It’s a jungle out there!

I’ve just emerged from the forests of the Far North, dirty, tired, sore and not quite smelling of roses…. It’s been an adventure!  I passed through the Herekino and Raetea Forests which were particularly rugged and dense.  There were some long 10-11 hour days, bashing our way through thick lush forest filled with long vines that constantly tried to wrap their tendrils around your foot or your pack.  The ground was a tangle of tree roots covered in slippery mud, and often very steep in places.  It was exhausting and claustrophobic being so wrapped in a dark forest for so long with the ferns and bushes high overhead and forcing you to push your way through.  I half expected to come across a family of mountain gorillas – if you can imagine David Attenborough bashing through a Rwandan forest with a machete-wielding guide, it was that kind of forest… (N.B.  the photo above was taken early in the day when I was blissfully unaware of the ordeal that lay ahead).
Following this, we headed into the Omahuta and Puketi Forests which saw us walking along the riverbed for around 7km.  It was a stunning walk with the river overhung with lush trees, ferns and palms.  The water was clear and swept lazily over a bed of pebbles – up to thigh deep in places. 
But it is the sporadic sections of road or gravel that are a real killer on the feet.  Carrying 18kg-ish with super stiff boots is extremely unforgiving.  My poor feet are unrecognisable to me now.  Feet swollen and fat (I’ve got ‘cankles’!), I was forced to purchase some walking runners today for the easier sections.
I’m currently having a rest day in Kerikeri and will continue on tomorrow to Ngunguru which will take about 5 days.
So 225km down, 2775km to go.  Apparently we’re about one-fifteenth of the way there which sounds much better!
bye for now

Solo on Ninety Mile Beach

Nothing like ticking off a few ‘firsts’ in one go… Not only my first solo hike but my first 100km hike on a beach!  It was very challenging but at the same time very exhilarating and totally immersed me head first into nature.  Just the way I like it.

Unfortunately Belle and I had to part ways after the first 6 hours due to a flare up of an old hip injury of hers, but after a shuffle of equipment between packs I headed on down the long and empty beach on my own.  All boundaries disappeared as the full realisation hit me that I was out in the middle of nowhere with no one around for miles.  Just me and the birds, the waves, the seashells, jellyfish, driftwood, and the wind.  Camping in the dunes, going to sleep with the sunset and waking up with the sunrise.

Over four and a half days I hiked along the long and largely straight coastline.  With very few reference points to navigate from, the GPS was extremely handy for letting me know exactly where I was, and for helping me find the stream beds for topping up water supplies (or dry dream beds as was often the case).  It’s very disappointing when water is getting low to find the ‘stream’ marked on the map  is in actual fact a damp area densely filled with reeds and trampled on the edges by wild horses hooves.  Not an ideal place to fill up.  On day three I was forced to camp with only 1 1/2 litres of water to last me until the end of the next days hike.  To top it off, that next days hike saw me high in the soft sand dunes as the king tides swallowed up my lovely firm beach.  For the last hour and a half I staggered like Lawrence of Arabia over the dunes, tripping over grass roots buried in the sand, gasping for water.  With about 100 ml of water left I made it to Hukatere where a water tank was a very welcome sight.

So what does one do whilst walking alone on Ninety Mile Beach?  Put the headphones in and have a little boogie while you walk of course!  (After a quick check to make sure there are no 4WD’s sneaking up).

So in four and a half days of hiking I got sunburnt, pelted on by bullets of rain, and walked for hours on unforgiving hard flat sand.  Once you figure out how to turn the pain receptors off it was really enjoyable and I was on a high afterwards. 

Today is my second rest day in Kaitaia and tomorrow I begin an apparently tough and steep journey through the forests from west coast to the east coast which will take another week. 

Until then friends….

Speed bumps turning to mountains !!

Week one and it feels like I have been here a year !!!

– by Belle Keynes Tozer

I arrived in New Zealand amped with anticipation for our epic journey which lay ahead of us.

The trip over was as silky and smooth as my ragdoll kitten, I could not believe how easily everthing fell into place. Normally my trips start like the fierce blowing wind of a catergory 5 tornado, rushing out the door leaving a choas of destruction in my wake. Not this time, as I waited in the departure lounge I even had time to play with the camera settings on my new Canon video camera.

A sheepish thought crossed my mind that maybe this was just the beginning of the new me, the new me that was awaiting to shed the skin of the old me. Always late, always rushed and always busy. Now was the time for peace, calm and tranquility. I was supposed to arrive in Kaitaia the day after Laura but it appeared her trip over was not so smooth, delayed flights, thunder, lightning and a scenic flight over the top of Kaitaia before being directed back to Auckland, bummer for her, yay for me as it gave me the day spare to check out the local surf break. I hooked up with the guys at NZ Surf Bros and they are an epic bunch of humans,. If you are up in Northland they can hook you up with board rentals, wetsuits and they have all the local knowledge and epic accommodation right on the beach. Look them up and they can sort you out.

I had no idea Kaitaia was the gate way to one of New Zealand’s best waves, lucky for me the waves were up and I got to see shipwreck bay in all its glory, how could I be so blessed.

That evil voice in my head spoke to me, your not, dont be a fool, your doom is coming. I reminded myself that my old self was going to be desperate to hang on, desperate not to lose the war within myself. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe and the voice was gone.

Laura finally arrived and we prepared for our trek !! The day finally arrived and we were bright with enthusiasm on our way to the starting point of Cape Reinga, and oh what a sight it was. The sky a shade of torqoise blue, beams of sun warmed our tingly skin and the view melted our hearts. We stood on the cape breathing in the salt air and together we took our first steps along “The Land of The Long White Cloud”

Less than one hour into the journey the evil voice in my head would rear its monstrous self as a niggle started to appear in my right hip. “Its too far, you can’t make it, your hips not up to it”. I told it to shut up but the voice continued and the pain bore through my hip like a meat grinder gnawing away at slaughtered cow. By the time we hiked to our first camp site less than 12km away I could barely walk, I knew it was bad, I knew it could be over before it began.

My evil self and my happy positive self began their rounds in the boxing arena. You cant make it, yes you can, no you cant, yes you can. Your a failure, no your not, yes you are. Which voice would win, which one would I choose to feed. Night fall came but sleep did not, as I lay under a million twinkling stars each one blinking with creativity and inspiration I was a broken woman.

I simply could not trek on in this state. I was in shock, how could this be possible. I thought I would get dizzy, I did not imagine in my wildest imagination that my hip would give in. I kept telling myself the morning would come and all would be ok. It was not. I could not go on. Reality hit like a brick in the face, I could not trek on, not today and not like this. I had no other option but to go back to town and get some treatment.

I had to turn around on day two and 20km into a 3000km trek. How could this be. The evil voice had won this battle, it was he that I fed, he that snickered I told you so, each word breaking my heart into a million little pieces.

So alone, so desperate as I waved Laura on, she trekked off alone into the distance.

What to do now, the only thing I could, I burried my head in my hands and I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed. Back in Kaitaia I await for Laura’s return and our next move. What is my plan b, I have to have a plan b. I had after all named my business Plan B Media cos plan A never works out. What will it be, well you will have to wait and see !!