The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within – strength, courage, and dignity.
On day 99 of my thru-hike of the Te Araroa, I completely lost it.
It was a combination of utter exhaustion walking a non-existent trail – the rocks hurt my feet and the grass is taller than my head! – being overheated and hungry, and having spent the night in a hut with a couple of unfriendly Kiwi trampers.
I turned on video to capture this very real moment of just how difficult thru-hiking can be on all parts of our person – body, mind and spirit.
It cracks me up looking back from the comfort of my air conditioned studio that I laugh at myself, even when crying so hard the snot is leaking out of my nose…
The stars were electric last night, even as the super moon made a grand entrance, lighting up one stray cloud in the crook of high peaks. First, just a silver tint, then as though someone turned on an inner light before the mountains gave birth to a bright candle-glow-yellow orb, slowly taking over the sky.
It’s a night shared with smokers, door slammers and snorers, but it turns out to be pretty fun in a new, large hut – replete with flush toilets – filled at capacity with trampers, though not a single TA hiker but me. Good conversation and energy.
The sky is clear and even as it gets light, one star still winks at me. I have tea with an Aussie wreck diver then head out for a long, mostly flat, walk on roots, rocks and lots of water – lots and lots. The Greenstone river is roiling, but so are all the creeks feeding it while crossing the trail. In fact, the trail itself is now a creek and frankly, any low spot is pooling. Loads of boots were drying by the fire last night which now seems utterly pointless. This is an environment where your feet will be wet most of the time. It’s best to wear quick-drying shoes – like trail runners – and just plunge right through, which is what I do all day.
It rained all night. I am dry and warm in the alicoop, but I don’t think I can hike an alpine trail of 32 kilometers in pouring rain. For the first time on this odyssey, I’m stuck.
I try to be practical and think through every possibility as I remain snug and fat raindrops hit the tarp with a splat. I could wait in my tent until it stops or pack up and try to hitch back to Glenorchy, then return when it stops and continue. But when will it stop, I wonder. I just don’t think I’ve got what it takes to hike it.
I’m up before dawn, quietly moving my gear into the common room so I can pack loudly. Someone on the Guthook hiker app couldn’t find this fabulous space with several sinks, dishes, hot water dispenser and comfy chairs where I prepare for the day ahead.
I’m nervous starting because I have no idea how I’ll get to the start of the Routeburn. It’s not officially part of the Te Araroa, but right along the way joining the TA at the end. Considering how strong I am, its 32 alpine kilometers are doable in a day.
One thing I have learned is that worry shakes off once I get moving. It’s about a kilometer from the holiday park to town, Sirius is piercingly bright still, the clouds turning pink.
The stars did not disappoint. I checked often through the night, the nearly full moon lighting up this wild landscape. Only after it set, did twinkling commence.
I’m a bit in between now – longing for my own bed and big bathtub, but I don’t want this hike to end. And that’s definitely true for this beautiful section shared with such lovely people. It is so nice to be with considerate and kind people. We don’t walk with each other and we’re here for our own reasons, but there is a gentle caring and looking out for each other that is so refreshing.
Walking is the natural recreation for a (wo)man who desires not absolutely to suppress (her) intellect but to turn it out to play for a season. All great (wo)men of letters have therefore been enthusiastic walkers.
I’m awakened by one of the Czech’s alarms. He has to scramble down from the top bunk to turn it off as it’s his phone and on the table. I’m surprised by the tune’s sweet nature.
Clearly an accident as he crawls back in his sleeping bag and, even though getting light, everyone else just rolls over for a bit more rest.
I eventually emerge and pack to go, the very sparse clouds turning pink. The morning is chilly and I’m ready for three big climbs – and descents.
The morning is lazy because I have to wait for the bank to open. I load up on more calories, the good conversation continues and I thumb through a photo book with commentary on Harry and Andrew’s hike in Nepal, licking my chops dreaming of more places I want to go.
Olive Oyl is weighted down with maybe too much food and a full water bottle as I work my way down through the event tents in the park above the lake, gentle clouds draped like boas around the shoulders of the peaks.
At the bank, the teller first tells me the cards retained by the ATM are destroyed. I ask if maybe she might just check and it turns out she’s wrong, asking me the color of my card before returning it not destroyed for a second try, where it is immediately eaten again. She retrieves it again and tells me to find another bank.