First Adventure in New Zealand, Cape Reinga

James and stacey picked me up, a couple from the middle of the north island going on a little road trip for james' birthday, his 57th. Stacey was younger and had some native blood in her. I told them I was aiming for Cape Reinga, it being the most northern point of the country, but was really up for anything and looking to camp near the water.

I quickly knew I'd be sticking with then and settled in. They grew some pot where they lived, there eyes and smiles grew wide with my stories of California.

We stopped in a town where they picked up some lime vodka drinks, then headed off the direct road and went to a town on the beach by the Bay of Islands. A local directed us to a cheap takeaway spot where James picked up a load of fish and chips.

We parked the car by the beach just before sunset, the days were long and full of light. We munched on our meal and talked with an Israeli guy who was also parked for the night, he was visiting for the week.

We got a fire going around the corner on the beach, laying there watching stars until sleep took over.

I woke in the early light, the two had moved to the car sometime in the night, I sat watching the waves until they woke up.

We got rolling and headed all the way north, a few hours drive, landing us at Cape Reinga. We walked down a little ways to the lighthouse, the view from there was that of the pacific ocean meeting the Tasman Sea, crashing against each other.

We climbed down just a little and smoked a joint, James looked down at the beach, "I wanna skinny dip and freak out the tourists, write the name of my town in the sand".

Just a little while later he went jogging by a sign saying "no access beyond this point", hiking down the series of steep hills, disappearing from view. At last he appeared at the top of the sand dune, jogging down and taking his shirt off, then across the beach into the waves. Tourists looked confused, entertained and quick with cameras, he was just a speck down there from that high up.

He quickly moved on from the water and to the sand where he began writing. First an S, then a W, then he started going over it making it thicker. Stacey asked me if I'd go down with her, those were her initials.

We hiked down the ways, I ran down the sand dune the same way and into the waves, going further out and then diving into a big one. I got to jumping over the waves, rolling over them and flipping above and through them. I walked down the beach and took a quick look at a small cave, the two of them took a look too.

They headed back to write more in the sand, I turned a corner on the shore to keep exploring. I'm glad I did, I climbed down into an inlet and over a wall that let on to a puddle filled plateau. Just then monstrous waves crashed against the far side and splashed up mighty like above my head and rained down in front of me. I was overwhelmed with the moment, a plastered smile on my face, "New Zealand!", I thought, I'd made it.

We climbed back up, the steep sand dune had become unbearably hot on the feet, it took several scrambles with sitting in between to make it back to our shoes. I made it back to the lighthouse and waited another fifteen minutes or more, Stacey was taking it slow back up the hill. I watched different people take the same picture, pointing up at the signs that pointed out into the ocean to london, los angeles and so on.

We walked to the car and I'd made up my mind to hike from this spot on down the coast. I parted ways with Stacey and James, filled up my water and got to hiking.

My skin was decently burned by now, I knew it was burning when it was, but was too enthralled with things to bother. Now I was well covered, for the most part, tee shirt wrapped around my head under my hat and a long sleeve shirt. I talked to a couple german girls on the path to the first beach, it would be a little while until I spoke to someone again.

I crossed the long beach, then a path led to higher ground for a while, then to a sand dune above a beach where a guy was outside a tent, to far for a hello, just a waive.

I crossed that beach, around some stone walls and to more open beach, at the end of which things became tricky. Perhaps they wouldn't have been at low tide, but currently the waves were coming all the way to the cliff wall. I had to climb along the side of the wall while timing the waves to avoid being washed away with them, one of them came close, but I managed by it with only a slightly wetter backpack.

Once passed that, I was on a smaller beach, the only way forward now was up a high and steep sand dune. It took me a little while, I was beginning to feel the weight of my backpack, maybe I should have given my laptop away I thought.

A bit more than halfway up I was able to climb the rock face and scurry up a path I eyeballed, getting myself over the crest and to another spectacular view. I got to another sand dune, but this time it went down and to the beach again.

I hiked along the beach to the other end and was ready for a dip in the ocean. I was certain no one would be following me on this hike today, so I stripped down entirely and raced into the waves, splashing around on my giant private beach.

I turned around at a point to see a  giant wave consuming one of my shoes, pulling it into the sea, another wave coming for the second shoe. I made a dash at the second shoe, grabbing and tossing it higher on the beach, then lunged towards the wave that had stolen the first, but it had disappeared. In an instant I saw a much longer walk ahead, I'd need new shoes, but maybe barefoot was the way to go. Just then it peeked out of a wave and I snatched it faster than anything, I was shoeful once again.

I got to hiking once again, up into the green hills. I went off the main path to a different one, heading for a small lighthouse. After cutting through some tall brush and climbing a bit more, I knew I would be camping there the night. The view stretched far, I could see the lighthouse at the tourist spot far out, the oceans crashing together, a big island with another lighthouse, the vast sea on my left and streaky red rocks down the coast where I'd be eventually heading to.

