Yesterday felt like I was part of a moving community again (which is by far one of the best things about the sport/torture/adventure of thru-hiking). I bumped into Sacha from France on the Main Street of Kerikeri and immediately inundated him with questions and incessant babbling as if I hadn’t spoken to another living person for about 6 years. Sacha is kind of doing his own thing, hiking obscenely long days of 40+ kms and then not hiking at all. He was on his way to Paihia to work for a family for a few days and then who knows, but he did provide me with Alex and Bevan’s numbers who arrived later that afternoon.
Cool, random swing bridge before Kerikeri.
Shannon from the States went off the grid, and the boys haven’t heard from or seen her since Ahipara. She might be walking with Katrin from Germany or they also suggested she may have hitched ahead. The boys received the same output of words as Sacha did when they arrived at the holiday park in Kerikeri. I literally recognised their footsteps from inside my tent and shot my head out like a meerkat on alert. I was hoping they’d want to paddle the Waikare Inlet with me, as going alone will cost me double, but Bevan has a friend with a boat that can take them over the water, which has left me stranded in Paihia today hoping another hiker may want to paddle tomorrow.
Paddling route down the Waikare Inlet except I’ll be starting a little further north from Paihia.
Nick and Dan at Bay Beach Hire who rent the kayaks know me as ‘Miss Te Araroa’ after I’ve called them multiples times over the last two days checking to see if anyone else has contacted them. They posted a note on Facebook for me but still no luck. My plan is to wait until tomorrow afternoon and then go on alone unless someone books in for the following day which would be Sunday. Where is everyone??? We need a big group to paddle the 119km section down the Whanganui River further south to cut down on costs, so I need to catch some other hikers soon!
View of the Bay of Islands from Mount Bledisloe.
On the last section I lost my sunglasses two days in, which made for a lot of squinting and dust in the eyes on some of the road sections. But yesterday when Alex arrived he had them in his pack. I had bought a cheap $10 pair to replace them a few hours earlier, but I was SO happy to have my original pair back, and I donated the new pair to a backpacker working on fruit farms for 8 months called Cloe instead.
I was tempted to paddle the crossing today after hiking 25kms to get here, but Dan told me to chill and enjoy Paihia instead. This is my biggest struggle when I have my mind set on a task at hand. I don’t know how to switch out of hiker mode into holiday/relax mode. Some people do it easily, but for me enjoyment comes from being on the trail and making progress. Maybe it’s something the trail is trying to teach me, but when I get momentum I hate to slow down.
Typical lunch break with my feet up.
While I was writing this another thru-hiker arrived at the Pickled Parrot backpackers where I’m staying. Her name is Kess from Vermont who came to NZ to WWOOF (work on organic farms) and hike, and when she learned about the trail she decided to give up the WWOOFing and just hike. I was shocked to discover she’s only 18, which made the fact she’s out here alone that much more impressive! Unfortunately she’s sprained her feet and has been advised by the doctor to take a few days off, so still no paddling buddy, but we’ll see what tomorrow brings.
I ate fish and chips by the beach tonight to celebrate crossing from the west to the east coast of the country. I’ve hiked almost 250km in 11 days so I’m a little off the 25km average I need to sustain, but my feet will hopefully toughen up soon. I bought some new ‘shock absorbing’ insoles for my shoes but they haven’t seemed to do much. I still haven’t got my hiker hunger yet either, but I expect that to kick in next week some time too!
I feel SO much better with those first two sections behind me. Never once on the PCT did I consider quitting. It wasn’t even an option. But during the forest section I thought about quitting everyday, not in a ‘I’m actually going to quit’ kind of way, but more of an ‘imagine not having to do this anymore’ kind of way. I wonder if maybe in my older age I’m getting soft, or that perhaps I don’t have that naive trail innocence anymore. Either way there’s no way I would allow myself to quit, even if I really wanted to, I don’t think my conscious would ever allow it. The pain of quitting would be worse than anything this trail can throw at me… I think?!?!
Happy Trails from Paihia! Muk 🙂