Tora Coastal Walk - day 2

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2008

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

Our 'warm-up' walk is a two-hour loop known as the Whakapata Loop. Dad goes off for a run and Mum leaves 20 minutes before us. She broke her leg walking a few months ago and it hasn't completely mended, so she takes a little bit longer on the more challenging stages, particularly the downhill.

We have directions printed out for us, so Jane and I follow them along the road and then veer off down the driveway of a farm. This continues up a gravelly path to a huge plateau where sheep graze contentedly. At the end of the plateau the signs of human development thing out, replaced by some amazing scenery. Benched sheep tracks that edge their way along hills like grandstand seats, circular ponds where the sheep stop to drink, and verdant trees in exactly the right places make it feel like walking through some idyllic storybook setting.

The trail moves into a bit of light forest then emerges again as we begin a gentle descent, which includes catching up with Mum, and then we complete the circuit back to the Outstation.

Before we leave again, Jane has a quick go at the driving range. With her only shot, and her first ever attempt at golf, she sends the ball sailing dead straight across the river bank and on to the grass terrace above it.

Following a brief recharging period, we pick up Dad and start off on the main walk of the day, a four-hour trek to the coast. The scenery is again spectacular but the walk is a bit more strenuous, with some rather challenging hills. Occasionally we look back, across the vast expanses of farmland appended by rugged mountain peaks and pause to take it all in. The walking trail passes through three separate private farms, the owners of which have combined to maintain the track and open it for groups of walkers. During the seven months of the year which the tracks are open, approximately 1000 people do the three-day walk, and have been doing so since 1996. Given that these are fully operational farms we are passing through, we come into contact with plenty of sheep and cows, plus a few hostile magpies that we scare away with shouts and stick-waving.

Towards the end of the day's hike is a steep and imposing precipice descriptively named the Witch's Hat, so we clamber up it like the Hobbits ascending Mount Doom. The view from the top is even more breathtaking, so we spend a few minutes perched on its precarious summit, catching our breath, then carefully climb down the other side.

Another hour of ankle-bending downhill brings us to the coast and the Pacific Ocean - a few thousand miles of swimming in the same direction would probably bring us to Chile, but the water is a bit cold so we don't test that theory. Mum is standing around by the water waiting for us so we pop down to say hello and dip our weary feet in the crisply cool sea water.

The accommodation for tonight is known as a Nissen Hut after the military guy who invented this style of building. Nissen huts are prefabricated and made with corrugated steel in a half-cylinder shape. Their original purpose was to shelter military personnel, but this one has been done up nicely for the more comfortable and relaxed requirements of tired trampers. One of the showers is in an outhouse with an eye-level windowless window that gives you a nice view of the coast while you are showering.

The pre-cooked dinner is again delicious and we while away the evening by reading in the comfy armchairs.
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