90-Mile Beach

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October 29th 2007
Published: August 4th 2010
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October 23, 2007

It was an early morning, but we got out of Denver as scheduled and flew to Los Angeles. Upon arrival in LA, our good friend Jeremy Palmer picked us up and gave us the tour of the city on the way back to his house. It was a nice and well-informed tour, but I was far too tired from the lack of sleep last night to appreciate it fully. We’ll be through here in March, so maybe we’ll have a chance to experience the city in a coherently next time.
From here we will depart at 9:05 p.m. for Auckland and are expected to arrive there at 5:45 a.m. on Thursday (New Zealand is eighteen hours ahead of Denver time.) Once in the city we have a few things to take care of, supplies to get, etc and then we will be heading north to our starting point. When we start on the trail it will be at least three days before we come to a town, and possibly a few more before getting to one big enough for us to find internet access in. Wherever we find the internet, we will update the website at the first chance we get.
I’d also like to mention that I am dedicating this hiking endeavor to my grandparents who are all very important to me. To my Grandma Betty who has always told me how proud she is of me, and to my Grandpa Art who had a hip replacement this year and who is showing me what perseverance really means through his recovery with that. And to my Grandma Mary who I know loved to travel when she could, and will hopefully feel some of that excitement again through stories from her grandson. And also to her husband, my Grandpa Jacob Giesbrecht who passed away before I was born. I never got the chance to know him, but I know that he was a great man. I love all of you very much.


October 25, 2007

After many sleepless hours, several movies, and a moderate amount of turbulence we arrived in Auckland at the local time of 6 a.m. We made a few stops downtown and then set off to find our way north. We had been told by several locals that we should have no trouble hitch-hiking once we got outside Auckland so we rode a bus about twenty-five miles north outside the city and began to hitch-hike. Apparently people in this particular area are less prone to picking people up though as we later found out, because some hitchhikers have recently turned out to be robbers instead. So no rides, but we checked into a campsite by the beach and set up a bus pickup for tomorrow. All we have to do now is wait.
It’s a beautiful spot, thirty feet from the water at high tide. I’m glad to be here, but in a little bit of a mental slump. I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that we couldn’t get to our starting point today. Oh well, so long as we get there tomorrow everything should be fine. Also, the people in this country are exceedingly friendly (despite the fact that they won’t pick us up from the side of the road).

October 26, 2007

Finally, someone picked us up and offered to take us where we wanted to go. Sure, he was a bus driver and sure we were paying him, but it still felt good to be headed forward.
The bus ride was long and we happened to sit next to a young man who was quite fond of his own voice as well as a specific expletive he used a lot. As we cruised through the countryside I was almost more impressed with his total lack of concern for everyone around him than with the scenery. Almost, but not quite. When we eventually got off the bus, we decided to hitchhike as far as we could get, as we were still sixty miles from the end of the island and our starting point. We caught two rides at first, one taking us five miles and one taking us about fifteen. Then we had trouble and had waited almost an hour for a ride when finally a Swiss girl and her traveling companion stopped for us. They just happened to be heading to the exact same place as us. A prayer was answered! So we rode with them and chatted along the way. When we got to Cape Reinga we each grabbed a cold beer from the cooler and set out down the path to the lighthouse, which signaled the end of the island and the beginning of our journey.
Pictures were taken and goodbyes and good lucks exchanged and then we were off. We wanted to get some hiking done today before the sun disappeared and we were somewhat successful. We made it about four or five miles down the cliffs onto the first beach before darkness retired us. Camp was set up and dinner was cooked in the dark. The night was good, despite the wind the temperature, and sleeping came easy with the constant barrage of waves hitting the nearby shore.

