Canterbury

TA Day 104, Freehold Creek to Tin Hut, 30 km

Being alone is, we know, the best chance you have to be yourself, which is in turn the seed of integrity and of any possible originality.

—Patricia Hampl

My little lair in the beech forest was so dark overnight, bright stars shone through the tops of the thick canopy. It was slow start, but eventually things begin to glow as I pack up for my day’s walk.

The trees gives way to tussock right away, but the trail is well defined – completely different to what I’m used to on the TA. The morning is absolutely silent but for wind through the grass and numerous babbling creeks feeding the east branch of the Ahuriri River, the main section of which I’ll cross today, causing me to feel a bit jittery as I’m now walking alone.

Canterbury

TA Day 103, Twizel to Freehold Creek, (29 km) + 6 km

At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough.

—Toni Morrison

The stars were spectacular overnight and I slept deeply in my little single bed in the Hobbit House. It’s a lazy morning on Denise’s porch – typical Kiwi with an enormous outdoor living space under a corrugated plastic roof. I lose myself in an armchair as Kačka and Kuba call home.

What a surprise this moment is. I purposely stop here to experience extended hospitality and it’s so natural and relaxed, Denise and her daughters off to school and telling us to just close the door before we leave. Scooby puts his dark chocolate nose under my free hand, nuzzling out a scratch behind the ears.

Canterbury

TA Day 102, Tekapo to Twizel, (54 km)

I slept poorly last night with all the rustling about, phones going off and generally being stressed out knowing I need to slow down and enjoy, but somehow unable to just yet.

So many friends responded with incredible words of kindness and encouragement when I posted my breakdown video on social media. It is the real, unvarnished me simply wiping out – almost like a child who missed nap time. I was tired, hot, hungry, dirty, sore and fed up with the poor state of this trail.

But the truth is, this is the first time I’ve done something this big. I’ve walked trails of hundreds of miles, but this is thousands – and my life as a radio host seems so far away now as I completely immerse myself in this life choice right now of ‘full time pedestrian.’

How can I possibly know how to act or pace or be in this situation until I am fully in it?

Canterbury

TA Day 100, Royal Hut to after Washdyke Stream, 26 km

Stag Saddle above Lake Tekapo in the Southern Alps is the highest point on the Te Araroa.
Stag Saddle above Lake Tekapo in the Southern Alps is the highest point on the Te Araroa.

Contrary to Alan from Dunedin’s prediction, the day opens crystal clear, ready for our eyes to take in some of the Te Araroa’s best views. There are two late arrivals, one claiming a top bunk – thankfully, quietly – and the other setting a tent – pounding in what seemed to be ten or fifteen stakes, but things settle down soon enough as we all hope to get an early start.

Canterbury

TA Day 99, Crooked Spur Hut to Royal Hut, 16 km

The morning begins with the Kiwi couple talking, rustling in their plastic food bags and letting the door bang shut – over and over. Is it just an oversight, as the sun is not yet up and the four of us TA hikers are still sound asleep.

Alan and Carol from Dunedin – the gal even coming to Saint Paul to run the Twin Cities Marathon – it seems, resent us.

Canterbury

TA Day 98, Potts River Bridge Car Park to Crooked Spur Hut, 17 km + 14 km

On a side-trip to Mount Sunday, better known as Elorus in The Lord of the Rings, we had the place all to ourselves.
On a side-trip to Mount Sunday, better known as Elorus in The Lord of the Rings, we had the place all to ourselves.

The wind dies down and the possums come out, climbing the tree above my head and chattering to each other. Neil told me it was a furrier in the 1930s who randomly freed captives, causing an intractable nightmare on New Zealand’s birds. I pull everything inside the alicoop.

It’s cool and the stars are bright. The sun pinkens the mountains on a clear morning. Fog gathers on the river we’ll soon cross. Tom is up early wanting to hitch down the road to a small mountain used in The Lord of the Rings. I eat quickly and pack up before we head down an absolutely dead quiet road.

Crossing the bridge at the Potts River with Tom before we headed out on an epic day.
Crossing the bridge at the Potts River with Tom before we headed out on an epic day.
The land is wild and enchanted and an obvious backdrop for Middle Earth.
The land is wild and enchanted and an obvious backdrop for Middle Earth.
Catching it from all angles, not a moment of disappointment.
Catching it from all angles, not a moment of disappointment.

Our sneakers crunch gravel toward Mount Sunday – or Elorus – its hulk in sight, but many k away. Our ears hope for the sound of a car. Black cows look on curious, steam exiting their nostrils.