Real Nativity Experience 1370-1733km

Randomtrailtales 1370 – 1733km (North Island in the bag without hitching): On Christmas eve I was treated with 35 km of road walking and was delighted to finally reach the small town of Fielding to look for a nice bed in a Hotel after days of hot roads. Sunny, Unicorn and I walked into the reception of the only Hotel in town and asked for a room. ‘I’m terribly sorry, we are totally full’, there was no place at the Inn for us. This triggered our ‘Nativity Play Reinactment Challenge’, this wasn’t going to get in the way of our Christmas, and we set about making plans to follow the star to find the stable. Unicorn is a devout Catholic, Sunny a devout Metal Atheist and I a devout Pilgrim searching for spirituality in Nature. We decided the best place to camp was at a church as Unicorn and I wanted to attend Mass that evening, but here too there was no space for our tents on the small car park. We finally resorted to walking around the block of of the Church in a quiet neighborhood and finally plucked up the courage to ask a man if we could perhaps pitch our three tents on his law on Christmas Eve! To our delight he invited us in, introducing himself as Grant and before we knew it we had joined his wife Louise and their daughters for Christmas dinner. As simple pilgrims following the star, we had only humble gifts to offer, but they were received well I believe. I offered a painting on wood, Unicorn played beautifully on their piano and Sunny shared detailed stories about our Trail. We were humbled by their generous hospitality in our hour of need…………… ………… …………..Sweat is dripping from my nose, the shirt on my back is totally soaked as I finally reach the top of the mountain and see the knifes edge of the Tararoa Ranges stretch out before me. A beautiful goat trail right on the very edge of the ridge of the mountain stretches miles in front of me and I’m lucky with what I see. I’m lucky because I got up at five in the morning to see a perfect view, with not a cloud in the sky. I see the stunning Tararoa Ranges all around me and in the distance the small red roof of the hut I will be sleeping in tonight. The following day I was less fortunate. The three of us rose at five, silently leaving the hut and within half an hour were heading up to the 1400m summit through a dense fog (that actually turned out to be a wet cloud that we were walking through). We could not see more than 15m in front of us, which in this case was perhaps not such a bad thing as the cliffs dropped hundreds of meters to both sides of our thin goat trail. As we climbed the wind picked up, stronger and stronger it blew, and as we neared the top the winds reached about 50mph. There was no time to stop and celebrate or have some food, we headed straight over and down the other side, sticking very close to each other. Suddenly there was an explosion of fireworks around us as we saw hundreds of beautiful white flowers at the very top of the mountain, very similar to Edelweiss flowers in the Alps, it was a breathtaking show of nature. We had to pick up our pace in order not to be caught in a possible storm and be blown off the ridge as two fellow hikers had fatally overcome a year earlier. What followed was the longest & steepest dissent of the entire trail, more than 5km straight down over the ridge and into a goblin forest, which gave us a root-staircase all the way down. When we finally reached the hut at the bottom of the mountain I sighed a sigh of relief and drew a cross across my chest and thanked the moon and the stars that I was safely down in the valley. The ridge had taken us 10 hours to cross but I had lost all sense of time up there as the adrenaline pumped through me. Unicorn later quietly said that she had never been so frightened in her life. This is a real hike……………………….. ……….. ………. Half a year ago I received my tax form from my accountant and noted to my Wife that all this hiking meant that I was earning a lot less money. ‘Well’, my Wife casually replied, ‘Come to think of it, all the periods that you earned less money in your life you were actually a lot nicer.’ It was a simple answer but made me think for quite some time. Had the pursuit of career, reputation & money turned me into a bit of an inpatient dickhead? I came to the conclusion that there was some truth in that. The pursuit of my career had resulted in long nights away from home, more responsibilities and more social engagements, buying stuff and off course more stress. My wife is now actively encouraging me to work less. She is an Extra Ordinary woman and I am extraordinarily happy to have her by my side…………. ………….. …………..One of the most disgusting things us hikers do, is drink our cold dirty washing-up water. I would like to introduce a new word: ‘Shlock’. For those experienced long-distance hikers among you, you will be aware of that moment you drink your ‘shlock’. It is the moment when you clean your cooking pot with some water, you then rub the sides of your cooking pot with your somewhat dirty finger and subsequently drink the cold dirty ‘shlock’ to preserve the precious water you do not want to waste. It is never pleasant nor nourishing but as we wish to leave no trace in the woods even the finest couscous could attract mice or other animals. I invite you all to challenge or embrace this new word……,……… …………It’s always baffles me to hear people freaking out about an upcoming mountain that rises steep up out of the valley that we are presently in. I just don’t get it, I mean going up and down mountains is what we do, that’s what we’re here to do and the only thing we’re actually good at. We go up and down mountains, whatever comes in our path, we walk it. When it rains we get wet, when it snows we get cold, when the wind blows we hang onto the mountain for dear life, when it thunders I get scared and run for cover. Going up steep mountains is basically our core business. Some hikers use paper maps and a compass to navigate the trail but over 90% use a GPS app on their mobile phones called ‘Guthook’, which is amazing. It shows the redline of the trail and if you get lost you can see how far you are from the trail. It also shows water sources, possible places to camp and some hikers leave comments regarding the quality of the water and the reliability of the campsite…….. ……….. ……………While walking along the beach I met some guys fishing and was invited to sharing their breakfast. Father Sio and his two sons originally came from the

Islands of Tokelau, a small Kingdom in the Pacific with only 1400 population. We shared stories and a painting before I finally made my way to Wellington, the most Southern point of the North Island, and where I will now rest my strained body and mind for a few days before embarking on the second stage of this journey on the wilder South Island.

