Sep 1. Day 1 Cape Reinga to Twilight Beach campground 12 Km 1:00-4:00
Cape Reinga is the Springer Mountain of the TA. There is no public transport from Kaitaia up Highway 1 to the cape, the northernmost point in NZ, so I negotiated a trip with a tour group who were driving up the highway and back on the beach (which in NZ is part of the public right of way). Having taken the same tour with the family back in 2005, the sightseeing up was familiar including a stop at a Kauri wood emporium built around a large, upright trunk which has been carved into a spiral staircase; then a trip to a gumdigger museum site. It’s an odd feeling commencing a long-distance hike by riding a bus with tourists stopping at every sightseeing opportunity. Even though huge storms passed through last night and there is flooding in Auckland, the skies cleared out mid-morning giving me a warm sunny first day. Walked down to the lighthouse in bright light, turned and commenced the trek. The TA at first is well built, as that part is walked by day hikers. Down to the beach required rock scrambling (some difficult) then long walk on hard sand. The hills are grass covered sand dunes– this stretch is a long 10k wide sand bar stretching between the volcanic hill of Reinga, and the volcanic hills around Ahipara. When crossing a hill off the first beach over to Twilight beach, the trail is marked by posts painted orange at the top. After a while your eyes grow accustomed to finding them in the distance. I had hoped to make it to the beginning of 90 mile beach (about 16k) but on hitting the south of Twilight, I found a Department of Conservation campground with water, toilets, pavilion and wide grass space. Too tempting when compared to stealth camping in the dunes farther on, so I pitched my tent, spread out sweaty clothes to dry, and talked a long time to a young German named Teddy who is also hiking the TA. The sun goes down early here and rises late, making for short hiking days. Around 6:00, the temperature dropped, and it wasn’t long before I crawled into my sleeping bag for warmth and to sleep. Excellent first day, tomorrow need big miles.