A trek down Turakina Beach led us to a long road walk to Bulls. (The town, not the animal, though there were plenty of those too.)
We got up at 5:30, as planned, and were pleasantly surprised that there had been no rain overnight. The wind yesterday had died down sometime overnight, and our tent was fairly dry; not too much condensation accumulated.
CareFree and I were somehow efficient in eating breakfast and packing up, and left the Koitiata Camping Ground at 6:50, ten minutes ahead of our target start time. (We were actually early leaving, for once!)
Once we got back to where we left off yesterday, we followed a dirt road for a short while, before deciding that the road wasn’t actually the trail and cut across a gap in the dunes to walk along Turakina Beach. (I guess Whangaehu Beach was just on the one side of the estuary we crossed yesterday evening.)
Like yesterday, there was a fair amount of bleached driftwood lying near the high-tide mark. A few times, though, wood was lying in the middle of the beach, as though someone had misplaced a sculpture.
There were a lot less sea birds this morning than last night, but we did see a couple of pairs of variable oystercatchers. The beach was lightly spotted with blue jellyfish, and I even saw a spider, well camouflaged against the black sand.
As has been typical for beaches, a strong breeze blew in from the ocean, and the waves crashing and general roar of the surf made for a quite loud, continuous engine-like sound.
After an hour and a half walking along the beach, we passed two different smiley faces, one of which we recognized as being the one Peter had been drawing on the beaches up north.
A little after that, a message was written in the sand: “Wanna play a game?”. “Peter must be bored,” I said. Shortly after, “10 points for a cool rock”. CareFree concurred with my assessment. (We’d left a few minutes before Peter and Susana, but they passed us while CareFree took a few minutes to climb over the nearby dune for a bathroom break.)
CareFree found us two cool rocks: one had a round hole straight through it, like a doughnut. A second one had a hole and a second not-quite-complete hole, with a piece of seashell wedged in.
Shortly after, additional messages suggested “50 for a swim” (we did not); “100 2 dance” (so we did a short waltz); “and take a video :)” (so we did, again, and recorded it); and “1000 in town, feet stay dry” (we were successful on that as well, able to navigate our way across a couple of small streams flowing into the ocean without getting water into our shoes, and also avoided getting splashed by the gradually-incoming tide).
Starting as early as we did very much helped out with the tide; although it had already began to rise before we started hiking (low tide was at 5:30), it was still far enough out that we had a reasonably wide area of firm beach to walk on, though it was quite often sloped.
When we stopped for a snack on a conveniently placed log maybe ten meters from the water, we could easily see the tide rising in just the 15 minutes we were there.
Around 10 am, we turned away from the beach, taking a rough sandy road to the east into the Santoft Forest, which appeared to be a private working forest. As we left the beach, the road of the waves quieted, as did the breeze that was keeping us cool. Eventually, we reached a grassy dirt road (which was in the process of being cut), and that took us to a gravel road.
We reached a locked gate, and had to climb over it — it was one of the few gates we’ve encountered with no stile, and decided to take a break on the other side. A little while after we did, a pair of cars came with a key to open the gate so they could go through.
Our dirt road turned into a paved road, which became very uncomfortable in the heat.
Another hour down the road, we caught up with Peter and Susana, on the side of the road in the shade, taking a break. Contrary to our expectation, Peter did not write the game messages in the sand; they must have been written by the only other hiker ahead of us, who’d left camp maybe ten or fifteen minutes earlier.
Passing alongside farms, we passed no small number of cows. In one field, a large field-sized water sprinkler was running, providing nearby cows with at least a cool mist, if not an outright shower. Later, a bunch of cows in a pen adjacent to the road began following me, staring through gaps in the trees (and fence) separating them from the road. A later batch of cows was similarly inquisitive; the whole herd turned, faced towards me, and wandered over in my direction.
Later, we passed a field with a pair of horses, one of which was lying on the ground, with another horse standing over it. At first, it looked like the horse on the ground was dead and the standing horse mourning or something. But it moved, so it wasn’t dead.
The rest of the road walk to Bulls was long, hot, and monotonous. Both CareFree and I put on podcasts to distract from the pain our feet were in — after five days of resting our feet by rowing a canoe, our feet did not appreciate two 30+ km days in a row. CareFree developed a painful blister, possibly the result of using duct tape to patch up the growing holes in her shoes.
Along the paved road towards and into Bulls, which typically had a small shoulder and a wider grassy area next to the road, traffic gradually increased as we got closer to town. Most cars that passed us gave us a lot of room, and waved back to us.
A little after 3 pm, we made it to Bulls, which really leans into its name. There are numerous bull statues or other bull-related artwork throughout town, and a number of places have bull-related puns. (The public restrooms are meant to “relieve-a-bull”. The motel we stayed at is “hospit-a-bull”.)
After we passed a dairy with ice cream (CareFree was laser-focused on getting to the Four Square to do a tiny snack resupply for tomorrow), we turned on to the main road through town (a co-alignment of SH 1 and 3), and paused in front of a burger place (that also happened to have ice cream). Hot, hungry, and tired, we decided to pause there, get food, and figure out what we were doing with the rest of the day.
We ran into Matt, the hiker who left before us this morning, on his way out; he said he was the one who made the game signs in the sand, and was quite surprised when CareFree showed him the two cool rocks we found and the video of us waltzing.
The ice cream and burgers (and soda) were exactly what we needed, and we mulled over a number of options for the next few days.
Our initial plan for today was to go another 8.5 km to a B&B that has a place for hikers to camp, in order to reduce the 45 km day we’d have tomorrow to get to Palmerston North (at the expense of making today a 40+ km day). But with CareFree’s blister, and resulting funny walk, going further today would risk injury. (Plus, it was still going to be a long, boring, hot, and tiring road walk, partially down SH 1.)
So we decided to stop in Bulls for the day. Tomorrow, we’ll go on to Feilding, about 20 km ahead, and maybe go all the way into Palmerston North. Otherwise, we’ll get there the day after tomorrow, and in either case, zero, since it’ll be about two weeks since our last zero. (There’s also weather issues; Monday is forecast to be very rainy, followed by five good days, which would get us partway through the Tararua Range, followed by a horrendously rainy day. But as always, the weather is fickle, so we’re just keeping options open for now.)
We met up with Peter and Susana at the Four Square; they camped out in front of the store for a while re-hydrating themselves after the roadwalk. They decided to go ahead to the B&B, and we’ll probably see them in Palmerston North in a couple of days.
On the final stretch of road to the Bulls Motel and Holiday Park, where we stopped for the day (and got a cabin), we saw a sign advertising bags of horse manure for $2 (with half a dozen bags underneath). Apparently, pony poo is more valuable.