Canoe Naked Day, 1193-1370 km

Randomtrailtales 1193 – 1370km: As 21st of December is the longest day of the year here in New Zealand, Goldie and I figured it was officially ‘Hike Naked Day’ just as it is on the 21st of June in the USA. Only now I just happens to be sitting in canoe, so I turned it into ‘Canoe Naked Day’. I was on the final day of my 7 day trip down the 240km Whanganui river with it’s tall cliff faces on either side reaching up into the sky. 7 days in the middle of nowhere without cell connection but with a lot of food and drinks with us as we didn’t have to carry it on our backs. But ‘Canoe Naked Day’ turned into a bit of a failure as it soon became too hot to be naked. My factor 50 from the NZ Cancer Society was not going to protect my white skin from the relentless bright sun burning down on me on the water and after 3 hours I gave in a covered myself, it was too much to handle. The weather on the river had been all over the place with days of heavy rain for hours, to gusting head winds but for the most part beautiful blue skies and sun. Sunny, Unicorn and I had set out with a two man Canoe and a one woman cayak, but after what happened on the first day we switched to two canoes. That first evening we were setting up camp at a campsite high above the water, when suddenly a wet cold German lady came from the river totally in shock. She had just been saved- by chance- by the canoe rental owner who had been out teaching his colleagues how to use his jet boat. They had found her stuck in a log on a rapid just before camp, trapped between her canoe and a big immersed tree. The power of the rapid had been so strong that she couldn’t move and had got colder and colder by the minute as the water gushed over her. She had been stuck there for over 15 minutes when she was saved. We got her into my dry clothes and made her some warm food as she slowly calmed down. We decided to switch the two cayaks for a big steady two man canoe which the rental company would come and bring the following morning. The remaining 6 days Stine, a German lady in her early fifties, joined me in the canoe and it was good for the four of us as she brought a lot of dry humor and to the conversation. She had just quit smoking two packs a day and was now equally hooked on her new vapor toy, but was very happy and proud to feel that she could walk up all the mountains without squeaking lungs. I had met her earlier on the first week of my journey and whenever the Trail was super steep and dangerous I would always think back of her and think, ‘wow she has to do this too’, I better not complain. I find her very inspiring as she is very Independant and often sleeps totally alone in the woods…………. …………… ………Some people Love Youth Hostels and some people Hate Youth Hostels. I love them. Unlike hotels, they are always places where you meet other people, talk and do things together. You cook together, watch a VCR of Lord of the Rings together, and yes you also snore together in the hot smelling dorm rooms. And yes the stairs from my top bunk always hurt my bare feel like hell when I wake everyone up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet down the hall way. But I’ll always choose a $25.- dorm room over a boring $100,- hotel room. There’s always a guitar in the corner and because of all the young people who hangout there it actually makes you younger I believe. I’m so happy with my YHA member card.

