I’ve passed 900 kilometers…can’t believe that I’ve done almost a third of the trail already! Time flies but at the same time, it feels like I haven’t been in Sweden for years…
The rest day in Hamilton was a really good choice, I spent it on resupplying food, eating a lot of food and drinking coffee in a proper mug at Starbucks, studying my maps and trailnotes, planning for the next section to reach the next town. It’s impossible to plan more than one section at a time, you’re getting tired only by thinking about how many hundreds and thousands kilometers you have ahead.
Got out of town very early the day after and did a strong and pretty easy 40k day to the Kaniwhaniwha Campsite, just by the foot of Mount Pirongia. I met a German girl who I’ve never met before and later two other Germans showed up, later a guy from California together with a kiwi girl and just before the sunset, the familiar faces of Stevie and Jackie from the US came into camp. Nice to have some company in the middle of nowhere… Bad thing: my stove decided to give up and I had cold porridge for dinner…not what you wish for after 10 hours of hiking!
Mount Pirongia was a hard day, to say the least. Got out of camp at 8, reached the summit (just over 900 meters – a baby mountain!) around 11.30 and continued down to Pahautea Hut for a long lunch break. I was already tired and had very little energy to continue…but the sign said 5,6 kilometers down to the road so I gave it a go. “It’s downhill, how hard can it be?”. HARD. Apparently, all the mud in New Zealand decided to meet at the same place and it was terribly wet and slippery.
It took me over 3 hours to do the 5,6 kilometers(!) and when I got down to the last part and discovered the wooden steps (yeah!), I relaxed and thought it would soon be over…but relaxing on slippery steps with a 20 kilo backpack is NEVER a good idea. My feet suddenly disappeared under my body on top of 15 steps and I slipped all the way down to the bottom. Hit my hip pretty hard and got seriously muddy all over my right leg. Luckily, my backpack saved the back of my head. The worlds best airbag!
When I got down, I met Jackie and she was just as tired as me and we both shook our heads about our first plan we had that morning…to continue another 17 kilometers after the mountain. “No way” was my comment, “but I’ll continue a couple of hours, until 6 o’clock”. I took off…and ended up trying to find a place to camp for the rest of the day. I was more than tired when I finally realized that I’d have to do the 17 kilometers to find a spot to pitch my tent without having to sleep just beside the road. Just before 8, I found a spot and set up camp in a light and cold rain. Stove still not working and all my things slightly wet when I got into my sleeping bag (without a shower or even washing cause there was no water around) and had a couple of pieces of bread and dried bananas for dinner (not what you wish for after 30 kilometers). Fell asleep before the sunset and woke up to a beautiful day and the sound of hundreds of sheep on the other side of the fence.
Had a pretty good day the day after, found a stream pretty early and refilled water. The stream water is so clean and tasty! 27 kilometers in total, a small river crossing and the sun was shining. My body was tired though, hiking 97 kilometers with a 20 kilo backpack in three days is a big effort! Got into the small town of Waitomo early in the afternoon, treated myself with an extra long shower (three days since the last one…) and a beer in the sun.
Had a long talk with a Scottish woman that was curious about my freeze dried meal and asked a thousand questions about my adventure. Met Stevie and Jackie again and slept really good in my little red home.
And then…yesterday. What a disaster. Woke up tired. Sleepy. Sad. My body didn’t respond at all from step one. Luckily, I knew it was a short day to Te Kuiti – 17 kilometers – and my new friend Emma in Auckland had got me in contact with a woman named Kate that happily invited me to stay for the night, so at least I knew that I was sleeping in a bed for the night. You can do it!
But I barely could. I was exhausted. After a couple of hours, I felt extremely homesick and broke down in tears. Wanted to go home to my family and friends. Go away from the wet grass, the itchy bushes and the burning sun. I got lost on a steep, grassy hill and slipped a couple of times…found my way out and got a shock from an electric fence. Take me away from this!
When I finally reached Te Kuiti, I was exhausted. Not even a soy latte could change my mood and when I met Kate in town, I wasn’t probably the happiest and most lovely person on earth. I told her about my feelings and my day and she just gave me a big, warm hug. That hug turned my whole day.
Kate drove me to the supermarket to resupply, then she totally opened her home for me. I got my own room, I had a warm shower, washed all my muddy clothes and she made me coffee with crackers and home made cream cheese made from goat milk from the farm, fresh herbs and garlic.
Kate had breast cancer 9 years ago but fought it and survived. She’s a physiotherapist and used to work for the New Zealand rowing team, and recently when she was working with the team in Italy she got really ill and a NZ doctor had to fly over to get her home… Cancer had shown its ugly face again and now she’s got liver cancer and is having chemotherapy every week. When she heard about me walking for charity and raising money for cancer research, we found that our paths had crossed for a reason. I’ve contributed with some money to my own fundraising for all the love Kate has given me.
Kate believes in a “mother net”, that mothers should take care of all children traveling around the world…and she’s truly doing it in the best was possible. People have come and gone in her house for years and some of them have been stuck here for months. My horrible day ended with a bowl of rhubarb and whipped cream and a cup of tea curled up in the couch with my new NZ mom.
When I woke up this morning I decided to take a well needed rest day. We had breakfast (bacon, eggs and toast!) together, I joined her for the morning routine with the goat, sheep and cows and I met Shaun – the cutest lamb around.
I’ve had the best rest day so far. Kate’s son made me lunch and dinner(!), I’ve been in the hammock reading my book almost all day long and I’ve had to naps. My body is really tired and I don’t really know how I’m meant to get back to the trail tomorrow… The next coming 6-7 days are in the woods, away from civilization and that’s a completely new experience so far. I can do it. Next stop – 1000 kilometers.