Not every day I feel like an adventure, or a challenging walk. I’m fine with that – I reckon it’s normal. Some days I’m highly motivated, full of energy, and ready to tackle the world. Other days I’m doing well to make it out the door.
Today was one of the latter. To be fair, I did want to walk – and ideally to see something new – but I wasn’t in the mood for anything too grueling.
I poured over my maps a bit, and Lake Wainamu caught my eye. The trail starts from a parking area near Te Henga (Bethell’s Beach). I’d been to Bethell’s all of once, ever – and even then I didn’t go so far as to see the surf. The track is a few hundred meters further inland that the actual beach, and I thought a walk to a lake would likely be relatively unchallenging.
It started out innocently enough.
The walk itself is mostly flat. However, what I hadn’t planned for, was that the whole area was sand. Obviously, I knew we were close to the shore – and I knew wetlands were in the area as well – but it never occurred to me that a beachside lake would be near, or made up of, sand. Or, for that matter, trails leading to said lake.
The Lake Wainamu trail is part of the Hillary Trail, which typically means fairly good trail markers along the way. It’s also rated as a “walk” rather than a tramping track, which again usually means higher quality trail marking / trail quality. In this case however, the trail (and the markers for it) had to battle the elements – and the fact that the trail goes largely beside a wandering, sand-based stream that likely doesn’t even take the exact same path itself on a day to day basis.
About here, it started to get interesting.
The orange marker is the trail marker. It’s also on the other side of the stream to the trail thus far. I wasn’t too phased by this, however. The stream was shallow, and sand-based (as mentioned above). No risk of sliding down rocks here. I did decide to take off my boots to cross though, as I figured it was easier. So, I sat down, stripped off my hiking boots and socks, then waded carefully across the stream (only about ankle deep at it’s deepest in that location). Once on the other side, I sat down, put on hiking socks and boots, and carried on.
Around about here, the trail disappears completely. Previously, though, a sign had pointed out that lake access was had either via dunes, or via the stream, so I had just assumed that the trail (by the stream so far) was going by the stream, and I knew the stream eventually led to the lake, so figured following it was the safest bet.
However. What I hadn’t expected, nor planned for, was that around about here the trail disappears, because the stream is the trail. The stream is surrounded on one side by the dunes (which I wasn’t keen to climb) and on the other side by private land, and they weren’t shy about telling people it was very much private land.
So, I sat down, again, stripped off socks and shoes, again, and proceeded to trudge through the stream. Had I known that a significant amount of the trail was via water (or, for that matter, sand), I would have worn different socks and shoes! As it was, I ended up carrying my boots in one hand, and splashing about with my feet.
Eventually – after nearly giving up a couple different times, when there was no obvious way and the stream narrowed (and thus, deepened) I did make it to the lake.
There is a separate trail that circles the lake – I put on my socks, and boots (again) and started down this, and it was beautiful (and much more of an obvious trail than the one too the lake, too!) but turned back when I hit the first fence. The fence has an obvious crossing, but I was beginning to worry about running out of daylight, and figured that was as good a time as any to head back – I didn’t want to push my luck by doing the whole lake circuit.
Coming back, I trialled staying as much out of the stream as possible, and also for awhile, just wearing the boots in the stream. I will happily report that at several times the boots got up to ankle deep, and were still bone dry inside (apart from the dampness that came from having put wet feet into socks several times). The boots got thoroughly wet, for several minutes at a time (although walking during that space) and held up remarkably well. But I still ended up taking them off (again) and wading through the stream barefoot (again) in part because I didn’t want to get the boots to the point where they weren’t waterproof – and in parts because I was worried a deep section of the stream would come above the top cuffs / laces of the boots.
Wandering back, I met some cows – and calves.
I also ended up coming back partially via the driveway / roadway that runs alongside the stream for awhile. This was largely accidental – merely, I lost the trail (again). I knew I could simply walk in the stream the whole way back, but my legs were tired and sore from walking in the sand that much, and I really hadn’t felt in the mood to be wading at all in the first place. So I found the dry option (again putting on boots) but lost the Hillary Trail markers. Eventually I found Tasman View Drive, where the driveway lets out, and followed that road back to the carpark.
A sandy, wet, walk was not what I wanted when I set out today. And having walked approximately 5.5 km (between wandering around looking for the path, and actual walking the path), a good part of that barefoot in the sand, my legs are definitely feeling it. However, I also discovered a fantastic natural playground, for another day – when we have a full day (and am not running out of daylight by the minute) and the kids with me, and proper gear for a sandy / beachy day. I think it’d be an awesome place to bring the kids to, muck around in stream without having to worry much about the toddlers, and send the big kids up the dunes to come down them via boogeyboard (totally awesome experience by the way, but you DO end up with sand e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e ). With light / no shoes, lots of sunscreen, swimming togs, and a picnic lunch, the stream / dunes / lake / trails would be a fantastic family outing. But as a walk for walk’s sake…. not so much.