Only two days after I passed the halfway mark, (and as per the photo below, 30km after the actual 1,500km mark there was in fact an official sign), I celebrated my two months on trail. I thought my two month celebration would consist of me patting myself on the back and reflecting over the miles I’ve walked, but as is the TA way, we ended up staying with a trail angel at the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Center who gave us a beer on arrival, use of their camp lodge which included a huge kitchen, bunk rooms, washing machine and hot showers, and gave us a huge bag of food to cook dinner and breakfast with.
Once Tom, Will and I were settled into our luxury accommodation, a hiker I met in Paihia (the first town I hit on the east coast) called Kess arrived, and it was literally like two old friends reuniting after about 10 years. There was a lot of squealing and hugging and updates from the trail to fill our entire evening. Tom cooked up a feast in the kitchen, and we all sat very civilised around the table before chatting until well after hiker midnight.
Will has been suffering a pain in the front of his ankle/shin recently, so we ended up taking a zero at the property yesterday. Tom and I went for a run as a zero didn’t quite feel justified, and after huffing and puffing up a small mountain, we literally flew back down. I’ve never really enjoyed running unless it’s on a track, but yesterday my legs moved faster and more confidently than they ever have before, and I can honestly say it was one of the most exhilarating experiences to feel what your body is actually capable of after 2 months of walking 25-30km a day. I’m not doing distances like I did on the PCT because roads hurt too much and the terrain just isn’t as consistent, but I think my level of fitness must be close to the same, minus all the sore muscles from the huge amount I carried on the PCT.
Today we entered the Tararua Ranges after much advice about this section. The weather can be brutal up here and has blown people literally off the mountain, but today we had relatively clear skies and no breeze at all, so it was a beautiful introduction to one of the north island’s unique and rugged mountain ranges.
Having passed the 1,500km mark two days before my 2 month trail anniversary, it means I’m on track to finish the trail in 4 months as I’d hoped, provided my body doesn’t break down or anything major doesn’t delay me. My only real concern is finishing the trail before the weather turns too cold, as I don’t want to be hiking the final section in snow shoes like I did on the PCT.
Once we’re out of the ranges it’s not far to walk to Wellington, and since it’s the last city before the South Island I have a huge long list of things I need to do and prepare while I’m there. We’ll need to prepare two resupply boxes, I have to pick up all the gear I’ve sent there and decide what to do with it, I need to repair a few bits and pieces of my gear, and I’m debating a pedicure to get rid of the huge callus build up on my heels, which I think is causing me to still get blisters rather than preventing them.
I also need to find new shoes with some decent tread on them. I love the New Balance shoes I’ve been wearing since just north of Auckland, but they’ve got absolutely no grip, and already on this section I fell over three times in just one day.
I met a few new hikers thanks to our zero yesterday, and now that we’re heading into hut territory I expect to meet even more and enjoy more social time on the trail. Tom, Will and I continue to travel as a trio, sometimes hiking together, sometimes apart, but always sharing meals and camping with one another. It’s so nice to have a trail family out here, and even Kess was relieved that I’d found myself some comrades, as she is hiking with three people I met earlier on (Shannon, Brian and Jason), and she loves the bond they’ve created.
I finally have my trail legs now, I’m so far enjoying my stoveless meals, and I’m on track in terms of kms and timing. Maybe all the heartache at the beginning of the TA has dealt me a more cruisey second half, but I have no idea what is in store… and I guess that’s all part of the adventure.
Here’s a quick video of my recent reflections in the mountains…