Te Araroa: A Beautiful Walk on the Beach

The sun crested the towering sand dunes and reminded me of its strength. The 90-mile beach welcomed me with its wide open space and salty breeze. I left camp early that morning to try to beat the heat of the day. I should have packed an entire tube of pure zinc oxide as the sun penetrated through my porcelain skin. My lips were swollen and scabbed, my eyes puffy and crusted over, and my chin suffered second-degree burn. I looked like someone who received terrible Botox and fillers. Apparently the sun reflects off the sand and shoots a laser beam of sun directly to my chin. How unfortunate! I plastered on layer after layer of sunscreen and hiked on.

As I continued down the beach I saw something moving near the shoreline. From a distance it looked large and as I got closer the outline of the animal became transparent. It was a huge seal! He had just swam up to shore to enjoy the hot New Zealand sun. I stood there in disbelief that the seal had not tried to scurry away. I smiled and told him about my last few days. Animals are such good listeners.

I saw another creature moving down the shoreline. It wasn’t a mirage; it was a beautiful bird resting on the beach. I stopped again and enjoyed the company of a new friend. The beauty of these animals is something I’ll always remember.

With beads of sweat dripping down my body, I knew it was time to take an afternoon dip in the ocean. I kept my eyes peeled for jellyfish and sharks. I waded around in the crisp cool water of where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. The trail winds between the hot sandy beaches and the densely forested bush (woods). In one day you can hike through multiple sandy beaches, through an overgrown forest, a chest-high river, farm fields, and miles of road walking. Your body and mind never know what type of terrain is coming next. I kind of like it that way!

That night I laid my body down early. It seemed to be getting dark early and the wind had made a substantial shift. The smoke from the fires in Australia made the sky orange and dark. The wind pushed in the smoke and carried out a cool breeze. I prayed for everyone over in Australia and all that is lost. It reminded me to continue to appreciate the beauty of the land and animals.

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