Good decision to sleep in the tent, so cozy and much less dew this morning. Tuis call each other over the fog-filled gorge.
This particular portion of the trail emphasizes how strange it is to wake up, pack all your belongings, throw them on your back and walk. It’s simple and focused, and I am a bit fanatical about each item packed in the same place, so I don’t leave anything behind. I need every single item I brought with me.
It’s cool this morning, no one on the trail yet. Perhaps it’s because my weight is less as I eat through my food, but the feeling of why I love walking is returning – the wonder that my legs can carry me to new sights and sounds and it’s slow enough I can really take in each one – the sound of the stream crescendoing as I approach, the ferns daintily reaching out from the steep sided cut railway bed I walk on, the rock dangerously teetering in a spot we’re warned not to stop.
People ask how far I walk each day. Of course that depends on where I need to go because I have to find a place to sleep each night. It’s also dependent on conditions of the trail and the weather. A thru-hike means I become a full-time pedestrian. Unless a rest day, I walk, and usually all day.
I miss home right now during advent. Richard and I have hundreds of discs and play them all, singing along with our favorites. The best I can do is sing here on this trail. From here my life looks very rich, indeed.
I take brunch at the Mangatukutuku bridge, another spectacular suspension bridge that replaced the equally formidable timber bridge, curving over the gorge. I see a few remaining podocarp, but this forest was just about decimated. I like that it’s been reclaimed as a reserve and a bike/hike trail; and the signage is superb. I wonder if in 100 years time our descendants will try to save what we now are extracting nearly to extinction.
This place is beautiful – a huge cliff face across the gorge with palms marching up – rimu, totara, tawa and tanekaha – trees with bunchy branches crowding in for the light with epiphytes draped over their elbows, the rapids below a loud and constant whooshing. The sun is trying to peak out of the fog, my hat is on as I munch on cashews.
I don’t wish to squander this chance to step outside my life. It’s too much pressure to expect I’ll feel this way every day because the going is often hard and sometimes even boring, but I remind myself I will likely never come here again and this is something to remember. Spiders build elaborate webs across the bridge cables and they sway gently in the soft breeze.
I get to the spiral – an engineering marvel – that got logs down the steep cliffs. One lokey, or train engine, was from the US. The longest serving ‘Climax’ in the world.
And then, I almost walk right past it – a few rocks spelling out ‘1000.’ Yup, I’ve walked 1/3 of the Te Araroa! Yippee skippee!
Only 2,000 km to go…
The trail opens into an area of clearcut pine, piles of branches, scarring and stumps for miles. It smells like the Sierras. The idea of saving land just to enjoy is an American idea. John Muir convinced the government to create national parklands. The idea that we’d diminish some of our most unique and irreplaceable habitat in Utah to benefit a few extraction companies is anathema to me. The land I sit on now will not return to bush in my lifetime.
I pass a sign that tells me the Taupo super-volcano is still active as a rhyolite caldera – that’s the same stone that makes up Minnesota’s North Shore on Lake Superior. The trail I’m walking is made of its pumice.
I arrive at a lovely grassy campsite with a hut built using our TA donations – thank you Randy and Kathy! At first it’s just the three of us in this sylvan spot, then more wander in – ten in all! A huge group of walkers to plan the upcoming days with. I feel so fortunate to have landed in this very spot.
Til tomorrow, friends.