I know we’re headed somewhere
I can see how far we’ve come
But still I can’t remember anything
Let’s not do the wrong thing
And I’ll swear it might be fun
It’s a long way down
When all the knots we’ve tied have come undone. Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down
Anyplace but those I know by heart
Anywhere you go, I’ll follow you down. (The Gin Blossoms – Follow you down)
And we are done. The end, when it came, was swift and more then a little bit brutal. One moment we were riffing off the highs of trekking to above 1300 meters above sea level and marveling at the picturesque Lake Wanaka down below, and the next we were hightailing through a near-deserted West Coast to ensure that we got to Nelson before the Covid-19 enforced lock-down period commencing on 26 March. The end was always going to require an adjustment but the surreality is amplified when you don’t actually make the finish line as a result of some mysterious disease which has pretty much put the whole world in some form of lock-down.
On the flip-side of the above, having a third-party reason for not continuing has also made the transition a little easier. I, for one was starting to develop more then a little mental and physical fatigue with the regimen of waking up, walking for a good part of the day and moving on regularly. However I was looking forward to completing the project and having a well-deserved knees-up in Oban, Stewart Island involving copious amounts of local oysters and white wine. That will have to wait for another day.
As is customary with my travel blog wrap-ups, I find it useful to note down the highlights of the trip for future reference. These are, of course, intensely personal and I’m sure other hikers will have had a different view on the best parts of Te Araroa then I. But here goes:
- Kathryn – travelling with Kath has always been, for me, one of life’s great pleasures and walking the TA has been no exception. The rigours and immediacy of a thru-walk allowed us to develop a deep and almost telepathic bond, which in turn freed up emotional space to take delight in each other. There were long periods of companionable silence, lots of dual determination and lots of laughter. Cheers babe.
- 90 Mile Beach – A lot has been written about 90 Mile Beach including that its not 90 miles long and it is monotonous to walk its whole length. I believe a lot of this misses the point. As the starting point of a thru-hike, 90 Mile Beach is unsurpassed and there is a spirituality about the place stemming from its sheer enormity and power and beauty that is hard to deny. I remember feeling so inconsequential as I walked upon that rock-hard sand, and smiling because of it.
- Northland – perhaps because we were walking we were able to have a better appreciation of this wonderful region. Perhaps it was the weather which, in October, was balmy and conducive to walking. Maybe its the people who I found to be amongst the most friendly in the country. After the majesty of 90 Mile Beach, Northland unveiled herself coyly with hidden coves, pristine beaches and lovely little towns such as Waihi, Whananaki and Russell.
- The Timber Trail – situated between the nowhere towns of Pureoa and Ongarue this 88km, beautifully formed trail which follows an old logging tramway through original and regenerating bush, was a sight for sore eyes and legs after having been served a diet of paddocks and gravel roads in the Waikato.
- Whanganui River – its hard to call something a highlight when it nearly killed you and you nearly lost all your shit, but apart from that, the River was a great experience. Perhaps it was the fact that we were cruising along a mostly tranquil river through a beautiful gorge, maybe it was because I no longer had a pack on struggling up some hill or maybe it was the ready access to wine and whisky that we had sequestered in the bow, but a trip along the mighty Whanganui River is to be recommended.
- Travers Sabine Circuit – of all the physical and mental challenges faced on this trip, those that we encountered and overcame on the 7-day, 90 km Travers Sabine circuit were some of the sternest and I am immensely proud of our achievement in completing the circuit back to St Arnaud. Alongside the challenging terrain there was jaw-dropping scenery from the ethereal beauty of Lake Rotoiti to the towering bluffs of the Travers Saddle.
- Mount Somers – 13 hours to walk 25 km tells you all you need to know about this two day hike near Christchurch but it was also a great indicator of how far we had come. The terrain was steep and niggly but we now had the fitness and strength to cope and the views from the tops were some of the best on the trip.
- Old Ghost Trail – quite simply the best multi-day hike in NZ
- Food – in a thru-walk food is a near-constant consideration especially on those hard days where you are calorie deficient. Despite a solid breakfast we would usually stop at 10.30am to stuff our faces with delicious salty peanuts. I have never eaten peanuts with such impunity and I loved it. There were also protein bars and one-square meals and jet planes and crisps and this was before any thought of lunch and dinner where we consumed brie and salami wraps and feasted on instant mash and couscous for dinner.
- The people – not everybody you meet on a thru-hike is going to be a kindred spirit but then there are people you meet and share a camaraderie with over a night or two that elevates the TA above the merely physical. I ‘have enduring memories of sharing a beer or a meal and a story or two in a campsite or a hut that provided the support of a shared endeavour and the impetus to carry on.
Thanks to all those that have followed the blog and provided murmurs of encouragement. I have enjoyed the journey as a writer almost as much as that of a hiker. Until the next adventure, ka kite ano. Pete.