Te Araroa THE END 3041km

Randomtrailtales 2711 – 3041km: THE END. It was 4.5 months ago that I boarded a bus from Auckland to the most Northern point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, where I bumped into Sunny, a total coincidence after having met her just once before in Holland at a meet-up of TA hikers many months ago. The bus was just leaving when it had to stop to let in a late passenger, a tall girl with clean hiking gear, it was Unicorn from Berlin, although I didn’t know that at the time. It was only a few days later that we formally met after the first days hike at the Twilight campsite above the beach. Although we rarely walked together during the day it appeared we had a very similar pace and often found ourselves at the same camp spots after 12 hours on the Trail. It was only after Auckland, 600km into the TA, that we organically formed a Trail Family which we called ‘Butterchicken’, sharing stories at dinner, having fun and watching out for one another on dangerous river crossings. Each of us had set out alone on this journey, but had found ourselves in this group that would prove to be so strong that it connected us for 132 days down to Bluff. We couldn’t be more different, each from a different generation: 27, 31, 45, but coincidentally mentally all 29 years old for this journey. Firstly the ever happy and bubbly ‘Sunny’, the Agnostic heavy metal loving Shingon Buddhist OHenro Pilgrim, a Japanese speaking Oostzaaner, a superb planner with immaculate taste for structure and details. A pure realist, able to channel all her rage and frustration onto the muddy Trail, and subsequently never being grumpy or snappy towards people. Secondly the wonderful ‘Unicorn’, a devout Catholic, horse loving meat eating vegetarian, passionate about opera, and a professional Organ playing musician, a creative writer, mischievous polite and respectful. I had many lengthy discussions with her to learn more about the Catholic Church and the organisational structures and rules behind the scenes. Although we differed on interpretations I learnt a lot from her and was struck by her deep conviction and clear purpose her faith gave her in her life. Lastly ‘Van Go’, a bearded advertising creative wannabe hippie Pilgrim, a family man searching for spirituality in the mountains by going on walks that are perhaps a bit too long. A lucky b*sterd experimenting with a new rhythm in life between work and adventure, city and nature, family and alone time. Three very different characters united by our desire to ‘Thru hike’ the Te Araroa, connecting all of our steps from the North to the very South, 3041km without hitching. Of the +-100 TA hikers we met along the way, only 3 others we know of completed the entire Te Araroa without hitching. We chose not to ‘Hitch our own hike’ and would sometimes be ridiculed as being ‘EFI’s’ (Every F*cking Inchers) or teased as being ‘purists’, but one could argue this says more about the Joker than joke. Although the many road walks were dangerous, they were perhaps also the hardest part of the trail. An elderly Kiwi hiker once commented: ‘What good is an Anker if one small piece of the chain is missing?’ Those missing pieces would come to haunt me. ‘True thru’ for me, it’s the nature of the beast. It is very simple, I take whatever the Trail offers me, the good and the bad. I feel lucky and proud to have walked with two strong women who felt the same way. We were also connected by rising very early each morning and be walking before the sun came up. We were connected by the roles we each had in our Trail family, my role was laundry. We were also connected by ‘Butter-chicken’ which would be the first thing we would order in the Indiana restaurant when we reached town accompanied by the giggling that roled over the table. Girls, thank you so much, it was an honour to walk with you……. ……….. ………. ……..’What do you do when a car stops to offer you a hitch and the driver has blood all over his hands and T-shirt?’ We had left the trail to hitch into town to resupply on food. ‘Hop in’ the man said and grabbed his two dogs by the scruff of their necks and lifted them into the open rear of the truck. What followed was a story that totally captured my imagination. He had just been out hunting deer and was now distributing the meat to those who couldn’t afford meat in town. He introduced himself as Jamie, a 35 year old seventh generation farmer with thousands of sheep, cattle and deer. Although he was a farmer he saw himself more as a bushman and would leave his farm behind in the hands of his staff and head out into the mountains in the winter to live in a simple wooden hut. He would just suddenly leave and only return three or four months later. All he took with him was his dogs, a gun and some beer and whiskey, for the rest he lived off the land. He would hunt deer and wild pigs, forage wild forest asparagus and carrots and eat plants his Grandfather had taught him were safe. I asked him what he did there all day, read or write perhaps? ‘I breathe in and I breathe out, that’s about it’ he said. He didn’t much like the way the world was heading, he enjoyed getting away from it all, although he did like the company of his friends and family that would occasionally come a stay with him for a night or two. It also gave him time to process the stuff he had been exposed to in the Middle East where his special unit had been deployed to when he had served in the armed forces. As we drove into the village of Te Arnau, he went on to tell me that he had been 13 years old when he had first wandered off into the hills and had spent more than a month alone in the cabin, killing and cooking his own meat. A true modern Hermit, something you rarely hear about and yet at that moment I could totally relate to him, however different our lives where. I have always been fascinated by people who seek solitude. Where hermit Monks ultimately have to beg for food, Fugitive hermits have to steal, ‘Thru- hikers’ live from resupply box to resupply box. This Bushman sitting next to me in the car was truly self sufficient, hunting, fishing and gathering, living alone in the woods…….………… ………….. ………

