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Camping at Lake Waikaremoana

Friday, December 9th, 2005

The journey to Lake Waikaremoana was fairly uneventful, we left Rotorua on the 5th of December, early in the morning. It was a fairly calm day with a little drizzle and some rain. The roads were quiet and we drove on stopping occasionally to allow Diarmuid to stretch his legs. We knew however that the hard part lay ahead, State Highway 38 would soon start. It began well enough as we turned off from Route 5, it wasn’t quite as good as a motorway, but the roads were sealed. I began to think that maybe the horror stories we’d been told weren’t true or that major roadworks had occured. A sign soon put paid to that hope, “105km of Unsealed Road.”

Eventually we reached the gravel stage of the road and Diarmuid greatly reduced his speed to around 50kmph. SH38 winds through Te Urewera National Park and the deep valleys are quite spectacular. Unfortunately, it was quite a miserable day in the high places of the park but the clouds added their own mystique to the views. The road was a new experience for me as I’ve never been on a gravel road that continued for such a length of time, add to that the constant winding nature of it and the frequent hair pin bends with steep gorges just outside my window.
It was a lot of fun. Diarmuid didn’t find it as much fun but then he was driving and had to dodge the locals who though infrequent would come tearing round these hairpin corners at close to 80kmph possibly some of them pushing higher speeds. If cars were stuck behind us, Diarmuid would pull in and let them pass when he could and I’d watch in amusement as they tore ahead of us. New Zealand drivers are very interesting (read as dangerous) at times. Though I jibed Diarmuid at how slow and cautious he was driving, in truth I think he did an excellent job.

Shortly before we arrived at the Lake Waikaremoana Motor Camp we stopped at the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre, a DOC visitor centre for Te Urewera National Park. Diarmuid wanted to get as much information as possible about the walk and also had to confirm his booking for the Great Walk. While I was waiting I took a look around the place and there was a small display on the Maori who lived in the area during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The dominant theme of the display was their conversion to Christianity and the subsequent rising of one of the Maori from the area who claimed to be Jesus Christ come again. It was reallly quite an interesting exhibition with a few museum pieces and colourful displays about the history, geology and plants of Te Urewera. Seemingly Lake Waikaremoana is just above a fault line. I pointed this out to Diarmuid who is very hopeful that he’ll experience an earthquake while we’re here.

We checked in to the Motor Camp and picked a site. After taking a closer look at it, I suggested we move to another site. This is when we found that the car wouldn’t start. It had a problem in Rotorua and it had now reoccurred. Diarmuid still believed that the battery was to blame, I wasn’t sure. The battery seemed fine to me and it had been fully charged in Rotorua. I pushed the car most of the way to the new site I’d picked before it got stuck and I couldn’t push it any further. With Diarmuid’s help, we got it parked on a reasonably good site. We set up our tent and Diarmuid then took a look at the car. He wasn’t so sure about the battery anymore, he thought it was fine as well, though we still hoped a jumpstart would fix it when we needed to leave like it had in Rotorua. We were miles away from the nearest town and I didn’t fancy getting stuck at the lake.

The car was forgotten about for the time being as Diarmuid was heading on a four day hike the next day and he had to get his bag packed. A few hours later, he was eventually happy that he had everything he needed and that he had cut the weight of his bag down as much as possible. The next morning he got up early to catch his taxi to the starting point, I wished him luck as he left and then rolled back round in my sleeping bag and went back to sleep. I spent the next three days and three nights while Diarmuid was away, having a very pleasant time just resting up in my tent, reading a few books and occasionally doing some other things such as cooking.

For the first time on this trip I cooked some proper dinners. It was nice to be able to eat a simple dinner of some meat, potatoes and another vegetable. I had to be a little creative in the kitchen though as no cooking utensils were provided and I wasn’t bothered enough to go round to the office and hire out some pots and things. It worked out very well though, I would bake the potatoes in the oven and cook the meat under the grill and boil the carrot or brocolli in my steel mug on a hotplate. As an added bonus, it saved on the washing up.

