(Following Into the Wild)
To have an adventure of the sort I’ve been having you should be open-minded, curious, and not mind: camping, not having showers for days, getting eaten by sandflies and mosquitoes getting wet and dirty, carrying a big heavy backpack, getting blisters and possibly other especially feet and knee related problems.
A bit naïve and maybe a little brave (as I was told) I left Auckland on the 27th of November, prepared for an adventure (which translates to ‘unprepared’ – bad tent, bad sleeping bag, bad backpack, bad shoes and socks, little to eat. YET lots to drink). Unexpectedly, a friend gave me a lift to Sandspit from where I walked to Brick Bay where I met a very nice woman who offered me to come along to her Yoga Class the following morning. Long story short, I stayed a few days due to bad weather. We went kayaking, swimming, spaed and ate out– it was lovely and they’ve become like a second family to me! On the 1st they dropped me off at Pakiri Beach. My plan was to walk the Te Araroa Trail northwards up to Cape Reinge, then hitchhike back to the Bay of Islands where I’d meet some friends for New Year’s. After two days of walking however, I had rather sore feet. (For the first time in my life I had blisters, and my left foot was so swollen I could hardly fit it in my shoe). Luckily I met a really nice couple – they were driving up north and gave me a lift. We met a lady who offered us to camp in her garden – we had a lovely meal at hers and I ended up sleeping in their little garden hut (anything is better than my pop up tent and my +10° sleeping bag!). A few days later I found myself in Kerikeri, staying with friends who really did not want me to walk up to Cape Reinga alone. So instead we made it a day trip by car. Back in Kerikeri it was only the 9th of December and I still had to kill almost another 20 days until I had to be in the Bay of Islands. So I figured I’d just walk the Te Araroa in the ‘right’ direction (most people are doing it from Cape Reinga to Bluff and not the other way around due to the weather), i.e. southwards, and would make my friends who were coming up from Wellington pick me up for the Island on their way from wherever I’d be at that time. So I started walking.
The first section, Kerikeri to Paihia, was easy as – mainly walking on a forest track it took me about four hours. I camped at a tiny bay between Paihia and Opua. In the morning I continued to Opua from where I took the ferry across to Okiato (NZ’s first capital). I came across a man who told me about some trampers who were just a bit ahead of me – I was like ‘yessss’; walking alone has its benefits but walking with other people has many more. So I hitchhiked (running with my still sore feet and bag = impossible) for about two minutes to catch up with them– Dan, Ben and Kelsey. They happily let me join. My luck really, as without them, I clearly would’ve gotten lost the following day when we walked through native forest which included walking in a river for about three hours. Also, they were super prepared with food packs waiting for them in different towns and were happy to share. (Due to a very tight budget and not wanting to carry more I only had peanut butter, honey and a few other things with me and I had started to prepare myself mentally to eat whatever came along (and I did try an ant (tasteless)) – just à la Into The Wild, only hopefully without the final dying) We met some other trampers along the way, then Dan, Ben and I split off again. We had to stay in Whangarei for almost a week due to Ben’s injured foot. As we booked a night at the Backpacker’s, a woman saw me (apparently very exhausted-looking i.e. pitiful) and was like, why don’t you stay at my farm nearby. So we went there the next day to camp by the river for some nights. Soon after we continued walking Ben decided to go to Auckland after all to seek medical advice. Dan and I kept walking but whilst Dan’s body seems to be made of some sort of steel, mine isn’t and I had to back down a little (hurting ankle and blisters), so I occasionally hitchhiked (in the mornings) and then joined Dan again for some walking (in the afternoons).
As we reached Orewa, my friends picked me up to go to the island Urupukapuka where we camped for five nights – on that note, Happy New Year everyone! The weather was fab apart from one day (on that day I walked around the island). Lots of swimming, tanning, sunscreen applying, relaxing and reading. Maybe nice for one or two days but I really started missing some more action. To kick off 2013 I grazed a kina and got a spike in my foot. A friend tried to get it out (I had a pillow stuffed in my face to mute my screaming) and later I tried it myself, unfortunately unsuccessfully. So I’ve come back to Auckland for a couple of days. The doctor just removed the spike and I’ll hopefully be good to walk again in a couple of days so I can join Dan somewhere past Auckland.
No plan, a country full of opportunities, some luck, and I’ve been having an amazing time meeting lovely, generous, hospitable people and seeing wonderful landscapes in a truly beautiful (yet a bit too hilly 😉 ) country.