Waipu Cove to Mangawhai

Day 24 (Thurs 4 Dec): Waipu Cove to Mangawhai

Started 8.20am, reached Mangawhai Heads Beach Camp 1.55pm, 17k; 3k to walk to shop and back

Pain in the head status: Pretty good, woke up fuzzy and heavy but with a couple of coldrex under my belt, I was away.

Word of the day: Rara avis, rare or unique person or thing.

Walking back to the tent after breakfast, I spotted a rabbit grazing composedly beside the rear guy rope. The rabbits are ubiquitous; and we saw another stoat yesterday (it was too far away to chase). If native species thrived the way these introduced animals do, we’d be kicking kakapo from our gardens and roasting up weka for dinner.

We deviated from the TA trail this morning, at the suggestion of Mark, the TA through-walker who has now sped ahead of us (as they all seem to do, maybe we can set a record for the slowest walking of the trail). Mark told us about the Waipu Coastal Trail, which winds along the coast, and is an alternative to taking the TA route inland to walk some roads (and pass through some forestry land, and some of the Brynderwyn forest). Many thanks to Mark for this recommendation, which should be a destination in its own right, as the unheralded Whangarei version of Punakaiki. Pancake rocks meet pohutakawa, in a stunning combination. It was slow going – I had to stop every few metres to take photos.

Some unnecessary track assistance

The Coastal Trail ended at Lang’s Beach, another gorgeous stretch of peachy sand, a hidden gem that many people have discovered, given the number of houses there. We then hooked up to the Mangawhai Clifftop Walkway, via a short road walk and a disheartening trudge up and down a series of farm roads and paddocks. This also showcased blooming pohutakawa, rocky coastline but lacked the pancakes.

Once we reached Mangawhai Beach Camp, and had the obligatory ice-cream, we had to walk further up the road to the Four Square to seek dinner, as our stock of dehy dinners is running low. Coming back along the beach, we kept a sharp eye out for fairy terns (tara-iti), the rara avis of these parts, with estimated only 40-45 remaining in the wild, making it New Zealand’s rarest native breeding bird. That means we’ve seen around 2% of the population, as one swooped and hovered over us, looking down into the water to spy fish as terns do – but so much smaller and more delicate than the other NZ terns.

After seeing no one on the trail today except a few day walkers on the Clifftop walk (scoff: day walkers!), a new TA through-walker rolled in around 4pm to tent nearby. This will undoubtedly be the only time we see him in the North Island, as he is running the trail, aiming for around 40k a day. Oh the ability and madness of youth.

Gull bathing area just beside our tent

Plans for the future: Return to Bream Bay and check out the things we’ve missed: visit Waipu caves, Piroa Falls, the Waipu Museum, which tells the story of how settlers fleeing the Highland Clearances ended up in Waipu; climb Mt Manaia, the inland twin to Bream Head. Given how determined the TA trail is at making us do the most extreme ascents available, I’m surprised the track didn’t take us over Mt Manaia; but I shouldn’t even suggest such a thing as some TA planner might think it is a good idea.

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