over to Hunters Hut in the rain

Te Araroa Trail | Day 70

Te Araroa is a 2996 km long backcountry trail that was opened in 2011 to link Cape Reinga, the North Island’s most northerly point with the end of Highway 1 in Bluff, close to the most southerly point in the South Island.

After 70 days walking I was just starting out on the final leg from St Arnaud to Ship Cove/Meretoto. Here are thoughts from Day 70 . . .

Three nights solid eating and talking and all the rest of the boy meets girl thing in St Arnaud, had given me more spring in my step, despite once again having my pack loaded with ten day’s of ballast, ie, food.

I’ve learned a significant lesson from the Greymouth resupply where I had started to get down to the basics with still four days to go, then finding my food parcel waiting at Boyle River had been similarly austere. When arriving at St Arnaud I had been emaciated and physically exhausted. Fortunately my understanding and pre-warned gal had loaded up with tasty and nutritious tucker in large quantities, sufficient to satiate my ravenous urgings.

Take more food.

Lots more.

It would be hard to eat too much food on the energy sapping days, although it may well be that you could try to carry too much.

The sensible shoes choice to abandon my walk back at St Arnaud and return in a week or two when my body had recovered was not somehow any option. I have the clear characteristics of tenacity, perseverance, pigheadedness and for once in my life the destination, Ship Cove/Meretoto, was important, to rule a line under an era in my life as I move onto what transformation would come next.

Anyway, I was now back on TA.

Last night, right on dark, a solo SOBO, southbound hiker, arrived at the hut and my lonely ruminating on the last weekend was postponed.

M had arranged to walk the next section, Waiau Pass, with a SOBO of the female persuasion who was ahead, they have been communicating with text messages. He was scurrying to catch up, a 14 hour slog today, all the way from Top Wairoa Hut. I’m planning to do that in two reasonable days, there’s a couple of comfortable huts along the way: Porters Creek and Hunters.

He told some hilarious stories of his trip to date.

One, as background, a tale of making his way across a Waikato paddock and not realising initially that there had been 40 bulls in residence. They started pawing the ground and looking threatening, M quickly climbed a tree for a few hours until they became distracted, then escaped by running at some pace down a creek, maybe an electric fence was involved.

He smiled as he recounted the memory: always better in retrospect.

I joked that it was a pity he wasn’t Spanish so he might have known how to deal with the bulls more effectively.

Then, he continued, a few days ago, trying to avoid what must have been a herd of dairy cows in the Pelorus River valley, at the point where there was a sign at each of the ten fence crossings explicitly stating not to venture onto the nearby farm road, he avoided the cattle by doing exactly that, and rather than a confrontation with bulls, this time it was a huge fist clenching farming bloke, not similarly stamping his feet, exactly, but after ten minutes of obscene and threatening language he then proceeded to slowly circle this lovely bewildered guy, not saying a word for five minutes, just silently, crazily, staring belligerently.

Wow, that just sounded freaky, from some horror movie.

Apologies and what seemed sensible de-escalating behaviour from M. The farmer said, You’re lucky, today I’ve got my two kids in the car, and then crazy eyes cruised off in his 4WD, exceedingly slowly, like 1km an hour as M nervously made his way back to the official track.

I reassured him that it was indeed super unusual that New Zealanders set up their own little Republic with themselves as El Presidente and defending the borders with themselves as Commander-in-Chief of a one man army. No doubt he refuses to support the All Blacks, preferring his own one-man rugby team, etc.

Man, get with the program. You should read what people write about you, on the Te Araroa Facebook page, in their blogs, and you might find it wasn’t entirely complimentary.

Now, there wasn’t so many huts to go, I hadn’t crossed paths with anyone on the trail today and there was no company tonight, I am going to miss meeting these positive thoughtful people.

Then again, in my new stationary life I would actually be able to have long-term relationships, something entirely more necessary for this doughnut.

This is an extract from the e-book, soon to be a paperback, called, err,

100 Days | Walking Te Araroa

I recount my thoughts and experiences when I walked the South Island section of Te Araroa, from Bluff to Ship Cove in the Summer of 2015. Oh, and there were 16 days getting as far south as is sensible to walk in New Zealand, down on Stewart Island/Rakiura, as a pre-amble.

The book is based on a blog originally written for my tramping New Zealand website.