Day 22 (Tues 1 Dec): Reotahi to Ruakaka
8am pick-up from Reotahi boat ramp, 8.15am started out from Marsden Point; reached Ruakaka township around 10.30am; reached Ruakaka Beach Camp around 1.30pm; 10k
Pain in the head status: Third rough night, but a reason may be discovered. The sore throat I’ve been hoping was hayfever for the last three days evolved into a full-blown cold late in the evening of the 30th. Tony woke up with a sore throat on the same day as I did, but his symptoms developed more quickly, and he spent most of yesterday sneezing and blowing his nose into the bushes. Now I have the sneezing and catarrh. I have no evidence for this, but maybe when the body is fighting off a virus, it could be more prone to migraines. Maybe this tipped me over the threshold. But despite the poor sleep and night-time headache, I did recover by the morning. We are blaming the visit to the Farm for our infection – Tony remembers a woman coughing and sneezing on us as we sat in one of the lounges. Communal living – you can keep it.
Word of the day: Catarrh, excessive discharge from the nose, due to inflammation of the mucus membranes
Thankfully, we had a short, uneventful boat trip from our campsite on Whangarei Heads over to Marsden Point, which would only be walkable if you were the son of God. We edged past the refinery, where a large colony of red-billed gulls have taken residence, down the beach and then into Ruakaka. I was pretty snivelly and slow but perked up with a coffee and piece of date cake at a cafe at Ruakaka town. We took advantage of the $12 lunchtime special at the local Indian, and the proprietor was so excited that we wanted to eat in that he took a photo of us. We were his first ever dine-in customers and the first to eat from his shiny brass dishes.
A short day of walking, so we could do washing at Ruakaka Beach Camp and I could have a nap. Tony force fed me mango to get my vitamin C levels up. We had a primo campsite overlooking the Ruakaka estuary, and back to Bream Head, so we could contemplate the contours of the hills we had crossed yesterday. In the evening, the shore birds emerged, with elegant, long-legged pied stilts and grey-faced herons stepping carefully through the water, using their beaks like spears when something below took their fancy. By contrast, the mallards plunged their entire heads and beaks down into the mud, with their bottoms sticking up in the air, like buffoons at an opera.
Day 23 (Wed 2 Dec): Ruakaka to Waipu Cove
Started 8.45am, reached Waipu Cove Camp 1.50pm, 18k.
Pain in the head status: No pain – slept heavily as a whale when I wasn’t blowing my nose.
Word of the day: Languid, without vigour or vitality, drooping, weak
I was very languid this morning, with puffy eyes and red, streaming nose and still feeling half-asleep even while I was walking. But it was a beautiful day and the walking was easy. We popped out of the Ruakaka estuary onto the beach (Ruakaka Beach, becoming Uretiti Beach, becoming Waipu… and on, but all part of Bream Bay) to discover what seemed like hordes of people, to the extent that we wondered if some kind of event was on. But it was just the morning promenade along Bream Bay. There were people walking their dogs, people walking their horses, women in loose, flowing, brightly-coloured summer dresses and men in T-shirts, singlets and no-shirts. We joined the parade and enjoyed the view.
All good things end, though, and it was back on the road to Waipu, but the stretch to Waipu Cove was partly on a shared cycle way which felt like a treat – wide, gravelled, and safely off the main road. The campground is a little bit off the trail but very welcoming to TA walkers – we got a 25% discount. Nice place too, with free hot showers. It hardly feels like tramping when you get hot showers so often. And when there are so many well-stocked bathroom facilities. I still haven’t used up the toilet paper roll I’ve been carrying since Cape Reinga. Although I have discovered that toilet paper doesn’t travel well in the pockets when you want to use them to blow your nose – it disintegrates into tissuey cobwebs. We had to buy a box of proper tissues to contain our catarrh.
Campground reflections: Whoever invented the mixer tap hugely advanced the state of bathroom comfort. Without it, you leap from a scalding to frigid shower within moments, as you try to adjust the cold and hot taps to provide the desired temperature. Also, dogs at campgrounds should be excluded from bathroom spaces. At Oakura, I had to chase Maya the antediluvian chihuahua from the ladies room as she scrabbled at the bin for sanitary products. That could have been a nasty incident.