• flickr
  • linkedin
  • twitter
  • rss
Te Araroa Days 17-21: to Paihia and a return home (temporarily!)

Te Araroa Days 17-21: to Paihia and a return home (temporarily!)

Fists balled at my sides, I take a deep breath and shout with all my might –

“FUUUUCK!”

In the movies we’d cut to a top shot, to crows flying away, disturbed. But this is reality. There’s no-one to care, and not even the cicadas pay my greatest anguish a cursory silence.

I stand deflated. Before I shouted, I was walking Te Araroa. Now I’m just walking home.

 

My foot is much improved from my three day break in Kerikeri. Ready or not it doesn’t matter – I am out of food and nights to stay, so I don my boots and tentatively hit the path, returning to Te Araroa.

I’m chuffed to be out again, walking; I feel light, elated. But all too quickly I brush my heel on a turned sidewalk, and a flash of bone-shaking pain sparks up my shin. All is not well in ankle-town. I put the pain in a box, unwilling to accept what my body is telling me. It’s a beautiful day, and a 4-5hr stroll over to Paihia; I can get there and then make a call.

Kemp House and the Stone Store

From the Stone Store I climb over the historic Pa site and walk the road toward Paihia. More road, more sidewalk? You bet! But it’s OK – the sun shines, it is a beautiful day. I make myself stop for a proper 15 minutes each hour to rest my feet, drink and eat.

Soon enough I reach the gravel road leading through the Waitangi forest. This was gifted to the nation by British Lord Bledisloe back in the 1930s, in recognition of the national significance of the area. Kerikeri’s Stone Store is where European missionaries first set up to spread the gospel, and they were accepted by the local iwi who recognised the trading opportunities. Kororareka (Russell opposite Paihia) is New Zealand’s first European settlement – in many ways, this is the birthplace of modern New Zealand.

Waitangi forest is a pine plantation, under active logging operations. The pine needles are blessedly soft beneath my soles and I take it easy strolling along in the three columns split across the gravel. There’s a mountain bike park in here too, and signs pop up marking the routes. They have neat names, like ‘Nigel’s Nostrils’ and ‘Dead Possum’ which must make for fun mountain bike talk. “Great camber in Nigel’s Nostrils!”

I sit beneath a pine enjoying the view of the growing bush beneath. Kiwi have been reintroduced here, and I can hear the rumblings of forestry work across the valley. The forest seems to be a successful example of balancing the competing aspects of New Zealand’s environment – extracting value/pillaging, active enjoyment, and ecology.

Pineing

Does a shotgun shell manufacturer CEO say ‘the buck shots here’ when accepting responsibility?

I stagger along. There is 25km of road today. As the kilometres drift slowly by, I know my foot isn’t better, and it isn’t going to get better like this. I take some time to come to terms with it, cycling through failure, embarrassment, disgrace, weakness. I swear at my foot, all the worst things I can think of. I apologise. I have made unreasonable demands and been inattentive.

Fists balled at my sides, I take a deep breath and shout with all my might –

“FUUUUCK!”

The sun shines, the toitoi wave lightly in the breeze, and the birds continue to chirp, like I never exploded.

I realise, just as nature has no concept of my failure, nor would it have celebrated my success. This is all in my head. It’s a calming thought – none of it matters. I had wanted to tell the tale of a perfect, A-B crossing of Aotearoa. I can’t do that now. But that doesn’t matter either – I only have one body, and while I may wish it were a little more genetically robust, it’s what I’ve got to work with, and it’s doing alright. A bit of down-time is not unheard of, and not the end of the world.

I creep in to the Waitangi Holiday Park, 8hrs 20 since I left Kerikeri (4-5hrs my arse thanks trail notes). Paihia is another 2km along, but I just can’t do it. Enjoyably, the computer system there remembers me and I pitch up in the exact spot I stayed years back.  It is just as beautiful and helps me contextualise the day as just another chapter in my larger story.

