Cape Kidnappers

There is only one hike near Napier. Cape Kidnappers, which is an off-putting name to say the least, is a six-mile one-way hike along a beach which can only be completed at low tide. In my last few days at Silverford, I keep checking tide schedules to see if there is a day the time lines up. On my last full day the tides are timed well, and after a couple hours in the morning Raine lets me go off to see the cape. Eager to try my new sandals out, I bring them along. I have a beat up but comfortable pair of flip-flops and sneakers and hiking boots. None of these are appropriate for long beach hikes. I had been shopping in the outdoor sporting goods stores for a pair of hiking sandals but did not want to spend upwards of two hundred dollars on a pair. I found a pair for forty at a discount shoe store that were relatively comfortable.

It is immediately evident why you can only hike the cape at low tide. The first part of the journey the water is yards away from the cliff face and frames a narrow strip of beach for the hike. The long cape stretches ahead giving an exquisite view of the path forward and its endpoint. My hiking experience in New Zealand so far has been mountains and forested areas and I am glad for the change of scenery. The clouds offer some cover from the sun and it turns out to be a windy and cool day, but having been burned through the clouds once already during my trip I apply sunscreen while walking along the beach.

The beach is rocky and uneven and after roughly an hour I kick my feet to dislodge the rocks wedged in my sandals. But the irritating rubbing does not dissipate. I slip my sandal of briefly and notice the beginning of blisters on my toes. ‘Well that isn’t good,’ is the meaning of what I say. But instead, I simply state, “Shit.” Thankfully the beach up ahead turns sandy and a few minutes later I am happily tramping along barefoot in true kiwi style. I hope it stays passable barefoot for the majority of the hike. I tred through the water at ankle depth instead of on the beach. The seawater stung at first from the salt, but I hope it will help with the soar blisters.

Walking underneath the cliffs provides a spectacular view of their geological history. Layers of different minerals and rock types are embedded in the cliffs, a giant’s brushstroke painting lines into the landscape, cutting sharp and clear divides into the past. I wonder how long it took for those deposits to form. Millions of years, tens of millions? A long time to be sure.

Colonies of birds make their summer home here at Cape Kidnappers. Flying from Australia, they come here each year to mate and raise their hatchlings. The last mile of the hike is up the hills of the end of the cliffs to the gannets’ roost. Hundreds of birds lay along the cliff, many are fluffy little chicks with unsmooth feathers making them look like balls of fuzz instead of sleek creatures capable of flight. The dry heat of the hills behind pull a fierce wind from the sea. The strong gale whips into powerful bursts sporadically, tearing at my clothes and pack around along with the gear of the other people on the hike. The coat in my pack, whose weight I had regretted the whole trip so far, is suddenly necessary. The birds are unperturbed by the constant wind.

There had been no wind on my journey up the cape, but it has chased me back down the cliffs. The walk back is less pleasant than the walk there, aggravated by the fact I needed to put my sandals back on for the last section that was not on the beach. My blisters will be worse than I hoped. I am hopeful they will not be bad enough to keep me from doing the Tongariro Crossing. One of New Zealand’s best day hikes, it is my last destination before heading down to Wellington and moving onto the South Island. The last stretch of beach is too rocky for me to go barefoot, exacerbating the issue further. I eagerly slip my sandals off when I make it back to solid ground. Red stains my sandals and my feet. I am thankful half of the four-hour hike was passable barefoot. It was the longest hike I have completed yet in New Zealand. I sit with my feet hanging out of the car, chewing on my simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich and handfuls of nuts and dried fruit, considering what to do about my bloody blisters.

Ultimately my plan does not change. I can camp for a few days more if need be, but the weather Is not going to be good enough for the Tongariro crossing soon anyway. I note to myself to in the future not try to break in new shoes via a long hike without having another pair of shoes available.

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Comments (3)

  • elizabeth 4 years ago Reply

    This hike sounds amazing…except for the sandals part 🙂

  • Aunt Pam 4 years ago Reply

    Sounds great but my feet hurt just reading this blog

  • Jean Jeannie Winship Lynch 4 years ago Reply

    What a wonderful adventure. Thanks for the visuals!

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