Te Araroa NOBO (Days 40-42)

Day 40

Today is the first day that I’m walking SOBO instead of NOBO. It was a tough decision, but I’ll explain.

Yesterday, it rained all day long. It was supposed to let up overnight, but it didn’t. I woke up a few times throughout the night to pouring rain. Today, I was supposed to walk over the Waiau Pass, but before I got there, I had multiple river crossings. After my experience with the fast-moving river yesterday, I wasn’t feeling too confident in my ability to cross over rivers. When I woke up this morning, I spent probably 20 minutes pondering whether I should continue north or turn back to Anne Hut. As I watched the rain come down and reflected on the challenge of the day before, I decided to turn back. I messaged back home on my Garmin InReach to let my family know that I was turning back.

At first, I wasn’t too sure if I had made the right decision. After walking for about 30 minutes, the sky started clearing. Then, after another hour, the sky was mostly clear with only a few drifting clouds. At that point, I was about 3 miles into my walk, and rather than turning around for the pass, I decided just to push on SOBO and embrace the day.

While walking, I came to a few different realizations. First, I think the trail is set up to better assist SOBO walkers. It could just be that I had walked this section yesterday so I knew what to expect, but I found that looking for the trail markers was more intuitive. The trail was much easier to follow walking SOBO.

I also realized that there are different ways to approach a problem. Yesterday, I remember walking over a set of fallen trees. I had to shimmy along the path to stay close to the tree, then I hopped up over it and stepped gingerly to the second fallen tree to get back to the trail. Today, I was approaching the fallen trees from a higher path, so I was able to step directly over them. It was much less precarious, and it didn’t seem like that big of an obstacle at all. It reminded me of problems in life. We see them from different angles and approach them based on our own vantage point. We can try to give others advice, but we might be seeing the trees from a lower perspective.

The trail took me less time today, and it was beautifully sunny all day long! I really enjoyed looking around at the mountains. They had been completely hidden by clouds yesterday. Today, I could see some snow on the tops and all the ridges on others. What a lovely day!

I arrived to the hut, and three ladies from New Zealand were already there. They’re completing the St. James Walkway. Jill, Carol, and Nikola have been walking for three days. This was the first tramp for both Jill and Carol, and it was so fun to chat with them! A few more girls walking the St. James arrived a little later, and they’ve been walking and orientating as they walk. They were using their laminated map and compass to get to different points. It was so neat to hear about their adventure so far!

Day 41

I continued my journey SOBO today, and I knew it was going to be a long day. Previously,  had split up today’s section into two days. I began my walk at 7:30, and I got back to Boyle Outdoor Center before 3PM. It was a long walk with minor elevation. Since there has been rain recently, there was a lot more mud on the trail today than when I walked it a few days ago.

Once the trail turned from the TA section to the St. James Walkway, it became much easier to tramp. There were multiple bridges and walkways over marshlands and rivers. I appreciated a break from walking with wet feet. With that being said, I still definitely walked all day with drenched socks and shoes. The dew had settled on the tussocks and heather, so as I walked, my legs brushed against the undergrowth. Within 5 minutes on the trail, my dry socks were wet once again. No worries, though. Almost every day on the TA has been a “wet feet” day, and I’m used to it by now.

It was such a beautiful, sunny day. I stopped a few times just to look around and take it all in. It’s absolutely phenomenal to walk through the valleys and be surrounded by mountains and foothills. The sky was a bright blue with puffy clouds, and I caught myself smiling at the beauty of the day more than once!

Once I arrived to Boyle Outdoor Center, I needed to get a hitch left. I had set my sights on Hanmer Springs as my next destination. I waited right outside the turnoff to the center, and within 20 minutes, a car pulled over for me. A lovely man in his 60’s was heading back home from a week of fishing trips, and he lives in Hanmer Springs. Perfect! He dropped me off right by the thermal pools, and as soon as I took in the city, I knew I had made the right decision to come to Hanmer Springs.

After a food stop at Four Square, I put up my tent at the Top 10 Holiday Park. I decided to leave the adventuring to tomorrow and called it a night. What a day!

