Monday, 13 May 2019

Te Paki Coastal Track- Cape Reinga

Catch-up

The Te Paki Coastal Track is a 48km rugged & scenic coastal track around the top of the North Island. The track leaves from Spirits Bay on the north eastern coast, passes through Tapotupotu Bay where we're camped, on around Cape Reinga, down along Te Werahi Beach, past Cape Maria van Dieman, along Twilight Beach and on to the giant sand dunes at Te Paki. And if you really want to make a walk of it you can continue on all the way to Ahipara at the south end of 90 Mile Beach.

There are several sections of the track that can be day walked, some are just a couple of hours, others are 9-10hrs and have entry points off the main highway. I decide to walk the 5km Tapotupotu Bay to Cape Reinga section but in reverse, getting David to drop me off at the Cape carpark so I can then walk back to camp from there. This proves to be fortuitous as in this direction I have two downhill sections and only one uphill!

The track starts twenty or so metres along the walkway to the lighthouse, it descends sharply off the manicured scoria track where visitors are leisurely strolling along. Some peer over the edge to see where I'm heading as I disappear out of sight. 


The track levels out for a short distance as it cuts around the edge of the bush-clad slope that finishes at the blue ocean far below. 


Once I round the bend the views along the coast are spectacular. From here it's straight down a small ridge, across another short shallow gully and then all the way down the next much longer ridge...


...the track & I, making a bee-line for a beautiful little bay tucked into the coastal cliffs ahead.


This is Sandy Bay, the bay I'd seen from the lookout up on the main highway a few days earlier.

From the lookout up on the main highway

And just in case you're thinking the track doesn't look that steep, this is looking back up towards Cape Reinga. It's probably about here that I'm patting myself on the back for deciding to walk in the direction I am.


Sandy Bay's shallow jade green waters look perfect for swimming, I'm sure many walkers have stopped to cool off here during the heat of summer. Uh-oh.... and I can also see the track rising sharply up the ridge on the otherside!


There are plenty of dramatic sea cliffs on the ocean side of the track...


...but all my attention is taken by the view down into Sandy Bay on the inside. What a stunning little cove.


The track narrows as it reaches the point and just as I take a photo I see a movement in my viewfinder. Another walker coming from the other direction has just popped up over the top of the point. He tells me he's walking there and back to the Cape from Tapotupotu Bay. I guess this the only option if you're by yourself and staying at the camp, it'll be at least a 6hr walk for him.


I reach the edge of the bay and clamber down a steep section of the track to the beach below.


While I'm taking photos, I get overtaken by a couple on a mission. They scare the living daylights out of me as I don't hear them approach and they don't say hello as they pass. They stride off towards the other side of the bay past a rocky area where it can be difficult to pass at high tide.


Once they reach the other side they cross the small stream and carry on around the beach towards the rocks and the overhanging pohutukawa trees where they settle down to have some lunch in the shade. I am sure they thought I was headed there too hence their hurry. I leave them to it and locate the entrance to the track, which isn't an easy as it sounds. There's no marker pole and others have worn a track up the edge of the stream either for a look or looking for the track start as well. 


I stop to take photos of the flax flowers along the edge of the track. Did you know that there are yellow, orange & red flax flowers? I've taken dozens of flax flower photos over the years and it has never registered that there were three colours until I was asked for a photo of a red flower for a study an organisation were doing on whether the colours were area specific. I never heard the outcome, I suppose with so many cultivars it would be hard to know which ones were natural. 


The views over Sandy Bay are just as spectacular as I climb higher...


...and higher. I'm also now racing ahead of a cloud bank I can see rolling in from the west.


The climb ahead is very steep, there are stairs some of the way and as much as I appreciate them, they make the climb twice as long as I have to do two steps for each one, as my stride isn't quite big enough to take them one at a time (although perhaps it's my legs complaining too much). 


There are several flights of stairs and as I zig-zag up the side of the hill, I stop often to take photos looking back over the bay.


The stairs give way to a narrow track that follows along the top of the cliff. I can now also see the Cape Reinga lighthouse on the far side and the track coming down the other ridge (click on the photo to enlarge).


It pays to keep alert and not look over the side if you have vertigo!


Finally I reach the top where the track heads off across a wide plateau through scrubby manuka and flax bushes. Across the water I can see the long white sandy beach of Spirits Bay, there's another DOC camp at the far left of the beach and that is also where the Te Paki Coastal Walk starts.


In the other direction I zoom in on a motorhome heading along the main highway to visit the Cape...


...and another one heading down into Tapotupotu Bay. 


Once through the scrub, the track opens up and turns towards the coast again and out to another point...


...above another beautiful bay; Tapotupotu Bay...


...with the DOC camp and home far below.



It's still a long way to the bottom and once again I am grateful I decided to walk in this direction. There would have been two very steep and long uphill sections coming the other way.


I'm walking along the edge of a cliff again and this time when I look over the side I see a flock of gannets playing follow the leader across the water far below.


The track follows the contours of the cliff edge all the way to a point just above the bay.


When I look back up the cliff I can see the couple who stopped for lunch have finally caught me up.


This time they don't give me a fright but they still pass me without saying hello. I call out hello to them instead and they answer with a wave & couple of grunts. It's a strange one that, I think foreign tourists do get a surprise at how friendly walkers are on our tracks, some do look at me in surprise when I say hello and they then offer a quick friendly response when they realise I'm talking to them. It's the Kiwi way afterall, isn't it? 


As the couple cross the sand I spot David walking along the beach towards me...


...he tells me I've been quicker than he thought, he was just going to climb up the track to meet me. Yeah right.


Footnote- I wonder who can guess what this blurry photo is of? Yes, I know, two piles of pebbles. But what do they represent? I took them out of my pockets at the end of the walk.


They're my new way of counting the flights of stairs, 11 flights up and 3 down this time. Remember my leaf numbers from the walk at Whangaruru where there were 45 flights up, I decided picking a pebble up at the top of each flight was quicker than making a number up each time out of leaf litter and then stopping to take a photo (hmm...I guess 45 pebbles would have weighed me down a bit though)



Zoom in at the top of the map & look for the green waypoints to track the walk.



4 comments:

  1. Thanks Shellie, great read, another one for my list of walks to do. Keep them coming.

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    1. Thanks Eddie, glad you enjoyed your virtual walk now for the real thing.... :)

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  2. Beautiful Shellie. Thanks for sharing your walk.

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    1. You're welcome, pleased you enjoyed it and thanks for commenting.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.