Day 3 (Thurs 12 Nov): Maunganui Bluff campsite to Hukatere campsite (90 mile beach)
Started 7.55am, finished 4pm, 30k
Pain in the head status: nagging neck pain started near the end of the walk, developing into a full-blown migraine, but quickly aborted by meds
Being woken by the sound of horses neighing in the night was a novelty, as was seeing the sweeping clarity of the stars when I had to take a midnight wee. I was reminded why my interest in astronomy remains aspirational – even in Northland, it’s cold outside at night time, and that’s when I want to be asleep.
Tony serenaded me with a groggy happy birthday when he woke up – I’d almost forgotten this was the day. And what a day. I have never before spent 8 hours walking on a beach on my birthday, and I hope to never do it again. It sounds so easy and romantic, walking on a beach, but try it for 30k and you’ll have a different view. The soggy, spongy sand at the beginning of the day didn’t help, as we set out just after high tide. But when the tide is out, the stretch of the beach is enormous. Plenty of room for the numerous cars to pass by us.
Podcast distraction was definitely needed. I tried an educational/entertainment offering called You’re Dead to Me, which is a mashup of history lesson and comedy (but not very funny). It got off to a bad start by telling me the history of chocolate – excruciating, when all I have left is a few squares deep in my pack.
At the beginning of the day, the sand dune sculptures offered something to admire, but the dunes became more uniform, and the geometric patterns left in the sand by the retreating waves were the main source of visual interest. It was a clear fine day, so the cumulous clouds were scarce.
Reaching our accommodation for the night was a moment of intense relief. Hukatere campsite was a little way off the beach, hidden in the dunes, and the owner, Gabrielle, welcomed us with a cup of tea and a demonstration of the (hot!) shower, and uses for the rolling pins.
Wildlife observations: Dead gannet and shag on the beach. Questions: Why do seabirds sometimes stand on one leg? How do their skinny stick legs support their weight? Why do they scuttle away from the incoming waves as if they are afraid of getting their feet wet? Why are shells so many different colours – grey, scarlet, peach and pink, blue and black and white, tan and cream and yellow?
Day 4 (Fri 13 Nov): Hukatere campsite to Ahipara
Started 8.15am, finished sometime around 4.30-4.45pm, I was too distracted by the sight of icecreams at the campground reception to notice; 31k
Pain in the head status: Mostly nil, lots of pain in the feet! Some blisters developing also…
Lesson: it’s very difficult to exit a tent gracefully.
Word of the day: Coterie, small exclusive group of people with shared interests
Another long trudgerous day. We farwelled our Te Araroa co-hikers, Ian and Ramona, who had come in late the night before, requiring a beer to recover, and were going to do a ‘short’ day of 17k and stop at a lodge beside the beach. The way ahead is always shrouded in sea spray so you can only incrementally see where it is you are going. This gets worse as the day goes by and your sunglasses acquire a film, but means when you take them off, the views are delightfully clear.
We supposedly did 31k today but I tally it higher as we spent the first few hours meandering up and down the beach trying to find the firmest sand. Lots more sand dunes. Lots more waves. Lots more sand pictures. We had to take extra breaks to rest our feet. I tried a podcast more aligned to my activity – the Outside Podcast. Always good to be put in your place by hearing about outstanding athletic types doing remarkable things.
Our camping site for the night is Ahipara Holiday Park, which is very attractive. We met up with two of the cyclists we met at Maunganui Bluff, who had a rest day (in which they went for a big walk). We talked of outdoorsy things, and felt like we were in the Te Araroa hiking/cycling coterie. The other cyclist, Heather, had pushed on – I was amazed and impressed to discover she was 72 years old. Never too late to follow your dream.
Wildlife experiences: frogs groaning in the flax just beyond Hukatere campsite. Shy, long-limbed herons endlessly flying away in front of us. Honeybees crawling on the sand, and dying, for mysterious reasons. Little pink crab shells; mussels and scallop shells. Sandhoppers bouncing around rotting washed-up seaweed. Questions: if you step on a sandhopper burrow when it is inside, is it buried alive in a sand avalanche? If you pee on a sandhopper burrow when it is inside, does it drown in urine or think this is a wave of warm sea water?