Early last week the weather gods granted us a couple of good days for our planned walk to Cape Brett, out from the Bay of Islands. This walk had been on Wyn’s radar for over a decade and she gradually introduced the possibility to me this winter. And I gradually warmed to it although I wasn’t so sure about the “advanced” level for the track and the warnings about big cliffs. With the walk firmly in mind we launched into a three-week effort to get fit enough; good reason to get out and explore Northland.
Being flexible with time we kept examining the long-range weather forecasts and eventually settled on Monday and Tuesday of last week. It has been a windy, changeable spring but the forecast was for calmer weather for those two days so we locked them in and waited. And did we do well! We got two of the better days for quite some time in a part of the country that gets some huge extremes; it does stick well out into the Pacific Ocean.
There is a lot of information available on the Cape Brett walk including from the Department of Conservation and this did help us get prepared even if the warnings worried us. We decided from some reading up that a bit of cheating would be a good idea; that we could get a boat ride in to Deep Water Cove to reduce the length of the first day. Instead of 8 hours walking we could could get to the Cape in less than 3 hours. The suggestion somewhere was that this would put us in a better position to walk the whole track out to Rawhiti on the second day. It was an excellent idea which gave us a much better chance of enjoying the whole experience. We ordered up ourselves a water taxi and were waiting with eager anticipation at the beach at Kaingahoa Bay at 9am.
We were dropped off and the boat zoomed off; leaving us in the quiet of Deep Water Cove, effectively with the Cape to ourselves. We were starting from sea level, and the only way from there was up.
Eventually we got higher and gained our first views of Cape Brett and where we were heading for. The views of the sea from the track are stunning; the clarity of the water is extraordinary.
Soon enough we came to the ridge crest where it became clear that the east (far) side was the steeper one. I’ve become worse and worse with heights as the years have gone on, and hadn’t been looking forward to this part. But apprehension is good, so that when it turns out to not be so bad there is a lovely feeling of relief. So long as I didn’t get too close to the edge and get sucked over by the forces of Gravity then I was OK and I don’t think I squealed once.
The good thing about getting the boat to skip two thirds of the track was that it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the situation of the hut and the bay below. The hut had some great reading on the history of the lighthouse and the keepers and their families – there were three houses there when it was manned. This gave us a better appreciation of their isolation and how they lived and survived. When we arrived there was a dive boat in the bay below with divers out swimming with the seals and exploring the depths. Eventually they left and we had the place to ourselves.
It is a magical place and it was a magical day. Beside the sea was more like being beside a calm lake.
Just as the sun was setting a couple of young French guys arrived to share the hut, having walked the full length of the track. We didn’t feel too too much like we’d cheated doing the shorter version, and we were grateful for having had the afternoon to enjoy the wonderful location. It is a day we’ll never forget.