Cape Reinga to Twilight Beach

As the bus pulled into the car park, the sign proclaimed that we had reached Cape Reinga and that as it was a sacred place to the Maori, that food and drink was not to be consumed past that point. I filed this nugget away, saying to myself, must remember that and not drink anything until I had left. Cape Reinga is where the Maori believe their spirits depart from this world to the afterlife in Hawaiiki, through the roots of the pohutukawa tree.

Cape Reinga was a beginning, not an ending for me though. It was to be the beginning of a 1500 mile journey on foot from this, the northernmost point of New Zealand to Bluff in the South Island, possibly taking in Stewart Island. In truth at this stage, given recent events on Great Barrier Island, I wasn’t too sure that it was feasible, but I was determined to make it as far as Ahipara, which was approximately 75 miles away. Having completed that phase, I would reevaluate the situation and see if I wanted to continue on.

Back on the bus, Diarmuid and myself grabbed our gear, stuffed behind the last seat and I thanked the driver, Kingy Thomas, for the lunches kindly provided by the tour company. It was a glorious day with barely a wisp of cloud in the sky, its perfect azure joining with the deep blues of the Tasman Sea on my left and the great Pacific on my right. We sat down and started to eat the lunches not having eaten for a few hours. Almost finished my sandwich, I remembered the sign. Quickly I explained to Diarmuid about the notice, finished my sandwich and left the muffin for later. Diarmuid then went off to the lighthouse to take some photos while I finished writing some postcards. By the time I was finished Diarmuid had returned and after posting the postcards in the nearby postbox, it was time to be starting.

Diarmuid wanted to start from the carpark down the track, but I said if we were going to do this, we’d better do it right and start from the lighthouse. So we made our way down to the lighthouse and got the obligatory photos taken. At 13:55 we set off. On our way back up from the lighthouse, Diarmuid thought he had lost his watch so went back to were we had been sitting. He found it in his wallet. His wallet being in his pocket. We started down the track to Werahi beach.

The track was well laid out with a well defined and well trodden path down to Werahi beach. Going up and down through bush with the odd thick stemmed flower going across the path which Diarmuid wouldn’t warn me about as he pushed through it to come flying back into my face. We made it down to Werahi beach in good time where we took a short break, I went and washed my hands in the sea and tested out the sand. Thankfully it was good and firm so would be easier to walk in with the packs.

We continued on to the other end of the beach occasionally seeing some other walkers on their way back from their short walk from Cape Reinga. There is a strong stream at the end of Werahi beach where the next headland begins. After I tasted the water to make sure it wasn’t salty, I filled up my 750ml bottle which I’d emptied in the course of the day. After this short rest we continued on. I was eyeing the coming sand dune with doubt and intrepedation. Dunes are something that I’ve never really encountered before though I had heard that they were quite difficult to climb as the sand sinks beneath your feet. In short it looked big and difficult. We made our way into this alien terrain with its red stone that reminded me more of Mars than anything else. The sun continued to beat down on us, adding to the sensation of being on a foreign planet.

Around this time as I stopped for a breather, Diarmuid met Marcus (from Germany) who was coming behind us. He had left his car in Cape Reinga and planned to walk to Twilight beach and then from there back via the road to his car. He had loaded himself up with about six litres of water as he figured it was better to be safe than sorry. He was carrying about a 15kg pack and was a little aghast when I told him that I was probably carrying something in the region of 25kg.

He joined our little group and we continued on, soon leaving the sand dunes behind us and entering into scrubland once more. The track continued to go up and down in a most disheartening way and as the sweat continued to pour from me under the gaze of the glaring sun, I continued to drink from my water bottle and when that had emptied from my platypus. At one of our restpoints, two more trampers reached us. They were planning to go to Twilight beach and probably onwards, depending on water. I took out the map and pointed out several thin blue lines saying that they should be alright. Water was beginning to enter my mind as well, though I figured it would be fine. There were all those blue lines and the water would only need boiling to be safe. Around 17:00 we reached the start of Twilight beach and shook hands with Marcus who headed towards the road.

By this time, I would have been very happy to have stopped for the day and made camp but that required a water supply. The map said there was a stream at each end of Twilight beach, so I looking. I found it, just about. It was a trickle and awkward to get at. A quick taste of it didn’t greatly enhance my opinion of it and I said to Diarmuid that we should continue on to the other end of the beach and try our luck there. On we went, trudging through the sand. Water was now seriously on my mind and my eyes were constantly peeled for a glimpse of any stream. I was also beginning to tire and towards the end when Diarmuid was talking about continuing on to Te Paki Stream that evening, I knew that that was madness as far as I was concerned. I had done enough walking for the day and come what may, I was going no further.

As it turns out there was two streams at the end of the beach. Unfortunately, they were barely even a trickle and didn’t look as good as the stream at the other end of the beach in the distance. We then met the two guys who had passed us earlier and had disappeared out of view a few minutes beforehand. They had made camp behind a small ridge of sand and scrub and after quickly surveying the area, we agreed that it was a better area than what we had been previously considering. We discussed the problem of water with them, they had taken three litres with them each, one litre per day. I had already consumed almost two litres that day and wondered how they could get by with so little, especially since they were cooking noodles for dinner. Between them and Diarmuid going on about the stream not being safe, I decided not to boil it and then drink it. That I would have to do with what water I had left, a little under 300ml I guessed and make it to Te Paki stream the next day. I hoped fervently that we would come across another water supply before then and there were a couple of blue lines which I still had high hopes for. Diarmuid didn’t believe in the lines at all by now.

We put the tent and Diarmuid made himself comfortable. Dinner was next on the agenda. It was a cold affair of cheese, crackers and some gelatine sweets for me, thought Diarmuid ate some of the salami as well. A quick glance of the ingredients, the second greatest one of which was salt put me off eating any, for fear it would make me any more thirsty. The gelatine sweets helped a little though.

After dinner, I went outside to have a look around. I was struck by lonely a place it was. There was only the four of us, for miles around. It was a bleak but beautiful place. A faint mist was forming over the waves hitting the rocks of Cape Maria van Dieman. I noticed the tide was coming in and wondered how far up the beach it would reach. I returned to the tent, tired, thirsty and realising that Ahipara was a bridge too far, that I would only be going as far as Te Paki stream.

I lay on my sleeping bag thinking over this and thinking that maybe we could reach Ahipara, that perhaps it wasn’t too far. I didn’t want the journey to end so soon. The facts of our situation couldn’t be denied though. Our water had almost run out, I had a little under 300ml and Diarmuid had maybe half a litre. We hadn’t made a lot of headway and our pace had been quite slow for a first day. I knew that we wouldn’t be making Ahipara in the three or four days that I had originally estimated. We would be too slow, perhaps taking five or six days I thought at the time. Water would be a continuous problem and I knew that there wasn’t that many good water supplies past Te Paki stream all the way to Ahipara. We would have to take the exit at Te Paki stream and catch a ride with one of the many tour buses that drive down 90-mile beach. I wasn’t encouraged by the fact that we didn’t have any method of contacting anybody if anything went wrong or to try and get in touch with the bus company beforehand. I finally realised how badly organised we were in some ways and that I wouldn’t be seeing Ahipara. If I didn’t get to Ahipara, I knew Te Araroa would be over for me.

Feeling quite down, I turned on my MP3 player and listened to The Goon Show which cheered me up before I went to sleep listening to the roaring of the waves on the beach.

One Response to “Cape Reinga to Twilight Beach”

  1. Aisling Mathews Says:

    I still think of you boldly filing away a chicken nugget in that first paragraph 🙂

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