Current Location: Queenstown
Number of Kilometers hiked thus far: I’ve lost track, but it’s heaps, for sure. 2,000+
At this point in my writing, it’s hard to talk about the places I have been in conjunction with the Te Araroa. It seems as I drift farther south, I drift farther from the route in search for mountains and valleys with more rewarding vistas. Part of me feels torn having left the purism route, and my ramblings tonight will touch upon this matter. But until then, I will talk about the scenic wonder of New Zealand, because as you can imagine, it’s quite incredible.
After finishing the last segment through the Two Thumbs Track (an official segment of the TA), my hiking partner and I decided that we needed to go to Mt Cook National Park (an off-trail destination). The route, one of spontaneity, turned out to be THE highlight of both our adventures. When we arrived at the park HQ, we initially thought of heading up toward the Mueller Hut, along the customary overnight hiking route. But after talking with a very knowledgeable staff member and explaining we were long-distance hikers, in good shape, and looking for a bit of a challenge without the crowd, she directed up to Sefton Biv, a small, doghouse style hut perched beneath the jagged peaks of the Footstool and Mt Sefton. By far, one of the most memorable experiences on the hike. After veering from the beaten path, the trail paralleled a creek and gained a steep-as ridge. A few cairns aided our navigation, but ultimately we knew our destination. Up, and way up, maybe a 1,000 meters and all in a relatively short amount of time. At the hut we were stunned by the almost unfathomable proximity the hut was in regards to two behemoth glaciers. And what made the night even more incredible, was listening to ice calf off, rupturing into smaller and smaller pieces and echoing down along the alpine walls.
Then, after a very restful sleep and a morning spent sipping tea, writing and yoga, we headed back down the ridge and up to Hooker Lake where icebergs the size of SUV’s floating in the 4-degree celcius water. And what better way to enjoy the scene then to blow up my sleeping pad (this most definitely voids any warranty the pad may have had), and to kick my way across the icy waters to one of the largest, yet closest, bergs. I was the color of a lobster when I got out and thankfully it was warming up to be a nice, sunny day.
So… trail purism. At this point, with only a few hundred kilometers left to go, Dylan and I are making our own trail. We’ve chosen the most spectacular routes, some on the TA and others not. Ultimately we will end at the bluff, albeit a few kilometers less than the TA, but hopefully having spent more time up in the heart of NZ’s renown beauty and less time spent meandering along road/cycleways. The weirdness of walking away from the thru-hike has subsided, but nonetheless I still struggle with the question, “what is my purpose?” As you can imagine, loads of thoughts filter through my mind while hiking through the mountains of New Zealand. Some of those thoughts are inspiring, making me think about the future and the many avenues I might venture down. Others I feel just lost and in wonder. I’m a Pisces, and decision making has never been a strong trait of mine. How I see it, is that I have seen an incredible part of the world. But it’s time for this chapter of my life to come to a close and for another to open. By setting foot out here on yet another thru-hike, I’ve realized I’m ready to put the act of thru-hiking on the back burner, at least for several years. There is so much more I look to do, to see, to learn and although thru-hiking has been a good medium to see some of this great, big world we live in, it’s run it’s course and I’m ready to move on.
But before that happens, there’s still more hiking to be done between now and the southern tip of the south island…