People generally fall into two camps with their response when they hear about my plan to walk Te Araroa. The first group are envious, and excited for me. The second group think it's a crazy proposition and have dozens of questions - starting with 'why'. The answer is not to 'find myself'. At 51 going on ,52, I well and truly know who I am, so here are my whys:
Like most of us (especially as we get older!) I find being out in nature simultaneously relaxing, uplifting, and inspiring. I'm excited to be out of the office and out of the house and witness every sunrise, sunset, and vista going. I find I have so many WOW moments in the amazing landscapes of our country, and I especially love to try and capture these in photos. I'm very much an amateur photographer, and only use my phone, but I love this process.
It's the big challenging events in our life that are the most memorable and rewarding. I will relish the sense of accomplishment in achieving something that is huge and daunting. The thought of walking 3000km the length of the country, carrying everything I need to survive, I must admit is scary and will be hard. I have never done a multiday hike before (other than on the Queen Charlotte with the luxury lodge and pack transfers option), or camped in a non glamping way, or carried a pack more than a few kgs.
Travel and adventure have been a huge priority in my life. I love the excitement of exploring new locations and cultures, being on the move, problem solving and navigating new environments. Admittedly the majority of my travels to date have been the traditional overseas and hotel based trips although usually self managed rather than package trips. So I thought it was time to mix it up. I had been contemplating El Camino for many years, but the commercialisation and huge crowds on it were off putting. As soon as I was aware we had our own trail in NZ I switched to having that on my bucket list instead.
Being in the moment
I'm looking forward to the opportunity of stepping out of the busyness of everyday life for a little and getting back to basics. Having only food, water, shelter, and navigation each day to be concerned about, I'll appreciate the feeling of being 'in the moment'. I like the thought of being completely self sufficient and capable of getting myself from A to B.
A few years ago when researching my Grandfathers experience in WWII, I discovered that after being released from the prisoner of war camp he was at in Poland, he had to walk all the way back to England before getting medical attention, and being able to return by ship to NZ. And while that was ‘only’ approx 1300 km walk, they had none of today’s luxuries such as a lightweight tent, sleeping bag or mattress. They also had to forage for food on the way or rely on kindness of strangers (trail angels!). So while walking, I’ll be thinking of him and the many thousands, who through no choice of their own have had to endure long walks with greater hardship than I’ll ever encounter. There continue to be people to this day where wars force this on them, and I’ll also be thinking of the current citizens of Afghanistan.
I’ve talked about all the positives in taking on TA however I do have a few concerns in the back of my mind. Firstly safety! Some of those mountains and river crossings sound scary. I’m minimising this risk through lots of research, carrying a PLB, and hoping by the time I reach the worst parts I’ll be somewhat experienced. Secondly to dying, is to become seriously injured to the point where one of us can’t go on. Related to this is also the fear of failing and not being capable of completing it.
More minor concerns are getting lost. I don’t worry about being lost lost, more just the gutting situation of missing a turn and having to backtrack. The consequences of that can snowball and give rise to more risky situations by adding unexpected hours into the day. I also worry about the disruption and inconveniences of any future lockdowns. However I appreciate how privileged I am to live in NZ and have TA available and the opportunity to walk it at all.