It’s an interesting observation when you realise that your body has started to accept its new routine of walking all day…every day. I remember before leaving home reading other hiker’s blogs, talking of walking huge days of 40km and thinking to myself “Pff….well I won’t be doing that any time soon thank you very much!” But within the first few weeks I found myself having done a 40km day and it actually wasn’t that difficult.
Before this journey the longest I had ever walked in one day was 30km (without a pack).
Before this journey the longest I had ever hiked with a pack was 65km (over 5 days!).
And now I find myself in Auckland having hiked over 500km, still with a few thousand odd to go. Best not to think about it….
The last few weeks have seen me trek a lot of the northern east coast of New Zealand, along beaches and coastal cliff top paths, past beautiful little coastal bays with dotted with dream homes and ‘baches’ (the New Zealand beach or holiday home), across muddy estuaries, and through a few more muddy forests. In the past when I’ve thought of New Zealand the mind conjures images of impressive snow capped mountains and wilderness. I had not realised there were so many beautiful blue swimming beaches and lush flower filled coastal settlements as well.
Coastal walking is lovely but does require some planning to avoid high tides, and in places the official route requires that you coerce a local boatie into giving you a lift across a harbour or river which does add an element of vagueness to the schedule.
It was a weird feeling drawing closer to Auckland, hiking the northern beaches, flanked by amazing houses and filled with Sunday beach-goers. I picked my way through swinsuit clad bodies smelling of scented sunscreen and perfume, with my huge pack on, still with mud from the Dome Forest caked to the bottom of my pants.
Over the last month I have bumped into perhaps 15 other hikers on the trail. Everyone has their own goals and plans with a few planning to religiously hike every kilometre of the trail, a few choosing to hike the ‘interesting’ bits and skip the road sections, and others who are limited by time just doing one island. Some are on a mission to hike from dawn to dusk, whilst for others its more a journey of meeting as many interesting people as they can and accumulating experiences. To quote one of the guys I have been hiking with for the last week, our pace is ‘not crazy, but not lazy’. Generally I’ve been on the trail between 8-9.30am, and setting up camp between 5-7pm, with a rest day every 6 days or so. My feet have reached a point where the ‘cankles’ have subsided, and blisters no longer require daily taping. Pain is a daily occurrence but you learn to live with it and focus on the good bits.
It is difficult to maintain a rhythm long term that exactly matches other hikers, so from Auckland I will venture forth on my own. Time to study the maps and see what I can expect from the next few weeks!