Thursday 3 December – Day 19
I have a coffee date this morning with my friend Wendy, chef and interior designer extraordinaire. The coffee at Brewed As Collective is every bit as good as Wendy’s company as we catch up since the last time we saw each other. Wendy gives me a ride to the beach as she will walk a stint on the beach this morning. On the way we pass Tara Iti, an incredibly exclusive American owned golf course. We join the beach and start walking south along the top of the tide. It’s coming in with little room on the harder sand. Chatting as walking makes the time pass quickly and soon we reach a stream that is only passable by getting wet feet so we part company here. The morning weather is cool and overcast. I actually put in my buds and listen to music which is rare for me. Three helicopters pass by and land at Tara Iti. I wonder who they might be, spending the day playing golf? At the end of the beach is Te Arai point. It separates Mangawhai beach and the Te Arai Pakiri beaches. Three surfers are riding smallish waves. As I cross the headland the skies are definitely turning grey especially at the Pakiri end. The trail is not well marked on the headland and I dive from path to path trying to find the correct way. Paths are nicely mown but go in all directions. The familiar orange triangles have disappeared. I pick a steep path going down towards the sea, so steep I do not want to return up it if it is the wrong way. It is. There is a fenced viewing area but no further track to the beach. I peer down through the bush and can see the beach at the bottom plus it looks like others have scrambled down there so I follow. Four young surfers are in the water here but other than that the beach is deserted. I keep walking towards Pakiri past the Te Arai development. Another exclusive community is being created here. House sites from two million… Two public access golf courses. I do hope they protect the birdlife along the beach as this is a breeding ground for dotterals and oystercatchers. I know this because the mating pairs have tweeted and screeched at me all the way along the beaches as a warning to stay away from the dunes. The dotterals tottering furiously along on their little legs and the oystercatchers prepared to fly at you if you are too close. There are a number of dead little blue penguins along this beach and tuatua galore washed up. By the afternoon the Pakiri hills and Little Barrier Island have disappeared behind a grey veil of rain. It starts a light drizzle so I put on my pack cover and head towards trees a further km or two down the beach. A pohutukawa tree provides some shelter while I have lunch and watch the Scottish Highland cattle in the adjacent paddock. Two walkers are making their way below me so I descend to the beach to say hello. It is sisters Linda and Susan, who I have heard about. Of a maturing age they are walking from the Cape until Puhoi and are going at a cracking pace. I walk with Susan and we have an enjoyable chat about everything and nothing. It sure passes the time as we have reached Pakiri. The sisters separate from me to make the river crossing whilst I turn inland to meet Sharley at Pakiri Beach Horse Rides. Wenz in Paihia has put us both in touch. The time is only 2pm so I have a delicious cup of tea with a slice of lime with Sharley and will push on to Govan Wilson instead of staying the night. In doing so I know I am foregoing a home cooked dinner and fantastic company with Sharley who has been providing horse rides here for decades. I will have to come back another time.
I followed the gravel road until it met Pakiri Rd and turned right onto its tarseal. On the south side there is a lot of work being done to beautify a large property. It looks like a subdivision but also like an equestrian property. Wooden fences neatly define paddocks, there is a large lake and a couple of impressive houses and sheds. Also what looks like another massive house or lodge perhaps. I follow the boundary for a couple of km as the road ascends. Many thousands of native plants can be seen dug in. The road crests the hill and begins to drop to the other side but there is no long sight view unfortunately. As I am getting to the bottom a car stops and the driver asks if I am doing the trail? I say I am and she offers to give me a ride. It’s after 4pm so agree and bundle in. Raewyn is a teacher at Pakiri school. She has the soft spoken composed and uncompromising diction of teachers. She tells me that the big property is an American who has spent millions in the upgrade of the land. I have no doubt. Raewyn drops me at the Govan Wilson turnoff and I walk a couple of km up to my trail angel stopover for the night. Karen, Russell and their kids have a home overlooking the Whangaripo valley and beyond. It’s partially strawbale construction but you would barely know it as it looks contemporary. The elevated swimming pool is being enjoyed by ducks and ducklings. Behind there house are a couple of small sheds they provide for hikers. The first has a set of bunks and there is a composting toilet in the next. I’m surprised I am they only one there as there are a few hikers around this section at the moment. That evening Karen brings over a mince and cheese pie and two muffins. They are caterers and also give uneaten food to charity, me included.