Camping can be very restful, since it tends to be quiet and you don’t have to go rushing around doing anything. Unfortunately the silence of the lake was disturbed by two school groups on a trip, as its the time of year for school trips here in New Zealand. Indeed, Diarmuid when he came back complained about the number of school kids on the walk. All in all, they weren’t too bad, indeed compared to some scout camps I’ve been on they were exceptionally quiet. Mealtimes were a bit awkward though, since they tended to take over the kitchen and one night I didn’t get eating my dinner until 10 o’clock. For the most part, they were away on canoe trips or fishing. I meanwhile was quite content in my tent listening to the rain tapping on the canvas above my head. There is something very soothing and enjoyable about listening to rain falling on a canvas tent. When the tent was dry the first wave of drops would create patterns on the canvas that the sun would then shine through.

My appetite for books was voracious, I finished “Oliver Twist” on the first night and the next day I finished reading the third part of “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” Next I read “The Princess Bride” in 24 hours and started to read “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” which I finished on the third day that Diarmuid had been away on the walk. I would occasionally grin evilly to myself as I thought of him out in the rain, while I was dry and warm in my tent.

As Lake Waikaremoana is in the middle of nowhere with no major urban centres for many miles around, light pollution is non-existent and one night in particular when there were no clouds in the night sky, the stars and moon were very visible and it was easy to pick out Mars and Venus in the evening sky. I also got one of my clearest views of the moon that I’ve ever had and the craters were extremely crisp with the aid of a pair of binoculars I bought in Auckland.

One morning I was eating my breakfast and there was a German couple sitting fairly close near by. As I was walking back into the kitchen I noticed that the man was videoing the man and I stopped, muttering “Entschuldigung.” He waved me on saying it was OK and I thought nothing of it. A few minutes later we were all in the kitchen, they were doing their washing up and I went over to the water boiler which was right above their sink and got some water for my mug of coffee. There were talking to each other in German when next thing I see the guy’s hand waving in front of my face and I suddenly realise that they’re actually talking to me. I then explain in English that I’m actually Irish and not German. The woman then says…”But, outside” and I finished the sentence for her, “Yes, outside I said Entschuldigung” and then explain that I know a little German from studying it about seven years ago. It’s fairly easy to be mistaken for English, Scottish, American or even Australian here but the fact that a German had mistaken me for a German really made my day.

I also went on some of the short walks in the vicinity of the motor camp. One evening I made up way up the Hinau walk to Whaitiri Point and the site where the Lake house Hotel used to be situated. It was a very pleasant walk along a light dappled track and some fascinating trees, including some mighty northern rata and many silver beech trees. I started up the Ngamoko track just acoss the road from where the Hinau walk ends and got some very good views of the lake from clearings in the trees.

The next day I made my way along the Black Beech walk which takes you to the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre. The Black Beech walk follows the old road which was replaced when the lake was lowered 5 metres in 1946. It was really clear that it was an old road and you could easily imagine a horse drawn cart coming round one of the many corners. The walk provided some more spectacular views of the lake and there were one or two points when I wished I hadn’t given my camera to Diarmuid for his walk.

When I reached the centre I followed the Hinerau Walk and the Aniwaniwa Falls Track which take you close to the three different waterfalls in the area which are collectively known as Aniwaniwa falls. I was able to climb down from the Hinerau walk to the rocks at the edge of the river and I scrambled over these huge boulders to get a better look at the roaring falls. The Aniwaniwa river was clearly deep and very fast flowing and it was exhilirating to clamber around and jump from rock to rock. I noticed a small beach on the other side of the river and I tried to figure out how I would get down to it. After clambering back up the slope to the track grabbing on to convenient roots and rocks I returned back to the track and then the centre. The Aniwaniwa Falls Track gives some better views from the actual viewpoints but was more difficult to climb down. I did find my way down to the beach and there was even an overhanging cliff face at the edge of the beech. I considered whether it would be suitable for camping and I think it might though DOC might frown upon that. I found a stick lying on the ground and used that to see how deep the water was, it would have reached well up to my waist and that was more than enough to keep me from even considering taking one step out in a more shallow part. Using the stick to help me back up the slippy slope I finished the walk where it reached a dead end beside the river bank. It was truly a sight to behold this huge winding river, I thought it would be fantastic for canoeing and possibly fishing if wasn’t too deep. Unfortunately, when I tested the depth right at the edge of the riverbank, it couldn’t reach the bottom and hence would at least have been up to my chest.

