Rain and Pain Go Away

A friend and I hiked out that night and were caught by another cold evening and morning. Luckily, we were climbing up to another saddle and as we walked past bush line, the sun hit our backs and the day warmed up. Up and over the saddle, we then climbed down a river valley that opened up into a much bigger river. We scrambled down the side and plowed straight into the river thinking it was like any other. About halfway through, my legs began to feel weak and I felt very unstable as I looked at the rest of the river I still had to cross. Clutching my brand new camera and quickly sneaking my ipod into a higher pocket, I kept moving. As we finished crossing, we looked at the bank on the otherside and realized that the only way out of the river banks was to climb straight up a wall of loose rock. After some cursing, slipping, and utter disbelief that this was the trail, we made it up and kept moving. The wind was relentless and I pictured myself trying to set up my tent in it later. It would not be easy. Luckily, by the end of our day, we got to a private hut that wasn't on our maps and it was open! We ran inside and were finally protected from the wind that had bashed us all day. I was even more thankful when it began to rain later that night. We slept in the next morning but reluctantly left in the rain. We were climbing up to another saddle and I began to panic, thinking of how the last time I had walked up to a saddle in the rain hadn't gone so well. We ran into another friend on the way up and I felt much safer, knowing the three of us could take this on together. My panic was all for naught once we got to the top and the wind had died down and it was actually warm. We ran down the otherside and the rain slowly let up fir the sun to come out. That afternoon the trail turned into a tough bush tramp. We were in and out of rivers, climbing steep banks, and trying to follow the track as much as possible. The day capped off with an immense climb like I've never experienced on any other trail. We were walking straight up for about 2 kilometers that went in and out of forest sections to being completely exposed on the side of a cliff. There were more than a few occasions where I felt very unsafe but I made it to the hut just as it began to rain again and settled in for the night. The next day we hiked up to a summit and spent the first part of the day on an exposed ridge that had incredible views of the southern alps. The track down was much like the climb up to the hut had been and my legs were shaky by the time we reached the road at the bottom and got into town. We met up with a bunch of friends in town who were planning a little reroute of the trail in order to hike some more desirable sections of trail. We joined them and left the next day to climb Cascade saddle. We got just under the saddle and set up camp for the night. We were completely frozen, just under alpine zone but we got a bit of sleep. I woke up to about seven Keas tramping about our campsite. Keas are the most intelligent bird in the world and are extremely pesky because they like to figure out how things work, often ruining shoes, tents, food bags, or anything they can get their beaks on. I jumped out if my tent to fight them off but realized they had already gotten to the handle of my trekking pole and had ripped most of the foam off. Seemingly satisfied, they left everything else alone. We had a beautiful day going up and over the saddle and I got to experience my first glaciers in New Zealand. It was an absolutely spectacular day ended by getting to a warm hut and turning in. About 30 minutes after we had snuggled in for the evening, a man came into the bunk room looking for the "fit hikers." I was one of the only ones still awake so I got our of bed to see what the commotion was. A group of nine elderly hikers had made it about 30 minutes back before dropping their packs on the trail and venturing to the hut without them. Now they were looking for people to go back and get them. The group looked extremely exhausted and one man had a busted eye and scraped up most of his face. I got ready to venture our but was relieved of my trip when I heard others had already headed out for the abandoned packs. The man was being checked out by someone more medically qualified than my expired Wilderness First Responder, so I went back to bed. The next day we headed out into the rain and had a quick day to the next hut where the hut warden had just shot a deer and gave us part of the shoulder to cook up on the stove. It tasted incredible and it was such a treat to have fresh meat on trail. The rain only got worse as the evening went on and then the wind began to come in. Sheets of rain were being blown sideways and the rivers were beginning to swell. We spent the next day hiding out from the weather in the hut and were astounded by the multiplying waterfalls coming down from the ridge. It was still raining the next day when we went to leave the hut but we were running out of food and had to keep moving. We bid farewell to our friends we had made during our day in the hut and headed out. We got to two extremely swollen waterfall crossings that I would have never attempted if I had been alone. We made it through together and kept tramping down the river that was now the trail. I got moving a bit fast and suddenly my feet were coming out from underneath me and I came down hard on my hip and shoulder. The only thing I could do was roll over and laugh, hoping the pain would go away. I popped back up and a friend mentioned something about not breaking my ipod that I had just realized was in the pocket of the hip I had fallen on. It was too wet to check it then but I would find out later I had cracked half the screen with my embarrassing slip. We kept moving though I was falling a bit behind everyone trying to ignore the heat I felt in my hip. I got to a flatter section and made the move to try to catch up when I kicked a rock with the side of my foot and saw my small toe flip around backwards. I bit my lip but kept moving, taking deep breathes trying to pretend I hadn't just broken my toe. Suddenly it was nice to be walking in the ice cold water that slowly numbed my feet and took the pain away. We got to a car park and begged some people for a ride to our next track. Luckily we got there with incredible speed and began hiking up to the saddle to spend the night. The rain had eased up for a bit but everything was still pretty wet. The track was incredible, we got to walk through waterfalls and caves, climb up rivers, and pop up over ridges to find secret lakes and valleys hidden by the landscape. When we got to the saddle, we were all soaked to the bone and shuffled into the leaking emergency shelter for the night. Everything was still pretty wet the next morning but we packed up and moved on. We got back into a town and will be getting back on the Te Araroa from here to finish out the last bit of the hike. Kilometer 2782