October 27, 2007

Today began with such great potential. We got up early, had a nice breakfast, started off on the trail, and promptly got lost in the worst swamp imaginable. The map was a bit confusing, but we basically misread where we should have gone. We cut too far inland instead of fording the river at the mouth near the ocean. Cutting inland through the swamp made a few things happen: 1) We wasted a ton of energy meandering through the tall grass filled with spider webs. 2) We wasted a ton MORE energy meandering through the same junk trying to find a way out. And 3) Eric and I both let our anger get the best of us when we finally admitted we had gone the wrong way.
So after an hour of lost time and some help from a tour guide we ran into back at the beach, we were back on track and on to some pretty big hills. We also got an offer for a place to stay at the tour guide’s house in a couple of weeks from now when we go through her town.
We ascended and descended several bluffs each about 500 feet high. Every time I thought it was the last though there was one more to climb. The sign said it should take 1 hour and 45 minutes. I’m not sure which Olympic sprinter on speed they had timing it for them, but it was a lot more than that. It didn’t help that we had spent a ton of energy earlier in the swamp, sometimes on our hands and knees. After a couple of breaks for food and water as well as to triple check that we were on the right path across these stupid bluffs, we made it over and down to Ninety-Mile Beach. The stairs leading down the last bluff held some strange fascination with Eric, so I appeased him by taking several pictures.
Relief from the ups and downs awaited us at the bottom. There was nothing but flat ground as straight as an arrow for the next three days. Shortly into the beach though I got some cramps in my leg and the tendon that had all but crippled me a week and a half earlier was beginning to give me trouble. So I took a break, drank some water, and it got better from there. We covered another eight miles after that stop. We had crossed a river, waded a swamp, climbed up and down more than a vertical mile, and had finally completed our first full day of hiking.

October 28, 2007

We woke up today with less than pleasant weather. It was raining and if you mix that with all the sand that surrounded our campsite you get a giant mess. Everything picks up a coating of sand, from the tent to your clothes to eating utensils and everything else in your backpack. It seemed like the sand and water weight added an extra few pounds to my bag, but more than likely it was just the discomfort of having sand rubbed over every part of my body.
What started off as bad got worse as we began to walk. It was high tide and so the waves were crashing on the dunes parallel to the shore, cutting off our walkway when a big one would come every three minutes or so. Eric unfortunately did not hear me warn him of one such wave and ended up soaked to the knees. I was able to keep dry for most of the day though. The good thing about the rain was that it created the streams we needed for drinking water. Without them the beach can become sixty miles of thirstiness.
Things dried out in the afternoon; the sun came out and gave us a reprieve from being soaked though it wouldn’t be until we set up camp that everything in our bags could dry off. We felt like we had made pretty good progress today. We had passed the last landmark that would give a good indication of our progress by about four miles. That means that we are a little over halfway up the beach. We thought about going a little longer, but as we stopped to get some water a car drove up to us on the beach and three hippie type guys offered us a beer each. It is somewhat strange to see a car traveling down the beach so far from civilization, but occasionally tourists make their way up here. We got to talking with them and after the beer was in our stomachs we were convinced that this was far enough for today.

October 29, 2007

I woke up early today and we actually managed to start on the trail within ten minutes of what we had planned. The food in our bags was getting less with each day and the weight was noticeably lighter. Walking went great during the morning. Clear skies, a bit of a wind, and low tide meant we could walk without having to move for waves. We crossed several freshwater streams and made a good pace. I felt a couple of blisters forming on both of my feet so I stopped to bandage them before continuing.
By the afternoon we noticed that we hadn’t passed any freshwater in quite some time and that our supply was getting low. Continuing on, things became a little bleaker. I began getting severe pain in my feet, and a car we flagged down told us that without rain, there were no more streams across the beach for almost twenty miles. She was kind enough to fill our bottles with what water she had in her van, be we knew it wouldn’t last very long. We made the decision to forgo this last waterless section of the beach and instead catch a ride into town. After about an hour a flat-bed truck carrying a tractor down the beach stopped for us and offered us a lift. We rode in the back as the weather started to change to a little colder and some darker clouds appeared. Within a few minutes we were in Ahipara and looking for a place to stay. We found a backpacker hostel on the edge of town with reasonable rates and a hot shower. As neither of us had seen a shower for about six days now, we jumped at the chance.
Now as I write, I am laying on a comfortable mattress thinking about the section ahead of us. We have covered about fifty-five miles of beach in three days, and I am very happy to be off of it and to be able to get the sand out of our stuff. What awaits us next is three to four days through forest on our way to the east coast and the town of Paihai. After a day of rest we should be ready to go again.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


6th February 2011
Photo 10

Beautiful shot
Chad, just getting to some of your blog. Snowy day no tennis, super bowl party later. Miss seeing you. Enjoy your trip.

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