Gray and ominous this morning; foggy, but no rain. Obviously I’d like ideal weather for the crossing – and my birthday this Friday – but there is something cool walking overland to the national park and having it reveal itself.
Walking is such a metaphor for life. Unless it’s a race, you can’t really rush it. You set your pace and then walk every step to where you’re going. It goes as it goes. David is gone when I’m up and then I’m next. I am not particularly fast, but steady. And this is uphill for the first several hours.
To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
– Søren Kierkegaard
The day starts in a familiar way – rain. Extra loud on the container that I share with Bojan, Marko, Alexis and David. It’s always good sleeping on a ‘bed’ – actually a kiddie mattresses – and bonding over all our stuff spread about.
I forgot to mention that I at least attempted a surreptitious rinse in the river yesterday afternoon. Later, when one of the sons picked me up from a second attempt at resupply, he comments, “So you’re the nudist, eh!” If seeing a glimpse of a middle aged lady is your big thrill, I say, “Good on you!”
Up early just as the sun is coming up, it’s my favorite time of day. I’m conflicted about this group of hikers, but so confused about the coming days, I’m glad I found them. The weather is going to be awful and I’ll need to do sections out of order. Likely we’ll all canoe for seven days on the Whanganui together.
Good decision to sleep in the tent, so cozy and much less dew this morning. Tuis call each other over the fog-filled gorge.
This particular portion of the trail emphasizes how strange it is to wake up, pack all your belongings, throw them on your back and walk. It’s simple and focused, and I am a bit fanatical about each item packed in the same place, so I don’t leave anything behind. I need every single item I brought with me.
It’s cool this morning, no one on the trail yet. Perhaps it’s because my weight is less as I eat through my food, but the feeling of why I love walking is returning – the wonder that my legs can carry me to new sights and sounds and it’s slow enough I can really take in each one – the sound of the stream crescendoing as I approach, the ferns daintily reaching out from the steep sided cut railway bed I walk on, the rock dangerously teetering in a spot we’re warned not to stop.
All my gear is neatly laid out as I wait for the sun to peak out over the trees. He’s almost there. The tent is wet and it’s cold, so I hope to dry it before packing. I usually just get up and pack it wet, but the day is pretty straightforward and I don’t need to set off early.
Chloe told me last night she does not like Americans, mainly because of our politics and attitudes. I know she was upset we cooked venison, but deer – and all mammals besides two kinds of bats – were foolishly introduced to New Zealand, a paradise where they have no natural predators and are a menace to the birds and the bush.
I wake up to an absolute cacophony of bird song, the wildest yet. We’re at about 500 meters and it is cold and damp, but – fingers crossed – clear.
I am a tiny bit cranky as I enter the timber trail, the finest podocarp forest in New Zealand. Folks showed up at 10:30 lights blaring on my tent. I yelled at them to knock it off, mainly so they knew it wasn’t party time. Then I wonder if I should have said anything, and rather just let it go.
Chloe says the lights were in her eyes, but I woke her up. I guess too it’s hard for me because I am walking all of this trail and I feel criticized by the others who skip large sections insinuating I’m trying to prove something. I simply want to walk it all and I’d prefer to feel celebrated or at least understood. I don’t think I could get to Bluff and say I walked the Te Araroa when I actually didn’t. All this hardship of rain, crappy trails, and this morning’s cold is part of that experience.
More and even more rain, but finally the sun is up and the sky is pink. I am starting to doubt my capacity to complete this trail if the rain and mud continue. The misery of wet feet is seeping into my soul. Thank the goddess for a respite with these trail angels, Allan and Marianne.
What’s happened to stop the rain is a cold snap, but it’s supposed to move on in the coming days. It will be a long, possibly boring day on road, but at least easy walking and no mud!
Black clouds chase me, a half rainbow in the middle as I go up a steep grade. Nope, the rain is not really stopped as it just starts pouring again, but all I can do is just keep plodding along in it.
And then, just like that it clears. The air is cool and delicious up this high. Maybe the storms will moderate. In Te Kuiti a guy offered me a ride past all this. Marianne told me she saw me on the road and is usually the one to pick up hikers but thought this time, “Walk on!” She was surprised when Alan had me in his car heading up the hill to their home. There’s something in walking it all. You sometimes feel like hell, but then again, there’s a sense of accomplishment and invariably, things will change. It can’t rain forever, can it?
What an extraordinary place to wake up to. I have a virgin forest, thick and impenetrable, across the river. Soothing rapids run all night. Birds are everywhere and the sun is finally beginning to show itself down the canyon.
I love that I pushed myself and came here, even if my clothes are damp from yesterday’s sweat and some things are getting a bit of a funk from the lack of sun. There’s time for drying later today, and I’m loving this cool campsite all to myself.
I adore being alone. Am I an introvert? A little. It feels a natural fit talking on the radio and to audiences. I enjoy time with friends and family, but there’s nothing like sitting here dirty and damp, but feeling mostly ok and enjoying this magical place on my own terms – and my own schedule. It’s the quirkiness of the chairs, tables, poop-shovel and even a fully inflated inner tube contrasted with the natural wonder of the NZ bush.
It rains at night, a constant, loud volley of water bullets on the alicoop. I’m dry and snug as the morning begins, bird song and fog. I feel nervous of the weather. Will I get downpours today? Will I be warm enough? There are many hikers behind me, so I feel safe.
It is important to have options, a bailout. I hope to go further, but if rain inundates, I can stay in the next town about 10 miles away. For now, there’s just wind and no rain.
I enter very wet muddy farmland with hard to follow track leading into a field with an ‘intimidating bull.’ I hear some loud mooing and grunting and hope he’s distracted.
No bull, but Dutch Tom shows up and we use two heads to navigate this mess. I step ankle deep in mud.