Lets talk about a nice long walk. One that goes through woods, over mountains, into valleys, across deserts, marshes and alpine terrain. A walk that takes you through some of the richest, most alive, seemingly untouched, “nature” path in a gorgeous country; New Zealand.
The Great Walk. The Te Araraoa [te-air-ah-row-ah] (or TA for short). All I knew about the TA was learned on the fabled internet via Instagram. A family-friend hiked part of the TA last year (2016) and her photos made my mouth water. I told myself that I must do this!
Fast-forward about a year later and here we are. The first day on the trail has officially arrived!
It marked a big one too, 34 kilometers OR 21 miles and some change. Anxiety was paramount within both of us. We kept telling ourselves to have no expectations, because we have never done this and have absolutely no idea what we’re in for.
It was very cold today. We walked out of our hostel a little late, almost 10AM. Our bags felt like mountains laden with all of our gear, 7 liters of water, and about 12 days of food. We didn’t know, yet, that all we needed was about 1 liter each of water. Or that we only needed to carry 1 day’s worth of food. And that some of our gear would be completely unnecessary. We had no clue.
After saying farewell’s to our hostel’s fellow inhabitants, we walked along the road toward’s the ocean. It was roaring out there and I thought to myself how happy I am to be on land vs. on the boat right now.
We strolled past a little neighborhood, where an old woman came out of her house to grab the paper. She was dressed in her night gown, and had a small dog beside her. We waved a friendly and cheerful good morning! She asked us what we were doing and when Jake said, “hiking the Te Araroa” her questioning eyes lit up with understanding and a huge smile spread across her face. “Good On You! And Good Luck”. We’ll need it!
Stirling Point. It marks the beginning of the TA and the southern tip of New Zealand, officially. We made it to the start, and already my feet were a bit sore and my bag felt like bricks. I pushed these thoughts away and focused on only the fact that we made it to the starting point AND that it was gorgeous.
A tour bus pulled up just as we got there and heaps of Japanese tourists hopped out with cameras in hand. The bus driver recognized us from yesterday and gave us a quick hello and good luck before heading back out. The tourists were curious about us as well. When we said what we were about to do, they were so excited and impressed and wanted to take photos WITH us! We haven’t even started yet and I definitely don’t want to get a big head, but it felt really nice to have such a strange and wonderful sendoff…
The start was lovely. It was well-groomed offering stunning views of the oceanside. There were plaques lining the trail with information about how the island formed and various flora, fauna and animal populations. Its nice to know we don’t have to worry about predatory animals.
This feels like a nature walk, not a full-blown tramping expedition. Then I think back to the 30 pounds of crap weighing me down. Nevermind.
What began as a fun and lovely morning turned to a brutally painful afternoon. And I’m not just talking about the walking, which took its toll, but figuring out where the trails go proved a constant battle. The TA is often marked via orange markers, either by triangle-shaped pieces stapled to trees or fences, OR orange polls sticking out of the ground. We assumed they would take us on the most obvious path…NOPE. Here’s a poll, there’s a poll – get there. The path is not obvious, it seems that no one has ever walked through here. Oh well, at least its stunning!
How does one manage such long stretches of time with nothing to think about? Its a constant battle of the mind telling it to not think about the pain, which only makes you think about it even more. The soreness on my feet is getting worse, I’m pretty sure there are blisters forming under my socks. My back and shoulders are screaming with each step. And then we reached it; the endless road. We’ve only covered 7km out of 34. Its going to be a REALLY LONG DAY…
I’m not going to give too much away, as I have an entire story brewing as we speak. I just wanted to give you’s readers a tidbit about the first few days. Quite plainly, Jake and I were not prepared for what was to come. We decided that we would reserve judgement for 2 weeks (at least) because by then our bodies will break down and hopefully rebuild. And we’ll know if we can hack it!
Those first few days were a daze. We had to train ourselves how to not overthink or worry about what comes next. Each day is planned after the one before. Just like life on the boat, we had no idea what to expect. Each day on the trail was completely unique, unpredictable and for lack of a better word, an adventure.