Day 2: Te Ikaamaru Bay to Cape Terawhiti , Stingray Bay

A stingray lies in wait on the sea floor.

My day starts with the sound of mooooo-ing close to my campsite.

Recalling that the surrounds are mined with cow pats I extricate myself from my fabric coffin to find a little cow staring at me from the edge of the trees.

Then a more urgent mooooooo!! I turn around and see a big mama cow walking up the hill. I imagine their annoyance and despair that the humans have arrived and taken over their shady hangout spot.

I recall some other sounds from the night. A rising wind sound in the absence of a breeze, too quiet to be a helicopter or plane, I wondered if it was a drone or perhaps some kind of UAP. This morning I hear it again and realise that it's probably just the wind turbines spinning up - despite the remote location I'm just on the doorstep of a major wind farm.

Exploring my surrounds in the daylight, I find the previously misplaced buildings just up and over a rise behind my camping site and past a tyre rope swing.

There's another rickity DIY picnic table there too. A weird underground stream seeps out of the hill below, perhaps a secret cave complex, or just the land collapsing from over-farming. And trees grow on an angle, perhaps responding to demands from the prevailing winds.

Next door, PEARCE ST still looks empty and I wonder whether the loud bangs I heard were just caused by the wind.

Or is there something living in the hill..? A strange metal door provides unnatural access that looks almost Hobbiton. What is this place?

Glancing back, I review the difficult sections of coastline avoided yesterday via much sweaty scrambling.

From this angle it's clear that there's no way past the rock ribs without walking through the sea - if tidally appropriate - swimming around, or going up and over. Also apparent is the steepness of the surrounding hillsides, especially the upper portion of the first rock rib which looks really gnarly.

I think I made the right call in following the hillside down and out into the bay.

I head down the beach to check out the other wooded area where I might have camped last night.

It's not actually that far, but try telling that to my knackered night self.

It's a nice spot under the trees. Rodent traps curate a thriving ecosystem, a DIY kitchen provides a sea-to-table dining experience and there's a water source where it seeps down the rock face.

I head up the hill to exorcise the remains of my own limited diet. It's the first time I've used my fancy Alton Titanium Trowel (opens new window) and though it flexes and jabs into my hand it does take the digging in its stride. Carefully stowing the soiled paper in a ziplock bag for later disposal, I feel lightened by the experience and more prepared for what the day may bring.

And first that's a swim.

A sweaty odorous mess, last night was spent writhing uncomfortably on the taut nylon surface of my air mattress, half-naked inside my barely breathable bivvy sack.

The result of not bathing before bed, I regretted the decision as I lay wide awake at 3am, praying for daylight. However, as I'm about to find out it was probably for the best.

The morning is not as warm as expected and though it's a nice reprieve from the oppressive heat of yesterday I'm loathe to take my rain jacket off to swim in the dull blue bay.

The beach is deserted but I change into my togs anyway. Entering the water at the far end of the bay, I'm careful to circumnavigate blue bottles embedded in the squishy sand.

Stepping over stones scattered throughout the shallows, I'm surprised when something flashes out in front of me. I change course and soon encounter another. Stingrays!! Lying on the bottom partially cloaked in sand, they're hard to see when you're focussed on placing your feet - and several times I've nearly stood on them!

While it's awesome to know that there's wildlife on this wild beach, it does take my morning dip to another level. I had planned to go for a proper swim here, but after my winged discovery I'm wary of invoking a defensive reaction, and paranoid that they'll lump me in with the fisherfolk who frequent this location.

I decide to back up and bathe in the shallows. I'll call this Stingray Bay from now on.

The trail continues, it's more of the same and I put on some Aril Brikha to liven things up.

The beach soon mutates into alien rockpools awash with blue pellets and then the inevitable wall-in-the-sea.

Luckily, there's a well worn detour which transports me up the hill with little effort.

Keen to get back down to the official coastal route, I once again find that it's the getting down that's hardest to do.

I'm tempted by stands of spindly trees, clinging to the hillsides while tufts of wool cling to the ground below. But mountain goats are surely more sure-footed than I and the gaps between trees are uncomfortably long. After a while I give up and look for an easier route.

A green gully looks like my best option. Here there are plenty of things to grab on to and the last few metres I can do on my bum.

At the bottom I claim my prize, a near new Teva sandal. It will come in handy next time I have to scramble over rocks while getting in or out of the sea. I do wonder how it got here and whether it was deliberately dropped by a diver to mark their point of entry (people sometimes do this when crossing rivers), but their choice of item seems impractical and unlikely.

Skirting around the edge of the inevitable rocks, entry to Ohau Bay is fairly straightforward.

But the beach is caked in a massive amount of driftwood, an intimidating sight given the large amount of plastic waste concealed within.

While it's not the first plastic waste that I've encountered, the number of items discarded by humans easily outnumber the number of actual humans I've seen on my trip. Plus, every empty bottle taunts me with the thought that buying a cold energy drink in a single use plastic bottle will very likely be the first thing that I do when I reach civilisation - hiking is thirsty work!

Many of the empty food and beverage containers hail from China. They appear to have travelled a ridiculously long way to be here and I wonder whether they were instead tossed from one of the Hong Kong boats that I see moored at Miramar Wharf from time to time.

Elsewhere, black buoys lounge around, while a yellow buoy sits alone. It is marked with its owner's name and number but retrieval of lost buoys doesn't seem very practical in this remote location.

I pick up a large plastic bucket and fill it with smaller items like drink bottles, then grab an armful of fuel/water cans and haul everything over to the farm gate on the paddock overlooking the beach.

