Since we didn’t have to get up for a low tide crossing today we slept in a bit later. Until, that is, the sun beaming down on us turned the tent into an oven and I was forced to peel my sleeping bag off my sticky, perspiring skin. Alright it wasn’t quite that bad, but once the sun is up it does get uncomfortably hot in the tent. The difference in climate between here and the Fiordlands is pretty drastic. I found myself missing the chilly mountain air in the mornings.
We had our quick, no-cook breakfast, packed up the tent, and filled up on water. By the time we set out it was around 9:30. There was another estuary crossing with low and high tide routes, though this one was only ten minutes longer on the high tide track. Even though it was still within two hours of low tide (the time limit on taking the low tide track) we decided to take the high tide route just to change things up a bit. We immediately regretted our decision. The trail started uphill right away and we were sweaty and out of breath by the time we joined up with the low tide track again (and the trail continued to rise).
“Hey weren’t you talking about how this trail was so much easier than all the others? You’ll just complain about anything huh.” Ok, ok, I admit that I may have misjudged the physical rigor required for this “easy” walk. Even though this trail had a much smaller elevation change than the others, a one or two hundred meter climb can still be a bit of a drain. It wasn’t all bad though. We had some really nice views of the bay as we made our way up the packed dirt path. There were spindly little trees with thin windy trunks and branches, all twisting straight upward, reaching towards the sky. I’m not sure what species of tree they were, but they made for a peculiar looking forest.
We crested that first hill, still sweating and gasping for breath, and began our descent on the other side. The trail wound down into the beautiful Tonga Quarry, with great views of Tonga Island just off the shore. Afterwards we headed into a more dense forest, the sounds of cicadas chirping all around, and started uphill again. The trail lead us to the top of another hill. Our glandular floodgates were wide open and the sweat continued to flow freely. We admired the scenery (another beach on the other side of the hill) before turning once more into the dark forest of cicadas for our descent.
When we arrived at the bottom, the trail turned onto the beach itself and we had a nice leisurely (flat) stroll across the golden sands and back through some low bush. I noticed we were moving at a much slower pace going across the beach. I suppose it might have just been because walking on sand is more difficult, though I also think there was something about the environment that brought on a more relaxed state of mind. It was as if the sand, sun, and waves were so overwhelmingly pleasant that you couldn’t help but want to slow down and take your time. When climbing up a mountain I think it can be easy to get caught up in a destination based mindset. You know that there is a peak or saddle somewhere ahead of you, and it will be tough going until you get there (and probably much easier afterwards). It can be easy to focus only on this goal, pushing ahead faster and faster (since slowing down will only prolong the struggle). Of course I suppose this isn’t really an inherent trait of the mountain itself, just my interpretation of the situation as a personal challenge. In any case, it was nice to slowly savor the beach walk, not feeling like I had anywhere else to hurry on to. It’s like the saying goes: When life gives you lemons, take your time and walk slowly across them, like you would a beach. Next time I’m making my way up a mountain I’ll try to remember that and slow down some and enjoy it more (Ha, so I say now, sitting in the comfort of my Airbnb!).
After spending a seemingly immeasurable amount of time meandering across the beach, lost in my own inner ramblings, the trail started uphill once again. This would be the last hill before we reached our campsite. It was also the worst of the day. There was very little shade near the top, and the heat and sunlight were oppressive as we slowly trudged from the shade of one lone tree to another, stopping at each for a drink of water. Our pace quickened as we started downhill for the last time that day. We could see signs of our destination at the bottom of the hill.
The campsite was back among some trees, just off the bay at Awaroa. When we arrived there were only a handful of tents set up (Yes!). The campsite may have been the least crowded in terms of campers, but the mosquito population more than made up the difference. “Mosquitoes?! What about the sandflies?” Yes, I wondered the same thing myself. Whatever the reason, this campsite was home to our original least favorite vampiric insect. We set up the tent in a hurry, but didn’t stick around long afterwards (inside = oven, outside = itchy).
We grabbed a change of clothes and headed down to the beach for a dip. Boy was it nice! It wasn’t as much of a shock as the glacial lakes and streams in the Fiordlands, but it still left me feeling cool, clean, and refreshed. After our swim (well, Alana just sat down at the edge of the water and splashed water on herself, squealing the whole time) we put on some clean clothes and found a nice shady spot to sit, read, and relax on the beach. We spent a very pleasant few hours there before heading back to camp for another dinner of Mac ‘n Peas (with only one pack of peas this time).
We went back out to the beach again after dinner. It was pretty hot, especially now that I had my mosquito proofs (long sleeves) on. I headed back to the tent first. Now that the sun was setting it was starting to get cooler inside and I could relax in the tent, watching and listening to the mosquitoes swarm on the other side of our mesh door.