Auckland – heading north. October 13.
Thursday morning, my bus leaves at 7.45 am from the close-by bus station. The chatty driver talks for ages about where we will stop and who will get off or in etc, repeating it at every stop. I talk to a German guy who is joining for 2 days a friend who is hiking the Tenants Araroa (and already started early September so he’s getting off after an hour already). He hiked this year for 3 months the PCT and it’s great to exchange on trails.
In Kerikeri I switch the bus, going on to Kaitaia. Arriving there at 2.15pm I decide to continue to Cape Reinga, hitchhiking this time as there are no public buses. I don’t know anything about hitchhiking, otherwise I should have known that hitching 112km on a slow road is not easily done in two hours. I thought there would be tourists going up, but only friendly Kiwis will actually take me. The first couple makes a detour just for me to bring me to the big intersection where there are more cars. Then I am going with several others, some only taking me a few minutes further up, others longer or even beyond their destination just to help me. It’s incredible how nice they are but also a big effort for me. To stand at the road, smiling at all cars and holding my sign ‘Cape Reinga ‘, talking to so many strangers, always worrying a bit when going into the car if it’s a good choice.
An owner of a holiday Park picks me up and offers me to stay for free if I come back, a lot of workers going home and always some advice for me. It’s getting late and I think about camping somewhere else. I cannot hike now, it’s too late. So when someone tells me about the Waitiki Holiday Park I think I should go there. Luck is again on my side when after fifteen minutes of anxious waiting finally someone stops and tells me he lives just next to it! As I open the door and see all the Jim bean cans I hesitate for a moment but it’s late and still half an hour to drive their. It turns out to be the best ride. The guy is a farmer owning 5,000 acres of farmland here up north. He stops at viewpoints, explains how I should dig for squalls at ninety mile beach, says I can easily camp in the forest…. The Waitiki Holiday Park is quite nice and I seem to be the only tourist. For 12$ I can set up my tent, use the kitchen and take a hot shower. After dinner I already go to bed, so tired from my hitchhiking efforts.
Te Araroa Day 1. October 14. Cape Reinga – Butlers Creek. 23km. Total 23km.I slept rather well and happily take a hot shower and wash my hair that already looks like a mess. Breakfast and packing up everything, even though the tent is still wet from rain. After ten minutes I get my first ride. I almost want to get out again once I am inside, it smells badly. But in a few days I might be smelling just the same! The guy works for the DOC (department of conservation) and takes me there. Still about 20km to Cape Reinga but no car is coming. Another worker comes to talk with me. He is employed as the other guy to catch (and kill) the possums and wild dogs or pigs that harm the trees and nature. That might explain the smelly car! He also takes care of the trails. Finally a car is coming, another person working for the DOC. But the guy says the lady cleans the toilets up at Cape Reinga and he asks her to give me a ride. She’s in and tells me in the 10minutes ride her whole life plus everything that happened to hitchhikers in the past twenty years and that I should be careful. Well, I am glad I am done with hitchhiking for now! I am lucky as usually she starts a few hours earlier but a family drama (I don’t want to go into details now) made her come late. So here I am, going down to the lighthouse I am having all to myself for ten minutes before a huge family comes down. This is the beginning of 3,000km, unbelievable my dream is coming true (let’s see how long I will call it my dream)!
Plenty of pictures later, I take off at about 10.30am. The trail is easy to find, but after the sun now comes the rain. The whole day it will switch between both.
From Cape Reinga I walk down to Te Werahi beach, stunning views!
After this first beach you have to walk up a small hill with beautiful red dunes / stones and green plants.
Then it descends again to Twilight Beach, but at a good viewpoint I stop for lunch. Around 2pm I reach the Twilight camp at the other side of the Twilight Beach. Usually people stay here, but it’s still early and I have walked just 12km.
So I continue to the Ninety Mile beach. So great to be here again. I remember how I took a ride in a bus on this beach 15 years ago. That was easy, now it’s hiking!