There's a farm building in the distance and I'm hoping that my wishcycling results in reuse or recycling, though I wouldn't be at all surprised if they just tossed it back on the beach. After all, the next storm would likely negate any cleanup efforts and I'm sure that they know it.

Goats run away as I pass through the bay, tearing up the adjacent hill, up up and up! They run far further than they need to to outrun me, though perhaps they are used to running from hunters whose bullets can fly farther.

The beach yields a second sandal, not really my style but it could make a pair in a pinch.

As I exit the far end of Ohau Bay, I see two men in a small fishing vessel. They seem to be hunting for something in the harbour before moving towards the far beach. I do hope they're not looking for their lost sandal.

Further on, nature continues to impress with creatures great and small.

Green, white- and rust-dipped rocks cautiously challenge coastal conformity, while a Pāua shell queen comes out in kaleidoscopic colour.

An armour-plated crab suns itself in the shallows, while a sleeping seal rests its wise whiskers on the rocks above.

Copper-coloured kelps perform a watery waltz, intensifying in colour where they come ashore. A pied shag watches from the beach; and webbed feet texture the soft sand, which this boiling biped crosses to swim again.

And there are seagulls.

They live near my home too and I love their graceful swoops, carefree play and friendly banter. But today one in particular is testing my patience.

It has been shadowing me ever since I hit the beach, heckling me at every opportunity.

Every time I think I'm free of it, it pops up again like an 80s horror villain, strafing me with its machine-gun cackle.

It reminds me of (Beavis and) Butthead's laugh (opens new window):

  • Reverse portaging the rock rib - Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh, why are you swimming with a rubbish bag? Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh.
  • Avoiding sunstroke in a sliver of shade - Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh, why are you lying on those rocks? Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh.
  • Just climbed a steep hill - Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh, why are you halfway up a mountain? Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh.
  • Walking along the beach - Uhuhuhuhhhuhhuh, why don't you just fly?


On the treeless coast, shade is in short supply but I'm good at finding it.

A log lies in cat pose, its back arched toward the sun. I set my phone's timer and pass out beneath its battle-scarred belly.

Large rocks also cast a sliver of shadow, just wide enough to accommodate me sitting or lying supine.

Emerging from the cool, I feel refreshed if a bit disconnected, as if I am walking in two worlds at once.

Finding water soon after is the best gift, but one must be alert for the signs of death, which are everywhere.

At a quarter to eight I should be winding down for the day, but I'm up a hill - again.

The coast was blocked by rocky cliffs which I'd tried to bypass in the sea. The contents of my pack were protected by a pack liner, but my wet legs and rapidly submerging stick had showed that it was a fool's errand to try to force my way around. On top of that, the wind had picked up and the murky sea was sloshing about, obscuring any risks lurking below. I'd seen some seals earlier and they'd just yawned at me, so I knew who was more scared of who.

Even though the swim option would have taken, say, 10 minutes, I've decided to go over the hill, again. It's the same sort of trial as last time - kneeling on the scree, grabbing on to plants, trying to keep my centre of gravity as low as possible. A small consolation is that once again it's really nice at the top.

I could camp up here, that's how nice it is. But I'm not actually a fan of heights and there's an illogical fear that I might roll off a cliff in my sleep. On the other hand I'd definitely be out of reach of any tsunamis. There are some goats up here too, but unlike the seals they actively avoid me, so that's good.

The hillsides are steep and I can't readily see a way down, but I know that I'm approaching another bay - Oteranga, where the Cook Strait (power) cable comes in - so the slope should start steep then fade out, if it's like Te Ikaamaru Bay.

I promised the land owner that I'd avoid the more direct route of Black Gully, whose private road runs from Ohau Bay to Oteranga Bay. It's on the eastern inland side of Terawhiti Hill, whereas I'm on the western side, so hopefully I'm okay where I am.

The sun isn't too far from the horizon. I had hoped to stay at Nugent's Cave tonight, but I might have to stay up here, or at Oteranga Bay instead. The good news is that the road starts at the southern end of Oteranga Bay, so progress should be much faster from that point onwards. I shouldn't lose much time by changing up my camping site tonight.

Glancing at my digital map, the contour lines show little change in the hill's slope, but shading suggests a gully and before long I find myself at the edge of it.

From here, the sides look much steeper than expected. I later learn that a contour line with triangles means a cliff (opens new window)!

With flashbacks to my crossing of a slip near Lake Baikal, and not wishing to climb down and up again, I decide to find a safe way to descend down the gully.

Eating some dehydrated bananas gets my head straight while I weigh my options.

Option A is to go down the steep side closest to the sea. Here there are a line of bushes clinging to the hillside. It should be possible to hang on to them on the way down, but I'm put off by the extreme angle which doesn't seem to flatten out at any point.

Option B is to head up the hill to the start of the gully. There are quite a few bushes here to hang on to, then the slope naturally flattens out as it becomes more gravelly near the beach.

I can also see a grassy area just up from the beach which may be flat enough to camp on if I run out of daylight.

Making my descent with Option B, I find that I have to weave from side to side to find non-prickly plants to grab on to. I reach the bottom in one piece but with very tender hands.

Briefly flirting with the next bunch of boulders, I quickly decide that it's just too dark.

Grabbing some sea water for a wash, I find some fresh water, dine on a couple of OSMs, then settle in behind a length of driftwood.

My inReach satellite communicator flashes to indicate a missed message and I realise that it survived a dousing in the outer pocket of my pack. The unit seems worth its weight in gold - until I realise that there's also 4G here..