The End is Near, Maybe Sooner Than You Think

We made the long hitch back to the trail incredibly fast and ran into a large group of our friends that had been a few days behind. The now nine of us hiked out and crammed in a small hut for the evening to escape the sand flies. The next day we made it about 8km before getting to a really nice hut and calling it quits for the day. We caught up on sleep and lots of necessary eating. I got up and headed out early the next morning and spent most of the day alone until we got to a hot spring right off trail. It was small, swarming with sandflies, and reading of sulfur but the hot water felt like heaven to our aching muscles. The group of us made it to a hut and set up for the night, expecting rain. I ran outside early in the morning to feel the sprinkles hit the ground. As I stood out in dark valley, I heard a kiwi bird call out clear as day. Until then we had only been playing recordings off of a phone. I relished in this private moment. The next day was overcast and misty for most of the day. We hiked over a saddle and back down to the valley but not before passing a dead cow right in our water source. I hiked into the evening alone that night and when I realized I had gotten off trail, I found a flat spot and set up camp. As I slept, I heard the rustle of an animal close by. I woke up and found a pesky Weka trying to steal my shoes. I scared him off and started to drift back to sleep when the bird gave off one of the loudest calls I've heard from a bird. Startled myself, I sat up a bit in my tent as I heard galloping nearby. Before I could even think, half of my tent was being crushed in around me and I felt the soft brush of hooves against my shins. Suddenly my tent popped back up and the galloping disappeared. Unasured, I layed awake gripping my pocket knife for another hour. I got into town the next morning and decided to hitch into Christchurch to see the city. I was stunned by the amount of damage the earthquake had done and how much of it hadn't been rebuilt yet. I took a few rest days off there before getting back to the trail and having to play catch up. My friends were all ahead so I went on the move to try and speed up. I found a group I had met earlier on my first night out and decided to stick with them through a dangerous river section that is inadvisable to cross. We made it across in a breeze and kept moving. Unfortunately, all my efforts to catch up were for naught because I was getting lost at almost every junction and suddenly coming up behind the group I had left ahead of earlier. We loving accepted the group name "don't follow Goosebumps." We woke up together at a hut but I left a little before everyone else to try and get to Stag saddle (the highest point on the TA) to take some pictures. As I ventured up alone, the wind grew increasingly stronger, completely knocking me over at times. It wasn't until the rain started that I thought about turning back to the hut. A huge gust of wind came through and knocked me into a creek, where I got up and hiked back for about five minutes before I got another bout of confidence and headed back up the saddle. The wind and rain only got worse and it grew immensely colder as I climbed. The rain felt like icicles whipping my skin. I was afraid. I turned back to see if the group had followed me up or if they had followed their senses and stayed put at the hut. I was incredibly relieved to see them climbing up after me but I was unable to wait for them due to the cold. I made it to the saddle and tried to take my camera out for some pictures but my hands could no longer move. I decided to head down as soon as possible. I ran down as much as I could until I no longer saw any trail markers. It wasn't getting any warmer. I stopped and looked around, I didn't see any trail markers or my friends. I couldn't get out my GPS to find the trail because my hands wouldn't move and the only bit of warmth I felt was the hot blood rushing out of my bare feet. I started to panic. Within an hour I would be hypothermic and I wouldn't be able to recover unless I got off the ridge. I stumbled around for another 15 minutes before I saw a person on the horizon and realized my mistake. I ran back to the trail and followed them down until we could all stop long enough to talk without the wind whipping around. As we sat, the sun came out and the clouds cleared, making way for an incredibly gorgeous day. We laughed that no one would believe what we had just been through. We made it down to a hut where we warmed up and ran into some friends. My only thought was what a difference a little bit of sunshine can do. The next day we jumped up and got into town after one of our coldest mornings on trail. Headed back out tonight, hoping the cold front is over. 2385 kilometers

