Are We Out of the Woods? (Days 4 – 9)
I wake with a single thought: I cannot walk today.
There is a massive blister on the bottom of my right foot, clearly infected. Mixed with the shin splint on my right leg, I can barely walk from my tent to the bathroom. We only have fourteen km to go on Ninety Mile Beach, but I quietly accept that it’s not happening today.
To hitch or not to hitch
I had decided before I began the trail that I didn’t intent to hike Te Araroa as a purist. It certainly wasn’t part of the plan to be knocked off the trail this early, but when another group member suggested I hitch this next section and meet them in Kaitaia this evening, I had no protest. I don’t need to walk every inch of this trail if it means falling behind.
Luckily, I was able to find a ride into Kaitaia (the next town we planned to sleep in). By the time I arrived at our accommodation, I couldn’t put any pressure on my right leg. When my group arrived a few hours later, the blister looked furious and I was near tears.
I had to make a choice as I crawled between my bed and the kitchen. I could either wait out the infection in Kaitaia and continue on my own, or I could take a bus to the next town and meet my group again after a week off my feet. It was an easy decision, as I valued the dynamic of my group more than the section of the trail I would miss. It was the way they cared for me, walking to the pharmacy and grocery after their own long day on their feet to get me supplies, that told me these were the people I wanted by my side on this adventure.
On my own
After we said our temporary goodbyes the next day, I spent two days in Kaitaia curled up in a hostel bed. As disappointed as I was to be off the trail, it was refreshing to have that time to myself. I met others who were waiting out injuries and watched my own slowly improve.
I take a moment now to appreciate my adaptability and decision making. It was tempting to break down and give up, but I was determined to look forward and stay positive.
Limping my way forward
After three nights in Kaitaia, I hobbled myself to the bus stop and made the two hour journey down to Kerikeri. This is where I got my first taste of trail magic. A trail angel who had reached out to me via Facebook picked me up at the bus stop and welcomed me into her beautiful home. I spent two days there reading on her deck and sleeping in the fluffiest bed. We shared a beer and talked about our travels. I even got to gingerly walk through her backyard to a gorgeous waterfall that gave me a hint of being back on trail.
Finally, my group is on their way to Kerikeri, and I sit waiting for them now. My foot feels ready and able to continue walking, and I’ve grown bored with being idle.
So, am I out of the woods? Ask me again as I head into the forest.
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