Speaking of fishing, I did try my hand again a couple of times but no luck, indeed I only saw one fish jump in my time at the lake and maybe one or two other rises. It was infuriating to see the hatches of flies but not a single fish was rising for them. From talking to another fisherman there, it just seemed that there was nothing happening with dry fly but that spinning out on the lake in a boat was worthwhile. This was proven to me when I saw a man come back from a day’s fishing on the lake with two fine trout in his hand. I saw him put the fish into a plastic bag in a freezer and when he actually left for home a day later, he collected two large plastic bags full of frozen fish that he’d caught.

Diarmuid back from his walk on the 9th and he had somewhere found Marcus along the way. It turns out that they’d met at the start of the track and Marcus and walked round the lake with Diarmuid. After having settled himself, Diarmuid then turned to business as he always does and got cracking on the car. He got talking to a man who worked round the motor camp and tried to jump start the car with the use of his tractor. This didn’t do a think like we had half hoped since it had worked in Rotorua, a few more attempts at trying to figure out the problem but to no avail. He told us about a local mechanic and Diarmuid rang him up. He promised to come by the next morning with a specialist electrician who happened to be visiting. Sure enough the next day around noon, the mechanic turned up with this electrician in tow. I was just about to head back to the waterfalls to take some photos when they arrived and decided to stick around. Within two minutes and about 30 seconds work, the electrician had got the motor running with a quick short tap at some part of the engine. It turned out that the brushes in the starter motor were worn and needed replacing. With the engine started, Diarmuid didn’t want to turn it off, so we quickly broke camp, packed our stuff away. (All of which had been taken out of the boot as Diarmuid wanted it empty in case the mechanics had to take the car away.) Within half an hour we were on the road and I never did get to take those photos.

A New Beginning

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

On Tuesday 29th of November, Diarmuid became the proud (if slightly cautious) owner of a 1993 Mitsubishi Galant V6. Mitsubishi Galant He was wary of the few spots of rust in out of the way places but in my opinion there was little wrong with the car seeing as it is 12 years old. Though today we did have a bit of a scare when the engine wouldn’t start. After getting a jumpstart, it’s back up and running but the battery seems to be fine, so we’re a little confused as to what happened.

We left Auckland a day later than planned, last Thursday, as I found that I needed one extra day in Auckland to get a few things done, primarily sorting out the photos that were left on my camera and packing and organising my gear. Diarmuid was a little annoyed, seeing as I had been very eager to leave Auckland, but in the end I was surprised at how quickly we were ready to leave. On the Monday that he bought the car I had been thinking that it was likely that we’d be staying for another week, but in the end it was very quick.

On Thursday we set off for Rotorua. It was a glorious day, the sun was pouring rays of heat down upon us as we travelled along the motorway and roads, listening to music. Halfway through I switched to The Beach Boys and that lasted us for most of the rest of the journey. Having got some information with regard to accomodation and activities, we stocked up on some food from the local PAK’n’SAVE and headed to Kuirau Park to have our lunch. I then started to walk around and take some pictures, but unfortunately the battery ran out after only a few pictures and I cursed myself for not having charged it in Auckland before we left as I continued to walk around the impressive steaming pools and the pits of bubbling mud. Which brings me to perhaps the most noticeable thing about Rotorua which is the smell. Depending on how close you are to the geothermal areas you get the constant stench of sulphur and other foul smelling chemicals. Admittedly it is quite bearable most of the time but occasionally a strong whiff of rotton eggs is carried by the wind and I find myself gagging when this happens. Diarmuid claims that it smells no worse than Dublin, I beg to disagree.

Having walked around and enjoyed the sights of Kairau park, we left for the Waiteti Trout Stream Holiday Park whose brochure had grabbed my attention with a trout prominent in its logo. We soon settled in and I quickly did a reconnaissance of the river after talking to the owner who said that several trout had been caught and that a particularily large one had been seen. I didn’t catch a glimpse of a fish, but I did get the feeling that there was plenty of fish in the river and there were plenty of places for them to hide. The river leads down to Lake Rotorua and I sat there for a while. On the way down we had passed a group of local children who were playing and jumping in the river and their whoops and the splashes as they jumped into the river could be heard clearly. All in all, the place struck me as a very pleasant sort of area to live.

