The day started with a water taxi ride to Torrent Bay (just north of where we finished walking yesterday). Water taxis are an experience in themselves, and we were shown “Split Apple rock” as well as some seals sunning themselves before the high-speed part of the ride commenced in earnest.
The day’s walk was to be a total of over 19 kms, so we were prepared for a serious day of walking!
Torrent Bay, although totally surrounded by national park, includes some land in private ownership, dating from before the creation of the national park (in the 1940s?). However, there are no shops or other commercial facilities there, so there was no chance of a cappuccino. Hence, after drying our wet feet (landing from the water taxi involves a short paddle!), we were soon on the track heading north. The first section out of Torrent Bay involves some climbing, as the track winds towards Bark Bay, which takes over 2 hours to reach. We paused for lunch here, then headed off north again with a very serious climb to begin with. Then it was Tonga Quarry (an early 1900s granite quarry site) and Onetahuti beach. All the beaches are great, but this one was really special – a long stretch of golden sand. The route here involves walking along the beach, before heading off on a board walk over the wetlands in the estuary and then (yet another) climb to the Tonga Saddle. Shortly after this we diverged from the main path to head towards Awaroa Lodge – which to our pleasant surprise is a little before Awaroa itself, so our walking was a little shorter than we had anticipated.
As with the previous day, the track took us through forest, across little sreams, along Onetahuti beach, and more – the scenery ever-changing but always impressive, especially the vista from the high points over the bays and coastline.
The weather was near-perfect; overcast and (importantly) dry. If anything, the stillness of the air in the sheltered parts of the track meant that the humidity seemed to be on the high side, but there was a little breeze in the more exposed parts which gave some relief (much needed since those upward stretches certainly generated sweat!). Earlier on, the possibility of rain was mentioned in the forecasts, but it hasn’t (yet) eventuated.
The Lodge itself is a Peppers Resort – very comfortable, although the facilities offered are somewhat constrained by the fact that it’s located within the national park with no road access, only by walking, sea or by plane (yes, there’s a very basic airstrip). So the lighting is “subdued” and there’s no air-conditioning (in the interests of keeping electricity consumption down) but a fan might have helped on the rather sticky nights we were there. There’s no mobile phone coverage (well, it is a wilderness area) (EDIT – and no TV either!). And, being Peppers, the prices aren’t bargains (but given the location, we can hardly complain). We enjoyed their beer, but adjourned to the pizza restaurant for dinner! This was very casual indeed, but the pizzas were great.
(Photos now added)