Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Microadventure - 24 Hours at Whatipu

Microadventure: An overnight outdoor adventure that is small and achievable, for normal people with real lives.
"Adventure is the spirit of trying something new, trying something difficult. Above all, adventure is about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity. “Adventure” is not only rowing oceans or cycling round the world. Adventure is everywhere, every day and it is up to us to seek it out. 
We all have to pragmatically juggle the commitments and constraints of our “real lives”. But we can still have a microadventure. Because you do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to find wilderness and beauty. 
Adventure is stretching yourself, doing something you do not normally do, and doing it to the best of your ability. Getting out into the wild, if only for one night, is enjoyable, invigorating and important."   ~ Alastair Humphreys
A glorious 3 hour trail run through the Waitakere Ranges kicked the weekend off well. After a relaxed picnic lunch it was time for exploration. Along the trail past the Whatipu caves, ancient sea caves which are now more than a kilometre from the ocean. From here a lightly worn path skirting the edge of the swamp beneath impressive cliffs beckoned. Shoes soon came off to wade around and climb over a small rock promontory. From here it was barefoot. Oh the bliss of warm grass beneath the feet and mud squelching between the toes! The air was laden with the heady scent of spring flowers.

Back at the carpark I basked in the warm, golden sunshine until the chill of late afternoon began creeping in. It was time to make my move. A quick bite to eat and then I shouldered my pack and headed up the hill. Suddenly doubts assailed me: "Am I really doing this?", "Why not head home to a warm bed?", "This is crazy!". The urge to turn around, hop in the car and drive home was surprisingly strong. Resolutely I set my face and continued upwards. From the lookout at the entrance to the Manukau Harbour I had a magnificent view, with the landscape bathed in golden light as the sun sank towards the horizon. Watching the sun dip into the Tasman Sea I realised why I had come: to immerse myself in the beauty.

As twilight fell I headed down to Wing Head, the old site of the Signal Master's house. Here there was a relatively flat grassy area with nice thick kikuyu for a mattress. The full moon was incredibly bright - no torch was necessary all night! I lay back, sheltered from the chilly breeze, and watched the stars flicker.

Eventually it was time to retire into my warm sleeping bag and the old japara sleeping bag cover which had been dragged from the depths of our store cupboard. I slept surprisingly well, managing a full 8 hours (albeit slightly broken) and awoke refreshed and bright eyed in the morning. To open my eyes and see the beach, bush and ocean in the clear early morning light was an incredible sensation. The world was so clean and fresh, and mine alone to enjoy. I was alive! I reveled in the cool morning breeze, drinking in as much as I could of my surroundings.

All too soon my hunger prodded me back to the car for breakfast. But I was in no hurry to head home so after satiating my hunger I wandered out onto Whatipu Beach. This is a vast, rugged, windswept expanse of iron-sand coastline stretching north for kilometres.

And I and the seabirds had it to ourselves.

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