I Would Walk 2000 Kilometers and I Will Walk 1000 More

We left St. Arnaud the next morning and hiked an easy walking path down to a hut. There were about six people inside the 24 person hut so our group made 11 and we set up for the evening. I took a nap and when I awoke the hut was buzzing. A group of 12 plus two guides had come in and the place was getting crowded. We shifted around each other and were settling in when a man came to the door and announced that he had 24 high schoolers on their way to the hut and only tents enough for half of them. We jumped at the chance to get out of the chaos and set up our tents outside just as the rain began to start up again. It rained all night long and the field began to flood underneath us. The next morning we walked up the trail that had become a river overnight. We cut the day short and dried our gear out at the next hut. We had a large climb the next morning to get up to a saddle with some of the most magnificent views I have seen so far. The whole day felt like I was back on the Pacific Crest trail, tramping through the Sierra. That night we made it to blue lake, rumored to be the clearest lake in NZ. Unfortunately, after the rain, the lake wasn't clear at all. We had another big climb up to a saddle the next day and hiked down a river into the valley on the otherside. I got to camp early and took a dip in the cold river to combat the intense sun. The next day we finished walking out of the valley and decided to do some night hiking to save on sun exposure. We got to a hut late that night and slept outside in order to not wake up the rest of the people inside. Around 6:00am the next morning, I felt four tiny pricks on my face. When I opened my eyes we were all swarming with sand flies, more than I had ever seen. We scrambled inside to sleep a bit more away from the pests. We got up a bit later and hiked out to a road that would take us to our next resupply point. A friend I was hiking with knew a guy in a town nearby who had recently triple crowned (hiked all 3 long distance trails on the US) so we hitch hiked 230km to the beach town of Kaikoura. He fed us tons of veggies from his garden and let us camp outside. This morning we went down to the ocean, where he went diving for crayfish and abalone for dinner this evening. We'll take another day off here and then head back to the trail for a seven day section. And at over 2/3rds of the way done! 2057km.