Back to the site and a quick lookover of the facilities and then we proceeded to put up our tent. I went for another walk along the river and read some of “All Creatures Great and Small” down by the lake. As I was sitting there a small rowboat with the couple who were camping beside us went by and out on to the lake. They had a few fishing rods with them. I returned to the campsite again and got my own rod out to try casting. My first few attempts were woeful but I quickly improved to at least something passable as a cast. I didn’t see anything let alone catch something. The couple arrived back a little after I did, but their trip had been much more profitable, they had caught two fish. The husband had caught a small trout, which at home would have been a reasonable result of a days fishing but his wife had caught a monster of a trout, as big as a salmon. Talking to them, it turned out that they were from Dublin and Wicklow respectively. The husband, Ben was a keen fisherman back home and was sorely missing his fishing rod which he’d been unable to take with him on his travels so far but was hoping to get at least his fishing vest taken over for him by a friend at Christmas.

After I’d finished my dinner, I had a chat with Ben about fishing as he was filleting the small trout, the big one was already being smoked. With such trout obviously being around I went for another walk down the river, but still not a sign. I knew they were there but just couldn’t see them and they were no rises. I turned back a little downhearted when I heard a plop. I stopped and looked back trying to find the telltale rings. I couldn’t so I turned to leave, “Plop,” I heard it again and turned around, then again “Plop.” I had caught that one but couldn’t believe my eyes, it was one of the smallest fish I’d ever seen jump. I wasn’t even sure if it was a fish, but again and again the little fish jumped and fell back again into the river. I crouched, gazing in wonder at it for about five minutes and then turned back to the site. Diarmuid met me on the way and as we had just reached the boundary of the campsite, I heard what sounded like a rise and Diarmuid had seen it. I heard another rise to my right and then another to my left. That was enough, I went back to the campsite and got my rod and spent a few minutes casting a nymph, but the fish didn’t show any more interest and I didn’t hear or see another thing.

I made my way to the kitchen where I met Ben and his wife Jenny again. They invited me to sit down and try some of the smoked trout which was just about ready. With a glass of wine, a slice of tomato, I ate some small pieces of the trout. It was delicious, the smoking had added a rich taste to the fish which was quite unlike anything else I’ve eaten. Diarmuid joined us at the table and he too tried some of the fish. We spent the next couple of hours talking about fishing, films, home and travelling. Midnight wasn’t long in coming and by that stage Ben and myself had both comitted ourselves to getting up at 05:30 the next morning to do some fishing. Ben had been invited by the handyman on the campsite to come do some fishing with him and I was welcome to join them, but figured I’d be better just having a go on the river.

I eventually went to sleep, but woke a couple of times most noticeably at 04:30 when I heard an unearthly scream from some animal or bird. I fell asleep again only to be wakened by my alarm at 05:30. I quickly turned it off and considered my options, whether to get up and go fishing or just go back to sleep. I almost went back to sleep but forced myself out of the tent. Ben was up a minute or two later and then his guide arrived. He set Ben’s rod up and added a large fly, followed by a smaller fly below that one. The larger one looked big. Then then went off in the handyman’s car and I started down the river looking for any scene of a rising trout. There were none. When I made it to the mouth of the river, I met another fisherman who appeared to be a local. There had been no activity for him either and though he had floated a fly twice over the same trout, he said it hadn’t moved, that it was in a coma. “It’s too cold but when it warms up, it should send the trout in from the lake.” I thanked him for his advice as he left for home to get a mug of coffee. I returned back to my tent and went back to sleep, an hour had been enough for me and I was very tired.

A couple of hours later, I got back home. Ben had arrived back and though he’d seen plenty of trout, he hadn’t caught anything. They left that morning and I occasionally kept an eye on the river but the only thing breaking the water’s surface were the many ducks entering and leaving the water. At first at each sound, I would raise my head, but I soon realised that it was only the ducks.

I spent the rest of the day reading “All Creatures Great and Small,” which I finished yesterday and then proceeded to continue with “Oliver Twist. ” Fly fishing is a bit doubtful at the moment on the river and dry flies seem hopeless as the trout don’t appear to be feeding at the surface which is infuriating as there’s plenty of flies around. Still the weather has been very good with the sun beating down. My arms got burned the day before yesterday but that should hopefully even out the colour on my hands. Tomorrow (ie. Monday), we’re leaving here and heading for Lake Waikaremoana where Diarmuid is going on a four day hike. I’m going to go fishing and hopefully even catch something. Right now, things appear to be going well and the start of this new plan has been quite enjoyable for me.