Into another Galaxy 915-1193km

Randomtrailtales 915-1193km: ‘Men can only enjoy that what requires hard work and toil. The harder you work for something, the more you enjoy that. If something is easy, how much reward is there?’ Quote from one of the only 12 finishers of the Barkley Marathon. I am no masochist but I’ve always enjoyed self-discipline challenges and in many ways these long distance hikes ‘thru’ countries are just that. I get pleasure out of embarking on and achieving these self imposed discipline challenges, the harder the Trail, the sweeter the after taste. Why? It’s hard to say, I was brought up in an amazing family which was somewhat Calvinistic with spartan holidays in the mountains where something could always be created out of nothing and that beauty could be achieved by a sober attitude towards life. A box of chocolates would last for two weeks in our family, as we each got one piece for desert in order for the box to last longer and no one touched the box during the daytime. In others families the box would be empty within an hour or less. The self-discipline challenges I create for myself have taken on all kinds of forms over the years such as my first ever diet 5 years ago when I wanted to get rid of my beer belly. I had been thin all my life and was lucky not to have to watch what I ate, but reality had caught up with me. I knew nothing about diets but gave myself the challenge to simply stop eating any form of ‘carbs’ for 6 months and found that the kilos came off surprisingly quickly. I was alarmed to learn that there are carbs in all kinds of foods and it was hard to stop drinking alcohol but the single mindedness of the no carb diet I had prescribed for myself was so clear and simple that it gave me pleasure as I was interesting to see if I could achieve my goal. I lost close to 8 kilos as well as my belly, but a year later it was back. It is perhaps somewhat sad to be running after all these self imposed goals to taste the achievement, but it is the nature of the beast I guess and it’s a great outlet for all my energy and ideas. I like to test myself and create strict unwritten rules to make the challenge as clean as possible. It also makes life so easy without all those choices. I fail many times and bend a few rules along the way as comfort and convenience get in the way, but by and large I always stick to my plan and finish it with blind single mindedness. As a ‘thru-hiker’ it is important for me to complete the Trail from North to South without hitching any of it. The clarity of this rule gives me peace of mind as I never have to ask myself if I should hitch a tough stretch of road walking or an industrial part of a big city as I have chosen to take the good and the bad that comes with this Trail. This single mindedness I find liberating but can also become dogmatic, conservative and inflexible. I have still a lot to learn from my 20 year old friend Goldie who told me ‘Oh f*ck that, I’m hitching the dangerous roads and going on many side trips and plan to learn to surf along the way, I have nothing to prove to myself!’ So here I am, more than twice his age and still very much proving things to myself and enjoying the taste of these achievements. Sure, everyone’s different, but I couldn’t help but wonder about all the fun he is having off Trail and that it can be very liberating to create and change the rules as you go, being free of your own imposed rules and challenges. Whatever, as I always say: ‘hitch your own hike dudes’ 😉 To me self-discipline is meant to liberate and not constrain the soul………… …………. ……….The girls and I set off walking at 5:30am as we embarked on a voyage to another Universe into the Tongarero Galaxy. We climbed up the active volcano bellowing hot gasses (that had irrupted only two years ago), and slowly all sense of time and space subsided. This arid Mars landscape was nothing like I had ever seen before, the rocky surface was bright red, yellow and black. As we scrambled up the volcano on our hands and knees the three jewels of the Universe became visible in the following valley. Three emerald lakes, each with extraordinary different colours, turquoise, green and yellow where Elves bathed and Unicorns grazed. I didn’t have the nerves to climb the 45 degree cone to the final summit as Earthlings die each year from falling stones, but I could count at least 25 bright raincoats climbing up the to the summit before my eyes. This was the perfect place for a photo-shoot I thought, so we transformed ourselves into Tongarero’s Next Top Models and took hundreds of pictures. The land was alive and I could feel a direct connection with the center of this planet as the hot sulfur gas flew up out of the holes beneath my feet. It was a long day before I returned to Earth that evening feeling blessed and excited to share all I had seen with my friends over a Burger …….. …………………. ………..I did my first ‘Fun Run’!! For those not familiar with the Netflix film The Barkley Marathon, a ‘Fun Run’ is 3 consecutive marathons within 60 hours. 42km, 42km, 49km and it felt great. Walking through the Pereora Forest along the Timber Trail through a beautiful forest. Other hikers had opted to do the 90 mile forest on mountain bikes, but we were surprised to complete it walking before most bikers……… …… …..In Taurumanui Sunny, Unicorn and I decided it was time for some well deserved luxury and stayed at Kelly’s Motel and instead of eating out we cooked a healthy meal and had a real ‘Girls Night in’, watching Netflix, eating lots of chocolate, drinking lots of wine, giggling and even a real pillow fight! I never knew that actually happens, but it was great. The following morning Goldie came for breakfast and shared his adventures with us. …………I walked into National Park Village to see a bunch of my dear hiker friends: Shroomer, Cayote, Sergio, and Sabine sitting at a pick nick table waiting for a bus. As they still had more than two hours to kill and I wouldn’t be seeing them for a while, I suggested I give a painting class right there and then to them all. We invited the two others ladies waiting for the bus to join us. I got everyone a piece of A4 paper from the cafe and we had to share my two paint brushes and four water colours amongst the nine of us. It was all triggered by one of the woman saying she simply can’t paint. ‘Can’t’ doesn’t exist in my book, I believe everyone is creative and CAN paint, you simply have to DO it, and let the water do the magic for you. I was strict and firm teacher as they applied the layers of colours, shouting ‘more water – wetter, wetter, wetter’. The hot noon sun dried each layer swiftly and within two hours we had all created beautiful paintings. I was proud of the class as there were excited smiles all around as we ended the class with a big group hug. What an amazing random afternoon, I was so happy…………………………Perhaps it’s time to share something about the Te Araroa Trail. It is only 7 years old and is increasing in popularity each year. The first year only 35 people walked it, and last year 550 people did it and I expect this year will be around 700. The people I meet on Trail are predominately from Europe with about 10% Kiwis and 5% from USA (who all happen to be Tripple Crowners). The trail zigzags through the north and South Island for 3000km and passes through federal DOC forests, a lot of private farm land and many connecting roads. The Trail takes approximately 4 to 5 months to complete and can be done northbound or southbound, I’m a SOBO. The male female ratio is 50%-50% with ages varying from 18 to 73 years old. The costs of doing the TA varies widely from a very extreme budget of €2000,- to €7000,-. 70% are hiking in Trail runners(up to 4 pairs), 25% in leather boots and 5% doing the entire Trail on sandals (mostly Bedrock sandals). I fully recommend it to everyone!