Down With the Sickness

We woke up at a campsite near the lodge and hung around for the day before pushing on. It was a gorgeous hike and we ended the day by running into a good friend and chasing off the Weka birds. The next day was the superbowl so our friend ran forward to catch it at a lodge. We hung around making a slow, long day. As we ate lunch and checked out our maps, we noticed a small trail that would take us up and over a summit instead of staying on the trail. We decided to be adventurous and take the "shortcut" that would cut off a whopping 1.5km. As we started the "trail" it became more and more obscure until it dissappeared completely. Using our GPS we stuck to where the trail would have been but it had not been traveled for at least ten years. We were scrapping through sharp gorse and a wall of trees and sticks, sometimes resorting to crawling on our hands and knees. Once the gorse ended we were met with a blockade of thick vines that covered an unstable ground of rocks and leaves. I busted through a trekking pole, snapping it in half. Close to the end, I hung from a tree to take a step down when the step blew out from underneath me and I began to fall. As my body kept tumbling, all I could think was "stop, stop, STOP." Suddenly, fifteen feet down the slope, mt feet dug in and I caught traction. I quickly did a check in of my limbs. Nothing broken. Lots of scrapes, lots of blood, but I was okay. I got up and we kept moving. Three hours and 2.5km later, we made it back to the nice, well graded trail. Slightly kicking ourselves thinking we could have made it at least 15km in the time we took to take the "shortcut". Battered and bloody, we took a swim in the ocean before moving on. We got to a side trail and hiked up to catch the sunset before getting to a campsite where we ran back into our friend. We made dinner and chatted about the day before deciding to night hike a bit more to see the stars and the glow worms that lined the trail. As we hiked into the night, my friend broke his shoe to put a cherry on top of our incredibly tough day. The next morning, we got into town and I started to feel sick. A cold had been drifting through the group and after pushing too hard, it got to me. I took the rest of the day off and slept, hoping to feel better in the morning. I did not and little did I know, things were only going to get worse. We hiked out of town and I felt like I was breathing fire. My lungs and my throat burned with every, extremely labored, breathe. I got to a hut and gave up for the day. The next morning I still couldn't breathe so I stayed at the hut till some other friends came along. I left with them and took things extremely slow. I didn't make it to camp until after nine that night. I wasn't getting any better and hiking wasn't helping. I decided the next day I would take a side trail and get off for some rest. We took sometime and saw a movie before deciding to do another side trail. We wanted to summit Mt. Richmond but were not super clear on how to do it. Luckily, our first hitch used to live right across the river from the mountain and told us everything we needed to know. We got there and crossed the river before climbing up to a hut just below the summit. It was fogged out so we waited till the next morning when it cleared up. We hiked up the scree slope and 20 minutes from the summit a massive cloud came in and covered any view we would hope to get. We got to the top as our gear started to dew up in the clouds and the wind whipped us around. We headed back down and ran down the mountain trying to beat the wall of rain that we saw coming in. Luckily, we beat it and got a hitch back down to the trail where we met up with the rest of the group and decided to wait out the rain in a hostel. We head out tomorrow to a hut where we will stay until the weather passes. Having a wonderful hiker reunion! 1940km

Rivers, Rain, and the End of the North Island

That evening after leaving our new Maori friend, we hiked on up a large summit and over to a small shelter to get out if the weather that was coming in. It was tiny but cozy as the seven of us piled into the old shack that could be the home of Shrek. We woke up to cloudy skies that were waiting to open up and pour so we took a long morning before heading out into the rain. It was a very long 18km, filled with mud and a downpour. We finally got to another much bigger and newer hut and started the stove to dry out and warm up. The next morning we woke up to the sun and got moving. It was still muddy and there was a bunch of climbing but we got to a nice pasture and set up camp near a bunch of trees. The next day was a long road walk into our next town to resupply where our wonderful friend Tapper made us a great dinner of burgers and chips. We had another long road walk ahead of us the next day but ended up on a nice track camped just off the trail. We were excited about the next day because we would finally be heading into Tongariro crossing where Mt. Doom is. The views were incredible as we climbed up the edge to a hut that wasn't for overnight camping but we threw our bags down anyway. Early the next morning we went up to the summit and were completely amazed by the mountain. The wind was pounding us every which way and around every turn we found amazing ponds of the bluest water. We had gotten up before many of the tourist so we had the first part of the day to ourselves before the place became extremely crowded. Made it to a holiday park that night and slept near the bus stop. The next day our group split up to do a bunch of different things. I ended up doing some slack packing and running along the road walk instead of hiking it. That night I got into a town and took a few days off to rest up. After I pulled a 50km day to get to the start of our river trip and was completely exhausted but met back up with the group and was refreshed. We got on the river the next day and had the most amazing first day. We lounged more than paddled but when the rain hit we had to keep moving to stay warm.  It rained off and on all day and then poured all night harder than I'd ever experienced. Luckily my tent kept me dry and warm but there was some aggressive drying of gear the next morning. The river had risen considerably overnight so when we took off the next day we flew down the river at about 12km per hour. We floated down the river, mostly connected for the next few days and had an incredible time. On our last day,the river had gone down and the paddling was much more difficult against the wind so when a large boat came by, we tried hitching with it and amazing they stopped. They threw us the rope and we were flying down the river for a bit before it felt like my arms were going to be ripped off from holding the rope. We paddled into another holiday park and filled up on Chinese buffet. We took a zero the next day and went to a vintage festival in town before sleeping next to the river and then road walking out if town to a beach. The next few days were terribly hot and mostly along the roads which completely drained us and hurt our feet and joints. Luckily we made it to our next mountain range and were stunned by the beauty of it all. After playing some games while hiking, we got off track and really didn't feel like going backwards to get back on trail. We sat down and took out our maps and figured out a new route to meet back up with the track a little further down. It was a really great reroute and we ended up getting a hut all to ourselves. We made it back to the trail and crammed in a two person shelter for the evening. We climbed up to a nice spot to catch the sunset and read our books in peace. The next day is one of my favorites on trail so far. We summited a gorgeous mountain and got to walk along an open ridge for the day. We also took many breaks to play cards and enjoy ourselves. We ended to day with a swim in the river all together. We got into town the next day after hiking out of the mountains and slept next to a bike path before taking the metro into Wellington and officially finishing the north island of New Zealand. We spent a few days there, sending out some resupply boxes, cleaning/replacing gear, and celebrating. We even got to go to an amazing concert with a ton of other TA hikers. We caught the ferry that morning at 230 am and slept on the deck so we could catch the sunrise. Completely exhausted, we arrived at the south island and then took another water taxi to get to the trail head. We got to catch a seal playing with its kill and the clearest water I've ever seen. We got to the start and hiked on through the exhaustion until we found a camp spot and slept for a long time. We woke up to a swarm of sand flies and a Waka bird trying to steal our snacks so we packed up and moved on. We got to a resort on the island and heard of some live music going on later so we hung out for the day, soaking in the hot tub and laying in the sun. A bunch of other hikers showed up and we all danced and sung and played music until the sun went down. We heard about the plankton in the water that was bioluminescent so of course we went skinning dipping. The water all around us began to glow as we swam through the open ocean. One of the most incredible moments of my entire life. 1725km

