Our Te Araroa hike continues along Northland’s eastern coastline, crossing countless beaches and estuaries.
Check out my latest video from the trail as we cross estuary after estuary!
DAY 12 – Whananaki to Pataua
For the first time on the trail, I woke up and my tent was dry; there was no condensation. Victory! As I lay there rubbing my eyes, it started to rain. It was going to be one of those days, huh?
Tom, John, and I set out in the rain on the Whananaki Coastal Walk as it wound around the hillsides that dropped to the sea. A farmer and two dogs were driving cattle down the farm track which was also the trail. It was fun to watch. We eventually caught up and even helped the farmer out, blocking the cows from walking back the way they came.
It was a steady rain which made for a miserable time if it weren’t for the views. We stopped in a tiny town briefly for a mince pie for breakfast. Eventually we returned to the forest for some ridiculously steep climbs up and down as the rain began to wane.
Soon we arrived in the town of Ngunguru. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. We were joined by our hiker friends, Matt, Zilla, Alex, and Michael. I bought some cheese and tortillas for the next few days and a burger for lunch. Our next obstacle was to cross an estuary but the man with the boat couldn’t help us until 5pm. It was only 1:30pm.
Michael waded into the water to see how deep it was before deciding against that plan. Then Tom and Michael went asking around and found a local man who agreed to take us across in his boat for $10 each. Whew, that saved us a lot of waiting around.
Across the estuary we quickly climbed into forest on Maori land. We had to pay a $5 fee per person to cross the land as our guidebook said, though first the gatekeeper mistakenly tried to charge us $25. Mistake?
After some tiring ups and downs, we arrived at another estuary. This one we did have to cross on foot. It was just after low tide so our timing was perfect. Into the water we went. It was rather refreshing.
Across the other side we walked through some muck and mangroves before emerging on the road. From here it was an easy road walk to Pataua.
Our day was coming to and end and we weren’t quite sure whether to press on or find a place to camp. Tom and I let the others go on ahead as we took a rest. At last we crossed the footbridge into Pataua where the first house after the bridge had invited all seven of us to camp on their lawn!
The Kiwi couple were so generous, letting us take fresh food from their garden and helping us out in small ways. They had an outdoor shower on the side of their garage; the hot water felt amazing and the neighbors walking by got a free show.
We had dinner together and watched the sunset. It was a truly magical spot. We’ve been so lucky thus far with trail magic and local folk being so helpful and generous.
As I write this I ought to be in bed. We have another estuary crossing in the morning that is said to be deep. Low tide is at 3:45am and so we planned to get up at 4am to get going before we miss our window (2 hours either side of low tide). I also think I might be developing small blisters. Hopefully they’ll callous up. I’ve been lucky this far.
Day’s Distance: 35.5km (22.1mi)
Total Distance: 352.5km (219.1mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,644.5km
DAY 13 – Pataua to Ruakaka
My alarm went off at 4am. I was ready to go in 30 minutes. John, Tom, and I set off into the darkness with only the moonlight to light the way. It was eerie being out so early.
After a few kilometers we reached the estuary and began walking along its shore. It was wet and sometimes mushy ground but we made do. Eventually we reached our crossing point and waded into the dark water. It was only ankle deep. Maybe we hadn’t needed to get up so early.
With soggy socks we marched through farmland on the other side of the estuary. The sun was just coming up.
John pulled ahead and that was the last we saw of him for the day. Tom and I climbed up steep roads with gorgeous views of the ocean below.
Eventually we followed a pleasant track through the forest and then came down onto a farm road. We followed this until we reached the creatively-named Ocean Beach.
The beach was stunning but it brought back memories of Ninety Mile Beach. The sand here was softer and slowed us a bit. It was at least seven kilometers of beach walking.
The peak of Bream Head loomed closer as we walked. A few rain clouds passed over but we had full sun when we arrived at the mountain’s base.
It was a strenuous but rewarding climb with heaps of stunning views. We stopped for lunch of cheese filled-tortillas at the old remains of a World War II radar station. We also performed our daily ritual of laying out our wet tents to dry the sun.
Then we entered the jungle and the climb became even more difficult. At last we emerged at the summit, a precarious rock formation.
From there we had a steep descent with another mountain to climb. Fortunately/unfortunately, the next mountain was closed for the day as they were performing trail maintenance and having helicopters dropping supplies for the task. We heard them buzzing all afternoon.
And so we were diverted down the mountain and of course onto a road. We walked five kilometers to rejoin the trail which at this point was also road. In the hot sun we trudged on for almost ten kilometers of road. It was dangerous with winding roads with no shoulder and heaps of blind turns.
At last we reached Reotahi Bay. Now we just needed to reach the other side. Luckily there was a water taxi available and we were quickly ferried over to Marsden Point. By now we were both exhausted. We had a rest and dried our feet that were still damp from the morning. Tom and I were in rough shape. It had been a huge day and we weren’t finished.
I switched to sandals and we both hit the beach. We crossed under the oil refinery pipes and followed the beach for a desolate seven kilometers. I could barely walk by the end. I definitely had blisters at this point.
But we had reached a town, albeit small. However, the only motel was closed or converted to long-term rentals it seemed. We had no idea where we were going to stay. We headed to some shops to cheer ourselves and I had a kebab for dinner. We’d been in the sun all day and were wiped.
As we left the shop a woman approached us. She knew we were hikers and offered us a lift down the road to the holiday park where we could camp. We were so grateful. Once there the camp gave us a discount for being hikers and free shower tokens! How this day was full of ups and downs, physically, geographically, and mentally!
Day’s Distance: 42.5km (26.4mi)
Total Distance: 395km (245.6mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,602km
DAY 14 – Ruakaka to Waipu Beach
I slept in a bit before I left Tom and headed into town. I needed to go the pharmacy because my allergies were killing me. I had discovered the previous summer living in New Zealand that my allergies go crazy here in the spring. The pharmacy didn’t open until 9am so Tom headed off without me and I hitched to the store.
After running my errand and getting some groceries, I stopped at a bakery for a breakfast of a chicken kebab, pig in a blanket, and a donut. Then I hitched back to the beach to hike after Tom.
It was an easy hike along the water. Not too hot. I plodded along until the the trail left the beach and headed to the road. I walked at least five kilometers of road before the town of Waipu. Here I met up with Tom and John. Turns out Tom caught up with John on the beach. I enjoyed a breakfast sandwich at a cafe before the three of us left town.
More road walking and then a steep climb up a logging road. We got some great views of the ocean but my allergies were horrible. My nose was a running faucet.
We left the logging road and headed up a mountain. By 4:30pm we were sweaty and had found a nice summit with a view. John continued on without us as Tom and I made camp. I was getting blisters and my allergies were wiping me out. I needed an easy rest.
We lazed around as the sun stayed high and had dinner of wraps: cheese wraps, and peanut butter and Nutella wraps. The view was amazing. And later the stars were as well. Curious/invasive possums investigated our camp that night.
Day’s Distance: 26.5km (16.5mi)
Total Distance: 421.5km (262mi)
Distance Remaining: 2,575.5km
This country song seems fitting considering how much time we spend on the beach!
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