Day 1- After leaving KeriKeri, it took me all day and about 20 different rides to get to the beginning of the Te Araroa at Cape Reinga. I met an 80 year old man born and raised in KeriKeri, another Te Araroa hiker sectioning from KeriKeri to Cape Reinga, a woman from Te Whau who brought me back to her house for bread, cheese, coffee, and stories of Papua New Guinea in the 1970’s, a woman originally from Hungary who has been in New Zealand now for many years, an English couple on holiday, a half dozen older white men who asked me what I thought of Donald Trump then told me I was wrong, a mom with her 2 kids in the back who told me about how sand pines were planted on the Aupori Peninsula to allow for agricultural development and how the swamps are sometimes drained for the harvest of Kauri logs, a young Maori girl who brought me a short way to Te Kao and dropped me off at her mom’s store, and finally (after being warned that now that it was after 8pm I wasn’t going to get picked up and I should look for camp) I got picked up by a French couple that brought me all the way to Cape Reinga in their rental van. I got the obligatory trailhead photo, shared my greatest thanks to the French couple for coming up clutch, then ran down the hill and camped where a small streamed fed into the ocean in a great cove. The scenery from KeriKeri to here was breathtaking- large swaths of rural cow and sheep pasture with undulating thickly forested hills around, trees and shrubs and birds I had never seen before in all directions, but I didn’t stop to take pictures or ask too much about them just yet. There would be plenty of time for that, and now that I was officially on the trail, I could start to pay closer attention to my surroundings. The stars were phenomenal and sleeping was easy with the breaking tide just below me.
Day 2- Sun is up by 5:45 and I enjoyed the early sunshine with a morning calisthenic workout and beach yoga session, which I have since made a routine of doing at sunrise, midday, and sunset. The Te Paki Trail went on and off the beach to get around capes that jutted out into the Tasman Sea, so I got to get my first glimpses at the environment on the beach and amongst the coastal cliffs. I counted over 50 species of plants, 12-15 species of birds, and 8-10 species of insects which I had never seen before. On the beach, there were dozens of types of shells, sponges, kelp, and dead fish that had washed up onto the sand along with an incredible amount of human trash- netting, glass bottles, plastic bread bag clips, etc. As I climbed onto the orange and red sandstone of Herangi Hill, I saw a wild pig and her three piglets climb above me towards Cape Maria Van Diemen! So cool. There were also ancient spiraled shells half buried in the sandstone 100 meters above the sea, uplifted by eons of recurring tectonic plate activity, just like how the recent earthquake in Kaikoura uplifted the sea bed by 2 meters. The trail was well marked when it needed to be, and not at all when it didnt, was well worn by lots of foot traffic, and had many fascinating, short shrubby plants which the many birds and bees and crickets seemed to thrive in. There were thick grasses and trees with many thin trunks that grew into a short but dense canopy, and big yucca looking plants with spikey and firm pointed leaves that grew up and out from the ground, tiny little orchids of different colors, and all the members of FLAM (fungi, lichen, algae, and moss) that are indicators of the health of the ecosystem. There was a small shelter on the trail above Twilight beach, which provided a welcome opportunity to sit in the shade, but the provides were infested with many flies and bugs. When I got down to 90-mile beach, which is actually not even 90km, the surf was very rough with a nasty undercurrent. Still, I went in to around thigh-deep and dove into the first 5 or 6 waves. There were marsh fed streams that formed wide delta fans that fed into the sea every 5-10km, creating a perpetual riptide where the 2 bodies of water met. I saw 5 vehicles today- 2 buses and 2 cars and long with one motorcycle towards the end of the day. Walked 37km, or about 23 miles today
Day 3- Woke up later this morning, around 730 because my hips and feet were pretty sore. After my morning workout, I got to walking and read half of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” as I went. In the afternoon, I ran into Bart, from Holland, who had been in New Zealand for 2 months and was now trying to start his Te Araroa hike for the second time after a knee injury forced him to bail at Te Paki stream the first time. I had seen his footprints all morning, so I knew he was close, but with my head down in my book, he sort of startled me when we ran into each other. We talked about gear, about how all the Kiwis ask us about pot because it’s legal back home for us both (sort of), about wildlife conservation, snowboarding, and rafting. We split again when he gave his knee a break, which gave me the chance to go for a naked swim and tan my buns for 20 minutes. Right as I was packing up my things, now fully clothed, he caught up with me, and we realized that we were both low on water and wondered when the next stream might be. I looked at my map and we had over 10km (6-7 miles) to the next water source at Hukatere, a small fishermans camp with cabins for rent and communal bathrooms/kitchen. We flagged down the first vehicle we saw, a minivan with a family from Guangzhou, China who gave us each a chili-lime soda and an apple. When I got to Hukatere, shortly before Bart, I met Paul, the owner, and he brought me put a mug of water when I immediately plopped down on a bench in the shade. I listened in on him and another Kiwi dude talk about the fishing competition held here every March, where fisherman wade abbnd even swim out into the rough surf to try to catch the biggest fish, which abbnd getting bigger and bigger each year because of improvements in technology, technique, and successful conservation efforts. These competitions are accompanied by much drinking and smoking and craziness. Played some blues for the guys, gave them a bar of the Coconut Salted Chocolate Bar from Salazon Chocolate, one of my sponsors, then kept walking. 43km today (26.6 miles) and set up camp on top of the sand dunes to avoid being washed away by high tide in the early morning. Today I saw many gulls, mainly 3 different species, 2 of which were white with varied black markings on their head and wings, and one which was a mottled brown. There were also cormorants, or something from the same genus, and so many different types of shells on the beach that is stopped taking photos and counting. My face is very very sunburnt from the reflection coming off the water, but it won’t stop me from smiling 🙂
Day 4: Hustled the last 20km (12.4 miles) to get to the holiday park in Ahipara, which is a youth hostel, by 1PM. I am taking the rest off the day off to rest and use the wifi to make this post, but the data is limited to 500mb, so I can’t upload all my photos. I will upload more when I get to KeriKeri in 3 days. I saw and common pheasant this morning, which although not a rare bird, is still strikingly beautiful and worth looking up to hear its call. Time to jam with the German dude that also plays guitar.