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Clouds 800-915km

Randomtrailtales 800-915km:

Lunch alone in nature can be such bliss. Stripping off my shoes and two pairs of hot sweaty socks to dry in the noon sun. My damp white wrinkly feet gasp for a breath of fresh air as they slowly dry up and come to their senses and the throbbing slowly subsides. I explode my pack around me in the shade to find what I’m looking for and make a parmasan cheese wrap. The primal sensation of feeling long grass under my feet and in between my toes must be hot wired into us as it feels so good and comforting. The bees and flies buzz loudly around my head as they attend to the midday chores and I try to make sense of what they are up to. As I lay on my back to rest, I see the the immense clouds floating above by and see a gigantic lion jumping out of a Viking ship. It reminds me of the fun podcast I heard a few weeks back about the this guy who founded the ‘cloud appreciation society’. The sky is in constant movement with ever changing shades of light as the clouds desolve or grow in front of my eyes. SPAT! is the sound of my hand crashing down on my leg as it terminates the life of a moscito……… ………… ……. …….I am now fully into ‘the physical phase’ of my journey as my body slowly hardens to this steep muddy wet trail. As I exit the forest that I have been living in for four days, I am totally exhausted mostly due to the extremely humid hot summer air that I am walking through. The dens fern Forest with it’s many slippery muddy goat paths is beginning to way down on me and for the past four days my body and mind feel heavy. I don’t allow space for dark thoughts in my head but my mind is slowly becoming empty and numb as my feet go into automatic pilot with their rhythmic crunch beneath me. After 900 km I feel my body is not quite there yet although my feet and legs are very strong and doing very well. It’s more my stomach and chest that are struggling to adapt as my stomach is very touchy with the transition from trail food to city food and contrast of boiled food to fried food is something my stomach can’t take and usually when I leave town after all the greasy sugary food I’m left with a day of the runs. My chest is still gasping for air as I climb the steep mountains and then plunge down to the river and then climb the next mountain. It’s something I’ll probably never hundred percent get used to but as my stamina and fitness slowly grows I hope that within a few weeks my body will be fully adjusted and hardened before I hit the wilder part of this trail down on the South Island….. ………. ……… I walked out of the town of Hamilton with the sight of a very dark sky hanging above the mountains I was about to embark on. Wasn’t that the one thing I had learn from my Mother, not to head into the mountains when there was a storm brewing? But I felt confident and cheerful accompanied by three others and we headed into the mountains anyway, after all the sun was still beating down on us very intensely. As the trail follow the road for a few kilometers it was actually so hot that the tarmac was bubbling. The suddenly the dark clouds above us seemed to form a round spiral circle and I looked up and in the middle of the circle that was the blue sky. We were in the eye of the storm and just at that moment the skies opened and all hell broke loose. As I put my rain gear on large hailstones as big as my thumb began falling on me and it hurt. I put my pack above my head as a shield but this wasn’t going to last, I looked around and saw a bridge the road had crossed 40 meters behind us. I shouted we should check it out and we climbed under the concrete structure to find a small ledge to sit dry under. I was so happy to be safe while the thunder storm now fully roared above the bridge with incredible amounts of rain plunging from the clouds. We made ourself comfortable, I cooked and even read a little and after two hours the sun came back out and we could head on. Oh New Zealand, you test us.

My little Unicorn 600-800km

Randomtrailtales 600-800km: It took me four days to walk through Auckland city. I had no desire to take a rest day in town as I was anxious to get the city behind me, but before I left we had a big party at the karaoke rock bar with the 15 hikers who were in town that night. The karaoke sound system was terrible but the singing was atrocious which made the night even more epic. The following day I headed out to walk to the airport, which was a strange sensation as one never walks to the airport, but the Trail took us there and as I aim to ‘true thru’ every step of the hike I can, I walked to the Airport along with the girls ‘Sunny’ and ‘My little Unicorn’. They’re great company, lots of laughs and we began pushing the miles with two 37km days. ‘My little Unicorn’ from Berlin is a talented young musician and professional Church Organ player, seamed a little quiet at first but is now teasing me constantly with all the BS I proclaim. It’s fascinating to share thoughts on religion and have discussions about life after death, but above all she laughs a lot and makes others around her feel happy. ‘Sunny’ is a fellow ‘88 Temples’ pilgrim and it’s amazing what she knows about so many trails around the world. She must have some kind of photographic memory as she knows all the details about each of the temples in Japan and also here on the Te Araroa she enjoys reading ahead on all the Trail notes and always has all the great insights as to where to camp for free, where to get the best apple pies, and forest closures. They are both strong hikers embracing the unknown of this Trail on their own terms. …….. …………..