A Lesson in Humility – Reaching Te Paki Stream

Friday, November 18th, 2005

I hadn’t slept well, mostly due to the fact that my Therm-a-Rest needed fixing. Diarmuid’s alarm went off and I eventually sat up. I didn’t feel like eating anything, my mouth was too dry but I ate a couple of the gelatine sweets. I got up and went for a walk outside, I headed down to the beach to see how the day was looking. There was a cool sky and as I was standing there I could see that the sun was rising in the sky as the shadow from the ridge behind us receded.

I headed back to the tent where Diarmuid had started to pack up his gear. I let him get on with it and when he had most of his stuff put away, he said right we’ll drop the tent now. I looked at him. All his stuff was still inside and I hadn’t even put anything of mine away. “You haven’t finished packing your gear away?” “I’ve done as much as I can until the tent comes down. We’ll take it down and then carry it over to the side.” “Ok,” I said, too tired to argue, “just let me put some of my stuff away first, give me a few minutes.” I went in and stuffed my sleeping bag away followed by most of the rest of my gear which I then proceeded to pull outside. Once I had all my equipment out, we took the tent down and I started to try and roll it up so it would fit nicely into my bag again. Diarmuid finished packing his bag. The tent didn’t fit into my pack like it had before! It’s a guaranteed rule that no matter how well you pack your bag before the trip, it’ll never pack the same way when you’re on the trail. Frustrated as I knew it was going to happen, I unrolled the tent and tried again. It still wasn’t as snug as it had been and was a little higher than I wanted it to be. It would have to do as I tried pushing it further down the pack.

By now our two neighbours were also up and about and were packing their own things away. Their lightweight tent was proving much more amenable, just being stuffed into a bag. I eyed it with dislike. I’m not a huge fan of modern tents, with one or two exceptions. I like old style tents, Icelandics, Baker tents, real tents made out of canvas. In Moskoselk√ɬ•tan’s Tapp Varrie, I had found the perfect melding of modern tent design and old traditions. I love my tent, but that morning, I would have given anything to have been able to have just stuffed a lightweight flysheet into my bag instead of the canvas monster that I now had to carry.

Once our bags were packed we set off. Our two neighbours would soon be following us, but I hoped to try and get some distance ahead of them before they would inevitably over take us. I was thirsty. I’d had a mouthful of water for breakfast, knowing that I would have to ration the little water I had left strictly. All my hope was bent on the fact that one of the blue lines on the map would prove true and we would find some water on Scott point. I was doubtful but I needed the hope. The first five minutes were very tough as the muscles in my legs woke up to the fact that they would be doing more walking today, they started to scream at me and I thought I would have to stop. That scared the hell out of me, but I pushed off and they soon settled down. The landscape however didn’t, it would continue to rise and fall as we crossed Scott point. We had barely gotten to the top of the rise, in front of which we had camped, when I could see that the two camels (I still can’t understand how they got by with so little water) were coming up behind us, fast. As he passed me, one of them said “Incredible heat in the sun and it’s only up!” I could only pant, “Yeah.” Then they were gone. They went over the rise and were soon far ahead of us.

The sweat was dripping off me and I would every now and then take a mouthful of water, this would normally happen just after we’d reached the top of a steep slope. It was like that, steep slope upwards, followed by slightly less steep slope downwards. Up and down. Up and down. I was constantly looking for water but saw none. I took it one slope at a time, saying to myself, you just have to get to the top of this one, then you can take a rest and after that you can tackle the next one.

About half an hour or 45 minutes into the walk, we came across mud along the side of the track, I figured that this was probably one of the blue lines marked on the map. Diarmuid turned around a minute later and said exactly what I’d been thinking. By now I’d lost hope for any water on top of Scott point, it was now focused on the start of 90 mile beach, where I had always been slightly more hopeful that a stream would be. But really, I was pretty sure that Te Paki stream was our only real hope for water and I was worried that even there, we might it dried up. Diarmuid by now was convinced that we wouldn’t find water until Te Paki stream.

