Day 1 (Tue 10 Nov) Cape Reinga to Twilight Beach
Started 10.30am, finished 2.30pm, 13.5k
Word of the day: Bibulous, given to the consumption of alcohol
Pain in the head status: Twinges on and off most of the day but ignorable
We stayed overnight in Kaitaia, which was enough to determine that the flashest restaurant in town was McDonalds, a sad state of affairs – we dined courtesy of Pak N Save. After a confused start, when the shuttle driver left Kaitaia, thought he had forgotten to pick up two people from the hostel we had stayed at, returned in a rush, borrowed a phone from another passenger (victim?) to check with his wife, found out that those two people were actually Tony and I, we finally arrived safely at Cape Reinga. After an obligatory visit to the lighthouse, we set off on Te Paki walkway, the first leg of the journey.
A cooling southerly welcomed us with reminders of home, although it had nothing of the icy blast of Wellington’s winds. It streamed ribbons of blond sand over the darker wet sand where we were walking. Just as we were to tackle the only hill of the day, over the headland of Cape Maria van den Diemen, that might have induced some sweating, a cold shower rained down on us, rather pleasantly. It passed in time for us to dry off in the sun and wind.
I didn’t know what to expect from this track, but the scenery was stunning. Exposed rock and sandstone of ochre, gold and red. Flax bushes with smooth green buds about to explode into fiery flower. Swathes of deserted pristine beach. Mostly pristine – some plastic rubbish on Twilight Beach, but nothing like the southern beaches of Stewart Island, that this reminded me of.
Two other couples camped at Twlight Beach – one didn’t talk to us but the other were two cheerful bibulous publicans from Warkworth (Ian and Ramona), who broke the day of tramping up with a mug of wine after lunch (to lighten the load).
Wildlife observations: red billed gulls on Twilight Beach chased after treats from the retreating waves but flew upwards skittishly to escape the incoming tide. Blue and lavender tinged jellyfish with long navy tentacles lined the sand, bloated and squishy. Flocks of black fronted terns looking purposefully out to sea. Swallows diving around the campsite shelter. Shags drying their wings in the sun.
Day 2 (Wed 11 Nov): Twilight Beach to Maunganui Bluff (90 Mile Beach)
Started 7.45am, finished 3.20pm, 28k
Word of the day: Peripatetic, walking about or travelling from place to place
Pain in the head status: Miraculously, no PITH. More than made up for with pain in the feet, hips, leg muscles…
Everyone says 90 mile beach is hard. A long, mind-numbing trudge that makes you wish you were anywhere else. So I was mentally prepared, maybe not physically. The soles of my feet hurt from the hours of walking. The first half of the day was easy enough, starting with a walk over the headland to the long back, among stands of manuka and kanuka, with the occasional piece of sea foam wafting above the scrub. On the beach itself, the weather was entertaining for a while, as dark clouds spat their contents in grey streams in front of us, but never on us, as the sun shone at our side. We watched the birds and the formations of the sand dunes. But after lunch, it got hard going. I was saved by a podcast called ‘Drilled’, discovering the motivational force of outrage. The podcast presenter told me the story of how the oil industry had fooled the public into disbelieving climate change, much as the tobacco industry worked to convince consumers that smoking didn’t cause cancer. My opinion of oil executives, marketers, PR and communication firms and lobbyists took a dive but at least it distracted me from the pounding in my feet.
Great relief to reach the campsite and find it had a shower, albeit a cold one. Washed and fresh again, with a full stomach, all’s well in the world. The peripatetic lifestyle is pretty good. Ian and Ramona staggered in around 6pm, having stopped for multiple cups of tea to fortify themselves (the wine having been finished the night before). A few cyclists also camped out – but plenty of room for all.
Wildlife observations: Dead turtle on the beach. Black-backed gulls rising up in the sky to drop molluscs on the ground, to get to the flesh. Hundreds of pipis spitting up sand in pipi-sized sand-hills.