This morning we hit the halfway point, km 1,500 of the Te Araroa (although I believe the total distance according to my Guthooks app is actually 3,041km).
There was no halfway marker, no register, no fanfare or real celebrations. Tom, Will and I just snapped a photo at the corner of Roberts Line and Liberty Grove in Palmerston North and kept walking.
We did however have an early celebration last night after bunking in with a trail angel to avoid the harsh storms that hit NZ late yesterday. We didn’t get as much wind and rain as expected where we were, but folks in the South Island would have been pummelled, so hopefully those in the mountains were huddled in one of the many huts along the route.
Our trail angels Gail and her husband John treated us like kings in their already busy household. They had 5 boys living in their 8 bedroom house, 4 in NZ studying abroad from Indonesia, China, Brazil and Hong Kong, while the 5th was their adopted son. We all sat at the table like a scene out of ‘The Sound of Music’ and ate mountains of food that Gail whipped up in under an hour. We were also treated to beer, wine, single malt whiskey and liquor drizzled over heaped bowls of ice cream, so it was a tough wakeup at 6am this morning to head back to the trail.
Gail is a social worker and John is a pastor at their local church. They are wonderful people who have also rescued more than a dozen retired racing greyhounds, two of which befriended us during our stay.
I cannot wrap my head around how generous some people can be. Neither Gail nor John earn a large income, they’ve raised three of their own children and dedicate their lives to looking after even more children, while opening their doors to dirty, stinking thru-hikers. These people are true angels!
Having walked over 90km on roads over the last three days we’re taking today a little easier before we head into the Tararua Ranges. We resupplied this morning at Countdown with 6-7 days of food, so all our packs are feeling a lot heavier. My pack however is feeling pretty good after shedding 2.5kg in a recent pack shakedown, which saw me sending my stove, second hat, sandals, sun shirt, t-shirt, puffy jacket, and all secondary items ahead to Wellington. I still have four out of my seven layers and am learning about cold soaking food from Tom who also travels without a stove. I’m actually eating healthier without my stove as I’ve tried to cut out excessive sugar and replace it with healthier fatty foods like peanut butter and cheese. I’m having to eat a 1kg jar of peanut butter so I can use it as a soaking bowl, and I’m almost at the point where I’m putting on weight rather than losing it thanks to all the hospitality we’ve received.
The boys are already sad that the end is coming too soon, but I know we have a long way still to go, and so many things will happen along this crazy adventure. I’ve never felt so relaxed and at peace on a trail before in my life. I’m not fussed about how far there is to go anymore or what happens in between, I’m just excited that surprises (good and bad) await me down the trail, and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be out here. Sometimes I feel guilty that I have the privilege to be doing this, but then I look at people like Tom and Will who are straight out of studying and are managing to hike the trail on a shoestring budget. We all have to go back to jobs to make money afterwards, but I think thru-hiking makes us prepared to live with less in life, and therefore filling the bank account is not our number one priority. It’s like what we carry in our packs – we only take what we need.
Happy trails! 🙂