Sunday, 31 January 2016

Beach hike – Hamiltons Gap to Kariotahi

Inspired by wild boy I decided to hike part of the coast line. I choose somewhere local and not too remote, but somewhere I’d never gone before. I planned a section that should take a day or two and planned for two days. It was approximately 18-20km and mostly open beach, with a couple of sections that would be under water at any time other than low tide. I checked this all out with google earth to see what I was getting into, check the tide times to give myself the best shot and organised my drop offs and pickups. To be fair I organised a pretty simple section of coast line

The first half of the walk was probably the easiest, flat beach, no rocks or sections of cliff to work around. I took off my shoes and walked bare foot for the whole walk (this was a mistake but more on that later) About 4-5km from the start I saw four goats, one would have taken a rifle to get, but I think the other three could have been taken down with a bow or cross bow. I enjoyed almost all sections of the hike; this section was good because it was an easy walk, lots of cool stuff to take photos of and nothing stressful.

About half way through the hike I reached a section that I was going to have to get into waist high surf to get passed. The hills around this section were really steep and so it was going to be a really long and hard round trip to go over the cliffs. The surf on that day was probably the calmest I have ever seen this part of the west coast. If it wasn’t so calm I would have never got into the water while out there alone. So I walked in waist deep, but it was still a little scary when swells were up to my arm pits and just taking me off my feet. Also wearing a pack made it difficult as the waves hit my pack. I made it around that point just fine and it was the most difficult section of the hike.

After that the hike was a little more varied a few small rock areas to climb over and around which was fun. I stopped for lunch and took a 40 minute break to rest my feet. Now comes one important piece of advice - print off a map. I didn’t print off a map from google earth, so I didn’t know how far I had gone. If I had known I probably would have taken it slower or stopped earlier. But not knowing meant I pressed on, encase I wasn’t as far as I had hoped.

I finally got to a section where I could see para-gliders and vehicles (trapped by the tide). I asked how far to Kariotahi and was told 20 minutes, if I could make it around the rocks. The time was 2:30 so I figured I might just finish the walk and get picked up a day early. The other option was to walk back the way I had come to find a quiet spot to set up camp, but at theat point this option wasn’t so appealing. The rocks were easily passed, again due to the calm surf.

At 3:30 I was at the beach parking lot, 7 hours after I had started, my legs were getting sore but I had done it. I wasn’t till that night that I regretted walking bare foot, my toes were killing me and I could barely walk. What happened was the ball of the foot sinks into the sand, so the flexion of the toes is much greater than normal, so 18-20km of extra flexion was well beyond what I have ever asked of my feet. So the lesson is don’t walk so damn far bare foot on sand. If I did it over again I would probably walk the second half in shoes to save my toes. This really reminds me of what Katy Bowman talks about, that we are what we repeatedly do. If I want to be able to walk 20km on bare feet on sand without pain, I better put the time in to building them up first.

Edit: I just found one more casualty - my lighter got wet and rusted.

Cliffs at Hamiltons Gap

First big rock, easy to get around at low tide

The other side of the rock

Cool cliffs

The white spot is a goat
One mother goat and two kids

I only just managed to get up in time for this shot

Easy rock to climb up on

This was the one I had to get in the water to go around

From the other side

Probably about 5km from Kariotahi beach


  1. Beautiful spot! And a challenging walk. I had always thought of walking on sand as "slower but easier" than on hard ground, cool to learn what happens to the toes.

    1. Most of the walk felt easy as the sand in that area is generally quite compact, but it sapped the energy quickly in the soft sand. But the ball of the foot sinks further than hard ground on every step.