I haven’t been lugging this tent solely to save on hut fees—camping is $14 rather than $32 for the comfort of a mattress—there’s a side trip planned to the beaches north of the Heaphy River where the accommodation price is more reasonable, ie, zilch.

I’ve been over there a couple of times, the first to view the Japanese fishing boat shipwrecked. I remember thinking at the time, man, how do you park a boat that big up there?

Then, a year or two later doing the full Kahurangi Lighthouse to Heaphy River coastal excursion, with two other fit twenty-somethings.

Day 1, from my recollection got us about 800 m around a bluff, a full morning scramble, wrestle, through the olearia scrub, particularly dense and scratchy, a short section across the top, then the descent, not made easy by the windswept foliage. It was a face full of twigs, made us conclude getting up was the easier direction.

After that it was a whole lot of rock hopping for the next day. There were a couple of seal colonies to wander through, pups in evidence.

Then the third day towards the Heaphy it opened out to easier walking sandy beaches.

Then we found the answer to that question, “How do you catch a crayfish?”

Correct response, “First find someone with a fishing line . . .” ie, me.

I was astonished to find that the fish I was reeling in was indeed a rather impressive cray but, of course, as soon as it reached the surface it dropped off. The others, Roger and Peter not believing me until a short while later, it latched on again. Roger bravely snaffling it, waist deep, after that I didn’t bother with fish.

The sad, freaky, part was not having a pot big enough to cook The Beast whole. The poor creature was required to be reversed, the experience still haunts me. Mussels galore, a seafood feast cooked up on a beach side fire.

I’m thinking that tackling this easier southern section would be a sensible way to spend some time rather than just bashing out the end of the Heaphy Track, yes, that’s what’s stored in the memory banks, so up the coast for a few days, five extra days food on board.

If the last few days have seemed rather laid back, this morning was as well, plenty of time talking to a stray German guy, Stephan, and the hut warden, Dion, here for his second summer season. I investigate where a couple of archaeological excavations were done over the last few decades, they found Maori artefacts from around 1450, but it’s all now settling back, not much to see except that great view of the river mouth.

It wasn’t total lack of enthusiasm, I was waiting for the tide’s retreat, high tide at 9 am means low at 3 pm. I reckon I could get across the Heaphy river about 1 pm but it looked as if 12 would’ve been okay.

Then at 2 pm the climb up over the Bluff began, the blazed track barely apparent the last time I went over, now almost 20 years ago. Well, who knows where that is. My excursion eventuated into a full-on wrestle my way up the 160 m high slope, through dense kiekie, an endemic species of pandanus, occasional supplejack but at least no lawyer or stinging nettle.

Two hours later, having taken off the pack a couple of times and crawled, wriggled, wormed, the top was reached, a blazed track of the sort found and the steeper plunge down the other side. One blind alley, then I did a cross country.

This is very steep, finding first a solitary glove, then a water bottle, then a crossbow bolt.

What’s next, a body? but perhaps they’d survived, comforting to know I’m not the only traverser of this terrain.

Later I learn of the recent exploits of a young guy attempting to wander the entire NZ coastline, some of his truly wild story can be found here.

There was a fair amount of the expected grumbling, tugging, hauling, swearing, et cetera but eventually I popped out on Porters Beach. Someone has done a few chops at the foliage recently, I’ll make more effort to replicate that trail, it’s gotta be a whole lot better than my personally created route.

Then a few kilometres up the beach. Being now late after that delayed start, didn’t take much, the temptation of staying adjacent to a large-ish waterfall, one of the few water points seen, the camping site right on the beach, the only level ground around, the hills start straight from the neap tide mark.

The usual flyby of a pair of gannets, truly the royalty of sea birds with their golden heads, gracefully zipping inches above the almost breaking waves, the sun going down, not visible with the cloud, but it’s all looking good for tomorrow.

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