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.