Cape Reinga to Kaitaia

We stayed one night at a beautiful little homestay in Kaitaia, then organised a lift up to Cape Reinga the next day. We’d planned to get away early, to maximise our walking hours, but this was set back when our driver called apologising after he accidentally put diesel in his petrol car. Within an hour he had his non-functioning car at a mechanic’s and had grabbed his diesel car to come pick us up.

We arrived at Cape Reinga an hour or two before midday, took a few obligatory photos at the Lighthouse and then off we went. The weather was fine, and we were in good spirits, although we hadn’t entirely accounted for the tides and we did have to scramble over some rocks, and time some steps between waves to avoid getting wet feet.

At the end of Te Werahi Beach we began our first short ascent up and over some dunes, then down onto Twilight Beach. This was nothing compared to the ascents that would come later, but it was a quick reminder that this wasn’t going to be just a walk along the beach. At the end of Twilight Beach was Twilight Beach campsite, the recommended camp for the first night on Te Araroa. From previous experience we knew that the section directly after Twilight Beach camp was a bitch with much climbing and many steps, so after a short rest we carried on to get this part out of the way, making tomorrow a bit easier.

We were aiming for Te Paki Stream, but the hour was getting late when I met Erin waiting for me up ahead, just a few KM before Te Paki. She had decided we best not go on as it was getting dark, and had scouted a flat spot in the dunes for us to camp, then returned to the beach to wait for me. We scrambled up over the dunes and set up tent. Unfortunately we had forgotten that the customs guys at Auckland airport had cleaned our tent, which meant de-constructing it in the process. This meant we had to re-assemble the tent, in the dark, with no instructions, whilst being eaten alive by sandflies.

With the tent set up it was a quick cold dinner and straight to bed.

The next day, and the next four days really, were just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. The  terrain was totally flat; the hardest part was the slope of the beach putting pressure unevenly on each foot, and the mental challenge of a vast unfathomable horizon which makes it hard to judge distance remaining, or the distance you’ve come.

The second day was not terrible, with Matapia Island acting as a land mark about halfway along the beach, and then Wakatehāua Island just off The Bluff; the destination for the night. Saying all this, I really struggled on day two, and again on day three. It was just so repetitive and wearisome, with my body not yet accustomed to walking for such long stretches. Erin powered on in front of me; out of sight within an hour or two, whilst I struggled along. Closer to midday the tide started coming in, pushing me up into the soft sand near the dunes and making my progress even slower. At one point I sat down for a snack, near the dunes and a good forty metres or so from the tide, where I thought I would be safe, but one particularly motivated and vengeful wave came for me. I managed to quickly grab my things and scramble further up the sand just in time, but my de-hydrated apple was suddenly re-hydrated with salt water, and my pants were now wet.

Just a kilometre or so before the camp, a Ute came screeching up on the sand and Erin lent her head out of the window, offering me a lift for the final distance. I declined, feeling I was so close to the end it’d be a bit silly to get a lift now.

The third day  was much the same as the second, only longer. We woke by 5 AM today, hoping to set off early. A spot of rain came through whilst we were eating breakfast in the shelter; I had read that rain was scheduled for this morning and was hoping this would be it. It wasn’t.

We hit the road by 7 AM and it started raining again soon after. Luckily the rain was never too heavy, although it was constant throughout the day, coming for a 10-15 minute burst before pausing for a moment, then coming down again. The tide was still playing it’s game of pushing me up the beach, and the mental challenge was even worse with no real landmarks to judge progress with.

I knew I must be many kilometres behind Erin, and I was really struggling. I was counting out sets of 500, 700 or 1,000 steps before giving myself permission to have a short rest, but I was making very slow progress. A number of cars pulled up alongside and asked if I needed a lift, and I stubbornly declined; something I soon came to regret as it started getting late in the day.

Miraculously, just as I was starting to wonder how I would make it through the day, a car pulled up besides me.

”You must be Erin’s partner?”

”Ah, yep. She’s already there then?”

Pauly from Utea Park, our destination for the night, offered me a lift for the last few kilometres, which I graciously accepted. When I got to our cabin I collapsed onto the bed, Erin gave me a well appreciated massage and Pauly’s partner Tania made us each one of the best smoothies we’ve ever had.

Day four was significantly better than day three. Some people knock out a big 31km slog to get all the way to Ahipara this day, but we decided to split it into two, which meant a manageable 17km today. The weather was worse than the previous day, but we were prepared for it. I just plugged my headphones in to distract me from the monotony of the beach.

At some point today, the final curve of the beach, leading to the peninsular just part Ahipara came into view. This gave us a sense of coming to the end of this beach section, but played with our minds again as it was hard to judge exactly how far away it was.

The final day the rain eased up but the wind came in hard. The wind itself wasn’t an issue, but it whipped up sand across the beach and into my eyes, meaning I trudged along with my head down and my eyes squinting against the sand. This made today one of the worst days for me, perhaps saved only by the fact that it was quite short at just 14km.

After we reached the end of the beach, it was then a further 2km through town to the takeaway where I had a long-anticipated cold drink, and Erin had a drink and some deep-fried fish. Our friendly hosts from the homestay then came to pick us up, and drove us back to Kaitaia, where we had two more nights booked with them. After checking back in and dropping our things, the first thing I did was walk into town (with no pack!) and get some fast food I’d been fantasising about for the last few days.

We had a grand total of about nothing to get done on Sunday, our rest day (called a “zero” day on trail, due to the zero kilometres that you walk), and we spent the whole day eating more hot delicious food and watching TV in bed. I was very glad to have finished the beach, and very excited to get onto the next section of the trail; the infamous Northland Forests.

I shot most of these images on the Fuji Klasse W using Kodak PORTRA 400 and Fuji VELVIA 50 and PROVIA 100, as well as the RX100 Mark V. I found myself not taking out the cameras as often as I’d like, particularly with the rain and wind and sand. If I was taking a purely photographic trip, I would have stayed around and waited for better weather and better light, rather than trying to cover ground.

  • Trail Progress 3.33% 3.33%

Days

Kilometres

Total KMs

Days of Rain

Rest Days

%

Tired

Days 6
Kilometres 102.3
Total KMs 102.3
Days of Rain 2.5
Rest Days 1.5

 

Photos
Camera: Fujifilm Klasse W (a, b, c, d, g), SONY RX100 V (e, f, h)
Film: Fujifilm Velvia 50 (a, b, c, d, g)

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