A sunrise over the South Pacific. Not a bad way to wake up. Though I faff about in the warmth hoping the sun will dry the dew. No such luck. Once I open the thermarest valve, game is on and I begin to pack, wet or not.
I don’t like the face I see, wrinkled and saggy but console myself with what my body still can do. The beach is pristine and empty except for one straw I carry out and an awaiting surf board. Mist rises in the distance, ghostly white in the hot sun.
I am now on stage two of ten and officially in Auckland, though I’m not in a city by any means. I’m ready for a break to repair gear and myself, but it’s still days away. I try to focus on just one step at a time and enjoy this soulful morning without an eye towards the zero day – days? – awaiting.
I leave the beach and spy a toilet, water and soap. Ah! The small pleasures of life.
A couple asks me what I’m doing and ensures that I’m taking lots if pictures. They are surprised it takes five months to walk all of this and wish me well.
A beautiful marine biologist named Lucy fills my water bottle adding big weight before a big hill. I see a summit, but it is far off and I again am challenged to keep a steady, but slow, pace.
I’m on Te Hikoi Ote Kir going up towards Mt. Tamahunga. Going slow makes me think of life and its seasons, how nothing can be rushed. You can’t pull on the shoots to make them grow faster. I stop and have some of the water I carried here. The Tamahunga trail takes me along a ridge with a view to my camp spot far below on one very long beach.
My mind, then body, wanders but I get back on track – a narrow, mud filled slope to a saddle lined with sharp gorse. In the Omaha Forest, things immediately change to bush and bird song, silver ferns daintily revealing their undersides – plus 10 chatty weekend hikers more interested in arriving than seeing the stupendous view.
Insecurity sucks all the fun and frisson from life. I get grabby like a two year old wanting things my way and usually that behavior just drains the life out of things.
I meet a solo Tasmanian hiker who has to be in her 70’s doing this all alone. We don’t click as she pontificates more than listens, so I walk on.
I come upon a German and French couple too delicate for all the mud but kindred spirits carrying beer to the next camp spot.
2,435 kilmeters to Bluff, the sign tells us at the junction for The Dome. I break my period of solitude to walk with these chill people intending to get a burger before 5:00.
We move fast through the bush. Let me tell you, this is really hard walking. Steep up and steep down – which is actually far more challenging in the deep gumbo, huge twisting exposed roots, vines-and-downed-trees obstacle course.
No matter the speed, there is no chance of making it to the cafe, so we decide to set up with the flies in a wide grassy spot right on the trail. No water at the site, so I stay back at the rocky river crossing and clean all the mud off my shoes, splash my hair and body and give my tired feet a chilly soak.
I lope up the hill in my fake crocks and Lydie says, “We waited for you to have a beer.” It seems they carried THREE bottles for the end. Friends, let me tall you, no Heineken tasted better.
Lydie is only 24 but wise for her years. She knows herself well. I am impressed that she wants to give this hike a try while here on a working/tourist visa. She hitches the boring parts and her friends move extremely fast, so we’ll likely lose each other soon, but I like how she is comfortable with who she is and what she wants, allowing others to tell her what’s ahead and refusing to be afraid of anything.
Meeting her was perfect timing for me as I use the walk to unwind myself and get air and light into the dark corners.
Again, the trail provides – and, the cafe remains a destination for brunch!