Sun 6 December – Day 22
Low tide is at 6:12am this morning – the best time to be crossing the Okura river which is approx four km from the holiday park. That means I should allow about an hour to get there with a leeway of 30 minutes for low tide. For me it’s a compromise between getting up early and getting to the river too late and having the water too high. I decide a 5:30am alarm is early enough and I was on my way out of the camp by 5:50am. It had rained heavily for much of the night. Fortunately I was indoors and even better it had passed through by the time I departed. The wet ground and dripping trees didn’t bother me as soon enough I’d be waist deep or worse in water anyway. The birds were making their morning chorus, the honeysuckle was extra sweet and the sun was rising over the bay. It could not have been more enlivening. After a km or so I reached the mudflats and as the tide was so far out I could make a diagonal crossing in a more direct route towards the crossing point of the river. This would reduce the distance walked by following the coast proper and get me there quicker. The mudflats were hard sand and made for quick walking whilst dodging the triangular depressions made by stingrays. Sure enough I reached the fourth white marker from the river mouth at 6:30am and pretty much just wader straight in. I was hoping I had the correct spot to cross at. I had moved my electronics from the hip pockets and if my tent etc at the bottom of my pack got wet it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Still if it did get above my hips I would probably lift the pack to my shoulders. The water was shallow, under my knees until about three quarters of the way across when it dipped down and the water climbed to my waist. That was as deep as it got and five minutes later I was across to the opposite side. My shorts were wet through but they will dry quickly and completely while walking.
I clambered up the bank and low and behold there was a person standing on the path. Gave me quite a fright. It’s an Argentina guy out for his morning run. His friend has just started the TA from Cape Reinga. Who knows might meet him along the way. The runner made a very long run this morning as I bumped into him again twice down the North Shore. The trail follows existing paths through the Longbay Park with the option to walk along the clifftop or along the beach. I’d done the top walk before so opted for the beach as the tide was still out. The high cliffs feature the same sedimentary strata like further north yesterday. They are also home to the Longbay pigeon hapu who were cooing and flapping as I walked beneath. There were a good number of people already on the beach doing morning walks, walking dogs, metal detecting and a couple of people standing prone staring – not sure what they were up to. Climbing above Longbay onto Cliff Road you get to appreciate the spectacular views out to the gulf and the magnificent homes that surely cherish the view. At Torbay it was going off with a youth sailing regatta about to commence. The place was chokka with kids, parents, yachts, sails, flags and other trappings like Audis and BMWs. Up again I went over to Brown’s Bay and from there followed the coast around to Mairangi Bay. The surf club had a kids event on, little nippers and parents having a lot of fun with beach activities. Again I walked the coast track which I think is a man-made storm water pipe, perhaps. Past lovely Campbells Bay (seafront homes with a swimming pool!) the track ran out and so I continued clambering over the rocks. It was getting a bit dicey with the tide by this time however the sea was clear calm and warm so I spent most time sloshing through the water. Before Castor Bay I ascended the Kennedy Park stairs and met Ben at the top. I ditched some of the weight from my pack in his car and Ben joined for a walk to Castor Bay. Next stop was Milford with its pretty marina then I finally took a break to get a coffee in Milford village. Refreshed from the break I was soon walking through Takapuna. By this time I thought the tide would be in so elected to walk the road to Devonport wharf. I made a detour to an adjacent hoping to see friends Carol and George Spence. Sadly they were not there but we had a nice chat on the phone regardless. Although I have not seen them for years and our paths are different since I moved from business events I hold our friendship dearly. Further down Lake Road I spotted a barber shop with empty chair and crossed the road immediately for a haircut. Now no hair and no beard. Good times. Streamlined and walking faster I was soon under the pohutukawa on Memorial Drive. This avenue of 28 Norfolk Island pines is a commemorative planting established in 1952 to honour Devonport’s sons lost in World War 2. The western side of Lake Road is flanked by a row of pohutukawa. Ever since Milford entrepreneurial families have been selling Christmas trees, the live variety and doing a roaring trade. I love the personalised signage like ‘Phoebe and Lukas Christmas Trees for sale’. And there would be a couple of kids sitting in the front yard dispensing trees. The last one in Devonport was particularly flash with strawberries and a BBQ going on.
And there you have it. 8 hours after leaving Stillwater I have reached Devonport wharf and the end of the road for the North Shore. The trail now continues south from downtown Auckland. A drink is overdue and fortunately the Devonport wharf has been revamped and has an excellent restaurant and bar on its doorstep with beverage options to satisfy thirsty hikers. My friend Mo joined me for a great catch up before Ben also arrived and I returned to his place for the night. Ben and I have been friends since high school in Hamilton and I adore him and his family. Tonight we have a delicious home cooked Japanese dinner and it is early to bed after a relaxing jacuzzi. Tomorrow is a day off.
My feet will thank me.