Well, I was planning on blogging much more than once a week however… This last week was one of the more challenging weeks of my life. This thru hike stuff is no joke.
The first day I met up with the crew they took out everything from my bag and made two piles. One pile to take with me, one pile to leave behind. Remember that picture I posted not too long ago where everything I was planning on taking was put into two small bags to put into my big backpack… Well then cut that in half and that’s what they told me I should bring. So I downsized majorly. No soap, no deodorant, one shirt, one shorts, 3 socks, no pants, one rain jacket, water, food, sleeping bag, tent. That’s why they call us dirtbags… And still, somehow I put my bag on my shoulders and it felt extremely heavy. It was pushing on my lower back and pulling my shoulders. Everyone tried to adjust it for me but nothing felt quite right. But I said I could deal with it, I am strong. This was a stupid mistake and I learned one should never think they are above the pack they carry on their back, lesson learned the hard way. Anyways we headed out, caught our first hitch hike out of town and headed south.
We set up camp in what we call “stealth camping” which means we hide our tents in places we probably shouldnt be sleeping. That night we found a farmers plot of land hidden behind some trees. We weren’t too hidden though because we were woken by a herd of cows that seemed very concerned with the fact that we were sleeping on the grass they wanted to eat
That morning was my first day of hiking. We hiked 20km to the base of a “little mountain” where we then had a short 10 km after that through forest. The first 20 km took about 4 hours, so we reached the mountain at about lunch time. We had lunch and prepped ourselves for what we thought was another about 2 hours of hiking. Little did we know that although there are no natural predators in New Zealand, these lush forests hide things like quick sand, mud slides, branches that are alive and grab your feet as you walk by and maze trails that grow longer with every step you take. 6 hours later we stumbled out of the forest,gingerly waddling trying to keep the weight of our packs and bodies off our tender feet. Mac, who is a race horse finished the maze trail about an hour earlier and had found us a stealth camp site under the town bridge where we set up camp and passed out just as night was falling.
Day 2 of hiking was looking up! Surely today wouldn’t be as hard… Until I picked up my pack. How could it possibly weigh this much? My shoulders and low back hurt so bad. I looked at my back and there was a huge bruise up my backside from my backpack. That second day we had a 25 km hike on road into the next city called Hamilton. The day was scorching hot and I walked the entire way with our most experienced hiker, Austin aka Caveman. We talked about all of his past thru hikes and adventures and it helped keep my mind off my shoulders, back and feet. About 7 hours later we meandered into Hamilton and found a cafe where we could get some fresh food and cold water. That night we made our way to the city lake (that looked sort of like Greenlake for you seattleites) and stealth camped in the trees around the lake.
Day 3, My body was starting to hurt quite a bit. The sun, miles and weight I had just jumped into was really taking a toll on my joints and psychy. So the other newbies, Winslow and his girlfriend and I decided we were going to hitch hike forward and meet up with everyone later in the day. We got picked up by a couple celebrating their anniversary and were headed out to the beach. Since we hadn’t seen the ocean yet we decided that was a better idea than hiking again…. So to the ocean we went and wound up in a city called Raglan, which is the locals hottest surf spot. Right on dude.
The following day was again up a mountain and once again I underestimated the harshness of these mountains. The mud was above ankle deep and was thick, wet, heavy mud. We spent the entire day in video game brain mode problem solving our way through the forest. The mountains here are steep. I mean like intensely steep to get up and dangerously steep to get down. The forest floor got to know our butts and the bottoms of our packs really well. The trees were lifesavers though and many times we hung from them like monkys clinging to them for dear life keeping us out of the quick sand that wanted to swallow us up into the heart of the mountain… ok that was just the video game we made up as we were going, but it sure felt real. I must say though, it was an absolute blast to play in the forest, no matter how tough it seemed.
These are pictures of the forest canopies we hiked beneath.
We ended up coming out right at the beginning of endless farmland and as we were walking to find a place to sleep that night we came across two ranchers lassoing cows. We all stopped to watch this spectacle and as we were watching we found out the main rancher had “cowboy’d” in Arizona and loved the US. So he opened up his cow pasture for us to sleep in an he said “you could even you the horse troft as a bath if you want.” He was too kind.
We woke up early the next morning with the roosters and cows of his farm going crazy as a harsh storm was blowing in. So we packed up as quick as we could and tried to get moving before the storm hit. But alas it was of no use… We got absolutely owned by this storm. As we walked 35 km over steep and endless farmland hills and in and out of wet forests, waded through a knee high river we finally arrived 12 hours later to a gravel road where we all collapsed with fatigue in the pouring rain at what we had to call camp that night.
We were so soaked through that our skin was pruned, our shoes were puddles and even the clothes in our bags were soaked. We set up our tents only to fall asleep in the puddles that had gathered in the bottom of our tents. I laid down my food bag, a dry bag and my rain jacket under my sleeping bag to try to keep it out of the puddles of water beneath me. I fell asleep laughing at how quickly my humble abode tent had turned into a sorry puddle of water
After several days of hiking, hurting, enjoying the video game mountains and sleeping in random places I decided my body and mind wasn’t happy doing this sun up to sun down heavy duty hiking. It was weighing on my spirits and I didn’t want to continue this adventure with that feeling. That is the opposite of the purpose of this trip. So I had a conversation with the head of this trip and the Comfort Theory, Mac. And after a lot of conversation we decided the entire thru hike just wasn’t for me. This is, after all, everyone’s personal journey.
So plans have changed a bit and I am trying to figure out what is next from here. There are still a lot of New Zealand bucket list items that I have and I plan on checking those off the list. So please stay tuned to what is next… You now know just as much as I do!