So you say you enjoy long walks on the beach? Have I got a trip that will change your mind in a hurry! The first stretch of Te Araroa after the lighthouse at Cape Reinga takes trampers along 90-Mile Beach. While the name is somewhat misleading, it is only 55 miles long, it definitely feels like 90 miles by the time you finish walking it! My blisters have blisters!
The trail is what I expected thus far. The beach was definitely a daunting undertaking and while I completed it in four days, I should probably have taken 5-6 days. I think the lack of specific camping spots and my desire to not start an international incident by camping in the adjacent forest (which is prohibited) prompted me to press onward as best I could.
I’ve met a number of people on the trail and I am surprised that there are not more people out here. I suppose my experience along the Appalachian Trail made me accustomed to higher tramper numbers. Still, I am in a bubble but over the last five days, that bubble of eight people is already starting to stretch out.
There’s Team Netherlands, Bart and Neils, who are two young men making great strides on their way south. 30+ kilometer days seem to be no problem for them but the motivation of finishing the beach might have been a factor. Team Kiwi is two older gentlemen, Lee and Simon (Simon is actually Scottish) and they are power houses too. Team Germany is made up of Joseph and his wife Sandy who have the trail names Picnic & the Husband. A wonderful couple who completed half of the Appalachian Trail last year and are here this year for Te Araroa! Rounding out my bubble is Puff Puff. She is a German living in New Zealand, in Glenorchy (just outside Queenstown) actually, and is walking the trail to see the whole country.
Tramping bubbles will come and go, but I look forward to meeting my fellow trampers along the way! I expect to be passed by most of them since I have made it a point to take my time and see the sights.
You may notice I am the only American in my group. I absolutely expected to be in the minority, but am a little surprised I haven’t run into a fellow countryman yet. Being in the minority I have made some conscious decisions to help me fit in better here. The first adaptation is the metric system. In the evenings we would sit around discussing distances and gear weight and all the customary topics trampers turn to while not on the trail. I’ve begun thinking about my days in terms of kilometers instead of miles and weight in kilograms and grams instead of pounds and ounces. While I remember what I learned in school years ago, it is definitely a challenge to change my mindset. I will say this though, it is a much simpler system once you are focused on that measurement. And as a bonus, it sounds like you’ve gone farther saying “I walked 20 kilometers today” instead of “I walked 12 miles today.” Bigger numbers always boost morale! The second adaptation (as you may have noticed) is the use of the term “tramping”. I’m not sure if there’s a difference between hiking and tramping, but in New Zealand, I am a tramper.
The picture above is a tuatua fritter. Tuatuas are a small clam-like animal and the owner of Utea Park fried these up and passed them out to all the trampers. All I can say is Wow. This was an amazing little treat! I could’ve eaten two dozen of them!
Tomorrow I head into the Northland forests and start making my way to the east coast. One big mountain to climb at 744 meters (that’s 2440 feet for the metrically challenged) but lots of ups and downs in between!