Sometimes the Hardest Part Is Just Getting to the Trailhead

It wouldn’t be an adventure if it didn’t start a little spicy.

I woke up January 1. It’s not only a new year but it’s the day I leave America and jet off to New Zealand! With butterflies in my stomach and hope in my heart I knew this was going to be a special pilgrimage.

The journey began the moment I stepped into the Detroit Metro Airport. As I stood there in my Hawaiian T-shirt, security had to call for extra help to try to unjam my hiking poles from the security scanner. Someone slid into the scanner to try to dislodge my poles. After countless tries they successfully broke free! I jumped the pond from Detroit to Chicago and then boarded the long flight from Chicago to Auckland.

The flight attendant opened his drawer of snacks and poured out a bountiful array of cookies, candy, and beef jerky! My first dose of trail magic. It always reminds me that the kindness and comfort of a stranger can make a difference in someone’s day.

As the flight landed, mixed emotions of excitement (get me off this damn plane) and nervousness hit. I first had to be processed through the biosecurity screening because of my used hiking equipment entering the country. After X-ray scanning of my gear and waiting for lab testing, I finally received my gear back but unfortunately missed my connecting flight to Kerikeri.

I caught a different flight to Kaitaia instead! It worked out better because it got me farther north toward the Northern Terminus of Cape Reinga. A woman from my flight had her cousin drop me off down the street at a point she thought would be a good spot to hitch from. A few people stopped but couldn’t take me all the way north so I waited patiently with my thumb sticking out and the sun beating down on my body. Between Kaitaia and Cape Reinga is remote farmland so I was praying for someone to drive me all the way. A kind couple from the southern island of NZ picked me up in their camper van and drove me all the way north!

A few hundred miles later and I was at the start of the TA! I made it. I walked up to the bright yellow sign marking the beginning of my pilgrimage. Hundreds of people surrounded me but for a moment I felt like I was the only one standing there. I closed my eyes and prayed. I was so thankful I finally made it. All that was left to do was to start walking.

Check out my YouTube channel “Sunney ‘SWAN DIVE’ Te Araroa 2020 Updates” to see my first few days!

 

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