First off, kiwis really are as giving and helpful as I have heard them to be. It's like I have landed in the sense of community I always dreamt was possible, but had begun to lose faith in ever actually existing. If you ever lose faith in the kindness of strangers, hop a plane to the other side of the world.
I took a bus to the west side of the Northland to Kaitaia, to begin the final trek to the northern most point at Cape Reinga. This is where a few issues arise. The only way to get to the cape is to either take a tour bus, which puts you (very expensively), at the cape half way through the first day, and thus gives you less time to hike the days trek to the campsite, or there is the option of hitch hiking. To a tiny American woman traveling alone the idea of hitch hiking is fairly intimidating, and in the States is just considered to be an utterly poor idea. So I had devised a plan. Anyone who picked me up would be photographed and their information gathered (i.e. email address). This serves to keep my parents informed of my last known whereabouts and who I was with, as well as providing one more aspect to the art project. Collecting a catalogue of anyone who has helped me along the way, to whom I cannot give enough thanks.
I walked a couple kilometers to the local grocery store, which sits at the base of the only highway to head up to the cape and stuck out my thumb...in less than 5 minutes I was picked up by DJ who was on his way to spend time with visiting family before he heads back t his home base in Auckland, and who also has offered any assistance needed once I reach Auckland on the trek. Thanks DJ! You got me a bit further on my journey.
No sooner had I closed the door to his van, than the rain started pouring and the wind began to blow. Behold my second bit of luck! She goes by the name of Lorraine. She picked me up and said she could take me a bit further down the road after only maybe 5 cars drove by. She is a hospice nurse and as one might expect from a caretaker she was very concerned about my well being when she too had reached the limits of where she could take me. Thankfully my heart was full of hope, and New Zealand rain this far north, although hellishly persistent, is also not terribly cold.
Enter bit of luck number three. He goes by the name of Jonny. He actually turned his truck around on the freeway to give me a ride. Lo and behold, the man is a beekeeper!!! Are you kidding me!? We talked bees for quite a while, and he told me of how they hunt wild pig, peacock (you read that right), and turkeys. A wonderful conversationalist, and maybe living one version of my dream life. He also said if I happen through his town at any point and would like to work for a few days that he would give me room and board in exchange for help moving hives. I would love to have the ability to split my life in two sometimes. Even though it was further out of his way Jonny gave me a ride the remainder of the distance to Cape Reinga, and he even gave me a history lesson of how Captain Hook named the surrounding islands when he first landed there. Thanks Jonny!!!
Behold Cape Reinga and the beginning of the footwork:
My trek started at high tide and usually you cross rocks down on the beach, but those rocks happened to be under crashing waves a good portion of the time, so I had to trek through thick vegetation, I believe following a game trail, to get to the other side of a hill. It was then followed by several kilometers of beach, hills and sand dunes. The rains began again. It was at the point when I was almost blown over by a gust of wind that I determined my pack was going to be quite too much for me on this trek. I was carrying far too much weight, but how could I not? I have artwork to document and gear that I would like to have to do so. Feeling as if someone should have been filming me, a nomadic ragdoll in the wind, I stopped long enough to put the raingear on both me and my bag. After 13 kilometers of reminding myself that this is what I had been waiting for, and very much looking forward to setting up a dry tent and sleeping bag, I reached my days destination at Twilight Beach. I was shortly joined by 4 French trekkers, and one Australian trekker, and I was very glad to have the company.
Campsite at Twilight Beach, literally equipped with rainbow!!!
It also came equipped with a pestering possum, who thieved chocolate from one of the French women's tents, and kept her up all night, to where she went at it with a knife. Unfortunately the only damage she managed was to cut a hole in her tent.
(The possum pictured is not the actual possum above mentioned)
I woke early, ate food, and hit the trail solo. I knew with the weight of my pack that everything was going to take me longer. I also knew there were expected rain showers on the way. It didn't take long for the Australian, Jason, to catch up to me, and thankfully keep me company for most of the 29km path down the beach we hiked that day. This beach
Which resulted in this face
(the, "Here we go!" face, commonly confused with a look of fear)
In short, the trek was long, the feet wet, the company great, the bruises and swelling of the feet and hips increasing with every minute of the overweight pack, and the blisters forming, but spirits still high and hopeful. We past a rental van stuck in the tide and judging by the look on the young men's faces as they were trying to get it towed out of the surf, their holiday was officially ruined. People drive on the beach here, if they know what they are doing. And if you rent a van, the insurance stops at the beach. I can only imagine the phone call between those boys and their parents later that night.
Other random facts about this place before I forget... pitbulls and terriors seem to be the dogs of choice around here. So many pitbulls. Every afternoon there is an air raid siren test, no need to panic.
Anyway, at the end of the day it was clear I was never going to make the rest of this journey carrying the weight on my back, an artistic martyr of sorts. So I asked Jason what he would think of me if I hitch hiked back to town with one of the cars on the beach. Thank god he said it was justified and that the weight could be detrimental to my health, but that I had been a trooper through it all (carrying almost half my body weight across a sandy beach for 2 days in the rain). If he had said anything but that, the stubborn streak in me would have pushed me to the end of the beach, and who knows, maybe into a hospital. I hitched a ride, returned to the Backpacker's Main Street Hostel in Kaitaia, and had the most appreciated hot shower of my adult life.
I laid low yesterday and focused on the maps of the coming trek
This morning, with maps and coffee in hand I met two women in the hostel who are also hiking the trail while filming a documentary called Soul Trekkers. Unfortunately Belle was injured and Laura had planned to carry on. Now, at least for the next trek, I have a new partner to hike with, and I am grateful.
And then...this is where you start wondering when I a going to be finished, soon I promise. While talking to Mike, the owner of the hostel where I am staying, I told him of my purpose on the trip and he said if I come back at 11:30 he would take me to a sculpture studio where a man makes cement works. On the way we stopped at some friends of his pottery studio Fern Flat Pottery. Could it have been a more appropriate place to end? Nope! Their studio sits right next to their beautifully crafted home, which they built themselves, in picture perfect New Zealand country scenery. They are indeed living the dream!!!
Thanks Rod and Marguerite Davies for the tea and tour!
Now just to get a photo of Mike to add to the collection of people who have helped me so far on this incredible journey.
Enough for now, I must go eat, and prep a box to ship away from my body so that I may never have to carry the weight of its contents again for the rest of this trip :) The best weight loss program ever!!