Harsh Times Call for Positive Attitudes

We headed back on trail for Christmas eve but were stopped by a huge storm that rolled in. Trying to find cover at a dairy, some locals came over and invited us to their house until the weather turned around. We got there to find a high school like house party but were excited to get out of the rain. We stayed there until later that night when anot her local woman invited us to her much nicer and quieter house. The next morning we woke up to spend Christmas morning with our tramily (trail family). We did a small gift exchange which included safety vests, Santa hats, parachute men, and lots of candy bars. The weather was much better so we headed off to spend Christmas on trail. We hiked to a dam nearby and set up camp for the evening and spent it chatting around the fire. We got up the next day and moved on. Unable to find much good water for the day, we knocked on a farmhouse door and a wonderful young women let the seven of us smelly hikers into her house to fill up our bottles and then let us set up camp on her land. Though we were attacked by sand flies that evening, it was great to have clean water and a place to sleep. The next day we started with some road walking and then a nice river track before stopping at a small settlement where we tried to celebrate our friend, Spirit's, birthday. From there we walked along the highway until someone picked us up and drove us to the town of Hamilton, where we got a hotel for the night to shower and do some laundry. The next day we moved to a friend of mines apartment where he said we could relax and recover from all of the walking. He was out on holiday but he made us feel very welcome and right at home. One of the most generous people I have ever experienced andwho I really hope to meet one day. The next few days were full of relaxing, running errands, and visiting hobbiton(where they filmed The Hobbit). We celebrated a wonderful New Years with incredible friends before reluctantly leaving Hamilton. It rained on us as we walked out but we were lucky to find an empty barn that night where we could sleep through the pouring rain. The next morning we hiked up into some of the most beautiful hills I have ever seen. It was like we were walking through a Lord of the Rings movie. Even when the rain returned we were full of awe in our surroundings. That night we climbed a large mountain in the muddy rain which tested a bit of our patience before getting to our first hut at the summit. It was incredibly nice and we dried out our wet gear and our cold bodies with card games and food. The next day we woke up to another large storm and decided to take an extra day at the hut to avoid the rain. The morning after, it had finally cleared up and we ventured out of the hut. One of my best days on trail by far, was filled with lots of breaks, beautiful scenery, and great company. We hiked about 40k before setting up camp and falling asleep to the stars. The next morning we woke up with everything completely soaked with dew so we spent some time drying out in the sun before pushing on to a town. There we met up with the rest of the group and hiked out to another town just 15km down the trail. It was an incredibly hot and sunny day and we were in exposed farmland for most of it. As we passed through an electric farm gate, I grabbed part of the handle and was unpleasantly suprised when a hard shock passed up through my wrist and up my arm. I didn't gave enough water and was starting to feel the effects as we descended down into town. My skin was burning and my mouth was dryer than I thought it could get. When my head began to ache, I asked a friend for some water, which he was more than happy to give what he had left. Slightly delirious, I made it into town and drank so much water, I felt sick. We resupplied and set up camp just outside of town. I bought some lotion to sooth my terrible sunburn but was taken back when my skin began to sear with pain and hives began to pop up all over my legs. As I sprinted to a public bathroom to wash it off, I cursed myself for buying that type of lotion. The next day we hiked out of town and found a gorgeous river spot complete with inner tubes, benches, and sunscreen. We spent the day there and as I was making my lunch, I took a sip of water. After I felt something hard in my mouth. Thinking it was a bit of plastic I took it out of my mouth and tossed it aside before realizing it was a small bit of my front tooth that had chipped off. Luckily we found the piece and hiked on after a few hours of resting. We camped in a large pasture last night and got up to do a bit of road walking today. While on the road, a man covered in tatoos, including his face, stopped and asked if we'd like some water or maybe a coffee. Never turning down a cup of coffee, we got in his car and he took us up to his house where he made us coffee and steak sandwiches. He told us of the history of the surrounding land and some great Maori cultural tid bits before taking us back to the trail. Manaki is the Maori term for treat others how you'd like to be treated and he went above and beyond for us. We will not forget the Manaki he gave to us on our Hikoi (journey). We head up a mountain with some bad weather in the forecast but high spirits. I don't thing it can get worse than sunburned, covered in hives, and missing a bit of my tooth but I won't tempt fate. 958km

