Day 5: Ninety Mile Beach (Day 3)
Tuesday, November 14, 2023 4:40 pm
Location: Ahipara / YHA Aphiara (110.8 km)

Another thirty kilometers on Ninety Mile Beach finally brought us to the town of Ahipara, at the southern edge of the beach.

It was cloudy around sunrise. The sun came out once we’d started taking down our tent, offering no opportunity to dry it out any.

CareFree and I left Hukatere sound 8, slightly earlier than yesterday. With clouds to the south, we were fairly sure we were going to get rained on at some point today.

On our way back to Ninety Mile Beach, we passed a couple of long, windy trails from small lizards, long curvy lines in the sand with little footprints dotted along both sides.

Ninety Mile Beach
Ninety Mile Beach

We passed several more washed-up sting rays today, including one that had a fishhook in its mouth

Washed-Up Stingray
Washed-Up StingrayOne of several washed-up stingrays on the beach today, this one with a fishhook in its mouth.

It was significantly windier than yesterday, which both made the sea pretty vigorous, but also made the background noise on the beach rather loud and tiring. The wind was also highly effective in blowing sand around, which was mostly a problem when we stopped for breaks higher up on the beach where the sand was not wet.

CareFree and Longstride
CareFree and Longstride

As the afternoon wore on, Ninety Mile Beach was wearing out its welcome. We were ready to be off the beach. For hours, we could see Ahipara from many kilometers away, only very slowly growing larger.

Ninety Mile Beach is the longest straight-line section of trail I ever hiked. It brought back memories of the Great Divide Basin on the Continental Divide Trail, and of one very straight, very long dirt road there. At least the beach wasn’t oppressively hot, had wind, and generally better scenery than those days on the CDT. And I could actually see where I was going, even if it seemed to take far longer to get there than it should have.

The flat beach was really wearing down my feet, and the noise was generally exhausting, compounded by a faint sense of gloom contributed by the overcast sky, which threatened to rain all day.

Towards the End of Ninety Mile Beach
Towards the End of Ninety Mile Beach

Finally departing the beach, the trail took us up a boat ramp and onto the streets of Ahipara. It was only a relatively short distance further to the YHA Ahipara hostel we booked a private room at.

After a few days on the beach, the shower in our room was wonderful. It was a bit small, with a very flappy shower curtain, but it was very high pressure, so we got very well cleaned. It felt like being power-washed after being sandblasted.

The hostel’s main lodge building had a large gathering area with a large main table and a few smaller tables, sandwiched between a table tennis table and some couches placed in front of a fireplace and an impracticality elevated bookshelf.

There was a large kitchen, which alternated between periods of calm and chaos as other hostel guests made extensive use of the space.

Besides dinner, our first order of business was arranging for a place to stay in Kaitaia tomorrow, and then planning our next stretch of trail, from Kaitaia to Kerikeri.

I chatted with a German couple who sat at the end of the table next to me. They have been married for 40+ years, and were visiting New Zealand again after 29 years, to visit places they couldn’t get to before. This is why I like hostels instead of private hotel rooms: you never know who you’re going to be able to meet.

Quite tired, we attempted to go to sleep early, but weren’t very successful; towns always make that hard.