The willingness to suffer

We just completed a 7-day stretch through the Richmond Ranges, and apart from spending one full day in Browning Hut to sit out cyclone Gita, we had impeccable weather and bluebird skies for the entire stretch.

The Richmond Ranges are said to be one of the most challenging and beautiful sections, and I can attest to both the beauty and difficulty, with Will saying that the section along the Wairoa River was at times “terrifying”, mainly because you’re tramping high above the river’s edge on a track consisting of slick wet stone requiring death grips on any available roots or rocks that will stop you from sliding.

The highest summit of the section is Rintoul Mountain at 1731 m, and we got up before sunrise that morning for a mammoth day hiking from Slaty Hut, past Old Man Hut, up Little Rintoul and Rintoul Summit, and then down past Rintoul Hut to Tarn Hut, which Tom, Will and I had to ourselves. We came across a number of TA hikers during the section, but because our bags were half the size of the others, we were able to do larger days and only shared a hut with them once.

Speaking of lighter bags, I’m really learning to live with less during this thru-hike. Both Will and I have been pushed out of our comfort zones after our pack shake downs, and I have to say it’s so liberating to learn that I can still survive without carrying all the weight that I used to. I was scared I was going to run out of food during this section when we got stuck in the hut, and after barely eating anything that day I still ended the section with 3 extra tuna packets, couscous, mash potato, and a plethora of bars. I’m so used to finishing a section with at least two days of food left that I panic if I get any lower than that.

Some of you are probably thinking it’s good and safe to have enough food and extra gear with you, but we all live in such fear of being uncomfortable in life that we often overcompensate or sometimes don’t do things at all. I have barely ever been pushed so far out of my comfort zone that I’ve really suffered, and I think the mere thought of it has had me living a very regimented and controlled lifestyle. Everyone has a different comfort level, and certain comforts that are a must, and the biggest one I’ve had to let go of on this trip is a hot shower, laundered clothes and a comfortable bed after each section.

At the start of the trip I stayed at a holiday park after each stretch, and even though I stayed in my tent, I still showered and cleaned my clothes and had a dry place to organise my pack for the next section. On the PCT I stayed in a motel room in almost every town and had a warm bath and a cosy bed after each section. But because the boys are on a much tighter budget than me, I’ve adapted to washing in streams, using soap on my body and clothes only in public toilets, and rolling in and out of towns on the same day.

Yesterday we stopped in St Arnaud for a few hours because we’d booked into the Alpine Lodge’s famous Sunday BBQ. We used my left over wet wipes as a shower, and after one of our most civilised meals, a glass of red wine and even dessert, we left the lodge in the dark and made our way clumsily along the trail to camp in the forest by Lake Rotoiti.

Though the trail feels more like a holiday than a gruelling tramp in the company of the boys, I’m still being pushed out of my comfort zone in new ways, and if there’s one thing I hope to bring back with me to the civilised world, it’s the willingness to suffer a little more. In some ways being willing to suffer is actually working in my favour on this trip, because my body is suffering less from all the weight I used to carry. In the real world I hope it translates to me being more spontaneous, carrying less with me every time I leave the house and trying things I might not be good at. It could also mean setting out on a new career path and taking more risks when it comes to earning money… but for now I’m just going to enjoy the liberation of being filthy and carrying a lighter pack.

17 thoughts on “The willingness to suffer”

  1. One of my favorite things is when you include photos of camp, gear, and town chore stuff. The scenery pics are great, but I love seeing the details of the logistics as well!

  2. You are fully embedded now. Suffering is relative, and you’re relative threshold is needless to say greater than before, but was high to begin with. Walking along those roads for all those miles would be extreme suffering for anybody! I agree with Ian above, love the little details. How are the non-cook meals working? Days filled with wonder..keep it up!

  3. Hi darling, comfort zone…willingness to suffer…liberation, it seems that a whole new way of living has come across you. Being pushed out of your comfort zone is exhilarating. Most people are so set in their way of living that they don’t even think about changing. Lovely that the trail feels like a holiday, thanks to the boys with whom you can socialize and share things with, an important part in life for Happiness.
    Enjoy the trail in that most beautiful country. Love you, Mutti xx

  4. Such a great post and such a valuable lesson! Can’t be easy to be that far out of your comfort zone but what a wonderful new perspective to have gained. You’re amazing and a true warrior!!!!

  5. Fine post with lots of thoughts, info and scenery. Going light certainly has its advantages but the diet seems to be part of the willingness to suffer! Make the most of the opportunities when you hit civilization. I don’t think I could cope with the pictured meal for very long. If you get further into this suffering thing remember the Camino, we don’t want to see pix of you at the end whipping yourself walking in bare feet with a few old rags around your torso. BTW how are the new shoes holding up with the rough schist rock on the mountain trials? Plenty of suffering and risk ahead Muk so you’ll have to hold that thought.

    1. Shoes are holding up alright but I see advantages to boots protecting your feet from all the rough stones. Trail runners are still my pick for the million and one river crossings though!! 🙂

  6. Whose pack is the green Osprey one and how big is it (how many litres)? Cause I have the same model at 36l and keep wondering whether it would be enough for long-distance hiking. I’ve done multi-day hikes with it, however excluding camping gear.
    Love your blog, been following it for a while now. Hope you’re having a blast on the South Island, it is gorgeous!
    Happy Hiking!

    1. It’s my mate Will’s! The body of the bag is 48l not including the hood or the bottom compartment. 36l would be tough for a thru-hike. My mate Tom has a basic 48l Osprey and that’s just enough for someone who carries very little. Thanks so much for following! The South Island is beautiful! 🙂

  7. Never ever fun to suffer….but this “suffering”sounds great…. so, so what
    if baby wipes and streams aren’t luxuries …..they are a great exchange for the awful pain and suffering of that huge pack…… you ARE trippin’ wild…… this. honey,……And your old friend from southern California……(living with my Nurse Prac. daughterwho sees patients daily
    and works for the Navy…she has brought her mommy home to nurse her back to her crazy health again… for life…with my her wife,my daughter-in-law…and 12 year G-Son, who will have his only G-Ma with him….AND I am right here by my beautiful SEA!) I love you and you are a joy to me….and want the whole world to know you are the greatest💕Barbie

  8. So much fun to hear about your adventures in NZ one of my favorite places in the world. I had a wonderful two weeks there with my late husband, he loved NZ and went there to fly fish every year for a month or more, I was working full time and finally took some time off to join him for part of his trip. He had lots of wonderful and fun friends there that I met and joined on a trip to the coast on South Island. That turned out to be our best and last trip together as he had cancer and we didn’t know it till he got home, the doctor told us he had 7 weeks at most left and that’s all he got. But he was able to spend many years doing what he loved and told all his friends that their wives should let them do more fishing cause you never know when your time might be up. My next trip was with some wonderful ladies, one had a good friend who gave us all an amazing tour of the North Island. We hiked all over it was an amazing trip .
    Tramper Lady and PCT section hiker JAC

    1. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story with us. Treat every day as though it’s your last, I couldn’t agree with the sentiment more. I’m so glad you got to spend that time with your husband in NZ and also your wonderful hiking women comrades. What a beautiful country this is and I feel blessed to be able to explore it this way. Much love to you and the Trampers, Muk xx

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