Trail Holidays

We didn't leave town that day and instead decided to hang at the local restaurant and brew pub. The bartender there was a guy named Morgan who said he lived in the next town over and that we should stop at his place to camp the next night. Being in such a highly populated area, finding stealth spots for camping where we didn't have to pay was difficult so we accepted. The next morning all eleven of us left town for a long road walk before heading up onto some logging roads. In the afternoon, we got to the beach where we went for a swim and then layed in the warm sand. Where I unfortunately fell asleep without sunscreen on. I woke up after a half hour but the sun had stolen my energy and instead of moving to the cold shade, I rolled over and fell back asleep. When I woke up I was exhausted and thirsty so I got moving into town to find water. I had a headache and was feeling very loopy until there was a beach restroom with water faucet. I chugged water until I felt sick then made my way to Morgan's house. We warned him of the large size of our group but he was unconcerned about the 12 tents we would be setting up in his yard. He started a bonfire for us and we swapped traveling stories late into the night. The next day was filled with road walking and ended with a pretty brutal 15km beach walk. My ankle was still incredible sore and my sunburn was doubling. We reached a ridge and walked off trail to camp in an open field that would be wonderful for sunrise. We all cowboyed that night and woke up completely soaked by the dew of the night. Luckily the sun came out in full force and we hung around while everything dried out. We hiked through two great forests before getting to a cafe. Barely able to walk on my ankle and thoroughly cooked by the sun, I hitched into a town for the night to rest up. The next day, my friends did the same and the five of us hitched into Auckland to avoid the massive amount of road walking that surrounded the city. Right On's friend had offered us a place to stay for the night so we met up with them and they cooked us an awesome dinner. The next day they gave us the option of staying another night and having a BBQ or staying another night and having a BBQ. So we stayed again and ate tons of food. Now we head back out on the trail on Christmas Eve to meet back up with our larger group. It's a rainy morning but we're hoping it clears up for a celebration tonight. Merry Christmas to all who I wish I could celebrate with. My trail family makes it easier to be away for the holidays. Kilometer 662.

