THE ROUTE: Te Paki Coastal Track (48km; 4 days)
Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) Campsite – Pandora Bay Campsite – Tapotupotu Bay Campsite – Cape Reinga – Cape Maria van Dieman – Twilight Campsite – Ninety Mile Beach – Te Paki Stream
Imagine four sunny days. Warm, not too hot. Cliffs and sandy beaches. Sand dunes and bridges across wetlands. Ocean and moon-like landscapes. Bush and open ridge lines. Climbing and descending. Stunning views everywhere you look and funny encounters along the way. That was the Anzac far-north trip in a nutshell, but wait, there’s more. I asked members of our out party to contribute their most memorable funny stories of this trip. They are all very well written and funny! Read on to get transported to New Zealand’s far north and experience snippets of our trip for yourselves.—Monika Coles
Highlights from the Far North
I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to New Zealand flora and fauna, but I would like to comment on fauna that I encountered.
First, there were the seabirds around Pandora Bay and the birds along the coast south of Cape Reinga.
Second were the curious mushroom-stalk-like creatures with their flat-topped sandy “hair” that emerged from the sand on the beach just below the tideline.
Twilight Beach campsite was well populated with possums (imported fauna), so it was quite a shock to be woken up at about 10.30 pm to see a possum with its face pressed up against my tent inner—fully zipped up, I might add!. Needless to say, the possum beat a hasty retreat in response to my vocal and physical reaction.
There was one other encounter with the native fauna that I found puzzling and intriguing, and I managed to get a photo of it to share.
How Not to Choose a Camping Spot
Day two was a short hike from Pandora Campsite at the end of Spirits Bay to Tapotupotu Beach Campsite … fantastic views from high along the rocky coast and finally down to the Tapotupotu estuary and beach, with the bright yellow bus parked proudly in the middle.
There was plenty of space on the grass along the estuary to erect our tents. Most chose spots near the bus, but, wanting privacy and quiet, I chose a great spot under a pohutukawa tree some distance away, with not a soul nearby.
Although the sun was shining, there was a fierce wind blowing up the estuary and I decided that my spot was too sandy. Moving the erect tent by myself was challenging. I didn’t want to take it down, so I very nearly lost it completely as it flew, ducking, diving and dancing like a kite behind me as I gingerly backed up to my alternative spot. The tent was flapping so vigorously I was frightened it would tear itself apart. Either that or my pegs (held in one hand ready to pin it down in the new position) would accidentally pierce the fly.
But finally I secured it in the new position, with four enormous rocks ensuring that it would not take off by itself again.
After a great swim, and trying to body surf in the lovely rolling waves, I returned to find my tent now hemmed in on three sides by two vans and a car. So much for my secluded spot.
And later that night, instead of being peacefully serenaded by the gently pounding surf I was “entertained” by bass-ridden music, followed by the clanging of fishing gear, pots and pans, and a disstressed child’s howls.
Finally, in desperation, I clambered out of my sleeping bag to confront my inconsiderate neighbours. My headtorch shone on a rather tall fisherman sharpening his extremely long knife. Discretion is the better part of valour, I thought, as I silently retreated back into my tent and tried to stick my earplugs even further inside my ears. No wonder I was ready to get out of there next morning thirty minutes before departure time.
(However, I did have the dream spot at Twilight Camp on the following night.)
Possum Encounter at Twilight Campsite
We were well warned about the possums—there was a hut book in the shelter, and other trampers had mentioned them—so several of us suspended our food bags from the rafters a metre or so above the ground and hoped for the best.
My tent was only a few metres from the shelter, and on several occasions I was woken up by furious snarling and scuffling just outside. When I went out just after dawn, I was not surprised to find that the plastic bags that had been hanging up had been torn to shreds and the contents strewn over the ground.
Luckily, my coffee, milk powder and drinking chocolate were all in tough plastic containers and were still intact. I’d put other food inside a small billy with its lid tied on and that had defeated them.
It was the last night of the trip, I didn’t have much food left, and in the end the possums did not get much from me for all their trouble. Only a packet of instant noodles (they didn’t bother with the sachets of spices and sauces). They must have had a furious fight over that, too, because there was a lot of fur on the ground. Enough, as one of our party observed, to make a pair of nipple warmers!
We arrived at Tapotupotu campsite by mid-day on Anzac Sunday. What do you do first when you get to camp? Put up your tent, of course. I placed my tent on a likely spot and set off to explore the campground. Within minutes a “dear” member of our party had his tent up, intruding on my space.
What can you do? You accept the situation with good grace and ignore his orange crocks.
And what do you do after the tent is up? Make a hot drink, of course. I set out my gear near the bus. By now my dear friend had decided to move his tent closer to the bus.
“Your gear is blocking my tent site,” he said.
What was his problem? Not being a psychologist, I couldn’t answer that question. But low and behold, there was my original site, waiting for my tent. So when it comes to tenting etiquette, patience can have its own rewards.
My Happy Places
We all join the away trips for different reasons. The Anzac away trip was part of my preparations for a trip to Morocco in August. So I was testing my gear and soaking up advice from my seasoned tramping mentors. John’s ultralight tent; and Roger’s recipes for dehydrated food, plus equipment for speedy boiling were impressive.
I struggled to use a lighter with my arthritic fingers to get that necessary flame, but with words of encouragement from those around me, finally a flame was achieved. More testing and learning!
My happy places are bush, beach and mountains, and the Anzac tramp certainly took me there. Wandering up the estuary amid massive sand dunes, I engaged in lighthearted banter. But, sorry, it didn’t sound like a marriage proposal to me.
Being risk adverse, my gear was zipped away safely in my tent each night, so I was somewhat amused by the possum attack at twilight. They certainly made their presence known.
A parting tip: it’s always nice to take a little extra something to share.
I think everyone will agree if I say that we all had a fantastic time up north. Last year bad weather forced cancellation of this trip, but the good weather definitely made up for it this year. There were many more stories we could have told, and there was one other thing that made this trip special: we had the pleasure of meeting the bus party halfway through the tramp. It was great to join with them for a night with their vino, suitcases of food, and games of cards. Heaps of fun! Thanks, Helen, for organising such an amazing trip.—Monika Coles