Wed 2 December – Day 18
Another great sleep last night, a super comfy couch helped. The sunrise flooded the room in light making it easy to rise. There was a big walk ahead today and I know from past experience that the section between here and Mangawhai has scenery that could well be unmatched in New Zealand or even the world. Big call? We’ll see. Today I will detour off the Te Araroa trail for the Waipu Coastal walkway. The TA perseveres over the Brynderwyn track of kanuka and exotic forest, completely missing the coastal gem. A travesty that those following the trail to the letter are not aware of. The trail notes do not mention this alternative. First things first I have a hairy road walk along SH1 for a couple of kms then turn into minor roads through to Waipu. A guy is pulling into his 10 acre section and stops to chat. He’d be interesting if I had the time but eventually after about 15 minutes of a life story I start inching my way in the direction of travel and finding a gap in the conversation, say I’d better keep going. I pass through Waipu without stopping and at the end of the straight out of town a combined walkway and cycleway moves me off the road through to the river. It’s here that I stop into the Waipu cemetery.
Waipu was founded in the mid 19th century by Scottish settlers from Nova Scotia. This particular group tried living in Canada first, then Australia before settling here in New Zealand. Around 1854 they secured land at Waipu, led by a preacher named Norman McLeod and were then followed by more Scots from Nova Scotia and Scotland. Five shiploads containing over 800 settlers arrived in Waipu in the 1850s afterwards. The reason for the migration of the Scots people was the highland clearances back in Scotland and they arrived not just in Waipu but all over New Zealand. Signs point towards the more significant graves including that of Rev McLeod and its position beside the river and beach lends to a magnificent view for eternity. Like any good cemetery there is water. I located the tap behind a tree and filled my water bottle for the next push through to Waipu Cove. For two km I have to hug the roadside with no walkway until just out of Waipu Cove the next walkway starts. They just need to fill in the gap and it’ll be perfect. And safe. At Waipu I drop into say hello to Fi’s Mum. Fi works in Coromandel and it is nice to make the connection with her mum up here. Next I stop into The Cove, a cafe restaurant run my friends Lloyd and Mike. They are a duo to behold as they also have Quay & No8 in Whangarei, Dune in Mangawhai village and No8 & Fire in Mt Maunganui. This morning I enjoy a hikers brunch of bacon buttie and coffee to set me up for the haul through to Mangawhai.
Let me start by saying that if you haven’t done the Waipu Coastal Walkway and you would enjoy walking a two km stretch of absolute delight, then put it on your bucket list. This is why I cannot figure why the TA doesn’t go this way – it is pure delight for both NZ and international visitors. Oh wait, then everyone would do it and it would become like the Tongariro Crossing. Keep this amongst us folks.
Wet shoes crossing the stream is no deterrent in the heat of today. I had barely commenced the walk when I chanced upon a family of Oystercatchers. Its not unusual to see a pair of mature birds but to see their chicks too is a first for me. There were three or four offspring and they were grey. Exactly the same colour as the rocks they were on so they looked like grey blurs. I’m pleased they have survived to this age already. The doting parents were screeching away even though I was quite high above them. The narrow track weaves its way up and down, between rocks, around and under trees and across well tended private land. Pohutukawa trees abound and many are in crimson bloom as we get closer to Christmas. Pancake formation limestone rocks a la Punakaiki tumble into the sea – in places you can camber over them to get to the shore or for views or fishing. The outlook for the first part of the walk encompasses Bream Bay and Whangarei Heads then as the coast turns south it is towards Bream Tail and out to the Hen & Chicken Islands. Private properties sit above the walkway with many interesting styles of homes and landscape tastes. Let’s just say nothing looks tatty in this end of the real estate market. The waves crashing on this piece of shore are red. I asked a Langs Beach local about this phenomenon and apparently it is a red algae like seaweed that gets washed ashore when wrestled from the ocean floor in storms. When it dies on the beach it gives off an inhospitable stench so the council come and remove it. The walk is signposted as 1.5 hrs plus there is a 45 minute extension around to Dings Bay. It takes me one hour with photo stops to the road down to beautiful Langs Beach, surely one of the most captivating beaches in New Zealand. A car stops in front of me – guy jumps out to take a photo. I ask if he wouldn’t mind giving me a lift a few km along the road as I’ve been on it before and it’s narrow. Just up to the Bream Tail Road please. He’s good for it. Chad, is a Regional Sales Manager for American Tobacco Company. Who knew they still existed? People obviously still smoke, and vape these days.
From the main road the TA trail follows a private driveway further up towards Bream Tail. It starts as tarseal then becomes white chip, two signs of affluence I believe. If you have a long tarseal or white driveway you’re not short of a penny. That’s my two cent opinion. The track dips across farmland then rejoins a tarseal road (see). The TA trail indicates to go down a hill, across a swamp and back up the other side. I did that last time so instead I follow the road as it loops around to rejoin the TA on the opposite side of the valley. I want to see what other TA walkers don’t. What’s around the corner? Well as you may have guessed it’s more architecturally engaged houses with unhindered views out to sea.
I’m now on the Mangawhai Cliffs Walkway. Equally stunning as the Waipu walkway this track is well formed and sidles high above the sea on the clifftop. Ancient pohutukawa and slender nikau frame countless opportunities to take photos every few metres as the view unfolds and changes. From this height you can look deep into the clear sea visually searching for fish, sharks or even whales. The white sand softens the blues into light blues and greens – its quite mesmerising. But watch your step as it is virtually straight down. A lengthy set of steps led me down the beach for the final km to the car park. A school group has congregated on the beach which I walk past. Someone calls out “sir” and I turn around to see a girl bounding towards me. She stops to ask me where I’m going and I reply “to Bluff”. “And back again after that” she says. “No its 3,000 km”. I’m thinking that’s quite enough thanks missy. She is from Longbay College on a school camp. I have three km to go to my cousins place where I can finally kick off my shoes and have a shower after the long day. I am lucky and grateful for having such trail angels enroute. Tomorrow: down the beach last Tara-Iti, Te Arai and to Pakiri.