I left Helena Bay about 8.00am heading for Mimiwhangata Bay. True to form I had gone about 500m before I found someone to talk to. Two ladies out for a morning walk, Jo and Colleen? Who advised me against my planned route and suggested an alternative to avoid some bluffs.
Another 200m and I was talking to a DoC officer who had just finished counting a population of Brown Teal. These used to be widespread across New Zealand but now number about 500 on the mainland. I continued on along Webb Road and as I climbed towards the saddle a horse and rider approached from above. The ride was a real country man by the name of Jack Webb, he had just driven cattle to a nearby bay and was returning home. Webb Road was named after his Grandfather.
Instead of turning north at the ridge I now continued on towards Okupe Beach which was more easterly. This route was in fact signposted as the way to the Doc reserve at Mimiwhangata anyway. The road wound it?s way down through native bush which gave way to farmland near sea level.
At the road end I walked over a low ridge to Mimiwhangata Bay which was breathtaking. There was a wide sweep of white sand beach with a significant headland on the right which had two yachts moored off it and a dinghy pulled up on the beach. I stopped and took some photos including one of the dinghy then headed over another small rise towards the northern end of Okupe Beach.
As I crested the ridge I saw a small lake which I recalled the DoC man saying he would be checking later in the day as it also had a population of Brown Teal. About halfway down to the beach was an inviting looking Pohutakawa tree so I planted myself down for lunch.
Before long the owners of the dinghy appeared and began climbing up towards me. Neil and Lynnis Burson had recently arrived back in the country in their ketch ?Freelance? which they had purchased two years earlier in Florida. Lynnis had also walked 1000km in Spain with the group of friends some 20 years earlier. An hour quickly passed talking and then they wished me well and I promised to wave if I saw them off the coast as they sailed to Tutakaka.
I made my way South along the white sand of Okupe beach with just enough breeze to take the worst of the heat off the day. Near the end of the beach there were lots of people sunbathing and boogy boarding. Bluffs halted my progress south. On talking to one of the families I was informed that the valley was all privately owned but they were able to give me permission to head back up their drive to the main road which I followed to Whananaki.
Whananaki North and Whananaki South are separated by a river of the same name. The two settlements are linked by a very long, but very convenient wooden footbridge which provided a convenient platform for several local fishermen and women. I paused for a short chat with a couple, Michelle and Derek before continuing across the bridge to the start of the Whananaki Coastal Walkway. One of the locals had mentioned that Winston Peters had grown up in Whananaki South and that his mothers house was the first on the left over the footbridge.
I didn't see much of the actual coast on the Coastal Walkway. After following the beach for about 2km it makes it's way through rolling hills. Beach access was prohibited in most places but there were some great views of the Poor Knights islands.
At the end of the walkway I had about 2 hours of road walking to get to Matapuri Bay. On my way I rang Ben Edgar from Nguguru for some advice on my proposed route. He had met Geoff Chapple in 1998 when he was doing this section.
At Matapouri Bay I was lucky enough to be offered a bed by Jenny McMath whose company I enjoyed immensely and we talked into the night. Her late husband - Witi McMath was one of the prime organisers of the Land March and they had devoted most of their lives to the fight for justice in relation to Maori land. I felt very lucky to have had a glimpse at the personal side of such important events.
Sorry they are so far away, the farmer was watching so I could not sneak any closer.
On the beach at Mimiwhangata.
The top view of a very long footbridge.
The underview of same bridge, no trolls in sight.