Monday saw a lunchtime departure from Christchurch Airport, with a low-key send off from friends Mads, Matt and Paul, all in their business attire… They would be returning to very different day jobs compared to the task I’m about to embark on!
Arrival in Auckland was very much quicker than the return journey will be….even the transfer by shuttle to the Central City YHA, thanks to a supportive discount from the driver.
Early Tuesday saw departure from the big city for the rather different and quieter Northland town of Kaitaia. The driver started screaming at a woman who wanted to get off – which seemed a bit unreasonable, given that the driver had forgotten her stop. This was on a windy section of road, with massive police signs saying ‘dangerous road/many fatal crashes’.Eventually the irate driver stopped and dropped off the poor woman to walk back alongside the speeding cars for 2 km. Meanwhile, the driver resumed her continuous drinking of V cans. Not quite S America, but I was somewhat relieved to get off!
By the time we got to Kaitaia, I was keen to head to the track start at Cape Reinga, so I started walking on the road and without even hitching, a car stopped to offer me a lift…easy-as!
No reception there for me, either in terms of fanfare…or cell phone…Like a lot of places up here, it really does feel ‘off the grid’! Despite this, at the Cape it was chocka with a bus tour and so, without much or indeed any ado, I started the track. And so it begins!
A summary of the first section departing the Cape would be: jaw dropping views, sand flies, wild pigs in the bush, more sand flies, more jaw dropping views….and more sand flies! There were also a surprising number of fellow AT trampers, many foreign - who, in something of a contrast to myself, seemed to be all outfitted with neatly pressed cargo pants and brand new shiny gear.
After a late night arrival at first wild camp, a second very long day followed along 90 mile beach. I knew this stretch would be hard mentally and it was…(You may get a sense from this little video, shot at great expense by the helicopter film crew documenting my adventure for the Discovery Channel ;-):
90 mile beach?:
Sand, sea, sand, sea, wind, rain, sand, sea …and errr... Repeat.
Not enough water …and ultimately a weird rash made its appearance on my back. I have to be honest and say I missed out the very last section of the beach suffer fest as my back was unbearably sore and I wanted to get it checked out, in Kaitaia, before heading into the Herikino forest section which presents the next challenge.
Finally arrived in Ahipara however, for a reviving shower and a nice cup of tea! Bliss.
At first it looked like there was only a few kids on the bus but heads kept popping up when they woke up. Apparently some of the kids travel 60k return. I got some lollies when I got off ☺
I have to say that, at the moment, there seems to be somewhat of a disconnect between the Te Araroa Trail and the local communities that it passes through, at least up here: I asked the people in the 3 op shops that I visited (looking for 50c books!) and they didn’t know of the Trail, and neither did the Kura driver. I also had a long chat with the woman at the info centre and she and the DoC staff are very worried that overseas trampers are not prepared sufficiently for the difficulty of some sections of the Trail. In fact the DoC guy thinks it shouldn’t be called a trail but a 'route' as 'trail' implies, well a trail - and there isn’t one clearly defined trail.
I have looked at other people’s blogs and I’m a bit different(!) – I’m less interested in a detailed recount of the route and more a description of what I personally think is interesting. I am trying hard to mention MS at any chance when chatting to people and at least it does seem to be reasonably well known as a disease.
I will also try very hard to take photos! The trouble has been that after hearing a few horror stories of broken phones, I’ve wrapped the phone up perhaps a bit too well. My paper maps are a godsend however as I’m using them and Paul’s great schedule all the time, as well as my Garmin routes (Paul again!).
Anyway I plan to forego the Rugby World Cup semi-finals and head off into the forests today for a few days. It’s raining which us why I’m sitting having yet another brew writing this - but departure beckons!