Cape Brett and the Catamaran

I'm just back in Auckland after half a year on the South Island of New Zealand. But now as I'm waiting for Fraser to finish work, I'll tell you the story of how I met him and his wonderful friends...

Back in early December 2012 – I'm in the Bay of Islands which is pretty much at the top of New Zealand, not most creatively but appropriately named 'Northland' and as I look at the map I find a jagged looking peninsula, which looks very promising for divine views. There is a DOC tramping (Kiwi word for hiking) track too and although people tell me it's quite a long and hard walk, it's already set: I'm gonna walk to Cape Brett. There is a hut at the end where I can stay for 15$, which I book in Pahia. But what do I do with my backpack? I can't possibly carry it with me so I contact a couchsurfer and I'm happy about a quick and positive reply.

In Russell

After a ferry ride from Pahia to Russell with a lot of old people, I hand my backpack over to a friendly looking bearded man who takes tourists out on his sailing boat and will keep my belongings safe until I return. He seems a little surprised that I trust him with all my stuff, mh why shouldn't I? Couchsurfing in general is based on trust on both sides, so is hitchhiking and that's one of the reasons why I like both. I don't like this cautious world where everybody is staying home, afraid to go outside thinking that every stranger is a possible threat...

I start hitching. It's only 30 odd km, shouldn't be too hard, but Russell is tiny and a dead end, thus the road deserted. I wait quite a bit and need a couple of rides but in the end I make it to Rawhiti, where I find a small mainly Maori settlement. I'm not sure if I can stay here, would they welcome me friendly or tell me to piss off? I think of asking in the marae (Maori meeting house/community centre). Too insecure and not really accustomed with the people of New Zealand yet, I decide to start hiking and to camp somewhere in the bush. After all I still have plenty of time until the sun goes down. After the first little hill I find a beautiful beach with a family walking around. Thinking they're local I don't want them to find out what I'm doing, as it's 'illegal' in two ways. Firstly camping is not permitted on the track and secondly I'm not paying the 30$ that I should to be allowed to walk over the private land. I mean what the hell, 30 bucks to get permission to walk through nature and sweating my arse off?

In the end I learn they're tourists and don't really care what I'm up to... A good hour within the track I put my tent up on a little clearing I couldn't imagine any more scenic. And can you believe? In the middle of seemingly nowhere I've got good Internet connection on my phone, I'm surprised and impressed. It can be quite lonely to be there just by yourself, you want to share your experiences and as I haven't had a travel partner at the time to show and point out “Look isn't that beautiful”, I shared it with my friends at home. I fall asleep early and have an even earlier start the next morning. Because packing up the tent at 6 in the morning is a guarantee for moisture, I take a break as soon as I reach a sunny spot to fold out the tent and sleeping bag on the bushes to let them dry.

I'm a little disappointed with the walk as most of it is through thick bush that doesn't give view to the beautiful bays and islands that I assume behind it. In addition the walk is hard, I know – they told me so. It goes up and down and up and down and ...I'm just happy about my fully charged Ipod. There is not much traffic on the track that could distract me either– I meet one family coming back, but they take a boat half way to skip the long part through the bush, one guy coming back as well who is not interested in small talk and one crazy person running the whole thing return!

It's Marko, he passes me once, we have a little chat, we meet again at Deep Water Cove, we have a little chat and finally we meet a third time on his way back out, where I offer him to stay at the hut, because I believe he is crazy to do what he does! I'm almost dying just walking, sometimes crawling let alone running! In addition he has a 6h drive back home to Mt Maunganui to work the next day. He's out of his mind, I think to myself, but what don't people do to train for a half Iron Man... He gives me his number and I will visit him three times and watch him perform beyond his expectations at the Iron Man competition later that month (and January). He will also tell me that he should have accepted my offer, as he missed a turn, did a big detour and strained his ankle.

Before he parts he tells me it's only getting better after this, and he shall be right, because I finally leave the bush and reach a stony path which exposes magnificent views down cliffs, onto the ocean with tiny sailing ships and down the forrest I just came out of. The up and down doesn't stop though and the blazing sun doesn't make things easier. I take my time – no pressure – lucky I started so early. After the last hill a cute white lighthouse comes into view and at the bottom I see the hut. 23 bunks and I am the only one that night. I'm sleeping before sunset, I think I'm exhausted.

Again an early start the next morning, I have a long way before me, but fortunately not the same. There is a fork junction (where Marko took his wrong turn) and I take the other track. It's not as well kept, I have to climb over fallen trees and wind my way through narrow patches but I will soon discover one of the prettiest beaches in NZ (see photo at top – the fact that it comes so sudden and unexpected probably plays a role). But with its white sand, turquoise water and no foot print in sight it is truly marvellous and I stay and have a swim. I don't want to leave, but if I still want to reach Russell today I need to get going. I continue walking and after some thinking, considering the time and traffic on the road I decide to camp in the next bay, instead of rushing it and then ending up in Russell with nowhere to stay. That will turn out as a very good decision, after some short regret that I didn't stay in the dream bay, because this one was a stony beach.

As I sit down on the stones, thinking of where I could put my tent, I meet three guys that sit on their paddle boards. When they leave, a woman and her son come onto the beach and take the place as my chat partners. Finally when I just put my tent flat down and dream of the wonderful white sanded beach just an 1½-2 hrs away and think what I could eat because I had only packed for 2 nights, one of the paddle board guys comes back in a rubber motor boat and asks if I want to come on their catamaran. Slightly confused but already hoping for something good I ask: “What do you mean?” “Well, we have a spare bed and fresh sea food. We thought that's nicer than camping here by yourself. Wanna come?” Hell Yeah!

That's how I met Fraser and his friends (3 couples and 2 kids from Auckland and 1 couple from Wellington), who chartered a big ass catamaran to sail around for a week. Because they were heading to Russell the next day I sailed with them around the Hole in the Rock, which is just off Cape Brett, and could see the whole track from another perspective and without the sweat. It was a wonderful day – spoilt by the sun, fresh fish, cold beer, and incredibly nice people. Two of them left the boat in Russell, I shortly hopped off to get my backpack just to get on again for another night on the boat. I heard dolphins that night or that's what I thought anyway. It turns out it was the kiwi call, a very funny distinctive noise.

Their sailing trip was over the next day, so I left the boat with them in Opua. Not without exchanging numbers we part and I believe I'm not the only one to tell a story now: Later I overheard that they like to tell about their trip where they picked up a German hitchhiker on the beach. Fine by me :)

First try with a SUP (stand up paddle board)

Delicious food

Since then it's my third time back in/through Auckland, and always did I find a home at one of their places and even celebrated Christmas with them. I also stayed both of my times in Wellington with Tiff and Woody, where I picked up a ukulele for the first time too. And now mine just turned 6months :)

The reason I'm in Auckland now is a plane I need to catch in two days. I'm off to India for 7 weeks – very excited, very different, I think I dreamt of Tandoori chicken tonight.

Cape Brett Walk on a bigger map