(Solution at the end of this article… ?)
Te Araroa Trail Total (TTT): 100,5 km
High: The first step on the trail
Low: Night of horror in the tent because of heavy storm and rain
Day 1: Cape Reinga – Twilight Beach Camp (12,5km)
What a perfect start of the day! I have already seen me trying to find a hitch on the side of the road for hours, arriving late in the course of the day at Cape Reinga. Which isn’t really a problem…however, I had to take into account the tide tables of the first part of the trail. Otherwise part of the trail would be virtually impassable (or just by swimming with 20kg on my back). 😉 But I found a far better solution: Work & Traveller Olga, Fabian (both from Germany) and Kyle (from Korea and only called „Kyle“ because no one can pronounce his real name), were planning to visit the Cape Reinga lighthouse with their rental car and gave me a ride.
I was actually close to spending another night in Kaitaia due to jet lag and cold, but this opportunity was somehow a hint from heaven. Although Kyle „The Suicide Driver“ got us almost killed during the two-hour to Cape Reinga…three times!
Just before arriving at the starting point of my jounrey southbound through Nez Zealand, I could feel tension and anticipation increase in my body! Indeed, I was totally uncertain of many things: Do I have enough water? Enough food? Does the gas stove work properly? Am I physically prepared or will I even get dizzy and fade out? These were only a few of the questions that I went through in my head, but then I noticed a really good feeling in my stomach.
Cape Reinga and the lighthouse were incredible! At this point, the Tasman Sea (light blue) meets the Pacific (dark blue), which just looks amazing in photos. 😉 Of course I had to take a pretty mandatory photo of me with the sign to Bluff whcih is the southernmost point of New Zealand and the final destination of my journey.
After I had said good-bye to my three perfect companions, I finally took the first step on the trail! What a feeling! 😉 For the first day I only planned a short section of 12 km to Twilight Beach Camp, where I could also refill my water supplies. The landscape on the way was truly outstanding. I reached my first stop for the night already after three hours. I spent the evening in good company with Edwin from Holland and John from New Zealand. John (about 70 years old) also walks the Te Araroa Trail, which earned him lots of respect from my side.
Honourable mention: Edwin from Holland who gave me great tips for my hike (so to speak my first „trail mentor“, thank you for that!).
Day 2: Twilight Beach Camp – The Bluff (28km)
I needed forever until I was set to go in the morning! For breakfast, morning hygiene, taking care of my tent, packing my backpack and a little small talk with Edwin and John it took over two hours. I think in this regards my learning curve will increase significantly.
Finally at 9:15 I was on my way alone to the next campground (Edwin walked the other direction, John had his own speed…me too by the way! ;-)). The first five kilometres were great again, up and down through a very varied landscape. Then, I finally reached the 90 Mile Beach (which is actually only 90km long, but who cares about those details) and from now on there was only one decision to make: hard or soft sand! 😉 Hard means faster progress, but is quite painful for the feet; in the long term soft sand means more protection for the feet, but is much more effort and therefore significantly slower. It’s in the mix! 😉 There wasn’t anything special to discover or see for the next 23 km besides sand dunes and the ocean… except for some dead animals. The following collection was created along the entire 90 Mile Beach (and may contain disturbing images, therefore apply caution ;-)):
After eight hours I reached the campground directly at The Bluff. First short rain showers fell down on me, so I quickly set up my tent and crept into my sleeping bag after dinner (delicious pumpkin soup and ramen noodles with red pesto!). The first long hike of the trail was tough for me, but I was very happy…
Day 3: The Bluff – Hukatere (30km)
…which should change quickly. I had a really nasty nightmare: I’m lying in my tent, outside it storms and rains like crazy, at each strong wind gust the tent rears up and threatens to fly away, a peg already loosened, it seems to be only a matter of time before I get totally wet and my equipment is gone for good. And then I realize at once that it’s not a nightmare at all but reality! Long story short: The tent was alright of course, but I wasn’t able to sleep for a single hour this night.
Perfect prerequisite for my next 30km hike to Hukatere. But why should I want to hike 30k after such a night? Well, because there’s no other water source in between (except that large pond called ocean, but it doesn’t taste very good ;-))! Thus, there was no other alternative than to refill my water supplies, grit my teeth and to keep on going. This time I just needed one and a half hours, already better than the last morning!
In spite of the short night I felt very good and made really good progress during the first few kilometres. Then the next shock: short injury break because part of my left inner boot literally spikes into my foot at every single step… quite unhealthy, especially when walking approx. 20,000 steps per day. I fixed the shoe with tape and my foot with a blister band-aid and continued.
In order to keep me entertained, I’m listening to some brilliant podcasts and audiobooks. Thanks also to Schorschi for some great recommendations! I’ll post some of the stuff on my blog if I have the chance; podcasts which inspire me deeply or simply entertain me.
At 5 pm I reached Utea Camp at Hukatere and was welcomed there by Tania and Paul with a glass of water. Paul already saw me during the day while doing his voluntary work cleaning the beach and was already awaiting my arrival. Faustine and Mael, a very nice French couple, arrived only short time later. The two suffered from a typical 90 Mile Beach disease: blisters! Because as a German I came perfectly prepared, I could provide the two with great Compeed blister band-aids… and I hope it also gave me good karma for the next 2,930 km. 😉
Day 4: Hukatere – Ahipara (30km)
The last section of the 90 Mile Beach would turn out to be the hardest! Because Faustine and Mael took a day off to recover, I was alone once again and on my way to Ahipara. This time there were clear blue skies with the hot New Zealand sun burning down on me (the ozone layer is nowhere as thin as here) and there was no wind to cool me off. Well, the 30k were very tough, but after 9 hours I finally reached Ahipara. I could see the city already for hours on the horizon before I finally arrived. But at least it was not a mirage. With aching feet and legs and completely exhausted, I reached the local youth hostel. Here I’ll relax for now and trade some hiker stories with a couple of other hikers…if I can find someone! 😉
Of course I had a little reward in the evening for the first 100k …and the beer followed a little later on, too!
What’s next: The Northland Forests
As a clear contrast to the sun-drenched, hard and sandy beach, the next 120 km will lead me more or less without any exception through extremely muddy forests…and it is supposed to rain a lot. The section is challenging not only because of the mud and the rain, but I will have to carry food for six days. Which means I will celebrate after every meal that my backpack just got lighter! 😉
And how do you eat an elephant now???
Well, one bit at a time… 😉