A critical factor for Te Araroa walkers on 90 Mile Beach has always been how much water to carry and where to get it. Streams do cross the beach, but they're few and far between and in summer, they can retreat back into the dunes.
Te Araroa walkers desperate for water sometimes go inland to suck puddles, or flag down a passing 4WD. They watch for water with the eager eye of Sahara explorers, and in that context they've noted Hukatere and its distinctive Utea Hill only as one more dry, sandy, and uninhabited turnoff back inland.
Israeli hiker Eyal Schwartz on 90-Mile Beach - Oneroa a Tohi - last week Pic: Amos Chapple
But now, by repute, there's a quality of water rising at Hukatere that you'd walk 90 miles to get to anyway.
Paul and Tania Desmond, are about to open a campsite that’ll cater to Te Araroa hikers. Paul, a builder by trade, is completing a shower and toilet block, a communal kitchen, and laying out the campsite. But most notable of all, he says, is the water that wells up from a bore 80 metres deep.
“We hit trees at 30 metres, a second layer at 60 metres, and we were lucky to strike a shell bed at 80 metres,” says Paul. “The drill brought up complete shells. There’s a whole lot has gone on here over time, and this is an old river bed. It’s the source of the sweetest water on 90 mile beach.”
Hukatere is 30 kms south of the Bluff, and 16 km before Waipapakauri. The idea for a campsite was, Paul says, sparked partly “by walkers coming in off the beach.”
The distinctive mound of Utea Hill marks the southern boundary of Tania’s Ngati Kuri lineage.
“There was a pa on Utea Hill, and we're calling the new site Utea Park after the hill,” says Paul. “We see ourselves as caretakers here, and we’d like everyone to come and enjoy it like we are.”