You’re doing what? Yip, here’s everything you need to know about #WalkNZ – the answers to the most frequently asked questions about my epic walk down the length of New Zealand.
What are you doing? I’m solo walking the 3,000km Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand, starting at Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island and finishing up at Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. Read my blog post about it here.
Why? I’ve wanted to do this walk for several years now but each year for the past three years I’ve put it off coming up with a variety of excuses that all come down to my belief that I wasn’t good enough, fit enough or ready enough to take on such an epic challenge. After finally realising that this was all in my head and that the thoughts I had about myself had no bearing on my actual ability, I realised I could walk the length of New Zealand – the only thing stopping me was my thoughts. So, my mission now for #WalkNZ is to raise awareness of self-doubt and low self-esteem, which can be linked to mental health problems, and show that these negative thoughts don’t have to hold us back from achieving our goals and dreams. In aid of this I’m fundraising for two mental health charities – Mind in the UK and The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. Read my blog post about living with self-doubt here and why I’m fundraising for mental health here.
What will #WalkNZ involve? The walk takes me along sandy beaches, through native forests and volcanic landscapes, across rich farmland and over wild and rugged mountains, as well as walking miles of roads (both busy and quiet) between trail heads. I will pass through bustling cities and small lonely settlements, and spend days on end walking through the wilderness between points of civilisation. I’ll have to wade through numerous streams and rivers that don’t have bridges, and time my route with the tides. I’ll even have to hire a canoe or kayak at several points in order to reach the next trail head. I’ll be forced to wild camp sometimes and will source my water from streams, all the while carrying all my kit including a tent, camping stove and several days’ worth of food. And during all this, I’ll be at the mercy of the weather gods, battling high humidity, summer heat as well as possible sub-zero temperatures, scorching sun, monsoon rain and the even the possible cyclone. So, um, yeah sort of full on.
So, you go right down the centre of NZ? Actually no. I start off walking down the west coast of the North Island (Ninety Mile Beach), then I head over land to the east coast and follow this down to Auckland, then it’s a bit of a zigzag route down to Wellington. On the South Island, the trail picks a route down the eastern flanks of the Southern Alps.
How long will it take? I start walking on 5th November 2018 and it should take me five to six months depending on my fitness, blisters, the number of rest days I take, weather conditions, tides and river levels.
Are you going in a group? No, I’m doing this as a solo thru-hike but there will be plenty of people also walking the trail, so I will be meeting people along the way.
Have you done anything like this before? In short, no. I’ve walked several of New Zealand’s multiday Great Walks and climbed the highest mountain in England and Wales and that’s about as far as it goes.
So, are you crazy? I have actually been asked this. The answer could be yes but it all depends on whose definition of crazy. I believe it’s good to push yourself outside your comfort zone to see what you’re capable of – and plus why wouldn’t you want to achieve a dream if it’s something you really want to do.
How far do you plan to walk each day? I was aiming for about 20km (12.4miles) a day but the terrain is so varied that some days it’s 10km and other days I could be doing a 36km road walk. On average though I’ll be walking between six and eight hours a day. There’s a couple of 12-hour days too. Groan!
How heavy will your pack be? A very good question. Ideal weight would be around the 12/13kg mark (around 2 stone) but with my ridiculous kit list plus food and water (and all the extra bit and pieces my mother expects me to take for, you know, just in case) it could easily be pushing 16kg (2.5 stone) and above. But let’s cross our fingers that common sense prevails.
Where are you going to be sleeping? I’ll be taking a tent with me and will sleep in a variety of private campsites and Department of Conservation campsites. Some wild camping (or freedom camping as they call it here) will also be involved. In the South Island, I’ll be taking advantage of the excellent network of back country huts and throughout the tramp there will be the invaluable trail angels who will also give me a hot shower, home cooked meal and a comfy bed for the night.
What are you going to do about food and water? For the most part I will have to carry several days’ worth of food and source water en route from streams and water sources at campsites. I had planned on eating lots of two-minute noodles but mum sort of put her foot down so I’ll be eating lots of lightweight dehydrated meals, which are super easy to cook up.
