The tree house faces east looking out over the estuary, pink streaks reflected in the receding water that I’ll walk in a few hours. My sleep here was quiet and deep, I hate to leave but feel prepared for what today brings even if my ankle is more ‘cankle’ at the moment.
Just like home, it’s not easy to get up out of a warm, snuggly nest especially since I stayed up late sewing up the rips in my trousers – and watching Australian Ninja with Hugh and a “cuppa.”
Full breakfast and lots of conversation around the table about Minnesota and ecology. Turns out the locals hate the mangroves, “They bring the mud and ruin my sand beach!” The fact is, draining the area for farming took out the native wetland, and the mangrove – with their spreading snorkels – are simply opportunists.
Hugh apologizes for bullying, but needs us to get a move on before the tide comes racing back in from the Taiharuru River. Ros tucks in, throws on my pack and accompanies me barefoot.
We squish through mud over cockle and pipi shells and newly dug stingray puddles as Hugh crosses over in his car from Tidesong with a bag of granola bars for me – and gardening tools for Ros. Muddy and happy, I part with loads of pictures, “God watch over you” blessings, and treasured memories. Ros has the most infectious smile and tells me she likes my attitude.
I’m inland on rolling farmland, but just to my left is the deep blue of the Pacific. I tell Ros it’s hard to find a group, and she – like me – loves hiking alone, but also longed sometimes for someone to help strategize.
I enter the Kauri Mountain track and think about how hard it is to let go. Yes, plan, but also trust that things will pull together. It doesn’t come easy for me.
The view from the top is spectacular; back to the estuaries, water filling in fast now, islands in the distance, farmland rolling under heavy gray-accented cumulus, the huge expanse of ocean beach below, thundering waves reaching my ears even at this height, Bream Head shooting up from the coast.
I’ll stop the night at the end of the sand, so in no hurry, I snack on Oaty Slices, dry and fibrous as their name.
James called last night to check on my progress. I was touched and maybe a bit skeptical because I found him so efficient to the point of almost rude. I figured he was just overloaded with details, and it surprises me he takes the time as 16 TA walkers stayed with him last night.
I enjoy the still solitude I have now, fully expecting a swarm tonight. Then laugh because it’s that balance I struggle to keep of solo hiking and desiring friends. At least a group will help in two days time when a boat needs to be hired for the crossing to Marsden Point.
For my musical friends, I am whistling the main theme from Mahler 1, first movement. Seems fitting on this spectacular morning.
I arrive again to unimaginably turquoise water, a sign telling me the bar-tailed godwits fly non-stop from Alaska to this beach in eight days. The waves crash over my ankles exchanging salty sand for mud. A flock of shorebirds, stilted legs on backwards knees, take off in zigzag flight as one.
The beach is totally deserted but oyster catchers two-by-two with long curved orange beaks against midnight black, hide furtive glances as I lumber past.
I forego the high tide reroute and climb up and over grippy volcanic rock to a private horseshoe shaped beach and finally see people. I find a bench overlooking young surfers heading out. A seagull flies by a little too close for comfort.
A woman from Winnipeg living here 30 years says hello, her children curious about my backpack and camp food. They give me a granola bar before I change my mind about camping her, and crack straight up the head. A gaggle of school kids take over the picnic table just as I arrive at the WWII radar station, a sign telling me those who worked here found the stunning view boring.
I tiptoe from exposed root to exposed root through the thick bush, out of breathe in the steep climb, made more manageable later with beautiful steps.
I reach the overlook at 430 meters and three young people arrive, all living here for a year to work and travel. They coax me up the scramble to the top for a 360 view. We chat, then fall silent in this perch above the bush above the beach.
Eight hundred and nine steps down to Peach Cove hut. I count because I know I’ll have to come out – hopefully tomorrow, but not sure what it will be like tonight, and who will be there.
It’s deserted. I set up my tent, clean some gear in the collected rain water and take over the massive deck. The beach is rocky, so I collect a few shells to add to the hut collection. Hopefully after a deep, quiet sleep I can take on those 809 stairs with gusto!
Til tomorrow. Likely a short day of more exploring as I need to time the boat crossing for the morning two days from now.