I was up just before 5 am as I wanted to start the last 39 km before anyone else. That would mean they could all catch up to me and we could finish together. So I sneaked out of the dormitory, pulled on my hiking clothes and muddy shoes and socks for the last time. By 6am I was on the road in the cold and dark with mixed feelings. My shoulder was very sore, as it really needed a good massage but I hadn’t been able to find anyone to give me one. I have got this far with no injuries so I was cursing my body for giving me problem at this late stage. 7km down the road I needed the toilet and a bush on the side of the motorway wasn’t going to do the job. It was early but there was already a lot of traffic out to the port and the Aluminum Smelter at Bluff. I had a HiViz vest on so I was quite noticable.
So I veered off following the signs to the local hospital and just made it to the toilet, after the required hand washing and questioning on entry. Covid-19 precautions were really obvious now.
Then I sat in the warm for a while and, again, just didn’t want to walk any more. So I walked the 7 km back to town. Then caught a shuttle out to Bluff. I hung around in a cafe and found a door knob at the right height to do some work on the knots in my shoulder. What a relief! At about 2 pm I got a text saying Anouk and co were getting closer so I put my pack on and walked 7 km along the motorway out to meet them at the edge of town. We stopped to take photos on the rusty sign. How big are those smiles?
They trail walked around Bluff Hill but this group had decided to walk up and over the hill to the end.
So off we went up the last hill of the trail. me trailing Anouk, Jimmy, the 2 Frenchies. I had mixed emotions, one step feeling like crying with relief that it was over, the next crying with pride in myself, crying because I was close to going home and seeing may family and friends again, and then crying with sadness because it was all ending.
After a time at the summit where we all reached into ourselves to say a quiet good bye to Te Araroa it was down the other side to see the sign we had all dreamed of for 5 months. I walked faster and faster with Jimmy always out of reach in front of me.
Then, just like that, we were all there. There was tears and hugs before we opened the bottles of “champagne” we had been carrying in our packs. Then we sat in the sun having a picnic and congratulating each other.
Our last mission to to head up to the Oyster Cafe where we collected our medals and had a beer. Then the shuttle I had organised arrived to take us back to Invercargil. The lovely driver stopped at the supermarket and then the bottle shop for us. Invercargil still has a Licensing Trust so alcohol can’t be sold anywhere other than bottle shops. We needed some supplies to celebrate in style.
We had a fun evening, all wearing our medals and managed to stay up until midnight. That was a TA record.
I have been on a journey where the destination has always been “The Real World.” However I have finished with the whole world going into a lock-down because of Covid-19. So am I returning to “The Real World” or is this going to be a world that we have never known before?
Thanks to all my family and friends and all the other people who have followed my blog and my Facebook page for your support motivation and enthusiasm. Also thanks to all the other Te Araroa walkers I have met on the way. These interactions have helped me remain focused and (usually) kept a smile on my face and my legs walking.
I have seen so many amazing parts of New Zealand that can’t be seen unless you have wet shoes and a pack on your back. I know most of you couldn’t do what I have done and more of you wouldn’t even want to do what I have done so am pleased to have taken you along on my Damn Long Walk. It has been a pleasure having you accompanying me and sharing my beautiful country with you.
Hopefully I have encouraged some of you to get out and do some of the things you have dreamt about. Just go and do it. Life is too short to just dream; so get on and make a plan.