Day 25 (Fri 4 Dec): Mangawhai to Pakiri
Started at 7.35am, walked to the Mangawhai Heads Four Square for some more supplies, walked a bit further then got a lift to the start of Te Arai beach, started walking from there around 8.30am, reached Pakiri Beach Camp 1.50pm; 28k in total, about 10k by car.
Pain in the head status: Had another of the annoyingly sleep-disturbing hypnic headaches in the night, but it settled quickly with a dose of caffeine. So weird. Was fine in the morning, except a bit tired.
Word of the day: Riparian rights, in New Zealand, this refers to land ownership rights that extend right down to the water’s edge (of a river, lake or the sea), meaning that the land owner can trespass those who cross the water’s edge on their property.
Wonderful person of the day award goes to Josie Gritten, Northland photographer (https://www.josiegrittenphotography.com/). Josie was dropping her kids off at school when she stopped to offer us a lift, just after we had hit the extremely busy Twin Coast Highway on our way to Mangawhai township. We gratefully accepted, and continue to brim with gratitude that we did (and she offered), as it saved us an horrendous piece of road walking, including the gravel road to Te Arai Beach, which would have left us well and truly dusted by the cars going past. And would have taken hours, literally.
Instead, we commenced our last major section of beach walking on this part of the TA trail full of enthusiasm and freshness. Looking up the coast, the spectre of Bream Head was almost invisible in the haze; the Hen and Chicken Islands were retreating and Little Barrier Island was the emerging offshore island feature. The white sand, the strong sun, the turquoise sea, the wannabe surf – if this is your cup of tea, this place is paradise. After a few hours of walking in the soft sand (we reached the beach just before high tide), it was wearing a little thin, but our spirits were lifted by watching the gannets dive like arrows into the ocean and seeing different types of tern (Caspian and white-fronted, but no more fairy tern, sadly).
A steep climb up and over a headland at the southern part of Te Arai beach brought us to Pakiri Beach, but our spirits were dashed by seeing over a dozen dead korora/little blue penguin along the high tide mark. It was a grim end for such spunky creatures. Like the earth, the ocean must also be a harsh and dangerous place for many.
Spirits were lifted again by the retreating tide, and some harder sand to walk on, and we were distracted from the tedium of beach walking when the young running madman from Mangawhai joined us until we reached Pakiri Beach Holiday Park (and had ice creams). He was depressingly full of energy (he left the holiday park to run another 11k up the road) but entertaining company.
Disturbing fact of the day (related by Josie to one of her curious children): Cows sometimes have their tails cut off so they don’t swish dung into the milk when they are being milked. Leaving the cows to be tormented by flies, presumably. I’m put off drinking milk either way.
Josie also got me thinking about yesterday’s walking: all the huge, expensive houses along the coast, many of them empty; the obvious displays of wealth. Along the Waipu Coastal walkway, some of the paths leading to the beach from the houses were five times flasher and fancier than the track we walked on. At the end of the Mangawhai Clifftop track, we saw mansions with helicopter pads – and more at Te Arai. And the access to the Waipu Coastal walkway is only possible because the landowners have granted permission, as they have riparian rights down to the sea. Presumably this means that permission could be withheld if the land owners changed, or someone decided they didn’t like strange people walking past their houses. I can’t square within myself that access to such a unique and spectacular piece of coast could be held ransom by one or more individuals. And I’m uncomfortable seeing holiday homes many times larger than most family homes sitting vacant, in the midst of our housing crisis. I don’t know what the answers to our issues of wealth and social inequality, but I’m sitting uneasily with the questions.