Christmas break reflections
We’ve really enjoyed our two week break at home for Christmas. The first week we laid low. The weather was wet and miserable, much like what we’d left behind in the South that had prompted our earlier than planned return. We pretty much sat around home eating chocolate and admiring our new kitchen. I did also kick off the food dehydration program round two.
The second week was very busy with social catch-ups, appointments and Christmas prep. It’s been fun seeing friends and family again after such a long absence. I’ve found everyone’s had very similar questions, so I’ve compiled a FAQ section below for those we didn’t get to see and who may be equally curious.
We’re excited to get back on trail now. I’ve been jealous of postings from others still out there doing it. I didn’t quite get my new shoes worn in like I’d planned. Being the same model as previously I’m counting on no issues.
I’ve also swapped out my main clothing on account of weight loss. Exact same shorts/pants now size 12 instead of 16. Same T-shirt, different colour, now medium instead of large.
Q. What’s been the favourite part?
A. Despite hating climbing hills I have to say climbing the highest peaks in the south has been my favourite. Perhaps not the climbing part but being up amongst them and the views. So memorable. And I did love ninety mile beach as it was all new and exciting and making a start finally. It was tough going along the beach but not nearly as bad as I expected.
Q. What’s been the scariest part.
A. Most definitely the river crossings!!
Q. Has the homemade dehydrated food been good.
A. Absolutely yes. We’ve had some radix and backcountry but the homemade is so much better. It feels like real food. The commercial stuff does taste ok and has some nice textures but it doesn’t feel real. They are very bulky to carry compared to my vacuum packed stuff. Although the commercial ones are convenient when we’re short on water for doing dishes.
Q. Does it feel weird being back home or back into civilisation?
A. No. It feels normal very quickly. We are always happy to have the comforts of civilisation- toilets, phones, fresh food.
Q. Speaking of toilets - how do you manage.
A. Number ones very easily. Basically stop and squat virtually anywhere. I’m very efficient at this as I go fairly frequently. Number twos try and go when there’s toilets handy. The huts all have long drops. And in the north island there are a surprisingly lot of public toilets around once you start looking. In between when you’ve got to go you have to go. I have a poo shovel so dig a little hole, go directly into the hole, throw in the toilet paper, then cover it over. It’s etiquette to then put a rock on top so the next person along wanting to do the same thing doesn’t choose the same spot. I’ve had to use the shovel maybe half a dozen times, but Gerard’s yet to christen his. The long drops vary in quality. Some actually feel like normal toilets with toilet paper, sanitiser, and have no smell, others reek. They often have masses of bugs flying around which is unpleasant. It’s great when you can hear the echo of what’s going in as you know the tank is fairly empty, as opposed to a fullish tank with risk of splash back. I’ve refused to look down at any time although the guys all seem to. They’ve reported seeing a gecko in one and maggots - yuck.
Q. How bad do you really smell?
A. Not as bad as I may have implied. We do wash each day and fully clean all clothes and shower at every available opportunity. Sometimes that might be 2-3 days apart and the most was 9 days. It just feels worse than it smells. Merino gear definitely helps. The main bad smell are the shoes and socks from the mud.
Q. How much on average do you walk in a day?
A. Our statistics to date are 1025km over 72 days which is 14km/day. There have been excessive rest days in here though due to the northland lockdown (6 days) and a few extra long breaks due to waiting out rain impacted rivers or bad weather. We normally would aim for a 20-30km walking day, or 5-8 hours.
Q. When do you expect to finish?
A. Early April all going well. Although we’ve got two thirds still to do it should be a lot quicker as we’ve done the hardest slower sections, and the weather should be more settled. Also crossing fingers for no more lockdowns.
Q. Does it take long to write the blog and is it a hassle to do?
A. Yes it does take a long time but I love to do it for my own benefit. It solidifies the memories for each day. We can see and experience so much in a day, if I wasn’t writing it all down I’m sure I’d forget about half of it. It’s also a good chance to go through the zillions of photos I take most days and cull them out. Some nights particularly after a mentally challenging day I don’t have the energy for it but I do always jot a few notes at least.
Q. It looks like you’ve met a lot of good people. A. Yes every single person we’ve come across we’ve loved spending time with. It’s because we all have something major in common despite being different ages and backgrounds. The different backgrounds and life stories also make for interesting chats.
Q. So what’s next once you’ve finished this?
A. Who knows? We’re not doing this to formulate grand plans. We’re doing it to enjoy the experiences along the way. We don’t plan on doing other long distance hikes overseas after this although we will get back to our regular style of overseas travel once things normalise a bit more. Everyone says that doing the TA is life changing. At this stage I’m not sure how our life will change. Although as a couple of people have pointed out we’ve got a pretty good life going all already and it probably doesn’t need to change.