Belinda here : )
138 days of walking
1 day of tandem cycling
a fair few rest days and transit days
3 hiking seasons and
4,797,274(my) steps (give or take a few thousand) later.......
We have completed Te Araroa!
I am pleasantly surprised at how good it feels to finally finish something that I had first thought about quite a few years ago. It was actually catching a television news item of our then Governor General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, officially opening the final section of Te Araroa. The date was 3 December 2011 and I thought at the time, 'gosh, that would be a cool thing to do'.
My interest in TA quietly developed and on 3 January 2015, I printed this invitation for Anthony (Tony) - he knew little about my TA thoughts. With a fair amount of apprehension I handed it to him and to my absolute surprise (and shock), he said “OK”. I knew Anthony didn’t like walking very much (this was 3000km much!) so for the next two weeks I kept asking “are you sure?”. It eventually sunk in that it was a yes, and our journey began…….
The research got under way and those of you who know Anthony will appreciate that his research was more than thorough : ) This was an essential part of our preparation and I was so grateful - reading the nitty gritty and technical aspects of gear is not my thing. Over the year, gear was ordered and we were reading through other TAers blogs, along with all the information from Te Araroa website.
I really do need to mention New Zealander, Kirstine Collins www.restlesskiwiadventures.com whose blog was so informative, helpful, funny and technical (great for Ant); and that because of Kirstine sharing her journey, and giving us so much information, we felt we could manage hiking Te Araroa too! I mean that with all sincerity, so a huge “thank you” Kirstine. Even after being on the trail for some time, we would refer to her blog regularly………..we did however have to be careful about Kirstine’s times as we certainly didn’t have the same energy uphill as she had!
Also nice to mention a big thank you to Te Araroa Trust, Department of Conservation, private land owners, TA volunteers, Rob (ex TAT CEO) and Judith who tirelessly offers helpful information - as do many others - through the facebook pages. A big thanks.
Soooo….things to say….well, I could go on forever but ‘not wanting to do that’, I can think of a few things that I would like to share. One of the highlights for me was how everyday was so different and, almost inevitably, it was nothing at all how you had imagined it would be. You just never knew what was around the corner!! I am so appreciative and grateful that Anthony chose to write a comprehensive blog that covered our hike and from these daily blogs, we will forever be able to recall and see how each day went. I know there are heaps and heaps of photos (I’m the guilty one there) but…...why not. We both felt the blog was our way of recording our adventure and if it was interesting and useful for other people, then that was all good too.
From the beginning, to help us with the mindset of what we wanted to do, we had a couple of guidelines.
Number One: We wanted to walk ‘every step of the way’ - the good, the bad, the whatever. We only deviated from that once and that was a tandem bike ride from Lake Tekapo to Twizel and it was a very wise decision (apart from Anthony’s sprained ankle which was the catalyst for us choosing this option, I feel having done it, it’s the way to go. It is also a suggested option in the TA notes.)
Number Two: No grizzles…….it worked. : )
I think you develop your own managing strategies for getting through each day. We had certain routines, one being, before we started walking each day, we would go through the warmup exercises that I use before my Qigong practice. Another example, Anthony and I would stop, take our packs off, sit down and rest at least every 1.5 - 2.0 hours. I was a stickler for this, especially in the beginning as Anthony quite liked just hiking on. On a more personal level, one of mine was reciting some very beautiful words I had come across....here is the story about the words.
When we started from Cape Reinga, we were staying with my sister Ria who lives in Northland - she kindly delivered us to Cape Reinga. The night before we left her home, I noticed a blessing on her wall and it insisted it should come with us on our adventure. The blessing is by John O’Donahue who was an Irish poet, author, priest and Hegelian philosopher. I learned this blessing by heart and every single day of walking, I recited it - very often more than once a day. At times when I found myself having to ‘dig deep’, for whatever reason, my blessing would be there - I truly found it helpful. Beannacht means blessing and here it is…..
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life
Thank you ... John O’Donahue
I could not wind up this note without giving heartfelt thanks to our family (all over New Zealand), our friends, my students and people we have met on the trail, who all in their own way supported us on our adventure. Be it by transporting us to airports, ferries, trail heads, looking after the farm or our home - having that support meant our journey was that much more enjoyable. Thank you!!
A special thank you to the brilliant reception my sister Ju and the family gave us at Otaki Forks as we covered our final few steps of hiking Te Araroa. It was totally unexpected and just plain beautiful (there were tears!). I did however make my family laugh when while we were sitting around, sipping on bubbly, I turned to Anthony and said, “thanks for coming along” (only 3000+km 'along'). From a very deep well of love, respect and appreciation, I thank you Anthony for saying ‘ok’ and sharing the adventure. xx
…...still enjoying the feeling of finishing our very own Te Araroa
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!