We are finally on our way! I am in Ahipara, which is a small holiday village at the end of the Ninety Mile Beach. We are having a zero day (thru-hiking term for day off) because of the crazy storms that have battered northern NZ. We start today into the Herekino forest with the next town of Kerikeri some 122 km away.
We began our first day with a ride up to the Cape with a local guy called Olly. He was very informative, rarely pausing in between fascinating insights.
We had the customary group photo taken at the signpost that indicates we are over 18,000 km from the madness of London. As the crow flies Bluff (our goal) is 1500km away, but we will be covering almost 3000km on this long and winding path.
The first day was only 12km to Twilight Camp. As we left the Cape my knee groaned and twinged under the weight of my backpack. It was a little worrying so early into the trail, barely 20 steps!
In the starting group with me was Suvi from Finland, Sally from Australia and Calvin from the USA. We were later joined by Will from the USA and Claudia from Chile.
The second day we hiked around 28 km to the Bluff Camp, all along the sand. Luckily the tide was out making the sand really hard and walking easy.
Bluff Camp was basic but it had a cold shower. I yelped out like a scolded cat when the freezing drops landed on my skin.
It was also at Bluff Camp (km 40) that we met a retired German couple who are cycling around NZ for six months. Thomas had actually cycled all the way from Germany to Vietnam, not bad going for 63 years of age!
Ninety mile beach is also an official highway at low tide and countless tour buses ply the route. One slowed right down and I did the Usain Bolt pose for the camera clicking tourists.
The next day was a walk of 30 km to Utea Lodge. I got a little too near to a pick up truck that was being guarded a big dog. This one was not happy and pretended to charge at me. Utea Lodge (km 70) was a cool little stop off that was located just off the beach. The owner, who beared a striking resemblance to the baddy in Wolf Creek, hijacked us on the beach in his pick-up truck and showed us the way to the lodge. Thankfully we left the next day unharmed with all limbs attached.
We had intended on walking 32 km to Ahipara but ended up stopping half way at an unloved holiday camp (for sale). The lady on reception was a little frosty and probably took some pleasure in informing us that other hungry hikers had cleared out all the food and that the cafe was permanently shut.
The final day on the beach was a mere 14km and we arrived at the holiday village of Ahipara. The YHA is also a holiday park and has been a nice resting stop. Once we’d put the tents up, it was a short hitch to Kaitaia for resupply and eat the sort of food that’s widely considered bad for you.
It was my birthday and the group very kindly bought me a bottle of wine and two cakes (so sweet, having only known them a week) We sat around eating, drinking and contemplating the hard forest section ahead. It’s going to be mud all the way!
Will and Claudia left a day before so we leave the relative luxury of the holiday park as a group of four. The forest section is likely to take around 5 days.
It’s been a great start to The Long Pathway.
Auckland is less than 500 km away. Does n’t seem that far in the grand scheme of things.