10/19 – 15 km
We made it!
pc: Patrick the German
Cape Reinga, the northern terminus of the Te Araroa, is spectacular. A lighthouse overlooks the colliding of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea; one turquoise, one dark smoky blue. There is not a defined line, but a patchwork of the two pieced by the surging currents. Marching lines of waves come from two directions, exploding in massive collapsing geysers when the opposing rollers meet.
It only took us 3 hitches over 2 hours to get here. The first out of Kaitaia took the longest, long enough to begin to despair, but before much damage was done to morale a little red car whipped onto the shoulder. Inside we met a chatty man taking his chatty daughter to school. “I’m quite keen on robots. I’m going to have a robot fox for a pet” she announced. “I’m doing the dishes once a week for $5, and after, let’s see, 8 weeks, I’ll have…” “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” corrected the dad good naturedly. “It’s every night for a week.” The girl rattled on, compounding her projected earnings, unperturbed by the perceived differences in the contract. “Anyway,” said the dad to us, “just so you know, there have been some problems with people getting into cars, and when they get out, the guy drives off with their bags still in. Now, you guys put your bags in my car because I’m an honest bloke, din’t cha, but not everyone’s honest.” My horrified thought in reply was, no, we put our bags in your car because I never would have conceived of anyone driving off with the bags. He dropped us at his turn off, and we were promptly picked up by Sandra, en-route for her bi-weekly grandbaby visit. After some small talk, she warned us of the same drive-off trend. Yikes! At the next drop off we formulated a plan to always have someone in the car chatting up the driver until all the bags were out, and hope that they weren’t willing to break into kidnapping to support their petty thievery. (Just kidding, Mom!)
Our third ride was a white Volkswagen and a German named Patrick with a great playlist. “I am German, so I have a lead foot,” he explained unapologetically as he slalomed the curves. “I haven’t figured out if the numbers posted are laws or suggestions.” We have a wonderful trading of stories as the countryside out of the windows gets wilder. I am riding shotgun, and the driver is on the right- I guess this is what the perspective will be to ride in a driverless car?
Reinga is believed to be a place where the spirits leave this world. It certainly feels like a sacred and magical place. The dramatic bare rock end of the cape sticks out into the ocean like a skeletal spine, with one stunted improbable tree growing at the tip. The tradition says that the tree’s roots weave the steps that the spirits descend into the roiling waters.
After soaking in the beauty of the northernmost point, we locate the start of the first track and commence walking south.
The 12 km is a mix of beaches and forested headlands, with pockets of clay badlands and massive sand dunes.
The tide is fairly high, so there is one scrambling section to stay out of the breakers.
We all dunk our head in a fresh water stream running into the ocean, at Parker’s dare. It’s a shockingly refreshing suggestion.
There is a variety of beach grasses, and some of them look like fur pelts. I imagine the huge beasts asleep that we are sneaking past.
We find a high camp between beaches, with a great overview of the start of 90 mile beach (so named, we learned from Patrick the German, because on horseback it took 3 days, and it was optimistically estimated one horseback day covered 30 miles; the beach is, in fact, only about 54 miles). Parker is stoked.