My water was gone. I’d drunk it all. In little mouthfuls, my water was gone and I’d stopped sweating. I’d noticed this phenomenon, when I’d still had a little water. I’d be sweating profusely, drops rolling down my eyebrows and into my eyes, then it’d stop. I’d have a mouthful of water and it would start again for a short while. This wasn’t good. Then my mouth started to really dry out and I could feel my lips starting to cake. My tongue was still ok, dry and sticking to the top of my mouth but not as dry as my lips. As I smacked my lips, I could taste salt. I presumed it was from my sweat. As we continued on and I became thirstier and thirstier I considered drinking some of my sweat but figured that wouldn’t be a good idea. The idea of a perpetual cycle of me sweating, then drinking my sweat, then sweating it out again and continuing came to my mind. I continued on. I realised that I had truly never known thirst before. Never! I started to understood those scenes in the movies where you see people trudging along, dying of thirst, smacing their lips. I was doing the exact same thing. At the same time, I thought that I hadn’t really reached the level of thirst that you could reach, that I was only entering the realms of thirst and it scared me. All I thought about was water. I thought of “Main characters of Ice-Cold in AlexIce-Cold in Alex” and promised myself that if I got out of this alive, I’d get myself to a pub that night and order a nice cold beer. I figured that in between that time I’d have time to hydrate myself with water before I had the beer.

We trudged on, every so often we’d take a break. I’d normally drop my bag and just sit, trying to keep out of the sun and not get burnt. I looked around me and saw the scenery, thinking it was really beautiful but not really caring. When I saw greenery, I’d just think, there must be water there, how could it be so green unless there was water there. How can I get at the water that must be there. By now I’d even given up trying to suck any moisture out of my long empty platypus. I did find some relief by sucking cool air into my mouth, but it was shortlived. Diarmuid’s water was starting to run out by now, he was getting air bubbles in his platypus, a sure sign that he was on his last dregs. We didn’t talk much, we just walked and I dreamt of water.

I thought my platypus probably wasn’t completly empty, that there was proabably a few drops of water left in it, but I resolutely refused to open my bag and drink them. I knew that if there was no stream at the beach, I would be able to reward myself with them there. That was my major motivation to get to the beach, so I could open my bag and taste those few drops of water from my long empty platypus. I was still carrying the empty plastic bottle of water from the day before. I may be thirsty beyond belief but I wasn’t going to leave any rubbish behind. I could see the water vapour around the edge of the inside of the bottle and thought that if I put the bottle in the sea, it would cool down and form some water droplets which I could drink. Water! Water! Constantly thinking of water and how I was going to continue until I could get some.

Eventually we came to the steps leading down to the beach. They were steep and we were both lagging. I took the lead for a change and started down the steps, in the distance on the beach I saw the two camels walking off. I hadn’t the heart to curse them, but I did wish they’d offered me half a litre before they left. I knew it was ridiculous of me to think that they should have because it would endanger their own plans, but I entertained the idea that if our fortunes had been reversed I would have offered some water. I never once even dreamt of asking them for some purely because I didn’t want to endanger their plans, this was my own fault that I was without water and I would have to deal with.

We reached the bottom of the steps and we crossed a boardwalk over swamp. Through the boards I saw the blue line from the map, it was mud. “There’s the stream” I said to Diarmuid. “Where?” “Between the boards.” I continued on, not stopping to see if Diarmuid understood what I was saying. As we got to the beach, we dropped our bags. I walked down to the water and walked back looking everywhere for some sign of a stream or anything coming down from the ridges around us. There was nothing. Diarmuid went to cool his feet in the sea. He came back and said he was going to wear his sandals. I wasn’t convinced it was a good idea. I mentioned sunburn to him but he said that’s what sunscreen was for. I left him to it, figured he knew what was best for him. As far as I was concerned the best protection was staying covered and I had put sunscreen on the parts that I couldn’t cover, mainly my hands. The day before, my right hand had gotten very burnt. It looked really bad but wasn’t painful, but I didn’t want it getting any worse. The funny thing about it was that half my hand had been covered by the cuff of my shirt so only half of the back of my hand had been burned. The hairs on that part of the skin had also been completely bleached of colour. As I look at my hand now, the colour has returned to the hairs and half of my hand has quite a good tan.

