It’s been two weeks. I’ve gotten conjunctivitis and a minor sprain. Here’s hoping – hobbling? – the new week is full of health and safety.
I walk slowly and deliberately. Scrubby lowland here, lots if invasive prickly gorse so I’m glad the track is wide and they stay in their side.
I arrive at the mouth of the Horahora River as it spills into the Pacific. The tide is out and now I must walk up it. Tuatua and pipi shells, oyster catchers and a symphony of screeches greet my arrival on the wave scarred sand. The surf crashes at the bar as footsteps make a pleasing crunch. I follow Ondi’s sunken looping v-steps until they disappear.
The water is cold and fresh up to my crotch, the tide pulls me upstream. Bram and the kayak boys catch up to me. I’m surprised how timid they are picking their way across, seemingly afraid to get wet or yanked under by the current.
I met a couple yesterday on the beach who took my picture and invited me to stay. I told them that I was happy but kayaked with some jerks. “I’m a man and even I know there are a lot of guys who are jerks!”
The fact is I should have just spoken up when the kayak boys acted like jerks. It’s one of my worst faults, that rather than confront directly, I triangulate seeking validation for my feelings. Rather than manage them, I re-live them.
Just as I come out of the cleansing water, the path goes directly through mangrove swamp. Raetea redux only deeper and smellier – albeit far shorter and flatter. Up and over towards another estuary I’ll catch tomorrow as it’s deep in high tide now. This is the awkward part, that New Zealand’s tides are specific to place and hard to time when on the move.
A few years ago, I joined a friend for a week of diving in Roatan. I am inexperienced and was very nervous, but soon warmed up to it and was delighted with all I saw in that Caribbean idyll, sharing exuberantly my joy with my boat mates. One morning, before setting out for a full day of diving – and in front of all those boat mates – the divemaster told me people had complained about me, saying I was hogging the ocean and not letting them see enough. I was devastated.
My more experienced diving partner said it was all bullshit. It turned out to be one very sour woman who maybe wasn’t enjoying herself so much who made the complaint. But my mistake was in not immediately addressing the issue. Instead I was frozen in my hurt and the unfairness. I tried not to let it color the rest of my adventure, but by not asking what I should do and that I, too, deserve to see things as much as her, I wallowed in my feelings.
I arrive at Pataua North and spy a picnic table under a spreading tree next to the bay. More “Fantastic Noodle” mixed with tuna packet for brunch. Lisa and Don walk by and chat me up, curious about this trail and telling me they see loads of backpackers come through.
Before I departed on my leave, I was called into a meeting with my boss and her boss. It was not pleasant though I believe all a misunderstanding. Still, I was in trouble. Skimming over the details and going right to the heart of it, I was proud in that particular case how I reacted.
I didn’t fight, flee or freeze. Rather I stayed present and professional, taking responsibility while also stating my case. I left nothing unsaid in that meeting. It was productive and I didn’t need anyone else to help me unwind what transpired. I was especially proud of myself because that behavior is never my default.
Perhaps this is an area I can improve as I walk. I’ll stop early today to rest and time the tides to walk the estuary. That means I’ll likely lose this group entirely. But maybe wanting a group at all is my problem. I came alone, enjoy being alone, and – in these last days – beginning to trust being alone.
I phone Hugh to pick me up at the reserve where I’ll continue the trail tomorrow. He finds me on the road in his van, the side door opening to reveal Bram, Hong Kong Tracy and the kayak boys.
They end up joining me for tea, Christmas cake and trail-wound comparison at Tidesong, a rambling house and garden overlooking the estuary and Pacific. Hugh takes the four across in his boat and I’m led to the tree house.
At last! – quiet, cool air, a place to let my ankle heal. Another steamy hot outdoor shower, my clothes rinsed now, hanging in the sun on the fence, even the inside of my trail runners rinsed of their gumbo. A snack and next, a deep rest.
Ros and Hugh take amazing care of me. I sleep away the afternoon as the light changes on the estuary I’ll walk early tomorrow. They share a huge meal of a variety of leftovers from their daughter’s 40th this past weekend.
We talk singing in choirs and the fires in California, also about Ros donating her kidney to Hugh, then walking the Te Araroa herself to raise awareness of organ donation.
She walked the Te Araroa at 66. I am incredibly inspired.
I close today feeling more in tune with myself and more prepared for the challenges ahead. I was so happy walking this day, and happy making it a shorter one too. I adore long days too, but clearly I needed a rest and a major reset. An early day tomorrow, so off to the Tree House now. Til tomorrow!