Life Might Be Perfect

Martin and I left Paihia the next day and caught the ferry across the bay. It poured on us for about an hour and I was beginning to dread the day when the sun came out and dried us off. We entered a new forest and bush wacked for a long while before I realized Martin wasn't behind me and I was lost. I tried to find the trail for about 20 minutes when Martin finally came out of the forest. Together we were lost for another hour before finding the poorly marked trail again and walking 4km down a river. We popped out of the forest a few hours later and had to endure some dangerous road walking. I was still trying to catch some friends so I pushed it and did 44km that day, which Martin's feet weren't too happy about. We spent the afternoon climbing steep hills, swearing, and laughing our asses off. We got to a campsite where we met three other tramped who had hiked the PCT in 2013. We had dinner and got to know each other before drifting off to bed. I woke up the next morning early and packed up. I was going to put in another big day so I left the rest of them at camp and got moving. After getting lost on three separate occasions, they caught up to me and I decided to stay with them for a bit. We stopped on the road to grab a cold soda and found out about a sea kayak trip that would take us through part of the trail so we looked into it. Wanting to rest our feet for a day and still make progress, we decided to go for it and made our way into the next town where we would start the trip the next morning. On arrival we ran into my friends and got them to come with us on the trip. We had an absolute blast. Splashing each other, messing with each others rutters, and laughing all day long. My abs hurt from the hilarity of the day. We got back on trail and hiked down to a beach where we set up camp for the night and spent the evening swapping stories around the fire. I woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise, which was spectacular. We got moving and made our way through an incredibly gorgeous section of trail. My achilies started to hurt me on the way down and I knew it wouldn't be a good thing. On the other side we hitched into town and got some food and a resupply before heading to the holiday park to sleep for the night. The next day we got up and walked into another town where we are hanging for the day and losing motivation to go on at all. My ankle is still killing me so I'm enjoying the rest. Hoping it goes away soon. Kilometer 420

I Never Want to Hear the Word Forest Again

I left Ahipara and headed away from the beach and into the forest. Finally it felt like real hiking. I was lucky and had an absolutely gorgeous day so I hiked late into the evening. Just before camp I ran back into my Swedish friend Martin and we decided to camp together that night. After an 11km road walk, we got to camp and set up. After walking on the pavement for so long my feet and joints ached. I remember lying awake hoping the pain would stop until I reluctantly drifted off to sleep. The next morning didn't look too good. I opened my tent to an incredibly overcast day and dew covering everything. It didn't help that when I read my trail notes it said we would be reaching the highest elevation in the northland and to expect clouds and rain. As we ascended the mountain the rain slowly started and got worse and worse with what seemed like every step. We left the road and entered the forest and were immediately struck with a mud puddle for a track. Trying to climb a mountain in the mud might be one of the most frustrating experiences I've had. We slogged through, trying to avoid the mud as much as possible. It was impossible. It seemed as though no one had been through here in years and the plants and trees closed in to where you were bush wacking. There were no views, only trees, and I began to feel incredibly claustrophobic, like I would never see the sun again. It was an 18km section until we would be out of the forest but the sign at the beginning said it would take us about 8 hours. I thought that was impossible. There was no way that it could take us that long, we were both strong hikers. My water bottle was ripped out of my side pocket by a branch that I swore at and as I stepped down to pick it up, I shot mud all over the mouthpiece. Great. Four hours in, after smacking my head on branch after branch that was hidden by my rain hood, slipping and falling all over the place, and reinjuring my shoulder and hip, my positive attitude had dissappeared. This was hard and I couldn't help but dwell on how miserable I felt. I was completely covered in mud up to my ass and the rest of my body was soaked from the rain. I remember mentioning to Martin that if it was really going to take us four more hours, I was going to kill myself. Suddenly I took a step and half of my leg was gone in the mud. I pulled up and felt the strap on my heel slip off. Shit. I was about to lose my shoe. In a panic, I rolled up my sleeve and plunged my hand into the seepy mud. Looking back, I should have chosen the hand without my watch on it. I grabbed a strap and ripped upwards as my shoe, and a few pounds of mud, flung out of the ground. I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do with my mud covered shoe that wouldn't fit on my foot or my now mud covered arm. Many explitives later, I got my shoe back on. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do for my hand. We kept moving. I could feel my shoulder swelling but I had to keep using it to keep myself upright and to help on the steep muddy slopes. The pain made me nauseous and all I could think of was getting out of this forest forever. Seven and a half hours later we emerged to a deserted road so we had to road walk to the next road. Covered in blood and mud and completely soaked to the bone, we looked at our trail notes for what to do next. We were advised by some locals to not enter the area in wet weather due to the many river ford's in the next section that became very dangerous I'd the water level had risen. We were at a loss for what to do so we tried to clean ourselves up with baby wipes. A car came by and asked us if we needed a ride. We didn't know where we were going but we definitely needed a ride. They were on their way to Paihia, where I has stayed before starting the trail, so we went there. After a very long and hot shower and some pizza and beer, we were able to make a plan to slack pack north on the trail we had missed. We woke up the next morning to the most gorgeous day. I couldn't believe the drastic change in less than 24 hours. My positive attitude had returned and I was excited about the day. We crushed the miles fairly easily and got to where we could hitch back to Paihia. A private tour bus picked us up and we got to talking about what we were doing. Not only did he drive us all the way back to town, but he made a few stops on the way so we could see some waterfalls in the area that weren't on trail. Even taking us to his house that overlooked the falls. The day definitely revived my desire to keep going on this incredible journey. Tomorrow we take a ferry over to the next section of trail and keep heading south!