I threw my bag on my back and turned to see Diarmuid wasn’t ready. I decided I’d continue on. He said he had to figure out what he was going to do with his bags but I could go on if I wanted. I said, that “Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.” I started off on my own. The tide was on its way out and the hardness of the sand depended on how long it had had to dry out in the sun. I stuck to the most concrete like sand that I could. I struggled on, my eyes peeled for any sign of a stream. I felt better on my own, just trudging along. I don’t know why, it just felt good to keep on walking. I continued on this way for a while, at one stage looking back to see if Diarmuid had started. He was quite small in the distance but had started. I kept on walking.

Then suddenly, I saw a darkness in the sand ahead. It was wet sand and was too far away from the tideline to be a remnant of high tide. Hope grew. It was only wet sand, but were there was wet sand like that, there had to be a stream. As I got closer, I could see that it was shaped like a stream. I eyed a spot where I could drop my bag close by. As I stepped closer and closer though I started to see that there was no bubbling stream hidden from view. I dropped my bag at the spot and walked along the stretch of wet sand and saw no source of it, the sand dried up and became part of the sand bank running along the stretch of the beach, huge sand dunes behind the bank.

Still, this was the first possible source of water that I’d seen since that morning and at this stage I didn’t give two damns about anything that might be in the water or how small a trickle it was. All I cared about was that these few puddles had water that I could drink. Tentatively I dipped my index and third finger of my right hand into one of the bigger puddles and put them to my lips. It was sweet! Or at least I thought so. I was afraid that in my hope and desire to find water that it was truly saltwater and that I hadn’t really found water I could drink. I tried again, this time scooping up a little. It was sweet!! I cupped my hands and scooped some water out and drank it. Instant relief! But I couldn’t really get that much water in this way. I quickly thought of my hankerchief and dipped it into the water, sucking it, not caring about the few grains of sand. My mouth was quickly quenched as the dryness was banished. I needed more, but the hankerchief was picking up more sand. I thought that if I soaked one side, I could suck the water but not the sand from the other side. A brilliant idea. I was instantly able to get much more water out of the piece of cloth. As I did this for the third time, Diarmuid arrived.

As soon as he arrived, I thought of the shovel in his bang. “Hand me the shovel in your bag, please!” I explained that if I dug a hole the water would fill up the hole. All those bits and pieces from Ray Mears books and TV programmes was paying off! He started to dig a hole. I quickly took it from him and scooped out several loads until I had a nice hole, I had dug down to where the sand was runny and it was starting to pour back in out itself. I ran to my bag to get my cup and bowl. I felt alive! I felt excited and overjoyed! I felt in my element! I came back with cup and bowl to find the hole as expected was filling up with most beautiful water I had ever seen. I filled the bowl and gave it to Diarmuid then filled my cup and drank it. It was beautiful, it was pure (apart from the sand which gritted against my teeth), it was without doubt the best water I had ever drunk! I drank another cup! My morale had been instantly lifted. I knew I’d get to Te Paki stream. I had been fading fast before I found this underground stream and wasn’t sure if I’d reach Te Paki with the bag on my back but now I knew I’d get there!

To help filter out the sand, I laid my hankerchief in the hole that looked like a pothole in the sand and scooped the water out with the bowl and mug. It worked reasonably well and Diarmuid had some more. I had lots! We took a little break and I filled my water bottle. Diarmuid didn’t want any, but I wasn’t going anywhere unless I had a litre of water with me. We continued on again. I hoped Te Paki wasn’t too far away, but didn’t really mind. I’d found water! I wasn’t going to expire or be unable to get Te Paki! I had found water!

We walked on, the sun still beating down on us. I was no longer thirsty and I’d started to sweat again, but I was feeling tired. I just wanted to get to Te Paki stream so I could drop my bag and wait for the buses and get a lift out of there! Up ahead we saw two dots and thought it was our two friends from the night before but couldn’t understand how they were so close. Maybe they’d stopped at Te Paki stream I reasoned but as they got bigger I realised they must be other walkers. Diarmuid came to the same conclusion and said to me, “I think a little friendly warning is in order.” I nodded. Honestly, I didn’t think a warning was warranted, for starters because I didn’t want to demoralise anybody with the idea that the way ahead was tough and that they better have water. Secondly, I thought that they probably didn’t need the warning and probably had plenty of water. It was a man and a woman, I can’t remember if I recognised their accents but I could see from the get up that they’d be fine. I think they were from North America. Both had reasonably sized packs and a pair of walking sticks. Diarmuid gave them his friendly warning, they smiled and said they’d be fine and had some water. They weren’t very conversational and soon walked on. They were less than 20ft away when I remembered that I had wanted to ask them how far it was to Te Paki stream. “Hey.” I shouted. “Hey!” They either didn’t hear me or weren’t going to turn round, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and gave up. It was probably better I didn’t know how far away it was I reasoned.

