TA Day 15, Nikau Bay to Taiharuru Estuary – 13 km

It’s been two weeks. I’ve gotten conjunctivitis and a minor sprain. Here’s hoping – hobbling? – the new week is full of health and safety.

I walk slowly and deliberately. Scrubby lowland here, lots if invasive prickly gorse so I’m glad the track is wide and they stay in their side.

Millions of pipis and tuatuas give a lovely crunch to my step.
Millions of pipis and tuatuas give a lovely crunch to my step.
The sign to James' Nikau Bay Camp.
The sign to James’ Nikau Bay Camp.

I arrive at the mouth of the Horahora River as it spills into the Pacific. The tide is out and now I must walk up it. Tuatua and pipi shells, oyster catchers and a symphony of screeches greet my arrival on the wave scarred sand. The surf crashes at the bar as footsteps make a pleasing crunch. I follow Ondi’s sunken looping v-steps until they disappear.

The water is cold and fresh up to my crotch, the tide pulls me upstream. Bram and the kayak boys catch up to me. I’m surprised how timid they are picking their way across, seemingly afraid to get wet or yanked under by the current.

I met a couple yesterday on the beach who took my picture and invited me to stay. I told them that I was happy but kayaked with some jerks. “I’m a man and even I know there are a lot of guys who are jerks!”

The view from my single room out above James private residence towards Nikau Bay.
The view from my single room out above James private residence towards Nikau Bay.
With attention to detail and feng shui, James camp is a special stop – if you can get past his controlling behavior
With attention to detail and feng shui, James camp is a special stop – if you can get past his controlling behavior
Ferns reflected in a mirror upon the communal sink at Nikau Bay Camp.
Ferns reflected in a mirror upon the communal sink at Nikau Bay Camp.

The fact is I should have just spoken up when the kayak boys acted like jerks. It’s one of my worst faults, that rather than confront directly, I triangulate seeking validation for my feelings. Rather than manage them, I re-live them.

Just as I come out of the cleansing water, the path goes directly through mangrove swamp. Raetea redux only deeper and smellier – albeit far shorter and flatter. Up and over towards another estuary I’ll catch tomorrow as it’s deep in high tide now. This is the awkward part, that New Zealand’s tides are specific to place and hard to time when on the move.

A few years ago, I joined a friend for a week of diving in Roatan. I am inexperienced and was very nervous, but soon warmed up to it and was delighted with all I saw in that Caribbean idyll, sharing exuberantly my joy with my boat mates. One morning, before setting out for a full day of diving – and in front of all those boat mates – the divemaster told me people had complained about me, saying I was hogging the ocean and not letting them see enough. I was devastated.

My more experienced diving partner said it was all bullshit. It turned out to be one very sour woman who maybe wasn’t enjoying herself so much who made the complaint. But my mistake was in not immediately addressing the issue. Instead I was frozen in my hurt and the unfairness. I tried not to let it color the rest of my adventure, but by not asking what I should do and that I, too, deserve to see things as much as her, I wallowed in my feelings.

Salt marsh grasses.
Salt marsh grasses.
Walking towards the Horahora River's outlet into the Pacific Ocean.
Walking towards the Horahora River’s outlet into the Pacific Ocean.

I arrive at Pataua North and spy a picnic table under a spreading tree next to the bay. More “Fantastic Noodle” mixed with tuna packet for brunch. Lisa and Don walk by and chat me up, curious about this trail and telling me they see loads of backpackers come through.

Before I departed on my leave, I was called into a meeting with my boss and her boss. It was not pleasant though I believe all a misunderstanding. Still, I was in trouble. Skimming over the details and going right to the heart of it, I was proud in that particular case how I reacted.

I didn’t fight, flee or freeze. Rather I stayed present and professional, taking responsibility while also stating my case. I left nothing unsaid in that meeting. It was productive and I didn’t need anyone else to help me unwind what transpired. I was especially proud of myself because that behavior is never my default.

I'm never very far from mud when walking in New Zealand.
I’m never very far from mud when walking in New Zealand.
The footbridge to the Pataua North settlement.
The footbridge to the Pataua North settlement.
Friendly locals in Pataua.
Friendly locals in Pataua.

Perhaps this is an area I can improve as I walk. I’ll stop early today to rest and time the tides to walk the estuary. That means I’ll likely lose this group entirely. But maybe wanting a group at all is my problem. I came alone, enjoy being alone, and – in these last days – beginning to trust being alone.

I phone Hugh to pick me up at the reserve where I’ll continue the trail tomorrow. He finds me on the road in his van, the side door opening to reveal Bram, Hong Kong Tracy and the kayak boys.

They end up joining me for tea, Christmas cake and trail-wound comparison at Tidesong, a rambling house and garden overlooking the estuary and Pacific. Hugh takes the four across in his boat and I’m led to the tree house.

The street sign ensure we know where all the important locations are in this laid back New Zealand beach town..
The street sign ensure we know where all the important locations are in this laid back New Zealand beach town.
"River," Tracy and me at Tidesong displaying our injuries.
“River,” Tracy and me at Tidesong displaying our injuries.

At last! – quiet, cool air, a place to let my ankle heal. Another steamy hot outdoor shower, my clothes rinsed now, hanging in the sun on the fence, even the inside of my trail runners rinsed of their gumbo. A snack and next, a deep rest.

Ros and Hugh take amazing care of me. I sleep away the afternoon as the light changes on the estuary I’ll walk early tomorrow. They share a huge meal of a variety of leftovers from their daughter’s 40th this past weekend.

We talk singing in choirs and the fires in California, also about Ros donating her kidney to Hugh, then walking the Te Araroa herself to raise awareness of organ donation.

She walked the Te Araroa at 66. I am incredibly inspired.

My little cabin at Tidesong with an outdoor shower.
My little cabin at Tidesong with an outdoor shower.
Rinsed hiking clothes drying on the electric fence at Tidesong.
Rinsed hiking clothes drying on the electric fence at Tidesong.

I close today feeling more in tune with myself and more prepared for the challenges ahead. I was so happy walking this day, and happy making it a shorter one too. I adore long days too, but clearly I needed a rest and a major reset. An early day tomorrow, so off to the Tree House now. Til tomorrow!

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Alison! Just wanted to let you know I am thoroughly enjoying your blog. I am on Hilton Head Island visiting my parents, and as I run the perfectly manicured trails through the Southern US vegetation, I’ve been thinking of your much longer, and less manicured trek! Walk on!

  2. Oh, Alison dear

    Just read your recent blog – Dutton always reads before me, so he already had your news. I’m so sorry about the sprain and the eye problem. Are you close to medical help so the eye infection doesn’t worsen. I know you have planned very well, but I don’t want you to be in any pain.

    Your blog is so interesting, and the photos are fabulous.

    We were in Atlanta over the weekend at the annual Church Council. The Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, was there. What a thrill to hear him preach!

    I’ll keep following. Walk on!

  3. Oh, NO! It WAS conjunctivitis! I’m so sorry
    and hope you got TX and it’s on the wain.
    Also, a sprain is no good. How is that going
    still walking? Any good rest stops to help it
    mend? Sending healing thoughts for the
    trail this week.

    xoxo, M

  4. Alison, I read your blog first thing every morning. Inspiring! We have hiked and biked in New Zealand and you make it all vivid again. So glad you are on the mend. Take care.

  5. I really enjoyed this blog: thoughtful and real. The pictures of the tree house and your clothes drying on the fence felt serene and joyous. Not even sure why. Perhaps the earthiness and safety.

    Be well my dear friend.

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