Walking through the suburbs of Auckland there was no camping spot to be found so I suggested a game to make our urban adventure a bit more eventful. The challenge was to get a free place to sleep in someone’s garden or house. The girls would give innocent smiles (to compensate my hairy face and smell) and I would do the talking. I failed miserably asking a few surprised rugby Moms at the gas station if we could camp in their garden, so we walked on into the evening. We were now in the industrial part of town on a busy road towards a stone quarry. I counted more than 40 heavy trucks an hour passing us dangerously along Brookby Road. Things were not looking good for our free bed challenge, when our luck suddenly turned. It was past 19:00 when a silver Subaru stopped and asked me if I was doing the Te Araroa? When I told him I was, he told me he had done the Trail back in 2013. Just before he drove off I asked if it would be ok if we pitched our tents in his garden ( I had no idea where he lived or if he had a garden but it was worth one last try ) ‘Of course, get in’, ‘great, is it ok if my two friends come too?’ ‘Sure’ and off we went. Just a quick call to the Mrs to let her know we’re having you guys over’. It was amazing what followed. We pitched up our tents in they’re garden and were treated to a wholesome meal of fried pumpkin, lamb and chicken BBQ, and wine out of real wine glasses as well as a hot shower. To top it all off they made us a Saturday morning breakfast with pancakes, honey strawberries and coffee. Kandel kindly drove us back to the spot that he had picked us up the day before as we wanted to do all the miles. Kandal and Lidia you are true Trail Angles, thank you so much…………….. …….. You won’t believe it but guess who I pumped into on Trail yesterday: My dear friend ‘Savage’!!! We hugged and soon he remarked that I do something about my Trail Fashion as my outfit was much too black and boring. Before I knew it he had given me his neon orange shorts and a pair of his ‘Pit Viper’ ski goggles. These new items would not only give me some Trail swag, he told me, they would also help drivers see me during road walks and protect my eyes from the extremely intense white sunlight which had been making me physically sick the last week. Savage Dude, so good to see you again, can’t wait to see where we will next meet. …………. …………. …………..A few days after leaving Auckland behind us the weather was getting extremely hot and humid, I would be drenched in sweat all day and had to drink a lot to keep hydrated. It was a refreshing relief when we found a spot to sleep under the Hunua waterfalls with drop more than 40 meters into a dormant volcano crater. As the last tourists left we had the crater to ourselves and soon fell asleep to the roaring sound of the plunging water. God I feel so fortunate to be able to walk………

Strangers 450-600km

Randomtrailtales 450 – 600 km. Why is it I never allow strangers into my life at home, and yet I feel I learn and grow the most by the humbling hospitality of strangers I meet on the Trail? Is it that I have no time for strangers in my over full life, always in a slight rush, unaware of the small conversations to be had on the street, to pick up a hitchhiker or welcome a homeless person for a meal at my table. Am I scared of what they represent in one place and yet I am now just as they are, living on the street, long beard, smelling terribly and yet so many strangers are welcoming me into their homes, cars and lives with so much enthusiasm. And to be honest they are forming the highlights of this Trail. A few nights back there were seven of us invited to stay the night at Allen’s, the local guitar teacher, at his beautiful house in Mangawhai. We made music together way past hiker midnight (8 o’clock) and I enjoyed making a large painting on wood for him. He taught us Mauri chants and sang Crowded House songs. I had the living room all to myself that night and slept like a king on his floor. In this short time we had forged a special bond with Allen and Lisa and It was heartfelt to say farewell. The following day I walked through more endless rain and was surprised to be invited in for a cup of coffee to shelter from the rain by a man whose farmland the Trail cut through. Dave’s wife Sue shortly joined us and we exchanged stories and I was fascinated to hear their tale of their immigration in 1987 and what their motivations had been to move, which are not too surprising if you looked out over their tropical version of England which they left behind them. They gave me the number of their daughter down south and insisted I stay with her when I passed her town. Wow! What a gesture! I packed up, thanked