TOUCHDOWN

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Pre-hike: A stroll through Northhead, a volcanic cone in the suburb of Devonport (near Auckland).

Flying across the world to New Zealand is no easy feat, but it is worth every minute. My plane began its ascent over the north island just as the sun began to rise. A pretty spectacular site for the beginning of 2014. As we got closer to land, the plane made a wide sweeping u-turn toward the landing strip, and as we did I looked down at a pure, pristine shoreline protected by a thick buffer of New Zealand bush. I was hooked and eager to start hiking.

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This will be my first stash of food for the first leg of the hike. Approximately 90 miles (140km) from as far north as I can hitch (either Surville Cliffs or Spirits Bay) which will then hike west to the TA’s official northern terminus (Cape Reinga) and then south along 99 mile beach to Ahipara.

But before the hike could begin, I had to take care of a few last minute details. Fortunately I have hiked three long distance trails and that made what could have been an overwhelming list of things to do seem easy. I gave myself two days (yesterday after landing as well as today) to adjust from the trip. Considering the fact that my sleep cycle hasn’t been regular in days, I was little effected by jet-lag. I mean, you would think you would be in a staggering fog after a 6.5 hour flight from Portland to Honolulu followed by a 10 hour layover and then a 9.5 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean which landed at 6:30am. I think it had a lot to do with having slept solidly for several hours on my 9.5 hour flight from Honolulu to Auckland. I was very fortunate that there were many seats open on that particular flight and I had the seat next to me all to myself. After stowing a few pillows behind my back and wrapping my neck pillow around, I lifted up the middle arm rest, and turned my body so that my legs leaned against the seats in a comfortable position. I then put some ear plugs in, pulled down my eye mask and called it a night. It wasn’t until the breakfast cart was a couple rows ahead that I awoke. Couldn’t have been better timing.

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A welcoming sight in a brand new country.

After touching down and gathering my things after an easy pass through customs, I was greeted by Craig and a big sign saying “Welcome PCT Hiker.” Craig, aka Sunwalker, had thru-hiked the PCT in 2007. We had started a few days apart, ran into one another at a few different places along the way, and we’ve remained in touch every since. It was a great welcome into a new country and a new hike.

I’ve stayed with Craig, his wife Tanya and their 20-month year old, Rueben. Their yard has lemon, peach and palm trees. I love palm trees. You can’t not love palm trees. I’ve taken the time to organize my maps one last time. I assembled my gear into my pack, which with a base-weight of 11-pounds (base weight implying pack and gear without food, fuel or water) was very easy. Plenty of room for food and water, which won’t be too big of a concern because their should be plenty of water along the way. (I sure hope I don’t realize otherwise). I’ve also filled up my fuel bottle with methanol spirits. I did a test light with my beer-can-stove to make sure it works. It did. I then allowed myself to catch up on sleep by closing the blinds and sleeping for 11 hours. I’ve eaten plenty of calories to help sustain and give me energy for the first few miles of the hike.

It’s Thursday evening, and I’m ready to get hiking. From the two nights I’ve seen so far, New Zealand possesses beautiful sunsets which I’m sure will be absolutely intoxicating after walking along the shore for twenty some-odd miles. I still have one more trip to take before getting to the northern terminus (a 5 hour bus-ride, followed by a 2-hour hitch hike), but I will be hiking by tomorrow evening. (Assuming I get a lift of course, but I’ve never had trouble before, I don’t see why I should start…) I’m looking forward to it.

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