with my return ticket no thanks to Vayama.)  I decided to make for Auckland as Skog was set to arrive at 5:45am and I didn't feel like adding hours to my already long day of driving.  That day's tale is for another post though.

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