them and moved on into the rain. It’s a theme I have yet to think more about the coming months as I look for a form to incorporate it into my life back home. Strangers are friends I simply haven’t met before. ……………………… ………Please help remind me why I am doing this Trail!!!! I woke to another day of rain on my tent and was faced with only two simple options. Stay in my bed for a few days to wait out the rain and slowly die of hunger as my food ran out, or put all my wet cold clothes back on and face another 11 hours walking through muddy rainforests with nowhere to hide. There is nothing more demoralizing, but the beauty of life out here is that there really are few options and there’s no one to hear your complaints, so you simply put on your wet clothes and get walking to warm up your body and see what is behind the next mountain. The only thing I knew about New Zealand before coming here was that it was beautiful and very diverse and that day I experienced exactly what that meant. As the rain stopped after lunch I left the murky forest behind me to find the Trail take me down a steep rocky cliff to a uninhabited white tropical beach which just went on for hours. The sun came out and I exploded my pack out around me to dry all my wet belongings during my lunch break. I slowly came to my senses and peered out over the ocean looking for dolphins but in vain. Instead I stripped and ran into the sea to celebrate that fact that the rain was behind me, at least for now. The day ended with 7 kilometers of dangerous road walking which brought the song back into my head by crowded house ‘four seasons in one day’, it really does feel like that out here, everything is constantly changing and you have to adjust to the weather, the Trail and the people you meet………. ………… …………. I have had to do many river crossings, but nothing like the one at Still Water where we had to cross a sea estuary at low tide. The first two attempts I lost contact with the bedding and quickly returned to shore with my pack high above my head. On my third attempt much closer to the sea itself I finally made it across with the water reaching my armpits. I returned without my pack to see if I could assist any of the others and to my surprise I met Goldie in the middle of the current. ‘Goldie’, you know my big friend from the PCT. ‘Hey Dickhead’ he shouted and I couldn’t believe my eyes. How cool was this, I was so happy to see him. As we walked into Auckland along the beach he told me all about his adventures. He was sporting an incredibly small backpack which he had made himself and bosted a base weight of 3.5kilos INcluding his Ukelele. He told me one crazy story that his he hadn’t managed to totally complete his backpack before leaving and had managed to find someone at a thrift store within two hours after arriving in Auckland who had a sewing machine at her home. This Maori lady, sang him a local welcome song on his Ukelele and has now adopted him as her grandson. True to Goldie’s life mantra, haters always gonna hate, I’ll find a way. The Trail provides, The Trail provides…………… …………….. ……..Sometimes it feels as though all the roots of all the worlds trees come together in the magical forests of New Zealand reaching through the earth. The Trail is often one big spaghetti tangle of all kinds of roots that intertwine on the surface of the wet forest floor. Other roots turn into vines as they continue upwards into other trees creating an intricate web which we have to work our ways through. Many of the indigenous trees like the Kouri’s stand tall for more than 900 years and it is these trees on which San Fransisco was built in the late 1800’s as timber became New Zealand’s most important export trade, but also became and endangered species in the process with many birds and plants now extinct…………….. …………..A special request from my Swiss friend Wale Egli about music on the Trail. I must say I listen to a lot less music than in previous trails as the TA requires a lot of concentration both in the mud as on the dangerous road sections. I am also still very much enjoying the unfamiliar sounds from the birds in the forest and the soothing break of the surf. I am listening to a lot of podcasts to get me through the tough days. Mostly NPR Rough Translation (check out the incredible story about the Somalian prison) and NPR TedHour and Keep Your Day Dream. The music I listen to is a lot of Bob Dylan, Ilse de Lange, Mozart Requiem, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Handel, Brahms, Dire Straits, Donna Summer, Supertramp, Stones, DJ Hardwel, Billy Joel and my guilty pleasures Robbie Williams and Paul de Leeuw. (Please let me know if you have any requests or questions)

