It’s pitch dark, the waves are crashing and the other six at Twilight are asleep, nestled in their tents. This will be brief, but suffice-to-say, an extraordinary start.
I arrived in Auckland chased by a gibbous waning moon over the Pacific earlier than planned, the plane flying low over water before touching down on a drizzly paradise.
All went smoothly, even with a sprint of nearly half a mile to customs, then a long wait for my tent (tient) to be inspected – be sure to clean everything, including the pegs! – but while my pegs underwent inspection, I had time to snag my new SIM card and pile on data before the line got too long.
The next prop plane took me to the Far North of Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands, where Irene met me, a gal I friended from the Te Araroa women’s group. Her dad and his partner were happy to collect me at the airport and take me the long drive to the Far Far North to ensure Irene had a mate to walk with.
All of them absolutely lovely. We stopped in their village of Kaeo for sandwiches and hot chocolate, to send my bounce box ahead and get ourselves organized. Who knew bringing MPR headphones would be just the right gift.
We took off fast and furious on the wild, curvy roads as the landscape got drier and more scrubby. Squalls of fat raindrops passed by heaving and pounding but clearing to bright sunshine as fast as they came.
Soon it was over a high narrow ridge and then we were at the end where the Pacific meets the Tasman Sea in row upon row of azure waves.
A few shots at the Cape Reinga lighthouse and we were off, from 24 hours flying, a decently long drive and the beginning of a 3000 km walk.
The tide was just receding, so the sand felt like concrete. A few oyster catchers looked askance as we walked the nearly deserted beach, sponges, jellyfish, shells and constantly churning waves.
A couple of German day hikers helped us negotiate a tricky rock section as I was timid on the mostly sticky pumice. We carefully followed the trail notes, taking a wrong turn towards the orange triangles which turned out to be for a loop that would eventually return to the lighthouse. Backtracking in deep sand was unpleasant, but thankfully not far. Next it was up and up over Herangi Hill with stunning views from a wind tunnel that sent sand and small rocks as skin exfoliants. The track was good here over dunes of flax and manuka scrubland.
We took a pause as we descended towards Twilight Beach where I inaugurated the pee rag, then marched two-by-two in the orange light to our first camp.
The alicoop is cozy and warm out of at least most of the wind, the waves are soporific. Is it the very long time zone defying day, the double portion of mac-n-cheese or the new friend sharing my start that is going to make this an exceptional sleep tonight?