I Don't Like Long Walks on the Beach

I hopped on a bus from Paihia to Kaitia in the morning on the 8th. Two hours later I was hitching up to Cape Reigna. My first hitch came from a large Maori woman who talked non-stop from the moment I got into the car till she let me out 30 minutes later. She had 10 children, 24 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren and had lived in New Zealand most of her life except a brief time in the 60s when she went to Australia. In those 30 minutes I got most of her life story. My next hitch was from a couple visiting from Switzerland who were traveling by motor home around the country for two months. My last hitch to the end, came from an American who hailed from Hawaii and ended up walking the first few kilometers with me once we got to the trailhead. I got there around 6pm and knew I wouldn't make it as far as I wanted to before dark. After a three mile beach walk I saw my first trail marker and screamed at the top of my lungs with joy. Little did I know, there was another hiker camped on the hill, who I startled pretty badly. I made it 12km before giving up and watching the sunset while cooking my dinner. I fell asleep fast and was in a deep sleep until I awoke to some rustling. It had clearly been going on for a while and as I grabbed my headlamp and turned it towards the noise, I saw the end of my food bag being dragged out of the vestibule. Knowing there are no harmful animals in New Zealand, I flew out of my tent running for my food bag. What I found were three, very frightened, little possums. These weren't possums from the US with their rat tail, beaty red eyes, and sawtooth teeth. These ones were fluffy and sweet. I resisted the urge to grab one to snuggle with before grabbing my scattered food and climbing back in my tent. Right away it began to rain and the wind picked up but I fell nicely back to sleep, with my food as a pillow. I woke up a few more times to panic and make noise but the possums stayed away. The next morning, I woke up and got hiking early. After some rolling hills, I decended down to the beginning of the 90 mile beach where I would be for what seemed like forever. The first 20km were wonderful, I took my shoes off, danced to my music, and splashed in the water. I was completely alone with no humans in sight. It felt incredible, like I could do anything I wanted. I danced on down the beach another 20km before calling it a night and setting up camp. While getting out my dinner, I realized the possums had gotten into more than just my chocolate covered raises while I was sleeping. With only about half my food being edible, I rationed out for the next day and knew I'd have to make it into town. I got up the next morning with ambition but began  getting discouraged with the never-ending beach. I had already passed by the hundreds of dead puffer fish and birds that scattered the sand and the scenery never changed. Halfway through my day, I came upon a car stuck in the sand. I immediately took my pack off and went to help. A local couple had gotten stuck and another pair of French men were also trying to help. The five of us got the car out after a bunch of digging and the couple were on their way. Unfortunately, not a few minutes later the two guys from France had gotten stuck in the same spot. The three of us now went to work to get the second car out but it was much more difficult with less people. We eventually got it out and as a 'thank you' they offered me a ride to the end of the beach, just a few more miles down. I didn't want to at first but then I remembered my dwindling food and I was out of water. I graciously accepted and they took me to the end where we sat and had a picnic lunch and I helped them with their english a bit. In town, I got to a hostel and met another hiker from Sweden. What had taken me two days, had taken him four and his feet were covered in blisters. I went out and bought us a 6 pack to heal the aching muscles. Tomorrow, I head into the forest where the mud is legendary and the slopes are steep. Should be a fun couple of days!