Typical day on the trail. 250-450km

Randomtrailtales 250 – 450 km. One year ago, at the end of my PCT Trail I gave myself 5 goals in the hope to hold onto some of the new insights I had gained during my time in the wilderness. But how would these goals play out in the reality of everyday life back in civilization? Now, one year on, I can look back and asses what has come of these dreams and what challenges I faced in applying these resolutions. [1] ‘Be frugal, spend less & save more’: It’s surprisingly hard to stop spending I found. Buying stuff & services makes life so much easier and comfortable and before I knew it I was spending money on silly unnecessary things like I used to. The temptations are so strong, it’s hard to resist, it’s like an addiction. However we did make a switch in our spending behavior and religiously started saving to pay off bits of the mortgage which was surprisingly satisfying. Saving for new trails also proved to be a great incentive to stop spending. [2] ‘Be more flexible’: Becoming more flexible in my attitude towards obstacles that came in my way were a daily challenge and proved perhaps to be the hardest of my goals to achieve as the stress of work regained it’s grip on my attitude. My hope to appreciate the moment more was definitely very strong in the initial months as I strolled to and from work through the streets of Amsterdam, but before long I was back in my old ways stressing about the future. A lot of work still to be done there. [3] ‘Micro Adventures every month with each of my kids’: The challenge I most enjoyed was that of the many Micro Adventures with my children. With a new sense of urgency I dived into my one on one time with each of them, although not all kids like camping. My initial goal of going on monthly trips proved hard to schedule in their busy lives, but I was fortunate to go on many memorable adventures with them. Camping 10 minutes from my house, going on long walks, dining at the Amstel Hotel, or simply shopping and talking over a drink. I can’t wait to continue these when I return in the spring. [4] ‘Write & publish within two years’: Writing is a new craft I have fully dived into and I have found it to be very rewarding but also very confronting. I joined the ‘International Writers Collective’ writing course with 8 other ladies (which I can fully recommend). I discovered that writing is a lot of hard work, can make you very insecure but challenges you to be creative and use your imagination. I was asked to write and publish a magazine for Adformatie which was a great deal of work but allowed me to interview people that inspire me. As for the book, I’d prefer to talk about that once it’s done, you’ll be the first to hear. [5] ‘Do more trails’: After returning from the PCT my Wife also went on long walk to Santiago by herself while I looked after the family and I could see a new possible rhythm in our life where we spend time together as a family and time alone. By this time the kids had gotten pretty used to the idea too and their reaction to my Wife’s plan of doing the Camino kind of said it all: ‘Well How long are you going for?’ They asked. ‘About four weeks’ she replied. ‘Oohhhh, that’s nothing! No worries, if it makes you happy, go for it’. And that was that. The law of Pavlov had proven itself I guess…………………………………………My dear friend Hidde van Kersen sent me a request: ‘could you describe a typical day on the trail’. I’ll do my best, here goes: I awake by the shreeking cry of two possums fighting in the trees above me at around 6:00 when the sun rises. I let the air flow out of my sleeping mat, resulting in me lying on the cold earth which is a great wake up call to get moving. I dress and pack my bag from within my tent and only have to add the tent to my backpack, all of which I can do in under half an hour. As soon as I’m packed I head out, and open a muesli bar as I walk. I’ve never been a big breakfast guy, find it simply takes a lot of time & gas and I’m not a talker in the mornings. Heading out early as the first on the trail also means I have the woods to myself and have a good chance of seeing some wild animals and birds. But mostly I’m swallowing spiderwebs. A second protein bar gets me to lunch. The scenery changes every few hours, I usually have wet feet by 9:00 as there are always many rivers to cross. The trail is thin, single file and goes through dens forests and rolling meadows where you can sprain your ankle with every step due to the deep cow footprints in the wet grass. The trail takes us from national forest and private land but is often connected by long road walking where I have to avoid the racing cars for up to 15 km. I use my orange backpack cover over my chest to alert the cars for safety. Lunch is usually after 15km and I try to take a swim in the sea or the river if I can and soon the other hikers appear to join me for lunch as we exchange experiences of the night and plans for the days ahead. Lunch is a wrap with cheese or meat and some hot noodles and a snickers for desert. I carry 2 to 4 liters of water depending on how long the stretch is between rivers and filter every liter I drink. Depending on how intense the trail is I listen to music or a podcast for a few hours as I haul myself over the steep mountains. My merino wool long sleeve shirt is drenched in sweat by this time and when I finally reach a suitable place to camp between 17:30 and 19:00 I always keep my wet shirt on as I have found that my warm body will dry it while I set up my tent and cook, meaning I don’t have to put on a cold wet shirt in the morning. I always set my tent up immediately while I’m still in the momentous of the hike. For starters I always have Japanese Miso soup followed by dinner of pasta, mash or noodles, jazzed up with tuna, cheese or crisps. Tea before I head to bed at 19:30pm. However, no day is the same and there are always unexpected challenges to overcome and inspiring conversations along the way. Should anyone else have a special request question, please let me know, I would be happy to address it…………………….. ………. I’ve been hiking with a fun 23 year old chap from Belgium who has yet to choose his trail name as all the names I’ve suggested are not good enough. He proudly introduces me to day-hikers we meet on the trail and tell them he is doing this long hike with his Grandfather, the cheeky bastard. He has an uplifting positive attitude to life which he acclaims to walking the Camino a few years ago. It’s great to hear his pioneering thoughts and dreams as he eyes up pieces of land along the coast here in NZ to settle and make a future………………… ……………..Fear gripped my heart with a sudden shock as the dark blue sky above me lit up with bright veins of light followed by rumbles in the distance. This was no time to be alone with a mountain in front of me. I stood, looked and didn’t dare go forward, turned around and started pacing back to the safety of civilization. Only to change my mind a few minutes later as I bumped into two fellow hikers who greeted me cheerfully and marched on into the rainy cloud ahead. Somehow, and don’t ask me why, it was less scary to go into the storm with two others than alone. I asked if could tag along as they only planned to do another 10 km. Although I felt a bit safer with them, my mind was working overtime to asses the clouds and winds whirling around my ears. When it finally started pelting down with rain I decided to call it quits and rang the doorbell of the last B&B on the trail. However the $140 a night for the guest house was a bit too pricey for me, even with a storm waiting for me outside. ‘Well you are welcome to come in for some tea and wait out the rain’, the owner said. The trail provides and my fellow hikers from Wales and USA soon joined me around their kitchen table for some Earl Grey. This was perfectly timed trail magic and while we talked I was happy to return their hospitality with an Ossetia water colour painting I made for them of their stunning sea view overlooking the Whangerei Heads. There is so much spontaneous trail magic on my path from people who have no knowledge of the trails existence what so ever, as the trail has only been fully completed 7 years ago. Taking the time to speak to strangers on the street and cafe owners is giving me a real understanding of the people and local history.

100 to 250 km. Glorious Mud.

