Day 1 of the Te Araroa Trail:
So many things happened today I don’t even know where to start. Firstly I’m laying in my tent upon the thinnest white sand of 90 Mile Beach listening to what sounds like the waves crashing through my doorway. It’s 11 PM on Monday 4 December 2017, my day one of the Ta Araroa Trail. I’ve been suffering tendinitis in my wrist so I’m attempting to write this by speaking into the microphone on my notepad app. So far so good, except that my phone doesn’t know how to spell Ta Araroa and seems to misunderstand my Aussie accent.
Jumping back to the beginning of the day, I boarded a bus to Kaitaia at 7:30 AM this morning close to where I stayed last night at the Attic Hostel in Auckland. Kaitaia is approximately 100 kilometres south of Cape Reinga at the start of the trail, and when the bus dropped me off outside the library, I borrowed a piece of paper and pen and created a sign that said Cape Reinga or North.
Once on the road I was picked up by a woman named Rebecca within seconds who drove me approximately 10 minutes back towards the main highway leading north. From there a lovely gentleman named Eric picked me up in his truck and drove me another 20 minutes north before he turned off to head east. A girl named Jody was my third ride, and she backed up down the highway after passing me, admitting that she hadn’t intended to pick me up until she realised that I looked friendly and felt guilty that I was hitching alone. Jody drove me about half an hour north, and on the way we stopped off for homemade ice cream made from local blueberries and raspberries at Tomo Orchard!
After Jody dropped me off at her local shops a woman named Rachel picked me up. Rachel was a local Maori woman who lived in a small village about 40km south of Cape Reinga. She told me she’d be terrified if any of her daughters ever did what I was doing, but that she understood all the reasons I told her about wanting to (simple living, escape from civilisation, opportunity to see the real NZ and meet its people)!
Rachel drop me off just outside her driveway and from there it took almost 2 hours to catch my final ride to the Cape. While I was waiting, I was joined by four local kids who were fascinated about what I was doing and where I was from. It was like a scene out of the movie ‘Boy’, and if you haven’t watched it I highly recommend it along with ‘Search for the Wilderpeople’ – both made in NZ. One of the boy’s parents drove past with about eight children in the back of her car and yelled out the window at the kids to get off the road and called them an ‘egg’. It was like a scene out of the movie, and the insult sounds so good in an authentic Kiwi accent!
The kids were on their way to swim in the river nearby but stayed with me for almost an hour chatting and trying to lift my pack off the ground. One of the kids was talking about how bad life must be in North Korea, and when I asked if he learned about that in school (he was in year 7), he told me he does most of his learning from YouTube. Go figure!
Though adorable, every car that drove past while I was talking to the kids assumed all five of us wanted a ride, which is probably why I only got one after they finally decided to head to the river. Maybe it was also because I waved at the car like I knew the driver, so he probably felt obliged to stop.
I arrived at the Cape at around 6:30 PM, and after re-packing my bag and walking down to the lighthouse to take photos I finally hit 90 Mile Beach at 7:30 PM. The trail deviated from the beach into the dunes as the sun went down, but thankfully the moon was almost as bright as the sun and rose looking orange and giant. My photo can’t do it justice, but it was a beautiful reintroduction to a sight I’m going to become very familiar with. I think my pack weighs about 20kg and by 10 PM all the familiar muscles that used to hurt during the PCT began to complain. I had considered walking for longer but I’ve decided to set up my tent, write my blog and get some sleep so that I can wake up at sunrise and start early before the heat sets in. I’ll be posting photos to Instagram @serial_nomad too and will do my best to write as much as I can along this journey – though likely not as much as the PCT, I still don’t know how I did that!Good night from 90 Mile Beach!