Saturday, November 3, 2007

From Ballers to Backpackers

After catching unexpected Labor Day sales – Shopping in a frenzy for camping necessities as though it were Christmas Eve – Stince and I were fully equipped for our cherry popping outdoor adventure in New Zealand. It was difficult deciding on which trail to tackle first, we have no experience, cheap new gear, and could be great supporting actors in a Super Size Me sequel for all the Mc Donald’s we have been eating. How could anyone pass up on the Mac Attack deal (2 big macs, 2 large fries and 2 large drinks) for $10, especially when you’re on a backpacker’s budget? All that aside, with reference to our Lonely Planet guide we decided on a 3 day, 41km tramp around Cape Regina. Cape Regina is labeled as New Zealand’s most northern point where over two hundred miles of white sandy beaches surround the coast and sub tropical forests occupy the mainland. It was only a 300km drive, Auckland was cold and it was about time we got a little color before we were mistaken as British backpackers.

The drive was very entertaining but extremely long. If you were driving you were blessed with the smooth shifting of Midnight Special (the name of our car) through twisty, undulant roads with similar composition of a video game. If you were riding passenger your head was on a swivel trying to capture all of the beautiful sites and strange looking creatures. It took longer than expected because with the profile of these two way highways you’re lucky to reach highway speeds of 80km. Not factoring this in, we had to pull into a campground as the Midnight Special was having a hard time illuminating the road.

Setting up for the evening was very exciting. It was like Christmas. We had been accumulating so much stuff throughout our days in Auckland that it was a surprise to open the large bags full of new gear. Our Moral was soon dampened once our erected tent displayed a mesh that a fucking bumble bee could fly through. Now it makes complete sense as to why it was 50% off. The bugs were non existent that evening but all we could do was pray that the Woods of Cape Regina are nothing like the Bush of northern New Brunswick.

We reached the Cape Regina check-in point early afternoon on the 24th, expecting to spend the rest of the day organizing our gear, planning meals and strategically packing our packs with intentions of leaving the next morning. No deal. They insisted we catch our shuttle to Te Paki stream two hours after we landed. We made the deadline but our packs were extremely disorganized.

After a quick orientation with our driver named Honey, at 17:00 we were tramping. It was a feeling I cannot describe. My boots were grazing fine white sand of the famous ninety mile beach, barreling waves of the Tasman Sea were crashing to my left, 300m wind sculpted sand dunes to my right and a mountain of tropical vegetation ahead. I turned to my side to look at Stince and followed by a big high five was gut wrenching laughter.

There were only a few spots along the way where fresh water ran to the ocean so our options were limited as to where we could camp. We purchased an ionic carbon filter that could make any water but sea water drinkable. While filling up at these streams it was important that the unfiltered water didn’t make contact with your mouth piece or drip into to your bottle because there is a bacterium called Guardia that thrives in these streams. If you ingest it, I guess you will not stop shitting until you shit your intestines out.

We tramped up and over two mountains to the fresh water destination of Moon Light Bay. The sun was beginning to set so we needed to set up camp quickly. We nestled behind a sand dune and pitched our tent in a bed of knee high field grass to escape the high winds. The sunset at this point was so beautiful it distracted our growling bellies until dark. Our main course for the evening consisted of mixing 5 hot dogs into a boiling pot of canned spaghetti. Boy was it ever good. At this point I was just waiting for a hatch of sand flies (black fly) or a swarm of mosquitoes to invade our site and penetrate the tent, but luckily there were none.

The sleep was fabulous. The sound of crashing waves accompanied by memory foam field grass caused us to sleep in. It was a must that we reach our next freshwater destination and time the tide at Tapotupotu Bay, so we packed up on empty stomachs and hit the trail at 09:10. It was a beautiful day for tramping, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. For brunch we ate almonds and a bevy of granola bars. Everything was seamless until the Te Werahi descend. The tide was quite high and there was not a dry passage to the beach. We searched and searched and walked in circles to avoid having to take off our boots and wade across the estuary. In these areas you had to watch for quick sand. The grain of sand is very fine and the current of water runs beneath the sands surface, creating suction and no resistance for the step. After hours of searching for a shallow passage we unlaced our boots and made the cross safely. The hike was very tiring along Te Werahi beach because most of the energy from our steps was lost in the movement of the sand. After the beach we began a very steep ascends up a narrow trail to the peak of cape Regina’s highest mountain. The scenery at the most northern point was breathtaking. The South Pacific and Tasman Seas was crashing together catalyzing large waves with a tropical blue hue.

After many serene yet grueling climbs and descends we reached our camp site at 16:00, much earlier than expected. At this point we were both moving like old men, our legs were filled with lead, our feet riddled with blisters and our asses raw with chafe. The campsite was at a secluded campground you could reach only by traveling hours on dirt roads. We had the campground to ourselves until two beautiful Germen women pulled up in a van next to us. The tide was moving in quickly and this was where we had to make the crossing but Stephens’s infatuation with the German babes caused us to miss our window. Nothing more escalated from this scenario and in order for us to make our pickup point the next day we had to wade across the bay at 02:00. A full moon helped us make a safe passage through the bay where we quickly re-set up the tent and fell back asleep.

You would think that wading in salt water and walking through a field of waist high grass at 02:00 is a little unnerving but here in New Zealand it gives you peace of mind to know that there are no snakes, ticks, spiders or insects that will harm you.

The next morning arrived early. Both of us were awake in time to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. Again we were blessed with another gorgeous day. The hike began at 09:00 with a 1.5 hour climb that caught us by surprise. Throughout the entire afternoon the trail slowly descended along the spine of a 500m mountain giving us a clear view of the south pacific on one side and Hobbit like terrain on the other. By the time we reached the final stretch of Pandora’s beach, our bodies were dipping into the Big Mac fat reserves. Shrieking with joy thinking that we only had another hour beach walk left we took off our shoes and decided to soak in all the elements of our victory lap. The finish point was visible but it seemed as though we were not getting any closer. After an hour of walking we put our boots back onto speed up the process because the finish point was not getting any closer. The hour beach walk ended up taking three hours, later to find out it was 9km long.

Reaching the end point an hour ahead of schedule (15:30) gave us both a great sense of accomplishment. What a life changing experience it was. The ice has now been broken and a new chapter in our lives has started to unfold.

Stephen and I are now in Taupo after finishing the first great walk around Lake Waikaremoana. It took 3 day to tackle 46km of moderate terrain. The blog on this tramp will be uploaded by the weekend. Today we are traveling to Tongariro National Park to complete the second great walk through snow capped mountains that are volcanically active. Currently the trail is closed due to heavy snow fall but by tomorrow it may open.

Thank you all for reading. All the best!


1 comment:

mitchcoates said...

Nice trek boys, here I am rotting away in the middle of the North Sea, I havn't seen the sunshine for 18 days and you just brightened up my night. What I would give to be there with you two wizards right now. Good luck with the next journey, and keep an eye out for a burger king, a little more grease can go a long way, espically with those german beauties stince.