The day started well. I stayed in my bunk and let the young ones get out of the way before I got up. I headed off alone up hill clambering over large red volcanic boulders for 15 minutes feeling ready for a relatively easy day.
However my heart began racing so fast that I couldn’t count the beats, my legs and arms were feeling wobbly and I was having trouble breathing.
I had a similar episode while tramping kn Patagonia about 10 years ago so was not too panicked in myself. I knew that laughing, coughing or getting a fright could reset my heart rate and I would be fine.
Along came Robyn and Martin then Anouk. We tried these techniques but nothing worked. So they helped me along the track to a safer area and I rested. Anouk went on ahead taking some of my gear as I didn’t want to hold her up and Robyn and Martin were going to stay with me. They were so good and patient as I needed to stop every 10 steps and lay down about every 40 step. I just couldn’t stop my heart from racing and had no energy to walk, especially uphill. The downhill bits were easier but they were quite risky so the added stress didn’t help.
They took all my gear from my pack and eventually Martin carried my pack as well.
I felt so ashamed and appalled at my body for doing this to me. I would much rather be hurt than have my body not do what it should. I have been feeling so good, strong fit and healthy and now this! I was afraid it would stop me finishing the trail.
Anyway we battled on finally reaching the Porters Creek Hut about 4.30 pm. It should have taken me about 3.5 to 4 hours and was to be my lunch stop. It had taken 9 hours.
I ate a little and laid down for an hour mostly thinking about what to do. A trip to the long drop, on 20 meters away had my heart racing again.
So after a discussion with all those present the decision was made for me to activate my Personal Locator Beacon. I was gutted and crying. Not what I wanted at all.
The rescue helicopter arrived in about 20 minutes and they said we had done the right thing. I needed to get to hospital and be checked out. So off we went for a 15 minute trip over the mountains that has taken me about 10 days to walk. I contacted my children who would have had a call from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre when the beacon was activated. I let them know I was not injured and was feeling okay.
The doctors thought I was probably dehydrated and that my electrolytes would be out of balance but that was not the case at all. All the tests came back saying things were good.
My heart settled down as they put the machines on me and took a raft of tests.
The staff were more interested in the fact that I had been walking for 92 days and in my gear. Lol. Quite a few of them were trampers and interested in the Te Araroa. I thought they should have been more interested in my heart but the machines were only showing a fit, healthy heart.
My resting heart rate was under 60 beats per minute and the test results came back saying I was all okay to go at just after midnight. I have it confirmed that I am a fit and healthy specimen.
The doctor said to have a couple of days rest then try again. He also gave me a sheet with some more techniques to help shock my heart back into a correct rhythm. So if you see me on the track blowing into a syringe for 15 seconds until I am nearly passed out, then laying down quickly with my feet in the air, don’t be alarmed.
My brother Nigel came and collected me and we made a 1.30 am trip to McDonalds as I was starving having missed dinner.
This is the 3rd time I have been rescued by helicoptor and there has been another 2 times that I called it for people in my group. So I am keeping up my Frequent Flyer Points.
I have now had three days rest in Nelson and have pushed myself up a steep set of stairs a couple of times so feel happy to ho o with my Te Araroa.
However I will not do the next section from St Arnaud to Lewis Pass it is very challenging. Instead I will walk the St James Walkway in the same area. This is at a lower level and quite a bit flatter. DOC class it as suitable for beginners so there will be more people around.
I am feeling confident that I will he okay. The previous time this happened to me was after about 10 days tramping in Patagonia about 10 years ago. This time it has taken 92 days so the odds are getting better.
Maybe I just needed some McDonald’s, a beer and a few days of good food and showers.
Watch this space