FINDING BALANCE

1289-1380km’s Pipiriki to the city/town of Whanganui

The baby deer at the hostel, with Erika.

The baby deer at the hostel, with Erika.

This morning I was sitting drinking tea and enjoying a little bit of down time. As I did, I felt a calming instill itself, but still, underneath, there was a bit of anxiousness. Its as if the gears on the inside are saying we must go, must do, must be perpetually in motion. Its a a personality trait—a flaw more than an advantage, I think—that I have had for longer than I can trace and I’m hoping that this trip will finally help resolve it. I’m hoping this journey will bring about balance, happiness, compassion and ultimately simplicity to the ever-churning mind-in-motion that I’ve grown accustomed to.

So, what am I talking about? Let’s talk about the trail, right? We’ll get there. The last two weeks have been tough. Thru-hiking itself is tough, but this sort of tough isn’t a kind that I’ve ever faced before. I’ve dealt with incredible challenges, ones of solitude, wild animals, logistical errors and serious weather concerns. But on this trail I’ve faced a new challenge in which my expectations of immersing myself into a tropical island-meets-the-woods has not happened. There are moments of joy along beaches and in the thick bush tracks, but those moments are regularly interrupted by long road connections, often on semi-busy to busy roads. My legs are bored, my mind sour and it’s a time for a change of pace. I didn’t come all the way to New Zealand to walk along highways and stare at trash in the ditch. I didn’t fly all the way here to have my heart broken. I came here to experience another long trail, to sort out thoughts and to gain compassion for myself, for the world.

Standing above the Whanganui River, with rental bike.

Standing above the Whanganui River, with rental bike.

So, the lightbulb…. Well, I’ve hiked 1,225 kilometers. And then I kayaked 90 kilometers AND THEN…. I biked the last 80 k’s! Forget starring at trash in the ditch, I’m pedaling my way south to Wellington, at which point I will resume hiking. It was a big decision, but one that came easy. An outfitter first suggested I rent a bike and pedal the section from Pipiriki to Whanganui as it was a long walk, one on a tar-sealed road. The river was out of the question as only one outfitter rents kayaks for that section and it is comprised of almost entirely flat water and it’s against a headwind and incoming tide. Yuk. So, I opted for the bike. It made sense, and although I initially wanted to feel bad about not connecting my footsteps with footsteps, I am still connecting my steps with 100% woman power. Foot, pedal, paddle. A trio of transportation. And along that route I ran into Erika, a 34-year old woman from Switzerland. When I pulled into the small campsite for a brief pit-stop, she was eyeing me with curiousity and I her. She was curious with why I was biking while WEARING a pack as she was the smarter person with panier bags and ways to afix gear without straining her back. But I don’t have much choice. I work on a budget and with what I can get and I live in the moment, or at least try. We had a grand time biking together and I was inspired to hear her story which is somewhat similar to my own. Every few years she gets the itch to bike. She packs up and hits the road. She’s in a committed relationship for 3 years now and soon they might try to have a child. It reminded me that I am still young, still capable of finding love despite having the traveling bug. She works as a teacher with special needs children and has recently gone back to school to get more credintials for what sounded like a never ending list of credentials needed. She was(and is) a beautiful woman, strong, confident woman and reminded me of who I am. It was perfect timing as I was starting to forget. We pedaled our way all the way to Whanganui where we both exhausted the vistor center’s resources. The women who helped each of us were incredibly kind and took no mind to the increasing line that grew behind us. (There were 2 other women behind the counter thankfully). We just had so much to work out, each of us destined for different routes, but equally long and incredible journeys. After we sorted our things out, we both stayed at a warm and welcoming hostel. For $35/night I got a room to myself so that I can spread my gear out across the floor, bed and tables. I’m really not much of a neat freak, despite how much my mother tried. I’ve stayed for a second night, organizing logisitcs, decompressing with some tasty beer and tubs of ice cream, and acquiring gear.

The new "Bluey." Seems to be a theme in my life.

The new “Bluey.” Seems to be a theme in my life.

You see, that bike that I pedaled was just a rental. When I got to Whanganui I headed over to a used bike shop. Turns out they generally don’t sell to the public because they are a non-profit and sell to those in need. But I am a unique person and tell a unique story and Allen, the volunteer bike mechanic, was happy to sell me the bike that he was working on. It came out of the police station and was in need of a good tune-up. Allen did a great job and for $100 I have a mountain bike with back suspension and….a Barbie helmet. It can’t get any better than that. I would have spent that money and more if I was hiking, so it makes no difference there. And I feel so good now. A huge relief has set upon me knowing I am not going to waste another minute spending countless hours walking highways. It would take 16 days to hike from Whanganui to Wellington, 400 kilometers. In that time, at least half would be on roads and occasionally state highways. Although I’ll be bypassing a couple of nice hiking tracks, I will be enjoying myself more and experiencing this journey in a new light, which is something I need. The newfound route, roughly 275 kilometers, will take 4 or 5 or 6 days. I’m not sure as I’ve never done this before. I can take a few side trips to some of the country’s highlights, I can bike the beach OR just lounge on it instead of feeling like I need to keep go-go-going and I can stop in at the island’s renown brewery. And, when I reach the south island(after either selling or storing the bike), I will very likely start running into other thru-hikers. There’s not a ton of them out there, but there are a couple of dozen as some of the hostels and locals have told me they were seeing hikers almost every day a few weeks earlier. Can’t wait to feel the sense of trail community again.

So that wraps of my life. It’s been 50 days and I’ve come very far already, but will continue to go far, physically and mentally. For those who know me, you know it wasn’t easy to let my guard down and go with the decision to bike. But I suppose this young ol’ girl is finally starting to listen to her heart and to go with her gut.

3 thoughts on “FINDING BALANCE

  1. Beautiful, strong, confident and courageous are only a few of your qualities my friend. Let me know if I can be of any help Mary. I can be reached at 559-349-3922. Anything! I am at your service my friend. :0)

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  2. I bet that was a tough call, but a smart one. No-one is paying you to have a miserable time on NZ roads so you might as well have a fun time. If this changes your schedule for your next package be sure to let me know the new address/timing before March 21st when I’m supposed to put in in the mail.

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