Cape Reinga to Ahipara
Today I had bacon and eggs.
Four eggs and an entire packet of bacon. Something to do with an extraordinary craving for protein. Nutella and peanut butter get you so far, but protein helps with muscle recovery and I sorely require just that. I am also halfway through a six pack of beer (Sleights Gold Medal).
The past three and a half days have been great. So far, it seems, the plan of not having much of a plan has worked out pretty well.
On Saturday, November 1, I shared a ride to Cape Reinga with a French woman by the name of Marylene, who is also doing this trek. She and I headed off under a picture perfect blue sky for the first day (12 km) mostly independent of one another but found times to chat at rest points on the way as well as at the campsite at Twilight Beach. There we were joined by Jorg from Germany who is also in for the long haul and started a couple of hours behind us. After watching the sun set over the Tasman sea, I was quick to sleep in my tent only waking at 3 am to step outside and see the Austral sky in full, cloudless glory. A carpet of stars laid out before me. An awe inspiring moment reminiscent of a past camping trip in South America, but more spectacular when appreciated a second time. A perfect end to a picture perfect day.
The following two days were all about beach on the right and sand dunes in the left.
Setting out early on the morning of November 2, I followed behind Marylene and Jorg at my own pace, coming upon 90 Mile Beach after a 2 hr early climb and descending wooden steps. The beach is deceptively challenging owing to the constant wind, sand blown into shoes, creek crossings that threaten to get feet wet, and surges in the surf that risk the same. My preoccupation has been keeping my toes dry to fend off blisters.
Speaking of ailments, my peroneal tendinitis (the product of an ankle sprain in the months leading up to this trip) has abated. Only to be replaced by a rotating list of aches and pains in knees, hips, shoulders, back and feet. The good part is that none of these pains are chronic, they function as a relay such that the pain from the morning leaves and is replaced by a new ailment in the afternoon etc. My hypothesis is that this is conditioning and that over the coming days my body will adapt to new strains.
So, back to November 2: This day ended at The Bluff (27 km hiking) where Marylene, Jorg and myself set camp again and had an early bedtime. I woke up early on November 3, at 3:45 am and considering that rain was in the forecast I made a choice to break camp and start walking early, heading out by 5 am in pitch blackness, seeing glimpses of the sea in my headlamp for the first 90 minutes. This was a very immersive and surreal experience. Being mindful of what I could see but also what I could not. Special feeling.
This feeling was shortly interrupted by the heaviest, thickest, windiest, torrent of rain I have experienced in my life. Like having a bucket dumped upon you for 2 hours straight. Not warm tropical rain. Rather, cold antarctic air squeezing the water from tropical breezes and drenching everything in its wake. My shoes were immediately soaked (so much for dry feet) not to mention my shorts and legs. My head and torso were covered in Gortex and remained cosy but this did little to alleviate the numbing pain emerging in my feet.
I continued on, and on, and on, replenished by a blend of nutella, cocoa, instant coffee and Edam cheese to charge through 11 hours and 47 km before arriving in Waipapakauri where I rested up in an actual bed in a private room at a holiday camp and recovered and slept off an epic day.
I awoke on November 4 at a reasonable hour and thanks to the push the day earlier had a leisurely and uneventful three hour (13 km) stroll down the last of 90 Mile Beach to the town of Ahipara where come 10 am I enjoyed a latte, internet, replenished some food stores and picked up BB+E (Beer, Bacon and Eggs). I have spent the rest of today settling into a new backpackers, enjoying BB+E, and resting my body for the 123 km of forest trail that starts tomorrow, crossing from the Tasman to the Pacific side of the North Island in what is reportedly a treacherous and challenging leg. The crazy part? I feel totally up for it.
Jorg and Marylene have just shown up and are staying in the same hostel sharing stories of their last 2 days. Nice to reconnect with others who are sharing a coon journey. They are staying here tomorrow to rest up and replenish but I am sure we will continue to run into one another.