What’s the longest stretch you’ll be away from civilisation? The hard-core part is at the top of the South Island where I’ll be in the New Zealand wilderness and away from civilisation for 11 days – so that’s 11 days’ worth of food I’ll have to carry (something I’m not entirely looking forward to).
What’s the highest point on the trail? This is Stag Saddle just outside Lake Tekapo on the South Island. The altitude here is 1,925m (more than double the height of Scafell Pike in England’s Lake District). However, I also intend to tick off three volcanoes in my #40by40 challenge – it’s just a slight detour to get to these in the Tongariro National Park – Mt Ngauruhoe is 2,291m and Mt Ruapehu is 2,797m high.
What training have you been doing? Not as much as I’d like! I had written a very comprehensive training programme but life sort of got in the way. Before coming out to NZ, I did some spin and pump classes at the gym, climbed Snowdon, spent four days climbing volcanoes in the Auvergne region in France, climbed some more volcanoes in the Azores, and did some English country walking – namely walking up and down Box Hill. Since being in New Zealand, I’ve walked up the road that goes up the hill behind my parents’ house several times with a heavy backpack and that’s about it. I’ve questioned how much training is enough but as a lot of people say I’ll get fit on the trail.
Are there any dangerous animals or insects? No, there are no bears or wolves or lions, and no snakes. Hurrah! There is one venomous spider, the katipo, but it’s generally unlikely I’ll see one.
What other dangers might there be? The biggest danger on the trail is the river crossings – one of the top causes of death in backcountry trampers in New Zealand. In the South Island alone there will be more than 200 rivers without bridges that I will have to cross – that means wet feet and even possibly wet pants. I went on a river crossing course back in England so I sort of know what I’m getting myself in for but I probably can’t be fully prepared for a New Zealand river.
Aren’t you scared about walking solo, camping by yourself and bad people? Funnily enough these aren’t big on my list of concerns. I totally see why they might be a concern but I’ll be carrying a personal locator beacon for emergencies and I’ve done some self defence training on the off chance anyone wants to cross me.
So, what are you worried about? Getting sick on the trail (I have a phobia of getting sick), going to the toilet outside (that’s a whole new ball game for me), having enough water, the sections I have to kayak (despite having done a kayaking course), getting lost (or rather the panic I will feel if I get lost), and worrying about my tent blowing away because it’s super lightweight and a little flimsy.
At what point do you think you’ll question what you’re doing? When I was asked this, my response was: ‘probably about 10 minutes into the walk’. But as D-day gets closer, I’ve already started thinking what the hell am I doing; what was I thinking?
What are you most looking forward to? On a superficial level, lean walking legs. Yeah, I know, it’s so shallow and a bad one to have. I’m also looking forward to eating lots of NZ junk food (think Pineapple Lumps, Jet Planes, Whittaker’s chocolate, lolly cake, chippies, meat pies, fish n’ chips…. Mmmm). But most of all I’m looking forward to falling back in love with New Zealand, experiencing the NZ wild at its best (and worst), and meeting interesting and inspiring people along the way, as well as pushing myself outside my comfort zone to see what I’m capable of and to really take the fight to my self-doubt.
Will you still drink alcohol? Hell yes! Have you not drunk New Zealand wine?!
Are you still going to be working? Nope, but once I’m finished I’ll be available for commissions on New Zealand and the Te Araroa trail, as well as talks.
What are you going to do once you’ve finished? Apart from trying to find some money to fill the hole in my bank account, I’m going to write a book about my experience, so watch this space.
How can I follow your progress? I’m going to try and write a blog (www.katrinamegget.com) when I get into every larger town on my rest days (so every five to eight days). Sign up to receive the updates straight to your email inbox. I’ll also be on Twitter, Facebook and putting up pretty pictures on Instagram.
How can I donate to your mental health charities? You can donate to Mind in the UK here and The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand here. Thanks for your generosity and support – every little bit counts!