TA Day 24, Stillwater to Auckland, 33 km + 4 km

Perfectly framed in Long Bay north of Auckland.
Perfectly framed in Long Bay north of Auckland.

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.

Dressed for heavy rain, we all head towards the deep estuary before the tide comes in.
Dressed for heavy rain, we all head towards the deep estuary before the tide comes in.
We're never far from the mud in New Zealand.
We’re never far from the mud in New Zealand.

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.

Pipis, cockles and tuatuas makes a wonderful, satisfying crunch as I walk over them.
Pipis, cockles and tuatuas makes a wonderful, satisfying crunch as I walk over them.
The beautiful rock spit near Dacre Point only crossable at low tide.
The beautiful rock spit near Dacre Point only crossable at low tide.

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.

At least we're given plenty of warning.
At least we’re given plenty of warning.
Crossing Okura Esturary. The water was up to my belly button.
Crossing Okura Estuary. The water was up to my belly button.

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.

Flowers in Long Bay Regional Reserve.
Flowers in Long Bay Regional Reserve.

Peninsula fingers reach out, houses clustered on the dun cliffs. Auckland is in the distance, the sky tower nosing over the hills.

Friends having lunch on the North Shore of Auckland.
Friends having lunch on the North Shore of Auckland.
Kids taking out surf boards in one of the many bays along the North Shore. Storm clouds make no difference since it rains nearly every day.
Kids taking out surf boards in one of the many bays along the North Shore. Storm clouds make no difference since it rains nearly every day.

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.

A helpful sign.
A helpful sign.
Sailboats ready to launch.
Sailboats ready to launch.
All beach, all the time.
All beach, all the time.

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.

One portion of "trail" at high tide.
One portion of “trail” at high tide.
Sailboats in the Pacific Ocean off of Milford Beach.
Sailboats in the Pacific Ocean off of Milford Beach.

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.

After pouring rain, the sun came out at North Head and gave me a gorgeous sunset and moon.
After pouring rain, the sun came out at North Head and gave me a gorgeous sunset and moon.
Auckland from Devonport.
Auckland from Devonport.
The ferry building in Auckland. I stayed for three days.
The ferry building in Auckland. I stayed for three days.

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.

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. I think that it is natural to consider one’s life and future on the trail. There is plenty of time for the mind to wander through the past and future. A strain starts and then there is a beautiful view to fill the mind and the strain stops to start anew later. But, I think that an effort must be made to resolution. All reminds me of the years I was a wandering salesman in NE Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan. There was plenty of time for thought on long drives between towns. One of the things I resolved was to go to graduate school at UW – Madison and that was a major juncture in my life.

  2. Alison: you go to great lengths to pack and travel as light as you can with your your physical baggage . But then you say: “I feel gratitude for all that’s come my way and yet – is it just human nature? – I dwell on past hurts”.

    Why not stop for moment and unbuckle and unload all those old hurts – self inflicted or otherwise? note how much lighter your step. And don’t let those pesky hurts jump again on your back. They’ll keep trying . So tell’em
    ” – Ali is OFF LIMITS! – get lost!”
    use stronger language as needed 🙂

    Hans

    1. This is awesome, Hans. Each step is an unloading and a rethinking. I am grateful I met some unpleasant people at the outset because it forced me to look at my choices and reactions, own them and figure out how to get sone of this off my back. The walk is a project – as is life!

  3. Lady, I’m finally catching up with your adventures. Sounds like you’re starting to get out of those ruts. <3 We'll be missing you as all the Christmas lights go up in the neighborhood and the holiday concert avalanche starts to crash down. xo

    1. This walk is like one giant public therapy session. It’s good to squeeze it out as I exhaust my body too. I can hardly tell I’m walking anymore. Miss your lovely tones.

  4. Ah, troubles with your dad….you are older now…appreciate the good parts…I am sure there are good parts.
    Happy big city Thanksgiving!

  5. Kia Ora Alison,
    Enjoy your rest and Happy Thanksgiving! I am preparing to head into the Ruahine ranges for a solo 5 day wander as I find it the best way to be Thankful.
    I am sure the rest is welcome and your reflections will be valuable. Kia Kaha!
    Ka kite ano,
    Robb

  6. What beautiful writing! I love “being there” with you. And thank you so much for sharing the story of the infinity symbol and circle. Oh so very true and I love that reminder.

  7. Hi and Happy Thanksgiving-
    Turkey or kiwi? I’m thankful and happy to know you and to hear and read about your travels and thoughts. Some days it sounds like a great adventure, other days I am happy not to be there-okay, okay walk a few miles and then come home.
    Your faithful follower

  8. Alison – your private thoughts make me ponder my own reaction to others behavior, and consider how I too can give the negative less weight in my life. There is true joy in nature, so breathe it in, and do your best to see it all in a positive light; rude people don’t deserve your time and energy.
    I cannot wait to read what was on the menu for Thanksgiving in Kiwi-land as I might give me some new ideas for next year.
    Stay safe – rejoice in life – be kind to yourself.

    1. thank you so much Hollie! everything feels so intense, but it’s good to try and unwind things. This country is beautiful and I am bowled over by Kiwi hospitality!

  9. Hey, you amazing lady!

    As you went through all the build-up to this trip I was impressed and jealous of the adventure, but also a little in awe–how does one decide to leave all that important stuff, important people, for that big chunk of time? I’m really enjoying reading your entries not just for the scenery and the adventure but also for the extent to which you’re sharing those inner doubts and fears. I would be wrestling with all that stuff too.

    Keep on keeping on!

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