We continued on and while it wasn’t as bad as earlier in the day, there was no inclines to worry about and I had water, I was getting more tired and could feel myself lagging, but I kept the pace and kept going. Eventually I saw a glimmer up ahead and after the many false hopes that I’d had over the previous twenty minutes, I saw Te Paki stream up ahead. When we eventually reached it, I rejoiced in the fact that it was a stream! An honest to God stream! You had to walk across it, you couldn’t just step across it, you didn’t have to dig for it, it was just there, bubbling by with actual currents and eddies! A real stream! I dropped my bag at what I figured was a reasonable spot, beside the stream, the bank of sand providing some shelter from the sun and a good view if any buses should pass by. I filled my cup with water and drank it. It felt great! I’d pushed on further than I’d thought possible at times and reached Te Paki stream. We’d be fine now.

Diarmuid walked upstream a little and came back. He said he’d found where the buses came onto the beach, it was about 50ft away and he wanted to move over to there. I said “Fine, go ahead, but I’m not moving now.” He got his bag and walked over to the spot he’d picked. I thought I’d go over in a few minutes, talking my gear over in two trips. I didn’t like where he’d picked though, it provided no shelter and I had no intention of sitting there. He came back over and asked for the camera, he went off and took some pictures. I took my fishing rod and other loose gear over to his bag, where he was standing. In the distance two more people were coming. He said, he’d give them the same warning he’d given the other two walkers. Again, I didn’t care. There was no real harm in it I supposed. I went back to get my bag. As I was making my way across, Diarmuid met the two women. They didn’t have any packs with them I noticed.

I walked over and let Diarmuid do all the talking. Diarmuid had explained our story to them and what our plans were, they offered to give us a lift. Diarmuid asked if they were going as far as Kaitaia. “Yeah, we’re going further south.” I instantly picked up on that, but left it alone for the time being. I remember Diarmuid saying a few times “I think we might just take you up on that offer.” I didn’t want to do any more walking, they explained that their car was back at a carpark about 40 minutes away. I presumed the car park was at the end of the road further upstream. On the otherhand I realised that it’d be foolish of us not to take them up on their offer. So we grabbed our bags and started off. I went back for my bag and started ahead of Diarmuid, by not moving I had a little headstart over Diarmuid. The two women continued on to the beach where they were going to spend a few minutes before heading back. Knowing that we would be slow, we made the most of the headstart that they gave us.

Again I was walking, I couldn’t believe it. I was sure I’d been finished at Te Paki stream but I was still going on. Te Paki stream was interesting, the riverbed was often red and the water appeared to becoming from swampland at times and there was stains of what looked like iron at times. I took all this in, but didn’t care, when I needed a drink, I’d scoop some out of the stream and drink it down. We continued on, as I went round each bend, I hoped it would be the last but it wasn’t. Again I was in the lead with Diarmuid a little way behind me. Shortly before the end, the two women had caught up with us and over took us as we took a breather. One of them shouted over at us, that maybe it was a long 40 minutes and the other said they’d wait for us. We got up and trudged on. Occasionally I’d look up at our two rescuers up ahead. At last one of them turned round and shouted, “It’s just here” making a hand gesture in the direction of the car park. I threw my bag down beside their “old” Toyota Corolla. We had made it.

It was around 14:00, only 24 hours earlier we had set off on what I had thought would be at least a four days journey and had expected it to be adventurous. I’d had an adventure alright and I’d had enough adventure for the time being. I had gone further than I thought possible, pushing through barrier after barrier! I’d found water where others would have found none! I had experienced the most difficult walk that I’d ever been on. But what I really took from our two days walking from Cape Reinga to Te Paki stream was a lesson in humility. I understood the importance of water, something that had never occurred to me before. I understood the power of the sun and how merciless it could be. I had been humbled by nature and I vowed never to forget the lesson!