North Island – check!!!

I’ve made it to Wellington and the North Island is DONE! Can’t believe I’ve walked 1700 kilometers..!

I cried the last kilometer out of happiness, exhaustion and relief, and I’m so thankful that my body (and all of you following me!) has been with me all the way… I have 1300 kilometers to go, but to finish the North Island is a HUGE milestone along the way. 

 

Island Bay.
 
 
I’m sorry for not being as good as I thought I would be at posting on my blog along the way, it’s just so many other things to focus on…like surviving and try to keep my head up (and a smile on my face). Follow me on Instagram (@helenateodora) for more frequent updates.

I’m also hugely thankful and almost speechless for already raising over SEK 105000 to Cancerfonden (the Swedish cancer foundation). THANK YOU, it means a lot to me!!! 

This afternoon, I’m leaving for the South Island and on Wednesday I’ll start Queen Charlotte Track – which is a “Great Walk” here in New Zealand. I’m looking forward to the south, its mountains and stunning views but I would lie if I said I’m not a bit nervous…I have a huge respect for Mother Nature. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather will stay good…snow can fall in any season down there.

The challenging Tararua Ranges. More of this to come on the South Island…

Almost halfway through…

It’s been awhile. My frequency when it comes to updating my blog is…non existing, I’m sorry for that (for you wanting updates more often, follow me on Instagram: @helenateodora). Anyhow, I’m almost halfway through Te Araroa, I’ve soon been walking 1500 kilometers. Can’t believe it.

 

Just another stream crossing…
 
Since my last update from the sleepy day in Te Kuiti, a lot have happened. I’ve been walking through more mud in the Pureora Forest Park and met a lot of lovely people.

 

Me, cancer researcher Bill and his wife.
 
 I’ve done my second 50k(!) day together with Tom, an American guy who did the Appalachian Trail a couple of years ago…and we came across 11 year old Sam’s shop with lollies and water just beside the road when we needed it the most.

 

Tom at Sam’s shop on our way to Taumarunui.
 
I’ve done the Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand’s great walks and one of my best and most beautiful days along the trail so far. Mount Ngauruhoe is famous from the Lord of the rings movie, where it acted as Mount Doom.

 

On top of the red crater in front of Mount Doom.
 
I’ve scratched my leg even worse than before and I’ve let it heal along a 5 days and 170 kilometers long canoe trip on the Whanganui River, where I also celebrated Christmas first on the 24th with a torrential rainfall and then the Maori way on the 25th with a powhiri where I sang a Christmas song for the entire camp with my new friend Neil.

 

On the river with Neil, alias Gandalf.
 
I’ve been on the Bridge To Nowhere and I’ve swam in the river. I’ve camped on the river bank and I’ve been very close to tipping the canoe over in big rapids.

 

Bridge to nowhere.
 
I’ve been walking on a lot of roads, been homesick and I’ve cried. I’ve struggled in the hot sun and I’ve had wet feet. I’ve been spoiled with a bed for a few nights, a lot of food and I’ve been celebrating New Years with sleeping before midnight. 

 

View from “my” room in Palmerston North.
 
Today, I’m having an unplanned day off. I woke up this morning and my body was screaming NOOOOOOOOO! I listened (mostly to my mom who told me to rest when she found out that I was exhausted…).

Tomorrow, I’m off again and when I go to bed after tomorrow’s hike, it’s less than 1500k to go…countdown!!! Hope that’ll refill my motivation and energy, it’s unfortunately very low at the moment. What doesn’t kill you…right!? I can do this, yes I can.

A real trail angel…and Shaun.

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.

 

Refueling in Hamilton…
 
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.

 

Mud.
 
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.

 

My morning company.
 
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.

 

Treat.
 
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, trail angel.
 
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.

 

Shaun.
 
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.

799 kilometers and scratched legs

In 2010 I hiked El Camino Franc├ęs. It’s 800 kilometers long from Saint Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I remember the feeling of walking on sore feet into the big square in front of the cathedral after 20 days…I felt totally invincible! I’m 1 kilometer from that distance along Te Araroa, and still I’ve got 2200 kilometers to walk. 2200! I don’t know if you understand how far that is…I’m sure I don’t. 

I don’t know what I expected before I came here. I spoke to my mom this morning (loved to hear her voice after all these weeks!) and she asked me if the trail is as I thought it would be…I have no idea.

Since October 30 when I started together with my new Danish friend Rune at Cape Reinga, it’s been more ups and downs that I can count and I’ve probably had all the feeling that possibly exist in a human body. Despite all the pain and suffering that naturally come with hiking 800 kilometers (especially when you scratch your legs very bad in the bushes as I did the other day…), the biggest feeling of them all is FREEDOM.

Scarred but free.

It’s hard to explain how it feels to wake up in the morning without an alarmclock in a slightly cold and damp tent to the singing of hundreds of birds, without having a clue what day it is and even don’t care about it at all. All you have to care about is getting out of the sleeping bag, pack your things, make porridge and coffee on the stove and walk to your new home for the night. You don’t know what awaits you, how it looks on the other side of next hill or who you meet along the way. So far, not two days have looked the same…something new happens each and every day and some days  I’ve felt like I’ve been walking in a different country than yesterday. Surreal.