Random Statistics: 132 days to walk 3041km / 22 zero’s / Elevation: nine times up and down Everest from sea level (87000meters up) / 7 kilo weight loss (from 75km to 68 kg) / longest day 55km / dry feet days / 50%-50% man, woman ratio / 2% Thru hike entire TA trail without hitching / 3 pairs of shoes (La Sportiva Ultra Rapor) / 0 (zero) Kiwi birds seen/ 50 possums heard/ 60 million sheep / 700 people start the TA, less than 50% finish / Fastest day on Trail 42km by 14:00 / 46 dry feet days / My first ever ‘Fun-Run’ which is 3 consecutive marathons within 60 hours / 500 wraps eaten / 4 million steps……………………………….Autumn is slowly falling over us, rosebuds, snow, cold temperatures at night and it also means the days are becoming shorter and I have to use my iPhone torch to shine and light up the dark forest trail the first hour as I leave the hut at 6:30 in the morning. The last two weeks proved much more challenging than I had anticipated. It was strenuous work and we got through in one piece but we hear of many people on the trail who experienced unexpected setbacks. One had to be airlifted from the wilderness by a helicopter, another decided to quit one week before reaching Bluff (the end of the trail) because of hypothermia, another got ‘ball-sack chafing’ and yet another was hit by such strong gale force winds that he had to crawl on hands and knees for three hours over the final mountain ridge, tearing up his poor knees. This trail was testing us to the final point at sea. But it felt as if it just got more beautiful the further South we got. Especially the four day stretch out of Queenstown I can recommend to everyone as it has lots of huts, is not too steep and the Mountain Valleys you walk through are stunning………. …………… ……………I have just received official confirmation from the Vatican that they have approved the sainthood of Herminia, as she has performed two miracles in the past three years. She has cared for the family and run the business for months without ever complaining. The kids are not on crack and the business is thriving. Glory to thee Saint Hermenia. Love and thanks to you Herminia, for giving me the freedom to wander and be ‘me’ (she is also very excited to set off on her own walk at the end of the month), and thanks to my children for reacting to my crazy adventures as if it is the most normal thing in the world to go off and wander from time to time. I want to thank YOU all for joining me these past four and a half months in my backpack. I very much felt your presence and writing these weekly ‘Randomtrailtales’ has been one of the highlights of my Trail. It challenges me to think, form opinions, craft words and articulate stories that express what I experience and feel. Thanks also to Thekla for giving me the music of Eva Cassidy which I played endlessly. Thekla sent me one new song every day through Spotify. What a gift. Finally a big up to the main man, my 20 year old friend Goldie, whose idea it was to do this crazy Trail and who never ceases to inspire me. And Thank you to all the special people I met on the Trail, you turned a walk into magic……………………………..I have no specific new goals I feel I should pursue when I get back home as I still have a lot of work to do on the four goals I set for myself after the PCT, namely: 1: to live a frugal life, 2: to write and publish, 3: to become more flexible in my attitude towards those around me, and 4: to go on micro adventures with my children. The one new challenge I do give myself is to welcome more strangers into my life back home, as it was these surprise interactions with strangers on the North Island that had a humbling effect on me. Strangers are simply friends I haven’t met yet…………………………….. …..To my surprise and delight I have recently been approached by several companies to come and give a lecture about my experiences on the Te Araroa and the risks and advantages of solo adventures. I very much enjoy giving these talks, please feel free to drop me a message if you think a talk could inspire your company……………. ………….. Save the date: 15 April, for the upcoming ‘Te Araroa Dia Avond’, where I will give a talk at my home in Broek, you are all invited. (more info will follow).

2 thoughts on “Te Araroa THE END 3041km

  1. Dearest Tim Fantastic, the game is over!!!! Well done. Love to see you soon. We are slowly landing. Love Dad

    Tijno Voors

    2018-03-08 9:48 GMT+01:00 RandomTrailTales :

    > timvoors posted: “Randomtrailtales 2711 – 3041km: THE END. It was 4.5 > months ago that I boarded a bus from Auckland to the most Northern point of > New Zealand, Cape Reinga, where I bumped into Sunny, a total coincidence > after having met her just once before in Holland at a ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wat een mooi slotverslag Tim! En wat een prachtige fotoserie! O, wat zou ik graag in die landschappen wandelen met 6 kg op mijn rug! Omdat deze mail van jou in een ander deel van mijn computer zat dan de privémail zag ik deze later. Die foto van jullie drie onder een wegwijzer was denk ik het begin van de tocht? Ik heb inmiddels Bluff op de Time Atlas gevonden.
    Goede thuisreis!
    Michiel

    Liked by 1 person

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