Day 42

I was too excited to sleep in today! Today is going to be awesome! I was up at 5:30, made oatmeal in the kitchen, and started my adventure for the day. I found a book in the free box at the holiday park (Doctor Who: Evolution), and I brought it with me to the only coffee shop that was open at 6:30 – Mumbles Cafe. I plugged in my phone and Anker Charging box while reading and enjoying a flat white coffee.

It’s funny – a few times at coffee shops, I’ve simply asked for a coffee, but that’s not a thing here. When you ask for a coffee, they ask you what kind. When (in the past) I’ve repeated, “Oh, just a coffee is fine,” the barista proceeds to ask, “Right. Flat white, latte, cappuccino, mocha?” I guess I could order an Americano (maybe?) to get just a black coffee. I haven’t tried yet. The most popular coffee option here is a flat white, so I’ve been sticking to that option. It’s decent, but I haven’t found a coffee here that was worth writing home about.

After spending almost an hour and a half at the coffee shop, my electronics were charged, and I had already read 60 pages of my new book. I went back to the holiday park to pack up before the check-out time (10AM), and I was ready for the day!

I had walked passed an outdoor store yesterday, and I saw that they had Hokas on sale for 40% off, so I wandered into the store to check out the sale. My current Hokas (Speedgoat 5) have been wonderful, but they’re pretty much done. The inserts have holes in them. The sides of the shoes are wearing down and the fabric is pulled back to reveal the inner layer of the shoe in areas. Also – the most important – the tread on the bottom is gone. I’ve felt nervous a few times when I have to climb or descend a hill with slate or mud, because the grip is non-existent on my shoes.

I asked the owner which Hokas they had available, and there were only two options. A running shoe and a trail runner with higher ankle support. When she showed me the trail shoe, she let me know that this was her only pair and they were size 9 US. My current shoes are 9.5, but when I held them against each other, the sizes looked almost exactly the same. Also… the color! They’re gorgeous! I love maroon for my outdoor gear.  I don’t know why, but maroon and orange are my go-to colors. These shoes are maroon, red, and cream. I tried them on, walked around the store, and (with the 40% off discount) was convinced that they needed to become mine. What an incredible find!! I’m so, so happy to throw away my old shoes and have a new pair that I can wear confidently, knowing that the grip is brand new! Woohoo!!

After my purchase, I dropped off my bag at the backpackers where I would be staying that evening, grabbed a plate of self-serve sushi (YUM!), and made my way to the Hanmer Springs Spa.

The big draw to Hanmer Springs for TA walkers are the thermal pools. You can pay for a day pass and enjoy the pools for as long as you’d like. I decided to arrive around noon (on a Sunday), and it was perfect. I chatted with the woman at the spa desk and said, “it’s so peaceful here!” to which she replied that yesterday (Saturday) was packed with kids and was a very different experience.

I brought my Doctor Who book with me and bounced from pool to pool as I read through the exciting chapters of my book! It was the most perfect, sunny day for a day in pools. They also had water slides and a lap pool. They were super fun and no line to get on the slides! What luxury! My time at the thermal pools ended with 30 minutes in the sauna and a massage. What an amazing day. I feel so rejuvenated and grateful! After a dinner of fish and chips, I returned to the backpackers and finished my new book. It was so good!!

The backpackers had a book exchange area, so I went to see if there was anything that piqued my interest. As I was looking, I chatted with a girl from London who was seated by the bookcase. Philley is from London, and she’s been here in New Zealand for 3 months. Her dad came here in the 80’s, and she’s wanted to visit ever since. She flew into Auckland and the people who were staying at the same accommodation as her in Auckland were all shopping for cars. She jumped on the bandwagon and purchased a car, and she’s been living in it while here. She’s so brave! It was fun to chat with her about the chores of simple living. For car living, she said the chore she looks forward to the least is organization. She has bins that she keeps under the mattress, and in order to get out her cooking equipment, she has to grab the right bin. It sounded similar to backpacking in that I have different packing cubes for different purposes. She was super encouraging to talk with, and I was grateful for our conversation! She’s headed onto Australia next and then onto Los Angeles. So fun! After our chat, I called it a night. Another amazing day!!

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