Randomtrailetales 100km – 250km. It’s as if everything smells stronger down here in NZ, and with things I mean me. It probably has something to do with the fact that everything is damp due to the rain and sweat. Plus I haven’t showered for six days. The hiking is tough, no easy graded trails for horses here. It’s straight up and over the steep volcanic mountains as we tramp through the dens forest. More like jungle really full of ferns, palm trees, and endless colours of moss. With only a small clearing along the trail to set up my tent, I make some dinner in the rain, and feel happy and alive……………………It seems as if this trail is for Ladies and Lovers. The happy couples generally keep to themselves, but how come it attracts so many solo Ladies? Perhaps it is because there are less preditors in NZ, less red necks with guns without mental health insurance, less bears, snakes and deserts. Don’t get me wrong, they are all bad ass solo hikers who out pace me to the summit. The TA is a really wet 3000 km thru hike that attracts people from all over the world. For the past 9 days I have been hiking with a fun gang of 4 Ladies and 1 guy and by chance we all happen to be 31 years old (at least that’s what I tell myself). Two from Germany (with a touch of Norway), two Belgium and a fellow Dutchy, exchanging stories, having fun and feeling safe in the woods together. The mountains are taking their toll with a surprising amount of injuries taking 25% of the hikers off the trail to recover. Infected blisters, sun shock, swollen ankles and nervous breakdowns. This is no easy trail………………………….What is it with America and Drugs? Last year on the PCT you couldn’t avoid the wif of dope at every water source and campsite, out here in NZ with predominantly Europeans and Kiwis I haven’t seen a single joint in two weeks on the trail. Quite a contrast…………………….. One of the best questions I got during the past year while giving talks about my hiking experiences came from Mayke Boswerger who asked me whether I felt it was necessary to go far away on a long walk to empty your head and revitalize yourself? I took some time to think it over and answered that: No I don’t believe it’s necessary to go far away on a long walk. Of course you can find those things at home, but I’ve found it to be a lot easier to find it in the woods. At home it requires a whole lot of discipline, with meditation, yoga and going to bed early in order to ’empty your head and get some reflection’ during the full life. It all becomes a little holy and heavy, and although I can’t ignore that hiking is also a little pretentious, you can achieve so much with so little effort by simply walk 12 hours a day. Automatically your head becomes empty, it’s also a matter of taking physical distance from everyday life for me. It’s easy and a whole lot of fun. ……………………..I love insurances, not quite sure why (we all have our fetishes), and I have plenty of them while out here in the woods to cover my ass. Medical of course, AOV disability and Broodfonds disability. Then there’s the red SOS button on my ‘personal location beacon’ to activate the rescue chopper should anything happen to me in the backcountry ( two hikers have already been rescued here on the TA in the past two weeks). I love my ‘hospital plane insurance’ that will bring me to any hospital in the world of my choice should I be hospitalized down under ( because Herminia doesn’t fly and therefore couldn’t come to visiting hours). My phone is insured as it is my lifeline with GPS maps and trail notes. There is the life insurance on the house but the biggest insurance is of course Herminia who always stands as a rock at my side. But I also have quite some insurances on my back that I carry up every mountain and it’s time to let go of a few items to lighten my load. Insurances are after all based on fear, the more you let go, the freer you become ( or was that something else?) Anyway, I got rid of 1.5 kilos of clothes today, sending them to my dear friend Bushwhack in Auckland. Less stuff is more pleasure while I walk, and if I get cold I’ll simply have to set up my tent and get into my sleeping bag. Feeling quite chuffed with my base weight now being 6 kilos. ………………………..There is an extraordinary group of migrating birds here in NZ. They flock from Germany with a little ring in their nose and come to work in the kiwi farms and mate in backpacker hostels during their gap year before returning home the following season. There are literally thousands of them all chattering German in the communal hostel kitchen, having the time of their lives……………………Kia Kaha

Te Araroa

Randomtrailtales 0km – 100km: And so it begins, setting out to walk to the end of the world on the ‘Te Araroa Trail’ from the very North to the South of New Zealand…………………Big Up for Herminia and the kids for supporting and being part of this lifestyle we live together and alone. You’re the best. I’m a lucky & proud little bastard…………………..The bus driver to the starting point of the trail at Cape Reinga gave me a few last bits of advice about the tides as I set out to walk the first four days across the 90 mile beach which, as it turned out, I had practicly all to myself. As most people in the far North, Daniel was Mauri and was covered in traditional tattoos. He had a beautiful smile and we got talking and he told me that the ink had taken him seven years so far due to the traditional tattoo craftsman who didn’t work by appointment but would simply turn up at random times at his home to continue his work with the whale bone needles. Daniel had requested a sacred old design on his arm, only he found that he had to wait two years before receiving permission and a blessing from the elders to continue……………………’what am I doing here?’ Kept flashing through my head as I wondered the streets of Auckland organizing the final permits and mountain shelter passes. It had been Goldie who had inspired me with the simple thought, ‘Dude, I’m going to extent my summer for one and a half years, I’m going to do the TA’. The pure simplicity and sheer stupidity of the thought hadn’t left my mind since and before I knew it it had captured my imagination to the point of booking the flight down under. But now it was real, ‘what was I thinking, I want to go home’, I missed the kids terribly and called my wife twice a day. It was only when I was finally out in the wilderness, alone and unconnected that I could relax, the nature was overwhelming…………………………………….Intreagued by the podcast ‘NPR TEDhour about ‘Extrasensory’ I thought i’d try an experiment to train my listening skills by walking blind. I was, after all, walking on an endless wide empty beach for days. I closed my eyes and tried to listen to all the different channels of sound around me. The sea to my right, with each individual wave crashing down as well as the distant hiss and low roars within the breaking wave. The wind hauling around my ears in uneven gushes, and the general high constant hiss of the air. The five different bird songs to my left with their rhythmic high pitches and fast patterns. The soft crunch of my feet, the squeak of the plastic in my shoe and occasional crack of a shell under my feat. Not a single step sounded the same. I heard my cloths brush and the rythmic squeaks from the straps on my backpack. I heard my own body from within as it resounded through my bones giving low hard thuds of my knees and hips taking a blow through the impact of every step. Perhaps the clearest thing I could hear were my own thoughts racing at incredible speed desifering all I perceived. After some time I dared to walk for up to quarter of an hour without opening my eyes and found that I now had to navigate my environment through sound, judging distance. It was very hard to get a feel for space without sight and I soon found myself walking straight into the sea. The TEDtalk was so good it nearly made me cry: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/283440560/extrasensory

Kia Kaha: stay strong