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  • Writer's pictureJenny

Days 79 - Sandy Bay to Ruakaka

Day 79 ~ Walked: 32 km, ~ Start: Sandy bay ~ End: Taiharuru (km 370)

Another big day which was needed to get through a couple of water sections at low tide.

A bit of road walking to start which wasn’t to bad as roads were quiet and had good gutters to walk in for a lot of it.

Then bike trail through to ngunguru which was a tiny bit through some native bush but largely gravel roads.

A lot of people on this road

Nice lunch at ngunguru and met Linda who had done it in first year when only 20 people did it.

Relaxed to fill in time for boat crossing. I was hoping for a swim but it was windy and the tide out so didn’t seem appealing.

James got us across the Ngunguru river to time us for low tide at Horahora.

His wife had cold watermelon and cold lemon drink for us while James took us through excellent instructions for the river crossing. It was quite exciting to have a change coming up from all the road walking.

With all the instructions and precautions the river crossing only ended up being knee deep and with no flow. It was a very enjoyable change from the road.

Approaching the Horahora

Upstream crossing point

The mangrove mud was also a change but not quite as enjoyable. It had a sulphuric smell. Is that normal???

We then road walked into Pataua. Another little village with a north and south community connected only by footbridge. I would have liked to have gone onto the Parauwainui surf beach for a swim but it was getting late and we also wanted to get to our bnb for the night.

There was still another hour of road walking after Pataua to the bnb as we couldn’t do the esturary route as the tide was now too high.

The B&B was run by Hugh and Ros. Ros did the TA in 2014 with Hugh in the support vehicle. Consequently they are very enthusiastic TA supporters and so hospitable. They have a camp and cabin with shower and toilet set up on their property for TAers and even a little sign on their esturary frontage inviting passing walkers in for a tea or coffee.

Day 80 ~ Walked: 13 km, ~ Start: Taiharuru ~ End: Ocean beach (km 383)

With our shorter day planned we had a leisurely start, enjoying the continued hospitality with breakfast and a wander around their extensive gardens and mangrove boardwalks. As the tide was still to high for estuary walking Hugh delivered us to its edge - a service he provides for free to any TA walkers needing it.

Our days walking started with a steep little climb up and over Kauri mountain that only had a smattering of young kauri as far as we could see.

The views from the top were outstanding. The coast and estuaries to the north from which we’d come and the 7km ocean beach that we were about to walk. With Bream Head at the end.

North view

South view


We lunched in the shade of pohutakawas at Kauri mountain beach enjoying the views along ocean beach that we were about to walk.

I absolutely loved the beach walking. There was enough of a sea breeze and the cooling water to wade through to keep us cool in the heat of the day.

We were surprised to cover 7km of pristine isolated beach and then round a rocky outcrop at the end and find hundreds enjoying a couple hundred metre stretch of beach there.

After setting up camp I joined the throngs for a real surf beach swim. Gerard was very relieved there were life guards on duty and he didn’t have to supervise me. The waves were pretty strong and I just about lost my bikini (aka bra and undies) on every wave I didn’t dive under.

Another great camp tonight provided by TA supporters on their beachside farm. This one even had a hot shower and filtered water as well as toilet and marquee for shade.

We’re the only ones here again. We haven’t seen any other walkers since leaving Puketi forest almost a week ago. Although Hugh and Ros tell us there are some both a day ahead of us and a day behind us (none of the ones we’ve met so far).

Day 81 ~ Walked: 26 km, ~ Start: Ocean beach ~ End: Ruakaka (km 409)

I got up early at 5-30 to get some sunrise photos on the beach. We also wanted to hit the track as early as possible to get the worst of the days climb done before it heated up too much. I succeeded on the first but not the second.

It was about three hours straight climbing over three peaks of Bream head so the sun was well and truly heating us by the end of that. There were some good views on the way up but disappointingly not on the summits.

View of where we’d come from - kauri mountain with trees removed on peak

Early morning yacht out

Marsden point oil refinery across the harbour

There were quite a few interesting rock formations:

Three fingered rock

One fingered rock

Hole in the rock

The steep descent down was just as hot and tiring and we were relieved to finally reach the bottom.

Our other challenge today was to hitch a ride over the Whangarei harbour. The water taxi service walkers usually take was not available today. Our plan was to approach anyone we saw launching a boat at any of the bays on the way to where the taxi usually leaves from, and offer them money to take us. The first guy we approached said he would have loved to but had 30 kids around the corner waiting for their biscuit rides!! Absolutely fair enough.

We didn’t see anyone else for a while then got to a narrow windy busy section of road so tried to hitch a couple of km for safety. Trail magic kicked in for us then. The lovely Erin picked us up - a first for her. When she heard of our plans she assured us her family would be more than happy to take us across the harbour. And sure enough when she took us unannounced to her parents place, they couldn’t have been more welcoming and hospitable. Offering us food and drinks, a shower or swim. They had a couple of options for us. Her brother/other family were already out on the water fishing, and Steve her dad said he could also take us. We relaxed a bit, had a drink and a bit of a swim in the bay in front of their place, before Steve took us over to Marsden cove. The kindness of strangers is so heart warming.

Erin and her mum Bev

We had a bit of a hiccup as the jetty we’d got out on was a private one that needed a pin code to unlock the gate. The coastguard came to our rescue as they were docking nearby so came over to collect us and set us down on a more public dock. Marsden cove was an impressive new development of canal side homes and little shopping centre. The new world supermarket, only two weeks old, was very boutique, so we restocked our treat supplies. We also couldn’t go past a cafe without topping our fuel reserves up even though it was about 2pm by this point.

We had a bit of a road walk skirting around Northport and Marsden point refinery before getting onto the beach.

Not the regular TA walking views

Another long perfect golden sand stretch of beach and pleasant walking with the cooling sea breeze.

The final 6-7km road walk detour to avoid the Ruakaka river crossing in contrast was very unpleasant. The heat became unbearable and we were quite exhausted by this point. The official temperature was 27deg but it must have been over 30 on us with the road and buildings reflected heat and direct sun. It was a real struggle. I drunk 3.5 litres over the day and another 1.5 on arrival and it probably wasn’t enough.

When we arrived at the camp all I could do was collapse in the shade. I desperately wanted to go for a swim in the sea to cool down but just didn’t have the energy to get to it. Gerard set up the tent while I rehydrated and tried to cool down. My legs were burning, not from sunburn but from a heat rash that was developing. Once I finally cooled off I had a shower and went to bed, not even wanting to eat. I had the best sleep not even waking when the volunteer fire siren went off twice, or Gerard got out for the toilet during the night. And that is unheard of, I usually wake at the slightest disturbance.

Ruakaka beach camp

Day 79 ~ Walked: 32 km, ~ Start: Sandy bay ~ End: Taiharuru (km 370)

Day 80 ~ Walked: 13 km, ~ Start: Taiharuru ~ End: Ocean beach (km 383)

Day 81 ~ Walked: 26 km, ~ Start: Ocean beach ~ End: Ruakaka (km 409)

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Rhonda Scott
Rhonda Scott
Jan 05, 2022

Stunning scenery and photos


Jan 05, 2022

Some interesting scenery there, loved the cool rock formations but those early morning sunrise pics were great Jenny, fantastic colouring. Gee I see they named a street in your honour and rightly so. The heat that very hot day sounded a bit brutal, glad you got over that with a good sleep.


Darlene Westrupp
Darlene Westrupp
Jan 05, 2022

Another 3 days in paradise 😍

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