So Pete asked me what would be the tipping point- where I could say with confidence I would be able to finish this challenge~. I first said passing Auckland: so easy to stop, go back to the life I'm comfortable with. Then I said Queenstown. Nearly there, can't stop now! But during the traipse across the breadth of the country, over three forests and numerous mountain ranges, through rivers and through the muddiest quagmires I could have imagined- I think I've crossed that tipping point. The first 10 days they say, are the hardest: on the unprimed body, on the spirit. Just finishing the first 10 days- not even having done 10%, I'm sure I'll make it though to Bluff (not shit-house Bluff on Ninety Mile Beach folks, I mean the other end of the country Bluff :)) The only thing that concerns me is my timeline. I thought I gave myself plenty of time, but with work and family commitments in Auckland I'm going to find it a challenge to finish before the southern frosts come. I've got to admit, THIS has kept me up at night, but now not the mental or physical challenge of it.
Ah, the Northern forests: very corny, but I really feel I went in a girl (with prematurely greying hair) and came out a woman. The three forests: Herekino, Raekea and Puketi took me through a pretty amazing transformation: I now feel stronger and more confident than I ever have physically and mentally ready for anything.
I came across my very own, very first trail angel on day two of being solo~ my tent was wet and I had run out of water so hadn't had my usual hot porriage breakfast. Around lunchtime I came across the most idyllic stream, and grass bank with a few placid looking cows grazing. I jumped the obviously private property dividing fence and started to make myself at home- spreading my tent out and starting up my gas cooker~ then along comes a farmer... yikes! Now Wayne was the most wonderful human being: kind, concerned, generous. Meeting him and his Dog Zoe buoyed my spirits and gave me strength to carry on, full warm belly and dry tent! Onwards and upwards into my second forest: Raetea.
Solitude allowed me to explore my psyche a little: I felt like Dorothy and friends all rolled into one, walking though the silent forest recallibrating my heart, my brain and my courage in search for OZ... but it wasn't all serious! Next minute I was Super Mario jumping over fallen trees and collecting 1up mushrooms every time I saw an orange marker :)
After solitude came friendship in the name of Andres from Chile. My first Te Araroa met walking buddy! So I had met Andres with Pete on day one- he stumbled into Twilight beach campsite and settled there for the night while we carried on to the beach. We had expected to see him along the beach but didn't, so it was great to see him bowl passed me on day 5 :) He was a fast walker, but a very slow riser so for the next couple of days I would come across his campsite, say hello then he would pass me late I the afternoon. We soon decided to join forces and combine our weaknesses- slow to start in the morning then ALSO slow to walk. Bahahaha!! The section coming up was potentially a hairy one- wading though a stream where the track notes repeatedly screamed: "WARNING! Flash flood area!!" Having someone to joke with and tackle tricky navigation and river bank walking after the two days of alone time was great. But like many of the friendships I'll have on this trail, we walk our own walk, I step off trail and they carry on.
Zero day count: 1 on the 8th of September, the weather closed in and the southerly brought with it torrential rain. Best to watch mtv and relax at the backpackers at Ahipara instead! :P
Fellow Te Araroa walker sightings: 1 Andres, my partner in crime for this section (with the lingering presence of the half dozen walkers ahead of us ~ footsteps, sign-in books, heresay)
Number of Olympic gymnastic-worthy tumbles: 3 1. getting lost on my first day solo and doing the splits down the riverbank! 2. woah!! Falling down a mountain and bending a borrowed walking pole is not recommended! 3. super face plant in Raetea with Andres right behind me- I think I scared him more than myself 😅
Number of cries: 2 Farmer Wayne taking my hands and praying to God for my safety, offering me a place to stay and wishing me the best on my journey...and the wonderful Doggie cuddles from Zoe the dog :) The beauty of the forest and the intermingling feeling of freedom and solitude had me feel-good-balling, perched against a tree in the dappled sunlight :)
Kg of rubbish picked up: < 1 :) great to see hardly any rubbish in the bush. Though the roads and surrounding gutters were a different story... Drop off points were: Mungamuka Dairy Kerikeri
Homes for the night: Day 5: Bottom of mountain at Herekino: pretty wet and miserable Day 6: Middle of Raetea: magical Day 7: Farmland, with farmers blessing, having swum though the longest 4kms of endless mud Day 8: Getting hopelessly lost, ended up camping on a riverbank: dodgy! Day 9: Puketi Forest hut. FIREPLACE and electricity!! Day 10: Kerikeri Seasonal workers hostel Day 11: Mt Bledisloe "No Camping!" Lookout Day 12: There's no place like home xx
Food highlights: udon noodles with fresh stirfried red capsicum, chicken (from a can!), ham (leftovers baby!), ginger and teriyaki sauce and chilli flakes.
General Highlights: the forests were magical! cool off swim in Puketi Forest the feeling of invincibility doing it solo! (till the reality of the toughness of Raetea set in LOL) sunrise views from Mt Bledisloe
General Lowlights: the last never-ending, soul crushing 4kms of day 6 running out of water so no dinner or towel bath day 5
walking poles broken to date: 2
Song predominantly in my head: I am woman! Helen Reddy
Things I learned: I'm stronger than I gave myself credit for :) walking poles are invaluable. Thanks for the lend of yours Pete! Also I'd be much more beaten up without my gaiters. 1.5l is NOT enough water for two days in the forest.
Number of days with wet feet: all the days 😅 Weather: perfect Body: tweaked right hip, right knee and foot blister but generally getting stronger by the day Spirit: yaaaaaas! Questions unanswered: loads, but who cares?