If I had a tinder profile it would no longer say – “Katrina Megget, likes long walks on the beach”.
Five days, 101kms of long endless beach where the sand is the same, the sand dunes are the same and the ocean is the same will do that to you.
And so marked the first five days of #WalkNZ – my epic 3,000km journey along the Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand as I raise awareness of self-doubt and low self-esteem and raise money for mental health.
I knew five days of beach walking was going to be brutal and a rude introduction to the Te Araroa trail. Perhaps that’s an understatement.
The first day (12km) was straightforward enough – although I was none too impressed with getting wet boots right from the get go. The next day – a huge 28km plod down Ninety Mile Beach – was where the going started to get tough. It was followed by a 30km push of more beach and then a further two days of essentially hobbling along the sand before making it into Ahipara for a well deserved rest day.
This was definitely type 2 fun – not fun at the time, only after when you think about it. And even then I’m a bit dubious.
For five days my shoes were continually wet, either as a result of walking through streams or from playing cat and mouse with the high tide and loosing.
The wet shoes meant my feet got an extra rubbing. At the end of each day they were red and swollen and sore. A blister developed under my big toe on my right foot and next to the toenail on my little toe, while abrasions appeared on the top of my toes; some bled.
But my feet were nothing compared to my shoulders. A 17.3kg pack wasn’t one of my better ideas and to prove the point my shoulders now boast a beautiful array of mauve bruises decorated with pimply blisters. They protested every time I put my pack on. By day three I was a sucker for punishment. By day five, even motivational music and singing wasn’t helping.
The concept of a long distance walk is an interesting one and doing it solo even more so. For me, the first day was hard – saying goodbye to my parents (thank you for dropping me off in Cape Reinga – you’re the best) and civilisation for five days was a massive step into the unknown. Doing it by myself was downright scary.
It took all of that day to begin to feel comfortable with the idea. It was only on getting to camp that first night and meeting other solo walkers that I realised I wasn’t really alone.
By the end of day three I was feeling more sure of myself – I’d pitched a tent by myself, boiled water on a gas camping stove by myself, purified water for the first time by myself and walked a damn lot of kilometres by myself, with only my singing for company.
I hobbled into Utea Park at the end of day three a broken but happy woman and was met by Paul, the host, a cap on his head and a bottle of beer in his hand.
His first words after saying there was a beer for me was that he was in “awe” of my walking accomplishment. I passed off the compliment with a flick of my hand like I was swatting a fly.
“No really,” he said. “I couldn’t walk 70km. Could you walk 70km?” he asked two German girls. “Oh no,” they said in unison – although they looked like they thought I was crazy.
And so it was, three days into the walk and I was given legend status just for walking along a very long stretch of beach. It felt weird to say the least. It was just a beach – and I complained the whole way.
[Twitter link to video of the walk along Ninety Mile Beach https://twitter.com/KatrinaMegget/status/1060393971963244545?s=19 ]
Come day four and my world of pain grew exponentially – and there I was thinking day three with its 30km would be the hardest (lesson to self: don’t assume). Yet despite my crooked back and aching shoulders I was feeling like a walker – this was my new normal; I could do this; giving up wasn’t an option. This was now my pilgrimage.
In five days I’ve achieved more than I thought was possible – and all that involved was walking along a beach.
It’s true that starting is the hardest part. The uncertainty and fear of the unknown grips us and paralyses us. Who am I to do that, we ask, as we surround ourselves with negative what ifs and made-up worst case scenarios.
But do we ever ask what the positives might be if we take that first step? Sometimes we don’t know until we try.