I wake up early. Really early.
To be expected after not feeling any effects of jet lag on yesterday’s mission.
The moon is up, guiding me to the well-stocked privy, likely the last for a while.
The ocean is loud, relentless and only broken by two or three downpours pattering on the alicoop’s taught taffeta-like roof. The waves calm, but at this lonely hour, even the Southern Cross is obliterated by the moon’s brightness.
They taunt by boldness. “We are here,” they seem to say. “And you are just passing through on your brief journey.” Brief on the northern-most tip top of New Zealand, and brief on our spinning sphere.
But those are the musings of an insomniac. I’ll go back to sleep now because tomorrow I begin 90-mile beach. Long, exposed, blister-inducing, tide-timing stretch of sand.
How will the waves sound to my ears tomorrow, I wonder as I close my eyes.
Awake to pouring rain, a light coming my way. Turns out it’s Irene moving her tent under the shelter. It seems she only brought two stakes to cut weight and the incessant wind blew rain straight in. Hoping ultralight works for her.
Clouds clearing, pink sky, waves keep up their plaintive song. I’m reminded here of an island in the Caribbean I visited years ago where I’d walk high up a hill and look out on spongy undergrowth, spiky plants and a never-ending breeze.
The trail took us up over this scrubbiness on a well-laid out path. A bridge and stairs were lovingly built including rubber grips.
Once over Scott Point the view opens on the endless expanse of Ninety-mile Beach. It’s more like 90 kilometers but it is a doozy of a walk. A baptism by fire – or water – thrusting the thru-hiker onto grueling monotony for three days. No water, no protection from the elements and seemingly no escape, unless you want to talk your way onto one of the tour busses that speeds down the beach.
I find it a wonder. Admittedly, hard walking, but a moment to fully consider my full-time pedestrian status.
It is relatively easy walking with the wind at my back, rain keeping it cool and sun only peaking out before burning me through the hole in the Ozone.
Here, I think about pacing. Yes, you gotta get somewhere to get water, to sleep, but you can’t walk with the same urgency as a day hike or a weeklong backpack trip.
Perspectives are challenged; the sun at a northern exposure angle, the island I use as my bearing three times further than it appears, this walk being more than simply a walk, day-after-day, one step at a time.
I keep moving but stop to study the detritus of the beach and the choir of waves in the shifting light.
With a shallow and gradual slope, multiple rows of waves crash endlessly until one breaks free and reaches towards me, forcing me to scamper up on the dunes. High tide is at an inconvenient 1:30 making walking difficult in the soft, mushiness.
Irene walks ahead as I stop to fix my toe. Seeing her tiny figure moving at my exact pace helps me fathom the enormous distance to go. I only catch her when she stops to wait out the encroaching tide.
Finally, I arrive exhausted. The English gal here, French, then this American – and right at cocktail hour as a local arrives in his beat up truck, dog barking and a cold brew delivery.