“A long time ago came a man on a track, walking 30 miles with a sack on his back.” (Dire Straits – Telegraph Road)
And we’re off. Finally! The garden has been brutalised into shape, the house has been let and Tana the Lab has been housed with her BFF Daisy. Jetstar whisked us 900 km north to Auckland, over the terrain we would at some stage be lugging our backpacks through. We had a relaxing stay with friends that included much laughter and craft beer in equal measure and helped to take our minds off the impending challenge that is 90 Mile Beach.
We jumped on the InterCity bus north to Kaitaia and Mark Knopflers 14 minute opus about a motorway through Michegan was on a loop in my head and I decided it was a metaphor for the uncoupling of day-to-day life and the embarking on a single challenge.
We were met in Kaitaia by Tania from Utea Park, which is a unique accommodation offering at the 70km mark. We chucked our bags in the room and then took our first steps on the famed 90 Mile Beach. It was wild and windswept and massive and the hikers that were just arriving looked so exhausted which only added to our sense of anxiety. The following morning we were whisked the final 70km to the start of the trail at Cape Reinga. It’s a magical place where two seas meet at the northern tip of Aotearoa and one which Maori hold as sacred. It’s a fitting place to start the massive challenge that is ahead of us and, after the obligatory photos at the light house, we set off on the trail and I could feel my spirits lift knowing that we had finally made a start lto our journey along Te Araroa.