It’s a lazy morning awaiting the tide to get to its lowest at 12:36 so we can cross the Okura River. Even so, the water will reach our hips and then some. The whole group is going and I’m thrilled. I’m not a ‘skipper’ – so you may have discovered – as many simply move on rather than wait it out. But I want to experience it all so have to wait for the right moment.
Soup for breakfast. I have two more instant mixes and one unopened NZ lager. Thankfully good take-away after the crossing, but it’s cold and humid this morning, rain coming and going – great for hiking but not so much for staying warm.
In the lull, I ponder the juxtaposition of Lydie and me. She tells me she is the old soul and me the young one. So true. At 25, she knows herself well and is happy with who she is, taking life as it comes.
She encourages me to think about all the superb luck so far – like just now staying for free in a quiet, friendly caravan park and having the run of this huge game room rather than sit it out in the elements. I feel gratitude for all that’s come my way and yet – is it just human nature? – I dwell on past hurts.
When I took the wrong road yesterday I thought of my dad, whom I haven’t spoken to in years. I feel like such a jerk writing that sentence. My only explanation is years and years – nearly a lifetime – of making me feel not enough. And not in a direct way like demanding better grades or more success out of life, but in subtle ways by ignoring and dismissing.
It takes my breath away as we pack to leave in the pouring rain how desperately I wanted his attention, just to say I am ok as I am. I don’t know if he knows I’m here right now. It’s sometimes hard for me to feel my life, to own my life. I try, I really do. And I have to say, as I write this and everyone fusses about, that I feel safe and cared even if no one talks to me. That is truly a blessing.
We start just as the rain stops and the sun comes out. Off go the rain pants and rain skirts, pack protectors bouncing along the nature reserve.
This estuary is different, much larger with a huge expanse of wave-carved sand. The rock is more slippery with piles of shells pressed into every nook. A huge group is already gathered. It’s too early to cross? I feel afraid to see the kayak boys again. What a silly person I am. It’s old folk out for a day walk waving as they pass.
We arrive at the river and organize packs and sticks and whether to walk in shoes or not. Tiny crabs in beautiful shell-homes crawl on the dry ridges, kite-shaped holes tell me stingrays were here.
I just plunge right in with shoes, pants, backpack. Yes, I’m soaked, but it feels easier, doable, and I’m laughing the whole way as the water comes over the lady bits to my belly button, then one short deep section before the end.
The others carry their packs on their heads and strip to their underwear. It’s over in no time as the wind picks up, my legs white rimmed with salt water.
The coastal walk takes me up on the cliffs with expansive fields of grasses rippling in the breeze. It’s the slow movement from Ravel’s Piano Concerto as light raindrops tap my hat, the water a milky blue.
Peninsula fingers reach out, houses clustered on the dun cliffs. Auckland is in the distance, the sky tower nosing over the hills.
After beach comes a quiet residential enclave reminding me of La Jolla, trail marker on the street signs. I’m ready for take-away.
I forgot to mention when walking into Puhoi how much the Te Araroa reminds me of hiking in France, the wilder tramp giving way to farm track then spilling directly into town. I love that feeling I have again today as a small sidewalk cuts through backyards to the beach – and the hope of lunch.
Two older Kiwis ask how long I’ve been walking. “Well, I walk, but not that far!” They direct me to a commercial street with all the shops and burgers with thick shakes.
The trail meanders on public cliff walks and beach through bays and villages. A woman pops out of her house to tell me her son did the TA two years ago and how someone quit after six days, “But he was in his fifties!”
As am I.
It starts pouring as I walk around the cliffs but the sun peaks out on Milford beach, a whole flotilla of sailboats, colorful spinnakers full, lead me down the sand, the tide pressing in.
Black Rock is crazy. It appears to have a public through-way which disappears into a slippy jumble. I see people coming my way, so I figure I can get around, happy that Olive Oyl is light with no food.
The sun comes out again in the west and conjures a rainbow against the slate sky over the Pacific, my sailboats still bobbing in the chalky-green sea.
I go over and around North Head and catch my first full-on glimpse of Auckland as the sun sets. Devonport is filled with Victorian homes, a long tree lined promenade on the bay and shops.
The ferry comes just as I arrive, a lovely Kiwi helps me figure out how to manage and then I run into the kayak boys with Bram. He says hello, the others are too rude to do so. Such strange people. It doesn’t dampen my excitement taking the ferry by night into this beautiful city.
I have the crazy idea I can walk tonight, but I go about 1 km through the university before my friend Susie picks me up and brings me to her home for a few zero days, Auckland exploration and Thanksgiving dinner.
Before I split off from the group, Lydie shows me a tattoo on her finger. It’s the infinity symbol with a circle in the center. It represents the decisions that keep coming back time and again, no matter if the circumstances change.
Unless we change, we will continue to travel the same figure-eight track over and over. But when we come into our own, we are the circle in the center, able to stop traveling that well-grooved path and become grounded and whole.
I had a good day, a strong day of many k walked and many things seen. I am happy that I’m using this walk to unwind my own worn out reactions and issues and I am so pleased I’ll have a few days to sort out what this walk has been so far and what I hope it will be going forward. You have all been incredibly supportive as well as wise and discerning. I am deeply grateful.
And also deeply grateful I am inside under covers as it rains all night long. Sweet dreams til tomorrow.