Day 1 – Cape Reinga to Twilight Campsite

Date: 26 September
Distance walked: 12.1km
Trail covered: kms 0.0 to 12.2
Weather: Windy but sunny
Number of people seen since I left Cape Reinga: 0
Mangled possum carcasses: 1

Wow, I can’t believe it is finally here. My first day on Te Araroa. Back in March it seemed so far away.

The gale force wind from last night was still going in the morning. It woke me up at 5am and I couldn’t get back to sleep. But I had faith in the weather forecast which showed that at least the rain would stop.

Tania from Utea Park drove me to Cape Reinga at 8:30am to coincide with the outgoing tide. She told me all about the area which was cool. She dropped me off and suddenly I realised I was by myself, with no transportation, nobody I knew around and no cellphone reception. It was a bit emotional for a few minutes. The only people around were tourists in campervans. Just before she left, Tania said to me “kia kaha” which I knew meant “Be Strong” because it was the motto of the college I went to.

My ride to the cape
Once I go through here, there’s no going back

From the carpark I started walking down to the lighthouse which is the official start point. I had all these ideas in my head about what my “starting photo” under the lighthouse would look like. I mean everyone posts their finishing photos at Bluff on Facebook but I rarely saw any from when people started at the Cape.

There’s the lighthouse, I’ve seen it before but it felt different this time

I realised quickly that that was probably because there’s no phone coverage up here. And I couldn’t take any kind of cool photo because I was actually the only one at the lighthouse, and also, the wind was so strong that if I let go of the phone it would have blown away and ended up in the Pacific Ocean. And when a couple from Australia did show up, I didn’t ask them to take my photo because I didn’t trust them to hold onto the phone well enough. So I ended up with this:

km 0

Gee, the wind is going to make walking along the beach interesting, I thought. It is a southwesterly wind so it will be hitting me in the face, as well as possibly a lot of sand blowing as well. And yes the wind was bad, but I was walking on the wet sand so no sand blew on me. The wind was loud… All I could hear while I was walking was RAAAAAAAAAAAAA in my ears all the time. At times I expected to look to my right and see a shipping port, it was that loud. But no, just me around, and a few birds. There were no footprints anywhere – mine were the only ones. I guess I am the only one to have started TA today.

One thing I read on the blog called BikeHikeSafari was how Brad always posted a photo taken at 10am every day. Whatever he was looking at at 10am was the photo. I’m going to try to do that… but I’m not much of a morning person, so mine is going to be an 11am photo each day.  Here is my first:

11am picture – one single bird on the beach

At the 3km mark I realised that I was 0.1% of the way through the entire trail. What a milestone! And then at 4.5km I had my first “river crossing”. It was just a small stream, but I didn’t want to get my feet cold and wet. I went up and down a bit trying to find a place I could hop across, but no – none. So walk through the water I did, and got my feet very cold.

First “river crossing”

Then at 5km I was starting to hurt a bit in my arms, so I stopped for a break as it wasn’t windy at this spot. I was surprised that I started hurting so soon – I never started hurting this soon in my training walks. But then I realised I hadn’t pulled the front two straps of my pack up tight, and after that, I was fine. I didn’t even stop again for a break until I made the 12km to Twilight. So far my shoulder that I thought might hurt hasn’t hurt even a tiny bit.

My first snack break

And my shoes and socks dried out in no time, because there was no more rain after that.  Still didn’t see any footprints.  When I looked behind me I could see only my own.

My footprints

There was a point where you had to walk over a hill of sand.  The wind was so strong here and I was really exposed so it almost blew me over.  But it was a very cool landscape:

Love the colours

I know today was only a 12km walk but walking the beach still got a bit monotonous. Because there was nothing to think about, I started thinking about silly little internet video clips or bits from TV shows.

Over therrrrrrre – can you see the orange marker?

These kept playing over and over in my head but when I couldn’t think of any more, and I was away from the beach up in the hills, I just made up my own song. It went like this:

Ghost town, ghost town, it’s a ghost town
Ghost town, ghost town, it’s a ghost town
In here, in heerrrreeeeee

The first verse you had to sing it to yourself, and the second verse was the same but you had to sing it out loud. Then for the third verse you had to sing it in a Mr. Bean voice. Uh oh, I think maybe I’m starting to go crazy….

Once I was back down on the beach I was singing this out loud:

The tide is high but I’m holdin’ on
I wanna be your number 1
I’m not the kinda girl, who gives up just like that… OOOOH NOOOOO!

It seemed appropriate even though it was low tide.

Okay that’s probably enough of that. I was lucky to only get one bit of rain and because it was so windy it was sideways rain… But I put my waterproof pack cover on and besides it all dried quickly anyway because of the wind.

It took four hours to get to this set of stairs at the 12km mark. I had it in my head that at the top of the stairs would be a road with houses on it just as there would be on a North Shore beach. But no, it was just the Twilight campground. And since I didn’t see any other footprints all day, I wasn’t entirely surprised that I was the only one there.

Stairs to… where?

The walk tomorrow is 30km to the next campsite. If it took 4 hours to walk 12km I hope it doesn’t take 10 hours to walk 30km. I think I better get up early… Although I’ll probably go to sleep early too because there’s nothing to do here (except write this blog of course!) The tide is high tomorrow at 7am-ish so that facilitates an early start.

Twilight campsite with my tent in the background

I arrived at Twilight at 2pm and I really thought maybe somebody might join me in the campsite later in the day, but nope, nobody did. Today was the first sunny day in days according to the forecast so I figured maybe people would start TA today. Guess not. In fact I didn’t see anyone at all once I left Cape R. I wonder when I will see my first other hiker or other person of any kind. Apparently there is a guy walking from Ahipara north to Cape Reinga who started yesterday. If that’s true then we should pass each other tomorrow or the next day.

First camping spot

My niece gave me a toy called Taco Terry so that I wouldn’t be alone. Here’s his first photo (back at the start of the walk):

Every now and again I would look down at my hiking poles and see the Leki brand, which I often misread as “Lexi”. I had a grandmother who we called Lexi who died in 1993 and every time I saw the word I thought maybe she was watching over me.

Lexi (Leki) poles

Today was walking on other beaches than 90 mile beach, but starting tomorrow it is 3 or 4 days of walking on 90 mile beach so I will probably at least see people drive past me on the beach.

I have 3 good Back Country Cuisine meals but 4 or 5 days before I can resupply in Kaitaia or Ahipara so tonight I just had couscous, nuts and a protein bar for dinner. Plain but still tasted good. I’ll save the dehydrated meals for the next 3 days when the walks are longer. And I can’t wait for one of Tania’s famous Utea Park blueberry smoothies. They have rave reviews!

And boy was it cold once the sun went down. Bringing hot chocolate was the best decision ever.

My little cooking station, on the ground out of the blowing wind

My Osprey bag is already developing a rip inside. Its not important I don’t think because it just separates your stuff from any water bladder, which I’m not using. Will still tape it up though, and hope it gets no more rips.

Small rip in the Osprey bag already

Anyway if you look below you can see some other random photos, and also where I walked today, and how much I still have to go. Still quite a bit, it seems.

Today's walk on the map (blue = Te Araroa, red = today's walk):

Shags (I think) on the beach
These stairs had to go to somewhere interesting, turns out it was Twilight Campsite
Tonight’s sunset

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