At Waitangi Holiday Park

I make hay of the pain, but it isn’t so bad as to dissuade me from shuffling 1.5km return to Countdown for beer, chips and a salad. It’s a momentous night of sorts, and I am sick of tramping food!

Earned it!

It is not my finest sleep; I don’t want to exist. But I do, and I take a slow morning. I decide to walk the last 2km to Paihia today, my last mind-over-matter moment for the time being. If I needed encouragement to slow and smell the flowers, my foot gives it – a 0.5kmph shuffle seems ideal. But I don’t mind; it’s a stunning last day in the Bay!

Waitangi

Collapsing onto the Intercity bus for the 4hr 30 trip to Auckland, I watch the landscape roll by out the window. There go the townships host to my fellow walkers, there goes my future. Shit it’s a long walk.

Eventually we pass through the beige sprawl of boring houses without trees that symbolise growing Auckland. With the majority of our 60,000 new migrants a year settling here, it gets bigger every visit.

Auckland looking alright from the bridge

At the depot I need to change buses. The airport bus clientele are 90% Asian, and the Maori driver gives me an insight into modern Auckland.

The bus door slowly opens, stopping when it hits a guy busy chatting away on his phone. “Move away from the door!” the woman commands. The man speaks, not English. “Are you talking to me or on your phone?”

She ticks us off the passenger list from our last names. “Just say it, don’t spell it, you might be surprised!” she says more than once. “Give me a name” she repeatedly asks, the irritation just barely hidden under the surface. When I give her mine she practically revels in the ease of it; we share a language.

I wait an hour at the Auckland bus stop and my white ass is definitely in the small minority. I know Auckland’s Asian population is booming, but I am surprised to see how much in the minority I am doing something so mundane as go to the airport. The parallel of how it must have been for Maori 200 years ago when the British settled is not lost to me. Looking to the future, I should probably learn a bit of Mandarin instead of just eating them. (Maori of 200 years ago probably said the same, replacing Mandarin for English. [just edgy wordplay!].)

Back in Wellington, I return to Mum’s spare room. My rollbag from when I left is still here, holding the stuff I left in the car at Cape Reinga. It’s only been three weeks really, but it feels like a lifetime ago.

I go to my GP. He has me read my book for 45 minutes, then wobble into his room and tell him about Te Araroa for five minutes. He types some shit about my walk into the computer to get that sweet Government subsidy, then turns and smiles – “GPs don’t do teeth or feet. Here’s the card of a man who does”. Hards me a card for a podiatrist. I pay $35 for this privilege.

I’d never charge someone for that. I shout FUCK again in the car.

Off to the podiatrist tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll help a little more than saying “wait until it doesn’t hurt, that’s $90”.

I may be down, but I am not out – I shall be returning to Paihia to continue my adventure once I am back in action. I have 92% of the trail yet to discover! Despite my almost continuous problems on this initial leg, I am still optimistic. The actual tramping day was the business, I just did not appreciate the volume of road walking, nor the toll the easy fast walking takes. All good lessons, learning, and part of my story of Te Araroa.

As for my brain; I feel like I was just getting into the groove, and now am rudely pulled back into my regular world (minus any independence). I’m like a caterpillar, just preparing for metamorphosis, and some dick has poked me off the leaf. I shall have to climb back up and start again – it’s still butterfly or bust!

Lame-o

Tramping Trips:

Larry's a 30-something chap interested in travel, being a dork and changing the world via less boring training.

5 Comments

  1. Sian · October 25, 2018 Reply

    Oh wow, this really is like Hunt for the Wilderpeople! So remember; from the injury onwards is where the best tramping happens;)

  2. Catherine · October 26, 2018 Reply

    Good on you for giving your foot time to heal. I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures after you have had time to recover and can return to the trail!

  3. Chris · October 26, 2018 Reply

    This is an exceptional piece, Log. Your writing is awesome.

Leave a reply