Today being my day off from work I decided to go on adventure I’ve been thinking about for a while. It involved driving 30 k’s from my house to the most remote (by my not necessarily very scientific calculations) of the west coast beaches, Whatipu. I took my 35mm film camera with me as well. I haven’t shot on film in I don’t even remember how long.
Once you reach the car park it’s a walk of approximately another kilometre to get to the beach. I had a vague plan of walking along the beach to Karekare and back, but the weather had other ideas. The day had started out pretty overcast, which is why I had decided to actually go. I hate the sun. It burns. Once I was there, there was a light shower, then the sun came out. Fine. We’ll go with it. I walked up the vast expanse of sand, through the dunes, past some marshy land, back over to the beach side. And then it really rained. Not for long and I dried out pretty quickly, but I decided that if the weather kept on like this I’d be pretty miserable by the time I got to Karekare, because it’s not exactly close. So deciding not to go forward I decided instead to go back through the dunes and try to get across to the cliffs which would have been about a kilometre or so from the dunes.
Going back through the dunes I stopped to watch some spiky dune grass seed-heads being spun and twirled en masse by the wind, which I haven’t mentioned, but was pretty ridiculous. In fact, as well as being damp from the rain, which had come and gone several times by now, I was gritty all over by the sand which was being hurled across the beach and over the dunes. Anyway, I was talking about the dancing seed-heads. It reminded me of that scene in American Beauty. It was one of those moments that seem almost too magical to be real. Except for the sand in my eyes, of course.
I decided to keep going, and wandered through the dance and down the dunes. I wandered along the edge of the marsh for a bit, and then deciding that it didn’t actually look that marshy I headed into the tall marsh grass. It all seemed fine for a while. I kept wading through the grass, it wasn’t too wet underfoot, the cliffs were coming closer. Eventually, though, it became a struggle. I had gone more than half way by this point, and looking back I figured I might as well keep going. At which point it became very, very difficult. I was half wading, half crawling though the grass, it became very marshy all of a sudden, I had to detour around areas that looked impassable. I was getting tired. I lost the lens cap from my camera (not actually the first time this has happened to me). Eventually when I had gone around three quarters of the distance I came to a wall of gorse and other larger growth that I just couldn’t get through without destroying my skin. I went along the side for a while, but soon realised that I was not going to get any further. So I turned around. Did I mention it was raining again by this point? And much more persistently than before.
I soon realised that I had no idea where exactly I’d come from, so I just angled back toward the dunes. In a not very straight line. The marsh grass was so thick that it was hard to get through, and densely intertwined. At some points I was crawling on my knees to get forward because walking through/on the grass was too much. I was getting pretty exhausted. I started to think about what would happen if I couldn’t go on. It’s not like the distance was that huge, but you know what it’s like when something is so difficult that it starts to seem like it will never be over. There was no cell phone reception, so if I did hurt myself or anything I had no way to let anyone know where I was. Also the whole area was deserted. I hadn’t seen anyone since right after I first arrived on the beach which was several hours earlier by this point.
I stopped caring about how boggy it was underfoot, I just wanted to get out. The wind and sand on the other side seemed like paradise compared to this. I squelched on, dragging myself forward. I was soaking wet, my shoes were full of marsh water. I was well over it.
After several pauses to regroup and some hard slog I made it back to the dunes. The relief was huge, but the ordeal wasn’t over. I took off my shoes and socks, tipped out the tea-coloured water and steeled myself for the cold, damp trek all the way back along the beach then through the dunes to my car.
When I finally made it back home I went straight to the shower, then told my flatmates about how I almost died. And believe me, at the time, it felt like it.