Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Maunganui Bluff.

I woke up to the sound of Peter's dogs murdering a possum. Peering out from my tent, down the sandy path towards Peter's place I saw his Jack Russell emerge from flax, jaws wrapped around a possum that looked bigger than the little terrier but considerably smaller than the pit bull terrier that  followed along.

I packed up and went to call on Peter who had said I could have a hot shower if I wanted. As I approached the Jack Russell was in some long grass tearing at possum intestines. Anyway, we had a cuppa and I spread my gear out to decide what to discard. I gave Peter nearly half of my food, a multi tool and a survival kit. I was very happy to shed the weight and he was happy to help lighten the load.

After a shower, I lanced some blisters and put some disinfectant on them courtesy of Peter. I got my boots back on and got a tour of the property. It was the type of place many people dream about having: isolated and secluded but with all you need to get by. Peter lived up there as penance for the transgressions of his past he said; while also explaining his maps of the area to me.

Peter came for a walk with me towards "The Bluff" to look for a wild foal that he had seen lost the day before. We found loads of tracks but no foal. We parted with about 10 more km to go to Maunganui Bluff.

I struggled on down the beach on sore feet and the Bluff, which I could see, seemed to get no closer. Buses and cars whizzed by up and down the beach, skimming through the odd stream here and there making my progress seem even more snail like. I finally arrived around 4PM and made camp. I stayed at the Bluff the next day as well to let my feet get right, cooking on an open fire and watching fishos coming and going.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Day 2 Down to Butler's Creek

A late start from Twighlight Beach saw me labouring over Scott's Point to reach the 90 Mile Beach. I toiled through an area of track that seemed so steep and rugged that I wasn't sure if I was still going the right way; this is common on the Te Araroa. I eventually made my way through a shady manuka stand and finally up to a point where the beach rolled out in front of me in hues of white, blue and green. I sat down for quite a while and nursed my feet, which by this time were growing quite sore.

After striding down steep stairs to the beach I forced my way on down the vast, sandy expanse towards Te Paki Stream, a popular vehicle entry to the beach. After struggling on sore feet for about an hour I realised that my day's end target destination, Maunganui Bluff, was well beyond reach. It was aldeady after three and I still had a good 15 km to go on what were now badly  blistering feet.

As I approached Te Paki Stream, a DOC ute pulled up to meet me and a good bloke, whose name will go unmentioned, greeted me. I had a yarn and explained what I was up to and why. When I asked him about the standard of the fresh water sources down the beach, his reply was: "It's not what it used to be." In his view, intensification of forestry and agriculture in the area had dramatically impacted on the streams on the beach, soaking up large quantities of water, while increasing sedimentary pollution. He was in his fifties and said that the streams had been regularly used as a food source in his childhood but now the supply of eel and freshwater crayfish were nearly depleted due to loss of habitat. I can't help but wonder if commercial eeling has also  contributed to this situation although I have no information regarding this.

I plonked down on the beach next to the mouth of the stream to mull this over and watched the antics of bus drivers trying to thrill their passengers by driving straight at the waves then slamming on the anchors. After eating a small portion of my seemingly inexhaustable supply of provisions, I decided to push on for awhile but was soon certain I wouldn't make it to Maunganui Bluff and started searching for a place to camp. A little DOC sign up by the edge of a watercourse named "Butler's Creek" beckoned to me and I pitched my lonely little tent there on a crusty shelf next to long reeds, taking care to stay above the high tide line.

I got my camp as well sorted as I could and sat down to inspect my feet; they were bad. Huge blisters were developing on the balls of my feet while smaller ones had popped out from my heels an toes. As I sat and pondered how I would  continue the following day, a guy on a bike in an orange high vis coat pedalled into view down on the beach. He seemed to notice my sad little camp and wound his way up the creek toward me.

This was Peter Kapa. It turned out he is the custodian of a property which lay just behind me, up the creek. We chatted for a couple of hours before I retired to my now mosquito filled tent. Lesson learned: always shut the netting door.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Day 1: Cape Reinga to Twilight Beach

I got a ride from Paihia within 2 minutes. Maxi and her mum Petra were touring from Germany and heading up to the Cape. I think they thought I was a bit mad and Petra averted her eyes as I struggled with my pack. "Oh I can't look" she gasped, shaking her head.

As it turned out, the reason everyone posts the weights of their items and overall pack weights, is because weight is the single most important consideration in tramping. Who would have thought that? Anyway, my ridiculously heavy pack wasn't slowing me down (it was) and I made it through to twilight beach with only one decent stop up the top of Cape Maria Van Diemanland to take in the view. A fellow hiker named Heidi made me a cuppa and had a chuckle at my pack, the weight of which easily exceeded SAS training levels. My feet were sore but didn't have any blisters (that I could see).

The campground at twilight beach is isolated but has good facilities including composting toilets and a covered cooking area along with panoramic views of the Tasman sea. I felt confident and suspected little of the pain in store for my feet the next day.