Around 5.30pm I start looking for a place to set up my tent as I will not make it to the Bluff camp. I find a nice hidden spot, set up my tent, change, cook dinner. While eating a few dogs appear – well, maybe I am hidden from the view but these three found me! They go back to their owners as they siffle, luckily. Then I walk back to the sea to watch the sunset. As I am not feeling comfortable about having left alone my tent with all my gear I cannot enjoy it for too long and head back soon. It’s around 8pm and I cuddle up in my sleeping bag to watch my pics and write my blog. No reception so far, so I couldn’t tell anyone I started!
Day 2. October 15. Butler’s Creek -km 61. 38km. Total 61km.I slept pretty well! I woke up a few times but fell asleep soon again. I thought about night hiking as a few people recommended it with a phosphoric sea. But at 4am it rained and so I continued sleeping. At around 7am I got up, dressed, cooked breakfast (muesli and some protein+vitamin stuff that you usually use for shakes, plus tea). I started to hike around 7.45am. Such a beautiful day! The sun is shining but the wind heavy.
The sea level is rising, high tide should be at 9am. I start being careful but when I come to a point where on the left is just a really steep dune, I cannot escape the water and get wet. I realise that I need to climb up somehow this dune as the water is now so high I cannot continue. After a few attempts I manage. Then I sit on the dune and enjoy the spectacle until the wind is so strong that I hide behind the dune.
Around 9.30am I can leave again, being still careful though. At low tide the water is beautiful with its big and strong waves, but at high tide it actually gets a bit scary. The wind blows all the time and the sound of the waves is incredibly strong. It feels like a strange place sometimes, walking and walking on this huge beach but being just on my own. After a while I need a change and put on my MP3 player. Oh how great to just sing out loud as nobody can hear me. At lower tide the cars start to drive on the beach. I also see one courageous biker!
Although I hike all the day on the beach, it isn’t boring to me. The beach and dunes and tides are different all the time. I don’t have to bother about the trail and which way to go. I can just walk and let my thoughts come by.
When my feet hurt because of my blisters (I guess the new insole plus sand plus wet feet with sand…) I simply walk barefoot, such a relief. I am done at 6.30pm at km 61. There is a stream (supposedly, I had to search and I hope my filter is good) and I set camp close to a 4wd beneath the trees. I am not very comfortable as we shouldn’t camp in the forest but I cannot walk the 9km further to the next camp. The previous one I passed alread at 1pm so I didn’t want to stop. Hastily I set up the tent, go and filter water, cook dinner and watch a few minutes the sunset. Then organise my stuff and again sleeping bag. The trees are making strange noises. I hope I can sleep!
Day 3. October 16. Km61- Ahipara. 40km. Total 101km.
Everything is full of sand, salt and it’s wonderful! With the ocean “spraying” water all the time I have to clean my sunglasses every hour or so. My tent and my stuff are all sandy and in the morning I don’t even try cleaning it, another day of beach hiking is waiting for me. When I walk up at 4am I went outside to see the stars and the full moon, but I decided I didn’t want to hike yet. So some more sleep before I get up at 6am. It takes me 45 minutes to get everything settled and ready to go although I didn’t even cook breakfast. Just a bar, I will prepare something later. I arrive just in time for the best sunrise! Even though I am on the westcoast it’s magical, even better than the two sunsets.
So I set off, after two hours I am in Hukatere (the camp) and shortly after that I am hungry and cook some water for my muesli and tea.
Then I continue only ten more minutes before waiting out the tide. The afternoon feels like all the same, hiking fast so I can do the final kilometers to get to Ahipara today and rest in a nice bed!
On the last few kilometers I catch up to another hiker with blisters and aching feet. It’s great to be talking to another hiker finally! He is Austrian and happy about my company as he hurts so much. At the holiday Park in Ahipara we meet about ten other hikers. Many with feet issues. Time passes really fast, trying to get the sand and dirt out of all my clothes, talking to people, having dinner, using Wi-Fi to catch up… Many people take rest days here but hopefully I can continue tomorrow, let’s see how I feel!