I got up early and walked 12 km without stopping on my way to Utea Park. The day was fairly successful as I managed to walk nearly 30 km by around three in the afternoon. On the other hand I was exhausted and my feet were finished for at least a day or two. My plan had been to get to the road access by the Utea pa site and perhaps try to camp somewhere in the area. What I found was Utea Park.
A guy named Phil who I met on the beach advised me to try it as they were well suited to hikers' needs. I hobbled off the beach and found an inviting collection of small cabins and a kitchen area. There was a sign saying "make yourself at home" and another that outlined the koha (donation) system that they run on. Utea park is an Oasis half way down the 90 Mile Beach. There a hot showers (courtesy of solar), flushing toilets, clean water, gas cooking and cabins with beds. I stayed two days.
The owner, Paul is a really positive guy who is friendly and generous. He told me they get many people walking the Te Araroa trail and many who are pretty exhausted. Sure enough, over the next two days of my foot recuperation, two more reasonably weary walkers arrived. Ben arrived on my first full day there and Jen the day after that. We were all pretty amazed by Utea park.
It has been great to get to know Big Ben from Stuttgart and Jen from Texas and I have walked a lot of km's with them since. At Utea park we had lots of cups of tea and even a few beers that Paul brought to us on the last night I was there; what a good dude. When I talked to him about water quality issues on the beach, his main concern was in the myriad of petroleum based products that wash up onto the beach. He said that on some days you can see fine, transparent, plastic particles forming long lines along the beach which mirror the high tide line. God knows how much plastic humans have dumped into the sea but it's more than you can shake a stick at.
Kitchen and ablutions block.
Comfy cabins with actual beds!
Ben and Jen chillaxing
Yours truly bending like a reed in the wind
Sunrise over Utea Pa
Me (on the left) with Paul and Ben