Day 4: Ninety Mile Beach (Day 2)
Monday, November 13, 2023 9:35 pm
Location: Hukatere Lodge Campground (79.7 km)

Our second day on Ninety Mile Beach took us a further 30 km down the very long beach.

Our tent was again damp this morning, but less so than yesterday, so it was somewhat easier to dry it out enough to pack.

A largely cloudless night, the sky stayed clear for most of the day. There wasn’t very much wind either, so the day was a long, hot trek down the middle 30 km of Ninety Mile Beach. In the morning, though, it hadn’t yet had time to warm up, and the day started off pleasantly enough, as CareFree and I left camp near the head of the pack and made our way towards Hukatere Lodge, the next place we could camp along the beach.

Leaving Maunganui Bluff, Wakatehāua Island was clearly visible as such, with high tide cutting it off from Ninety Mile Beach.

Wakatehāua Island
Wakatehāua IslandAt high tide, the island is completely cut off from Ninety Mile Beach.

We ran into a crew for one of the trucks with the cage-loaders. My theory yesterday was correct: they were harvesting tiny mussel larvae from seaweed swept into the cages during high tide. The mussels are then sold to farmers around the country to grow to maturity.

The washed-up animals continued. More pufferfish, some crabs (both dead and alive), and a seagull or two.

A Crab Waits for Its Next Meal
A Crab Waits for Its Next Meal

There were also little grey creatures quickly skitting away from us. Lacking a better name for them, CareFree deemed them to be “sand maggots”.

In some parts of the beach, where it was a bit wetter, there was something under the sand that would squirt streams of water at our feet as we walked through.

As the afternoon progressed, we very slowly approached a mountain range in the distance, mostly obscured by haze. I started to feel not great, presumably because of the constant sun and lack of breeze to cool us.

A Long Beach
A Long BeachThe beach widens as the tide recedes. In the distance, faintly, about 40 km away, is the mountain range behind Aligarh, where we’ll stop tomorrow.

Occasionally, we got little views of the forest to our left, but the view only gradually changed. As with yesterday, the biggest change throughout the day was the beach gradually becoming wider as the tide went out. We estimated it had to be at least a couple hundred meters wide.

Aupōuri Forest
Aupōuri ForestThe Aupōuri Forest briefly makes an appearance through a gap in the border dune.

The last part of the day went pretty slowly. I was exhausted, and didn’t really feel great. We stopped to make more electrolyte water from extra water CareFree’s had, which helped a lot, but I still wasn’t running at 100%.

Around quarter to four, after just under another 30 km on the beach, we reached the turn-off to Hukatere Lodge, where we camped for the evening.

We met Gabi, the caretaker, who is from Germany, and arranged for a tent site. (Tiny cabins were also available, but we opted against.) There were also showers and toilets available, and a small kitchen, so it was great (though a little pricey, we thought) place to stop.

The kitchen had a peppercorn grinder, which made my mac & cheese dinner one of the best I’ve had on the trail in a long while.

Red Clouds
Red CloudsClouds, illuminated by the already-set sun.

The weather tomorrow isn’t looking amazing, with rain forecast in the afternoon. But another 30 km day will bring us to Ahipara, and the end of Ninety Mile Beach.