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.