Day 14 - Whangarei to Peach Cove
Yet more apologies - this is reportage from a day in the long distant past...yes...I wrote it in March...it's now the end of September. I was skinny then...and am a bit of a chubster now...read on...and be amazed...
After Tony dropped us at McLeods Bay we sauntered around the Reotahi Walkway to another friend's place.
Facebook comes in for a fair bit of often justifiable flack, but it's a brilliant tool for getting to know people AND planning a hiking trip.
As we headed off to Peach Cove that morning, I messaged Adelia...she wasn't sure if she'd have time for a cuppa, but we dawdled long enough to arrive after she'd met her deadline.
We were so slow in fact that she and her dog Jess had time to come around the track to meet us.
After some hellos and hugs we ended up admitting to each other that we couldn't actually remember whether we'd met each other in person before. We kind of decided that we had...but...then again…
The tea was most excellent...which is lucky as Adelia considers herself something off an expert.
The cheese, crackers, olives and conversation were pretty good too. Which meant we spent way too long gasbagging and left really late in our oh-so-hectic day…
Brimming with tea we made our way around yet more gorgeous bays to a rather sad dairy that thankfully stocked happy ice creams. As the sugar rush hit we got to the beach at Taurikura Bay and did what any self respecting trail hiker would do in the circumstance - we stripped down to our gruts and went for a swim.
Unless it was our ears ringing, we're pretty sure that most of the day was accompanied by the constant and low background hum of the Marsden Point Oil Refinery. This place also keeps New Zealand humming...unless it breaks down for some reason.
As we walked around some of New Zealand's most idyllic seaside, the ugly smokestacks were a noisey reminder that the global warming that threatened these very same bays was being created to some degree across the harbour.
We'd spent an evening at Uretiti Campground with a retired engineer who had worked on the massive plant’s emergency response procedures and equipment.
“The place is buggered. It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” was his educated assessment of New Zealand’s only oil refinery. Built in the 1970s, it was originally a government owned and run operation, but privatisation in the 1980s has seen it become a run-for-profit enterprise that is owned jointly by New Zealand’s Big Three petrol retailers - Z Energy, BP and Mobil.
If our kind host at Uretiti was to be believed, the quest for profit seems to have taken priority over safe environmental management.
The bays around Whangarei are so blue...let's hope they remain that way.
Matariki/ Mount Lion had intimidated us for a few days. From the southern end of Bream Bay’s long beach it seems a lot bigger than it actually is. But as we walked around Whangarei Heads toward it, it seemed to shrink to a more realistic size…
Er...perhaps realistic isn't the right word to use...because once we started actually climbing the bloody thing it became stupendously enormous again. It was late in the afternoon, and the sun's heat was dry and hard. The regenerating bush on the side of the crazilly steep lump of rock provided shelter from the vicious rays but not from their heat.
The path up Matariki’s southern end features many flights of beautifully crafted wooden steps. Step number one thousand has been helpfully labelled “1000” by a mathematician with a sharp stick. About 500 steps later the top is reached. Those 1500 steps broke us.
Another daunting number of steps took us down to a saddle that we walked along until we came to an intersection and the last 76 flights of steps that would take us to Peach Cove Hut - the most northern DoC hut we'd ever bagged.
We may have been shattered, but not enough to stop us going for a swim on the rapidly darkening Peach Cove beach. As we fell into the warm ocean there was no thought for civilised niceties like underwear.
There was no glorious Pacific sunset. There were no dolphins frollicking in the breakers. But the swim was very memorable for thickness of the ectoplasm that we swam through that evening.
The cove's warm water was thick with a substance that felt like overcooked tapioca. On closer inspection it also looked like tapioca. As we tried to relax in the slightly creepy mixture we scooped up and examined handfuls of small individual jelly globules that contained a dark, germinating core. There must have been millions...nah...billions of the things.
We seemed to be swimming in the aftermath of some sort of fish orgy.
We felt privileged.
We got back to the hut as night finally fell. While we ate we read the hut book and learned that another Nobo, Kyle, had stayed at Peach Cove the night before. He seemed close, but also impossibly distant. We wanted to speed off the next morning in an attempt to catch him, but our tired bodies ached in protest at the thought.
It was a difficult night...for me. As Whiona slept soundly beside me I lay awake in the humid hut as an overabundance of noisy Ruru partied in the forest outside. The forest that the hut sits in has had its introduced predator population well managed with trapping and a highly effective land-based 1080 treatment programme. As I tossed and turned into the night I was reluctantly impressed with the racket outside.
NOTE: Further investigations have revealed that the ocean ectoplasm was probably a colony of salps...in their oozoid phase...who knew? Photo below.