Cheeseburgers Save the Day

Hey Alexa, how many trampers can we fit in the Tesla?

We say goodbye to our Aussie purist, who has charmed us all with his quirkiness. We hope to see him again.

I start the day with my very first hitchhike, which just happens to be in a red Tesla. The driver takes us through winding roads that would be a nightmare to walk on, so we’re grateful to be dropped off right at the base of the day’s trail. On the short walk up to the trailhead, a woman stops her car to chat with us about her own experience with long-distance hiking, wishing us luck as we clean off our shoes and head into the bush.

A struggle uphill

It’s a day of steep inclines and blazing sunlight, both slowing me down more than I would like. Our group splits into two groups of three, and the second half feels like a slog even as the views stun in the summer heat.

Once through the trail, the two German girls and I catch two hitches to our accommodation for the night, where we meet the others and dine on cheeseburgers before a clumsy yoga session and a quick swim.

Coastal Paradise

The next day, we cross the longest footbridge in the southern hemisphere before ascending along a coastal pathway that has us all dreaming of a house by the sea. We divert from the official trail to stay next to the water (recommended by a local), with yet another cheeseburger feast to close out the day.

A long day

We’re on the move early the next day for what will be one of the longest journeys yet. We’re picked up in a small boat that takes us to a small camp where we learn about the two river crossings awaiting us. It’s another hot day, and the tide schedule pushes us quickly forward. After crossing each river, we walk through black mud that swallows our feet with each step. It’s with a mixture of laughter and disgust that we crawl our way to the other side.

The day ends with a mighty incline up a hill, the top of which offers a daunting view of the mountain that we are meant to cross tomorrow.

The elevation profile looks like the Tower of Isengard

I wake up early the next day, intimidated by the steep 400-meter climb ahead. Our Kiwi group member is having shoe issues, so the two of us set off before the others so we can slowly go at our own pace.

The climb is brutal at times, a never-ending ascent that has me dripping sweat before 8am. I find a good playlist and power through, stopping only to breathe and hydrate as we get higher and higher. It’s an eight-hour effort, ending with a quick hitch and, most importantly, cheeseburgers.

We eat like kids

We notice that our diets have evolved to resemble that of a 12-year-old boy. We feast on fast food, chocolate, and ice cream. Vegetables and fruits have become a rarity, as none of us can afford the weight (or the New Zealand produce prices). While our cheeseburger feasts are not a sustainable lifestyle, we enjoy the morale boost they provide.

A truck full of puppies

After these two big days, we take it slow the next day and hike a quick ten kilometers to the first real beds we’ve had in over a week. We prepare a beautiful barbecue and pile into one bed to watch Moana on a tiny screen.

The final day of this stretch brings us past the 400 kilometer mark. We walk along the beach until we arrive at the cute town of Waipu. There, we find coffee, meat pies, and a truck full of puppies that we’re beyond tempted to take with us.

The evening highlight is a sunset swim on the beach and a backflip competition with some local kids on a bouncy trampoline pillow.

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