Retracking Omahuta, Puketi and Raetea Forests (parts of the Kaitaia to Kerikeri section of Te Araroa)

Rachel and I returned to complete the Omahuta and Puketi forests last weekend, but admitted defeat with the combination of our time limit, the inadequacy of the track notes and map for the stated level of difficulty of the track: also the threat of heavy rain making the forest route (including stream crossings), potentially dangerous.
Instead, we took the alternative wet weather route along forestry roads, some of it through bush, most of it through pine forest, and all of it on dusty roads in exposed, hot, dry conditions with the dissipation of the predicted rain…very disappointing!!
So grateful to Rachel for supporting me with great fortitude and good humour through what would otherwise have been an unbelievably barren and unpleasant solo experience.

This left the notorious Raetea forest for me to complete (without
Rachel) in one day without my pack and with the assistance of gifted and gracious local guide Roger Cole. Two others joined us for a very long, but exceptionally wonderful day of magnificent, unusual forest, rain and sun, interesting botanising (unusual native orchids, low-growing cabbage tree cousins flowering at ground level, forests of miniature tree ferns, gatherings of many varieties of ferns and mosses, the pure Dr Seuss of the dracophyllums, and many pauses to sample Tataramoa berries with their delicious tantalizing sour-sweet almost ripeness) Also much engaged discussion re the kaupapa of the Hikoi, and the nature of big adventures…..A completely satisfying day of compatible souls in as beautiful and wild a place as a human being could hope to be….
Back to Whangarei….a very full day on the Thursday with a local paper interview in the morning, a meeting in the afternoon with Te Tai Tokerau Tangata Whai Ora Network (TTTWON) (many thanks for their generous koha) which is a consumer run group providing advocacy, information, networking and facilitated peer support for mental health consumers; and the main public meeting in the early evening at the Old Library. Thanks almost entirely to Teresa’s wonderful publicizing efforts we had about 30 people attend. There was a very wide spectrum of people there: consumers, health professionals, concerned citizens and a good cross-section of all these also spoke. The main theme that emerged were the two strands of wanting change in established services and the potential for creating completely independent places of refuge and healing. Another theme was the recognition of the need for people to feel truly empowered to take charge of their own recovery.
While in Whangarei I watched the documentary “Healing Homes”, an incredibly moving account of a programme that has been running in Sweden for 20+ years, where people with psychosis are placed with farming families for 1-3 years, gradually reduce their medication and completely recover. Both the families and “clients” also receive regular therapeutic supervision from a team of therapists. The same film-maker also created a documentary on the hugely successful Finnish Open Dialogue therapy which has an 85% success rate with complete recovery from first time psychosis. Google either of these titles to see brief trailers or see for more info re the film-maker and other interesting links re mental health empowerment.

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