After the TA, everyone asked what I liked the best, what was the most memorable?
I wrote this sometime ago as I considered how to put into words what the TA was to me in response to this question. Hopefully, this is not too trite – but this is how I remember the journey.
“What part did I like the best?” I was asked at the end. “Every day”, I said. Every day was special, each unique with none the same repeated. Be it hard or not quite so hard; sunny, hot, rainy or cold; painful or pleasing, flat or insanely steep, short or long. Heavily laden with food to start out and light and empty at the end. Over sandy beaches, root-bound tracks, sticky mud, smooth scree, boulders and shingle; ankle-bending rabbit burrows and hoof-print hollows. Concrete city pathways, gravel forestry roads and tar seal highways; canoeing down rivers or taking to the ocean in a sea kayak. Wet feet or dry. Wading across rivers or crossing these on all sorts of bridges – one person, two persons; three-wire or on just a log. Grasses, ferns, trees and flowers; mountains and tussock covered expanses; being surrounded by trees or having unlimited vistas; huts, cabins, backpackers and campsites – hidden or in the open; farmland, towns and cities; calm days or staggering against the howling wind. Peering into pristine backyards of the wealthy or being embarrassed at the city rubbish and trash. The comforting silence of being alone with yourself; the embracing chatter of fellow walkers, or lost amongst the murmuring city masses. Sparkling mountain water to die for, against the brown polluted muck to steer clear of. Cows, sheep, horses, goats, pigs, sand-flies, mosquitoes; skinks, possums, wood pigeons, Tuis, Falcons, Robins and Moreporks. The glorious sound of the dawn chorus at Pureora. Unpolluted starry nights, fabulous sunrises, and stunning sunsets over mountain lakes. The hard unforgiving roads so punishing on the feet and the relief of soft cushioning leaf strewn tracks. From the ambushing Spaniard speargrass to in-you-face majestic Rimu and Kauri. Seeing dried up streams and tiny trickles to the unrelenting power of the Rakaia in flood. Snow covered peaks and soothing lake-swims on scorching days. Continually dirty, smelly, tired and sore; being hungry and thirsty. Exploring the ways to make couscous, pasta and potato flakes taste interesting. How the simple comforts of a hot meal at the end of the day, a dry sleeping bag and shelter from the rain become all encompassing. The flickering fire in the fireplace of a high-country musterer’s hut. New huts like Pahautea in the Pirongia’s; tiny ones like Caroline bivvy, old huts like Martin’s in the Longwood’s and every age, condition, size and shape in-between. The daily countdown as we approach civilisation and the anticipation of showers, laundry, big breakfasts, beer and pizza. Of being with others along the trail – briefly or for weeks on end; from nameless faces to likely lifelong friends; be they fellow thru-walkers, section walkers or the ones just out for the day. The family, friends and strangers along the way that opened their doors and made us feel welcome. All the nationalities on the trail: Germans, French, Italians, Germans, English, Czech, Spanish, Germans, Americans and many more – and the occassional New Zealander. The uncertainty and lack of fitness at the beginning; the growth of confidence and strength – physical and mental, throughout. The very mixed feelings of ending the Trail at the first, distant, glimpse of Bluff – and the enormous feeling of achievement standing beneath the Stirling Point signpost. These experiences made every day special. Yes, some days were more memorable, some impressions stronger; but better? No, they were just wonderfully memorably different. And I loved every one of them.