We didn’t get off to a great start.
We got dropped off at Cape Reinga at about 6pm. It was foggy and windy and horrible. We still hadn’t packed our bags with our food and hadn’t slept for 36 hours, and had 12.5kms to walk before we could set up our tents….for the first time.
After packing our bags we staggered through the gale-force winds down to the lighthouse, which we could barely see. We took some photos and videos to commerorate this dubious occasion, then headed back to the trail.
When we reached the trail the kids decided we’d be stupid to start walking into the unknown, considering it was nearly dark and we could barely see 10m through the fog. So we went back to the carpark, and while the kids half-cooked an unappetising dinner of crunchy pasta (must buy more gas next time) we scouted for a place to pitch our tents.
Oh, and have I mentioned that it was now raining?
There was nowhere flat, and we didn’t want to blow down the cliffs into the ocean, so we decided to sleep in the toilet block.
Glamourous start to our holiday, I know.
We woke up to another foggy, wet, windy day, when a woman came in to use the loo and got a bit of a surprise when she had to step over the husband to get there, but at least we had the entire day ahead of us now.
Luckily, the weather cleared away from the Cape and we got treated to the New Zealand’s spectacular views.
We made it to Twilight Beach early and so had plenty of time to work out how to pitch our tents and set up our gear.
Unfortunately, after the first day the weather just got worse.
Day 2 required us to do 28kms. It started well, with sunshine and a light breeze, but by the afternoon it was starting to rain.
Then the thunder started, and the heavy rain, and the last 5kms was rather difficult. We were all soggy and tired and sore but had no choice but to keep going.
But we made it the entire 28kms! The French group cheered when we arrived. And we even got a little sunshine.
We managed to make the worst meal ever – the rice and lentils were half-raw and smelled of really sulfurous onion. It made our crunchy pasta look gourmet. We choked down what we could and put the rest aside.
Unfortunately the sunshine didn’t last, and we woke to more wind and rain. Our clothes were still damp and our shoes soggy, but since we’d be walking in the rain it didn’t matter.
We tried to gag down the remains of last night’s dinner but couldn’t do it – we’d rather be hungry than eat it.
We were meant to do 30km to Utea Park but it rained ALL DAY. We even got a huge thunderstorm and hail that we just had to keep plodding on through – there was no shelter anywhere.
Our nice tailwind had turned into a gusty onshore wind that had us staggering sideways all day and the rain was nearly constant.
I was getting seriously worried about hypothermia by this stage. We were cold while walking and couldn’t stop because we’d start shivering straight away.
We made it about 22kms and found a track that led into the trees. We weren’t meant to camp in the trees but we couldn’t keep going and there was nowhere to camp in the dunes so we set up quickly, changed to dry clothes and crashed pretty quickly – it’s amazing how fast you can fall asleep when you’re exhausted and cold. A sleeping bag has never looked so good.
Day 4 dawned drizzly and windy but with hopeful patches of sunlight. An hour in we still had an onshore wind to contend with but it was dry so we were dry – we were grateful for any small improvement by this stage!
We could even stop for a break without freezing!
We were aiming for Waipapakauri Beach because there was a holiday park. 25kms and we could have a hot meal!
Then Tanya from Utea Park stopped and introduced herself, asking why we hadn’t make it to her camp – she’d been expecting us and had blueberry smoothies waiting! We were rather disappointed.
She softened the blow by giving us bananas, then broke the news that Waipapakauri campground was closed. Argh!
We staggered into the small beach town soon after and had a decent meal of hot pasta. Getting out of the wind was a huge relief.
And we had a great time basking in the sun with our new doggy friend.
But where to sleep? I have no shame so knocked on a door and asked if we could camp in their yard. The guy told me we could camp in the picnic area, no-one minded and we wouldn’t get fined.
So that’s what we did. We set up between a picnic table and a rough gravel driveway.
At 8pm a voice came from outside, ‘I’m putting some traffic cones here so you don’t get run over.’ We called out our thanks and unzipped to say hello, but he was gone. Everyone in New Zealand is so friendly!
We woke on day 5 keen to get going on the last 14km stretch to Ahipara, where we KNEW there was accommodation and food.
The weather was great (even the wind had eased a little) so we made great time.
We managed to terrify a horse which didn’t realise that the colourful, lumpy things it saw were human. It’s rider had to dismount and had a hard job holding him.
This wandering horse didn’t seem to care though. It wasn’t particularly interested in us once it realised we didn’t have food for it.
And then our first big milestone – 100kms! That’s 1/30th of the trail, so we only have to do this 29 more times. Eek.
We staggered into the fanciest caravan park we’ve ever seen (and paid the most we’ve ever paid for an unpowered site, $80 – even after I got a discount!). Showers were great but we already feel uncivilised – it was busy and noisy and we had to do lots of bothersome stuff like set up our new sim cards so it wasn’t really much fun. I think we prefer the bush overall, which is great considering that’s what’s ahead of us!
We’re stoked we’ve made it this far. We didn’t know if we could but we’ve made it, we’ve had a great time and we’re keen to keep going – next stop Kerikeri!