Lightening strips of pain burned up the back of my legs.
My lungs were in meltdown trying to support my muscles that sucked up the scant oxygen in my blood, while my heart seemed to be in its death throes as it attempted to keep up with the relentless uphill movement of my legs as I inched slowly closer to yet another mountain saddle.
Five mountains over 1000m high in three days. Classic Te Araroa.
And oh man, it hurt.
To say I underestimated the Motatapu Track is an understatement. Continue reading
Sometimes the Te Araroa throws everything at you.
Hot, cold, sun, rain, uphill, downhill, stunning views, monotonous boredom, walking like a machine, hobbling and in pain. Wet underpants.
That was this section.
Seven days. Demanding. Challenging.
Totally worth it.
But it didn’t start well.
I have now walked just more than half of the South Island of New Zealand on part 2 of #WalkNZ.
More than 650km.
That explains why the tread on my shoes is looking a little bald and why I’m now slightly obsessed with food.
The past 10 days have provided some of the best highlights of the trail – wild West country and the greatest sense of remoteness so far, super wild camping spots, the highest point on the Te Araroa trail, a stunning ridgeline walk with views to New Zealand’s tallest mountain Mt Cook, and a 55km bike ride. Continue reading
“So, what did you make of your first six days on the Te Araroa Trail?” I asked my boyfriend, who had newly flown in from the UK and was still suffering the after effects of jetlag.
“Well, it’s not so much a trail, rather a route,” he mused.
“The terrain is much wilder than I anticipated and the landscapes are vast. It feels like there’s a sense of being the first people to walk here because the path is non-existent, the route marking is quite frankly at times invisible. It doesn’t feel like you’re on a well-defined trail that thousands of people have walked. This feels more remote. There is an enormous sense of space.”
He added: “Walking uphill and down hill isn’t the most demanding bit. It’s the bit where you have to plan ahead for the river crossings because of the weather, and even some of the shallower river crossings can still be dangerous. The road walking, with its hard surface, is draining and monotonous – it’s more a mental challenge than a physical challenge. On occasion you have to do a long day to move ahead of a weather system or to find water. Progress can be slow like when you’re boulder hopping, it requires a lot of balance, concentration and endurance. But I’m loving it. Except for those flippin sandflies.”
He scratched the hundreds of red spots dotting his calves where the blood-thirsty critters had taken a liking to him.
Yes it had been something of a rude introduction to the Te Araroa Trail.
Within a six-day time frame we’d condensed the main aspects of what the trail was all about – uphill, down hill, mountains, forests, the good, the bad and the ugly. Continue reading
I can confirm that:
Deep Heat does not deter sandflies; mice seem to have the magic skills of getting into a closed backpack to eat my peanuts; I have a selective memory of how hard the uphills are in the Richmond Ranges; five days warm up walking the Queen Charlotte Track is not sufficient for taking on “proper” mountains; a trail outlined on a topo map does not mean it is a trail that has been used recently; I love ridgeline tracks.
I know I already walked the Richmond Ranges last season – the most demanding section of the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand due to its 8-10 days between civilisation points and ridiculously high mountains and exceptionally steep and exposed descents – so technically I didn’t really need to walk it again.
But the first four days from Pelorus Bridge were so lovely last year that I really wanted to experience it all over again. Continue reading
It was cold. It was grey. Where the hell was summer?
I shivered as I did some stretches before the official start of #WalkNZ part 2 began.
Here I was at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, and less than a year since I was last here ready to walk the Queen Charlotte Track through the Marlborough Sounds along the Te Araroa trail.
Back then it was the middle of February. That part of the country had been gripped by a six-week drought and a huge forest fire raged in a mountain range close by. Continue reading
And so, part 2 of #WalkNZ is about to begin.
I have just 1,000km left to walk to complete the 3,000km Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand.
After having to pull out 20km short of the 2,000km mark in March this year due to a knee injury, there was no question about not coming back to finish the trail.
It was unfinished business. It called to me. It was something I had to do. There was no way I was going to give up now after coming this far. Continue reading
It was a two-hour drive to Cape Reinga for the start of #WalkNZ, my 3,000km solo walking adventure along the Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand.
Dad drove. Mum sat up front. I took the backseat, staring out the window as a diverse landscape whizzed past the car windows.
Thoughts also whizzed through my head.
Thoughts that asked me what I was doing, what I hoped to prove. Thoughts that questioned my sanity, my physical and mental ability.
Thoughts that probed to the depths of my soul about whether I was really ready and good enough to take on this epic trail all by myself, with no experience and extremely limited training.
I was scared. Petrified of failing and doubting everything.
And then the what ifs started – what if I got caught by the high tide and I got stranded and couldn’t get to the campsite tonight? What if I got lost? What if I couldn’t put my tent up by myself or it blew away? What if there was no water supply at the campsite? What if I couldn’t get my camp stove to work? What if I’m totally out of my depth? What if, what if, what if… Continue reading
On the outside I look normal.
I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt – clothes I bought from a fashion, non-outdoors store. My body smells perfumed and clean; my hair, washed and shiny. Black pencil lines my eyes. There is red rouge on my cheeks.
My tan has faded while my muscles retreat behind a new cuddly layer of fat.
For all intents and purposes, I look like a regular run-of-the-mill person. Certainly not someone who has walked 2,000km of the 3,000km Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand.
But outside appearances can be deceiving.
Because inside me, long-distance trail walking oozes through my blood. My legs twitch. I dream of solitude and lonely mountains, the gurgling of streams, the feeling I get from walking uphill or busting out more than 4km an hour along a flat stretch of road.
The inside and outside are opposites of each other. I feel off kilter.
I’d been warned about “re-entry” to society after finishing the Te Araroa Trail. Like the rest of the trail, nothing can quite prepare you for it. Continue reading
Three weeks ago, I had to turn around and walk back into civilisation when poor weather conditions and a dodgy leg forced my hand and I couldn’t make it over the second highest point on the Te Araroa trail.
I ended up in Hanmer Springs, a spa resort town in the South Island of New Zealand, for a week, eating a lot of food (notably the spectacular cinnamon swirl buns from the local bakery) and visiting two local physios a total of three times about my bung leg.
The intention was always to get back on the trail.
But when a week rolled around and the leg was no better, it was clear I needed more time off. As it was, I couldn’t see how I could walk for eight to ten hours everyday on it on the trail when after a mere 15 minutes of strolling I was in pain and hobbling (and that was without the beast of my backpack on).
It posed something of a dilemma. Continue reading