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?
I am prepared up to a point – and, now that I am giving myself a bit of space even as I keep moving – I feel proud that I pushed hard when I needed and wanted to beat the weather and experience the grandeur of Waiau Pass, climb the boulders on the Desperation River, cross on foot the humongous Rangitata, or squeeze in a little Lord of the Rings bit.
But I need to know when it’s time to rest quietly and consume calories which is why I’m in the kitchen at Tailor Made Backpackers eating a huge breakfast before I hop on the bike and ride to Twizel.
I know I’m not entirely relaxed because little things upset me more easily like misplacing the key to the bike lock which causes a minor panic – it’s hidden in the grass – or trying to decide whether I should try to join Steve’s friends as they do a drive by of Mount Cook National Park. It’s completely in cloud now and I am so disorganized in my head, I give it a miss hoping to return at some point.
Annie swings by and takes my pack. She’s focused and efficient and it’s obvious she wants to make Be Spoke a thriving business.
I head off, terribly awkward with full front and rear bags and a whole section of gravel heading downhill. The trail is called Alps to Ocean and runs along the canal of brilliant turquoise water banked by faded yellow hills dotted with green scrub, mountains with low cloud and gray skies. The track switches from smooth tarmac to jiggly gravel and I go slow, trying to balance and not wipe out.
Balance is the name of the game as my friend Rob explains using Maori spirituality.
He writes, “Look after you wairua (spirit) hinengaro (mind) tinana (body) and whanau (family/self) … keep your balance. And continue to let us see that beautiful cheeky smile.”
His partner George joins in with a bit of Latin – per angusta ad augusta (through difficulties to honors)
I don’t feel tired riding, but I’m weak in body and spirit. It seems the low cloud is a gift to simply move me along on an easy trail so I don’t take on too much. But the gift too is the air is cool and fresh and I’m not burning up.
I meet a friendly Kiwi walker, her face fresh and relaxed. She says she’ll walk the North Island since she has the time, with a kind of nonchalance I wish I possessed. She kindly takes my photo before we part.
I come upon Tina and share the promised beers, and she cracks one open before 10 am as we sit on the edge of the water. A salmon farm comes up next and I meet Ryan in his camo short shorts smoking a cigarette as he rides, like something out of a Fellini movie. People begin to appear fishing the banks, shags, gulls and cormorants perch nearby.
The trail takes a huge, steep descent before heading on the road briefly where we both fly past riders in spandex. Indeed, TA walkers are fit.
At a picnic table on Lake Pukaki, I eat a second breakfast with a view clearing over the mountains. Did I make a mistake not going to the park, I wonder, second guessing myself and failing to live fully in this moment, though I do feel alive riding a bike rather than walking, the wind rushing past. The trail skirts the lake on gravel, impossibly vivid blue like a crayola crayon, beaches and camping spots all on the lookout for the mountains to emerge from the clouds.
I skip the visitor center and wish I hadn’t before I veer into a pine forest, then the ‘flats’ snaking through dusty grassland with enormous mountains rising above.
Twizel is not far and Annie meets me to take my quickly purchased – and gigantic – resupply as I decide to bite the bullet and pay for two days biking to keep riding to Ohau tomorrow. I stop here to have a look at a trail angel’s offer of a night in her hobbit house – built into the earth, a thick tree holding up its circular roof. I arrive and head straight for the bedroom crashing right out.
Until an Austrian couple arrives and the spell is broken. I act like a bit of a jerk – ‘I was here first’ bologna, until I shape up and offer then the double bed taking the wee single for myself in the main area. What got into me? So tired I was selfish for a moment.
But it passes as I park myself on a chair swing and work on audio.
Kačka and Kuba show up after a day at Mount Cook. It was good for them, but not ideal. I have to remind myself that it’s not that everyone else is having the time of their life and I’m somehow getting the short end of the stick. That’s truly one of my worst bad habits.
Denise is our host in a very New Zealand home, spread out with lots of outdoor living space, horses, chickens, another wee house as a sort of model for the hobbit house. Men are laying new carpet so when they leave, we help return the furniture.
Another Czech arrives and we’re invited in for trout, salad and beer – bliss! It’s a night of sharing beta for the upcoming sections as we are evenly split north bound and south, plus some good healing for me.
I know this trail is not finished with me. I have much to learn and sort out, but thankfully can sleep in tomorrow.