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TA Day 70, ‘slackpack’ Wellington, 15 km

Things begin a bit lazy on another unusually sunny, warm day in Wellington with waffles and delicious yogurt, golden kiwis and blueberries before we all head to the market and buy a cart load of groceries for the three separate packages of resupply I have to send to manage the first month of hiking on the South Island.

We cram tuna packets, ramen noodles, muesli bars, dehydrated soup, salami, lollies, and more into boxex, our fingers crossed they arrive when and where I need them. All this while trying to ignore my annoyance with the TA association for failing to make vital information like addresses and protocol for resupply easily available, while at the same time the TA facebook page administrator scolds when we don’t get it right. <sigh>

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TA Day 69, Wellington

I’m now dreaming constantly of walking, this time pushing through scree, trapped and not getting very far. I’m either a full-time pedestrian even while sleeping or I need a psychological break – or maybe more accurately, a revamping of my psychological approach.

All was fine yesterday until I did what I’ve often done – believe the hardest part was completed only to discover the trail wasn’t quite finished with me. After Kuakua, I nearly bonked needing to climb higher in the hot sunshine. I’m going to have to find a way to ensure I’m pacing myself or I’ll bonk while supine in bed.

Perhaps it’s because something momentous is happening in finishing the first island, but the magnitude of what I’ve completed coupled with the magnitude of what’s ahead is hard to comprehend and there’s a part of me that’s skeptical of my success, certain I was just lucky in making it all come together.

Maybe I need to remind myself that trail is walked one step at a time – and starting Monday, it will be in brand new La Sportivas and fresh pairs of socks.

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TA Day 68, Camp Elsdon to Wellington, 29 km

I get up early to catch the cool air. It’s steep stairs up and up through bush finally into open sky. I pass four overweight Maori, but glad they’re out puffing like me, as this is better than any stair-master.

Colonial Knob is in mist, but I’m happy to not be in the hot sun. At 459 meters, it’s no small hill rising high above the ocean. The traffic is still loud as sheep go about their business. Rubin camps at the top and I fly down with him on switchbacks in the forest sharing mud stories before he and his gal peal off. A little fluffy dog follows me down the road.

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TA Day 67, Paikakariki to Camp Elsdon, 28 km

I dreamed last night that I was walking, but would wake up and see the stained glass window in my bedroom at George and Rob’s, and realize I hadn’t moved. Stress, anyone? A bit.

And my pack is weighed down with food I’m too cheap to chunk. It’s funny how just a day away from walking coupled with the unknown, makes me wonder if I even remember how to walk.

But Rob has me giggling in no time as we squish in for a selfie, the camera set on ‘beauty face.’ We drive on the long stretch of highway I hiked, stopping at a Pa site and a gate they named for their first TA guest, Sandro. I see NOBO Chris from Mt. Crawford, head down, walking the narrow shoulder and I’m glad it’s in my past.

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TA Day 66, zero day

I suppose it’s a bit odd to snag a zero day when I’m just two days from finishing the North Island, but when Julian and I drove back from Taranaki on New Year’s day – passing through lovely Whanganui – I found I was still absolutely shattered from our spontaneous sunrise climb. So I just had to give my friends George and Rob a call to ask if I might crash at their place for the night.

They welcome me back and insist I sleep in late, feed me highly nutritious meals accompanied by a summery sparkling wine, talk and laugh with me, watch more awesome Maori TV together, and even offer me the Veet left here by a male French TA walker to melt the hair on my legs – obviously one of the subjects of so much laughter. I am restored in so many ways and tomorrow they’ll drop me right back at the very spot I left off.

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TA Day 64-65, Side trip! Mt. Taranaki

I hate to become repetitive, but this morning began with rain on the alicoop. I think I’m going to need to refine my relationship with precipitation by ditching my bad attitude for one of acceptance, maybe even embracing the rain as part of what makes this trail unique.

Nah, I’ll keep complaining, knowing that it does make the best days even better.

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TA Day 63, Waikanae to Paikakariki, 21 km

The morning opens with rain and wind. Floris and Marjelain leave early, but I am beat. Brent makes me tea and it’s only a matter of time before I break down, simply overwhelmed by the mud on everything, a sopping wet tent and drizzle.

This lovely trail angel helps grab all my stuff and place it in their ‘conservatory’ – a beautiful glass mud room – gets a pile of old towels to dry my tent, chucks my nasty, mud-soaked clothes in the wash and makes me a grilled cheese sandwich, actually two. He even scrubs the mud from my trail runners.

I’m better in no time.

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TA Day 62, Waitewaewae Hut to Waikanae, 34 km

I wake up early, pack and eat tuna for breakfast to avoid any more of that weird heartbeat issue. The weather is supposed to be awful tomorrow and Carol invites me to camp on her lawn – and sit in the hot tub! – so I decide to make a go of reaching Waikane tonight. After there, it’s coastal and city walk to finish the island.

I wait for Julian to finish his muesli and coffee, trusting he knows the shortcut across the river.

Which it turns out he doesn’t, so we climb high above through muddy blowdown and roots, me f-bombing for most of the start, but somehow that endears Julian and we become like long lost tramping pals, separated at birth. Julian doesn’t muscle the climbs like I do, stepping high and heaving the body. He jumps. It’s actually rather remarkable his skill at managing the clag – and with one pole since he snapped the other yesterday on that savage downhill.

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TA Day 61, Dracophyllum Hut to Waitewaewae Hut, 13 km

Just after 5, and the nervous Germans are up packing. I like getting up early and hearing a few wind gusts spurs me on. More climbing today with long exposed ridges, knobs and another slightly higher mountain. That’s why I need to be extra cognizant of the weather. It’s cold now, but looks clear.

The boys faff about for a bit while I pack away a sopping wet tent and put on my muddy socks and shoes. The walk takes us deep into mossy goblin forest, gently lit at an angle by the rising sun. Mist shape shifts before disappearing entirely. Darcy tells me the weather will be good today, though showers later, so I get cracking.