THE TROUBLE WITH NEW TRAILS & OTHER SET-BACKS

Climbing up one of the earlier waterfalls.

Climbing up one of the earlier waterfalls.

Well its midnight here, and I’m sitting here trying to type up the summary of the last few weeks. The technological set-backs with this loaner ipad are proving difficult and slow. not only that, but i just endured an explosion of soda(thought it was a bottle of water) and after 10-minutes i’m eager to get this thing off so i can get to bed. (guess it was a good thing i am sitting in my rain gear as I’m waiting for my clothes to dry)…

230-300km: It would be a lie to say I’ve enjoyed the whole hike thus far. In fact, i haven’t enjoyed nearly as much. But I’m okay with that, because during the impossibly bland moments—aka road walking— i some how have managed to burrow my mind into an almost numb sort of existance, which seems rather dreadful, but honestly i think its just another way of saying that I’m “present.” There are times i try to fantasise my way out of the reality, while there are hours—literally hours—where I focus my mind into stillness. Its an incredible opportunity and gift that after three thru-hikes I’m beginning to grasp.  So, road walking. Oh, there has been more tar-sealed roads than i could have imagined, and although i have spent glorious miles on beach, dense bush and pastureland, the route has wandered more pavement in the last 525 k’s than all the thru-hikes I’ve hiked combined. Somehow my feet have held strong, in fact they are blister-free, pain-free and antsy for more miles (sans-pavement of course).   The road walks that wander through towns are fine–I’ve taken a special interest in the double scoop ice cream—, and the simple forestry walks are a pleasant break from the thick rooted trails of the bush. But seriously the road walks are tough and leave me asking, “why don’t you skip ahead and get to the good stuff?” Ultimately it comes down to a whole lot of stubbornness, but also the recognition that the good stuff will come and that it will feel SOOOOOO GOOD when it does arrive. What i have discovered, is that instead of fighting these road walks, which can be in 20-k increments, is to find a way to enjoy them. The ice cream helps. And taking more breaks. And jumping in rivers or estuaries or whatever puddle can cool me off.  Beside road, the trail walks along streams, as mentioned in an earlier post. There was one particular stream that led to the longest UNINTENTIONAL detour of my hiking career. Papakauri Stream. I still have a hard time believing this happened. In short, I woke up from a restful sleep at a peaceful camp in the woods. i cruised along and dropped into the stream following the guidance of both my map and trail notes. They both agreed, follow the stream until reaching russel road… Well i took that stream, winding my way thicker and thicker into the forest. The was one fork. i took the bigger of the two. It started off fine, me fording an ankle to knee deep creek for a few kilometers over an easy streambed. Then it got a little more bouldered. And then there was a small waterfall. A second waterfall. Third. Then a scramble up a steep cliff using roots as assistance. I considered turning back, thinking, “this cant be the trail, but hey, its new zealand and they do things different over here.” Before another hour passed, i turned back. It was too thick and id had enough. 90 minutes later i reached the last place the orange blazes zigged-and-zagged across the stream. I ventured up a river-left trail and found the hut. I rested, ate and collected my thoughts. I then reasoned that i had taken the wrong fork and walked back upstream. Skeptically, i marched on and 30 minutes later i came to a big ol’ pool with a small waterfall. Again, its new zealand, so i scrambled up it, foot over ear and triumphant when up it. Then i came to a slot. A picturesque slot, deep and stunning. I swam across, scrambled up another small waterfall. Up some more stream until i rounded a corner and came to a 3-tier waterfall. And thats where i said, “enough.” I had no idea how this trail went from stream to road, but it was definitely not up that. I turned back and figured on taking a third option out of that forest. As i ventured past the hut for that trail(marked on my map), i was surprised to come to a three way junction of trails, with the Te Araroa two of those. According to my map, the route was not supposed to be there. It wasn’t supposed to walk beside the hut, either. And yet physically, it did. I had spent hours wandering and wobbling over river-stones while the trail had been relocated to a pleasant, well-formed track. Oh, what a chore. I was tired, soaked to the bone (including gear as my trash bag had small holes that had leaked after the countless swims)… Memories that will forever be with me but fortunately have faded with each passing mile.  The sole advantage of that situation came that evening. I was hikng near Teal Bay and it was nightfall. A woman and her son were walking down from watching the sunset on a nearby highpoint, and our paths crossed. “Where are you staying tonight?” She asked. ” somewhere flat” i replied. With that, she invited me to camp in her yard, which was coincidentally 5 feet away from the road/route. I spent the next hour sipping on a hot cup of tea and talking with her, her husband and two kids, while enjoying a salad and some reheated leftovers. It was an incredibly kind gesture, one i wont forget.   The maps from that day are worn, weathered and ripped in half after having been soaked in one or several of the swims. Even though it was tough, it was worth it. It was an adventure until anything I’ve ever done and brought about a degree of confidence i didn’t think i had. And of course, it made the next section seem that much more exceptional…

One thought on “THE TROUBLE WITH NEW TRAILS & OTHER SET-BACKS

  1. It was a pleasure to help you out & we enjoyed hearing about the amazing ‘journey’ you are on. Very inspiring & it got us looking at where the trail goes through our local areas in Northland, we may plan doing some of them as shorter hikes (not sure about all the river & estuary crossings though & will try avoid all the road sections!). Enjoying following your blog, good luck with the rest of your journey through NZ. Jan, Mike, Chris & Rob

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