 

Home sweet home…
 
I don’t know how I ever will be able to share my story with you…I don’t even understand it myself. It feels like I’m waking in a dream, sometimes a sweet and a very few times a nightmare…I haven’t really yet understood that I’m actually here now, doing what I’ve dreamt about for such a long time. At the same time, my home and my life in Stockholm seem so far away that it feels like I’ve been here forever. It’s funny how fast you adapt to a new life, I’ve only been here for about 6 weeks!

Anyway, I can’t tell you everything that have happend so far even though I want to. I need to figure out a way to do it…in the meantime, I let the pictures talk for themselves. 

 

Leaving Auckland…a few days later, I left my friends…
 
 
Freedom!
 
 
One of my biggest challenges: swingbridges.
 
 
On top of every steep hill: the reward.
 
 
Te Araroa: = a 3000 km obstacle race.
 
 
Never forget.
 

Until next time…

Auckland…

Wow, I don’t know where to start. I’m back in Auckland, and the distance that took me 7 hours with a bus one month ago took me almost four weeks to walk… This trip is already a lifelong memory and I’ve done “only” 595 kilometers so far. 595 ot of 3000.

The last four weeks, I saw beaches with soft, white sand. Forests muddier than I could ever imagine. Colorful birds. Breathtaking coastlines. Heavy rain. Dolphins(!). Stunning grassy hills that seemed taken straight ot of a fairytale. Sunrises. Huge trees. Sunsets. Black beaches. Views that took my breath away. Tiny towns. Small towns. Bigger towns. Never ending farmlands. Gardens. Highways. Beautiful forest tracks. Rivers.

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One of twenty dolphins…hard to catch with the camera.
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A hill worth climbing.

I felt happiness. Hunger. Strength. Sadness. Belief. Hopelessness. Weakness. Thankfulness. Relief. Pain. Doubt. Hope. The sweet taste of victory…victory over my body but even more often, my mind. I had some amazing days and some days that made me want to go home. Days that made me think this hike over twice, three times…a million times. Why am I doing this? Why the h*ll am I doing this, with mud up to my knees, shaking legs and tears in my eyes..?

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The Herekino Forest…muddy!

This is not an easy thru-hike (thru-tramp to be correct). Some of the sections have been absolutely exhausting and on the edge to undoable with a 20 kg backpack, and at the 500 km marking in another muddy and steep forest, I had my first mental breakdown and seriously just wanted to give up. But at the end of the day when I’m in my tent (Hilleberg Enan – best tent ever!), so far, it has been worth every single, sweaty step.

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Soft sand. Wind. Heavy backpack. Still smiling.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, and the kiwis are just as amazing. We (me and my trail friends Rune, Bella and Mat) have met so many friendly and helpful persons along the way, I can’t even believe it. We’ve been invited to put up our tents in gardens and we’ve been offered lift (not allowed on trail of course, but off trail…), once a policeman drove us back from a supermarket. That would never happen in Sweden. Right now we are all staying (three rest days…luxury!) in a beautiful house of an amazing woman named Emma, who I met just one month ago. I’ve never felt so welcome in a country before and I’ve never felt so safe and relaxed being away from home. I had big expectations when I came here but so far, I’ve been positively surprised and it has been way much better than I could ever imagine.

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Have you ever felt this welcome by a road sign?

We’re having another two days off from trail in Auckland, well earned recovery after 4 weeks and 595 kilometers of tramping. It’s mixed feeling though, one part of me just want to get out there again and one part knows that this rest is needed for the next coming days…weeks…months. I guess I just have to try to calm down, listen to my tired body and relax a bit. After all, we’ve been invited to a Christmas (is it really Christmas soon!?) party here in town tomorrow and that can’t be missed, right?

I’ve been a disaster when it comes to updating my blog and I promise you to try a bit harder the next 2400 kilometers. Luckily, Bella and Mat are writing a BEAUTIFUL blog where you can be updated more often. Find it here: It’s just a long walk.

I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, enjoy the view of Helena Bay…

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My first tears. Helena Bay.

HUGS!

90 mile beach…

Oh well, I haven’t actually walked 90 miles on the 90 mile beach…but still, I’ve done 103 kilometers in 4 days. Or WE have actually, cause I’ve got great company: Rune from Denmark and Bella & Matt from Great Britain. We’re not actually walking together during all days but still, it’s great to know that someone’s around when you’re in your tent in the middle of nowhere.

I don’t know what to say about this beach, except from that it’s looooooong, it’s sandy, it’s windy and the sun is stronger than I ever could imagine.

4 days in on Te Araroa and I’ve already learned a few things about hiking (tramping) and about New Zealand:

  • The sun burnes through both clouds and SPF50.
  • Walking 30 hours on New Zealandish sand may cause REALLY sore muscles.
  • Compeed is good for you.
  • Chocolate is even better.
  • Cold porridge may save your life now and then. 
  • There may not be water around when you actually think it is, always have a plan b (like getting your Danish bodyguard hitchhike with an Indian guy to the nearest village).
  • Salami sandwiches are delicious, especially when you’re having them on a hot, sandy and boring beach.
  • Earplugs. Bring earplugs.
  • Possums get really close to you in your tent at night, but you won’t notice them if you wear earplugs.
  • Never say no to an invite for barbecue, shower and washing machine.
  • Kiwis are probably the best people in the world.

I’m so happy to be here but this f*cking beach was so much harder than I could imagine. I probably never wanna see sand again. Ever.