I took half a nap on a ledge of sorts, then set up camp as dark neared. I could see great distances down the beaches in all directions, if another hiker were on their way, I'd know an hour or more before they got to my spot, that is if they too veered off the trail to get to it. I liked this, much better than the paranoid sleep afforded when camping off the side of the road.

The light of morning came, heavy mist had set in. There was no more lighthouse in the distance, no beaches and no ocean even. Only when I walked right to the cliff edge could I then make out waves below.

I got packed up and moving, things had cleared, but only barely. I got back down to the beach, then up through a trail high up again, and back down to another beach. I liked this little beach, tucked away, a sort of cove was hidden away on the far side forming a little pool, free from the bigger waves. I kept expecting to come across other campers or hikers in these perfect spots, but they weren't there.

I dipped into the ocean for a splash, then hiked across it and above it on the other side up a sand dune, I paused there to take a seat and overlook it a while. A boat came into the vicinity and anchored, I waived, I don't know if they saw me. I was expecting it to drop a row boat to come ashore, but they didn't and I couldn't make anyone out on the deck.

The trail took me over high desert type terrain, away from the ocean for a bit, then higher still into lush green bush of all sorts. It was still misty, or I'm sure I would have seen much more from that high.

I turned a corner and saw to small creatures I'd taken for dogs at the first instant, thinking I'd at last come across another hiker. They were baby hogs though. I decided to chase them down for kicks, they were slow, one fell behind and once I was right on him he fell to the ground wheezing and kicking his legs. I sort of laughed at him, all the same realizing what an easy meal he'd make if I'd needed one, the goofy runt.

He at last ceased his panic and got back to running, I teased them a bit more until they'd run out of sight.

The next beach I came to was called twilight beach. I splashed around in this one a good bit, the mist was all gone and the heat had been bearing down on me the last leg of the walk.

I walked all across that beach and took a seat at the far end to look at the map. There was supposed to be a micro camp a little further with drinking water and not much else, but my water was about to run out and it's all I wanted.

Just as I was sitting there a four wheeler came cutting down the trail and on to the beach, pulling alongside me, a ranger on board, "Hey there", he smiled, "have you seen a white bike riding around? They're not supposed to be out here", I told him I hadn't and asked him how far it was to the micro camp.

"Oh right, they haven't built it yet, they plan to set that up right here", he pointed behind him just above the beach. He drove off after that, searching for the rouge white four wheeler. At this point I figured I'd have to get moving to reach the end of the trail if I wanted a drink again. Just as I climbed up from the beach I saw a little water trickling down the hill, a spring, I happily got my water filter out and filled up my water supply, chugging down big gulps. It made sense to find it there, being that's where they planned to build the camp.

The ranger came back around shortly, we were higher up now and pointed out the cleared out space where the camp would eventually be. I wondered why they'd even put it on the map, had he not come around at that very moment I wouldn't have been looking for a spring, but the camp itself, and would have run out of water quickly.

He carried on, as did I, hiking higher and higher, taking a snack break in a shadow and continuing on the steeper and steeper terrain. It at last opened up to another beach, the last one according to the map, at least for the walk I was on. I climbed down the steep hill and made it down to the beach, I saw a pickup truck and a tent set up off behind the beach a little ways, looking far down the beach I saw a couple dots darting around, probably the people from that campsite.

I was hot and beat by this point, I hopped into the waves a bit to cool down, then found a shady spot in the sand to take a short nap. I had more energy after, and began trucking down the beach, a white camper van came roaring by me towards the other campsite. The beach went on and on, I rolled out my bivy sack at one point and slid in to get out of the sun, reading a bit and taking another nap.

The white camper van came rolling past me again, heading back to where they'd come from, it's then that I realized the clouds changing and things started feeling like impending rain. I packed up and got a move on, eventually coming to a little stream that I knew would eventually lead to the car park and the road, I followed it and started keeping my eyes open for a good place to set up camp before the rain hit.

Huge sand dunes started appearing with spots of greenery, I found a good looking one and climbed up, it opened up to a little world of sand dunes and bushes, all perfect little camp spots. I threw my bag off and went exploring until I found the perfect spot, a little platform nestled up high. I came back with my bag and made camp for the night.

In the morning I got packed up and started moving, right away I saw a few people walking along the dunes, including a small boy waiving a stick and full of energy, I knew I must be very close to the car park. The boy ran up to me and with a kiwi accent shouted out, "The sand dunes are SO cool, aren't they?!", "Yes they are!", I assured him. He was with his mother and a Japanese hitchhiker they'd picked up, just poking around the dunes a bit.

I went down to the car park, refilling my water in the stream again. When I finished the three of them were coming back to their car. The mother said she'd be giving me a ride if they had room, but said it was just a few kilometers to the main road.

I got to walking it, they honked and waived as they passed. I wasn't even sure where I was going, that's always the fun of it.

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