It was a wet September Saturday morning.
Friends had come up from Auckland especially to walk Te Whara (Bream Head). Should we walk, or should we stay in and watch some DVDs ???
Walking won – lunches were made, coats, hats, contact lenses found (it’s annoying to walk in the rain wearing glasses) cameras, voltaren for my dodgy knee, water, poles …
We set off in two cars, left one at Urquhart Bay and drove to Ocean Beach. We chose to start at the Ocean Beach end, straight up through the mist and cloud, past the lighthouse and on to the remains of the radar station above Cape Te Whara (The Old Woman).
The information board has been taken away to be replaced, and someone has cleared around the old building foundations, which makes this an interesting stop. The picnic table provided a welcome break after our 45 minute up-hill slog.
Normally the views from this point are spectacular – south to the Hen and Chicken Islands, Bream Bay, Mangawhai, east to the Moko Hinau Islands and north along to Ocean Beach, Ngunguru, Tutukaka, The Poor Knights Islands … But this morning was all mist.
Entering the bush at this point we were sheltered from the rain and the track was quite dry underfoot in most places. The mature bush in this part of the reserve is stunning, it is one of the largest remaining stands of broadleaf and pohutukawa forest in New Zealand.
It is also unusual in that it is a south facing forest that meets the sea. Even without the views it was a beautiful climb past huge moss covered boulders up to Bream Head at 475m. I rested at the intersection to the lookout, my head for heights doesn’t enjoy this part!
Even at the intersection the climb onto the flat rock for spectacular views into Bream Bay wasn’t inviting in the rain and swirling winds!
The next 45 minutes are a rugged downward climb to the Peach Cove turnoff, the rocks and mature forest in this section are awe inspiring. The upgraded section of the track was a welcome relief at this stage.
We stopped for lunch just before the end of the upgrade, hunched over trying to shelter from the horizontal rain. It was surprising how quickly we all got cold once we were no longer on the move.
We debated heading out to the Peach Cove carpark from here, but decided to keep going, we were all relatively dry under our coats. The lunch break provided an ideal opportunity for some market research as we all had varying qualities and styles of coats, it was interesting to see who was still dry!
The section of the track leading up to Mt Lion is narrow in places and it was getting pretty slushy. The wooden stairs over what was a rocky scramble up Mt Lion were much appreciated.
Four sets of fifty plus legs were feeling pretty weary by now, our fifteen year old son was fine and gave us lots of encouragement. Which was just as well because it was at about this point that we realized the car-keys for the car we left at Urquhart Bay were under the seat of the car we left at Ocean Beach – rats!!
The hour down from Mt Lion was treacherously slippery. The dug in clay steps were running with rain, and the hand-holding trees seemed further apart than normal.
I came down crab-style, very slowly, but was the only one (not counting young son) not to slip over. There are some big prickly gorse bushes near the bottom and I managed to avoid them.
So, after six hours, we were wet, cold, had sore knees, got back to the car but had no car-keys …