Walking Te Araroa is an extraordinary experience. So much of it is about 'one step, and then another step' but oh my goodness, how different each one of those steps can be. Over time you start to become very aware of the feed back you are receiving through each foot fall. This really helps you to adjust your way of going accordingly, so that you may continue your journey safely and in good shape.
Anthony and I have worked with quite a few styles and rhythms to help us through our days. Some of these have come through comments or suggestions from our good friends. Barb passed on to me something she had been told that when the body is feeling a little compromised, or is struggling, shorten your stride. This has worked a treat, especially when first starting out or after a break. Then from Jo, the softening of the knees in a semi crouch. This is great for the steeper, gravelly forestry roads.
When we beach walk, we often like to stride out but then walking backwards for a change is fun and eases the repetition. I learned that at times when the uphill is hard going and you are digging in with your poles and working the body hard, just think 'soften'. Soften the impact you place on the earth through your poles and your feet, try to relax. This seems to make a big difference to how you feel about the uphill and the fatigue factor.
The earth upon which our feet are being placed varies considerably. Here are some examples that I can recall; hard sand, soft sand, loose deep sand, tarmac, asphalt, loose small stone gravel, loose large stone gravel, concrete, grasses - so many varieties, lumpy top soil, clay (firm, slippery, gluggy), pine needles, native forest litter, moss, twigs, roots (large and small) wooden board walks, iron grating, rocks, boulders, riverbeds, gluggly muddy mangrove flats and adding water on top of some of these surfaces adds a whole new dimension.
As mentioned, the feed back we get through the soles of our feet gives us an opportunity to adjust our way of going if need be. After a while the adjustments start to happen naturally and your feet and body start to connect more clearly and fluidly with the ground, whatever the surface may be.
Assisting our whole way of going with each foot fall is very often a walkers pole. I cannot imagine doing all that we do on TA without our poles, some walkers do however, and others walk with just one long pole. Not only do our poles help us with our walking but they hold up our tent at night:). Our dear friend Sue very kindly gave us rubber stoppers to wedge over the tungsten tip ends of the poles so that when walking on the roads or concrete paths, we were weren't traveling with clack, clack, clack. Really helpful, thanks Sue.
So for this blog entry, my MPUaIG (most practical, useful and important gear) award, goes to....... di da..... my walking poles!
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"!!