Plan F

I am now onto Plan F.

The weather just isn’t right for tramping at this time of the year. There is still snow at low levels, lots of rain and wind and the resulting high rivers. Therefore I have given up the idea of doing Te Araroa NOBO for now.

At the stage of my last post I was heading into the Taraura Ranges but the weather wasn’t going to be good. I made the right decision not to go s there was 2 rescues of people who were stuck by the ferocious winds up there. One was lucky to have his dog to keep him warm as rescue had to wait two days until the wind dropped.

My little adventure in the wind up on Colonial Knob was okay as it was rolling farmland with places to shelter. The worst that could have happened was for me to be blown across a paddock through cow and sheep shit and getting caught up in a gorse bush. There were plenty of sheep in sheltered areas happily munching away on the grass. They weren’t flying through the air! I could have joined them in a sheltered area and put up my tent for the night.

Being homeless and jobless I had changed from being a Tramper to a Tramp. I spent a few days in Paraparaumu with some friends getting fed well then off to Napier to stay with my Mum for a few days in the Retirement Village. That is a good life style I think. Happy hours, long lunches with friends, Thai Chi, Petanque and exercise classes, a nice café on site, a reading room with all the daily newspapers, rubbish collected at the door and meals delivered if so desired. Definitely something to look forward to.

Ladies lunch

Back to Palmerston North to stay with another daughter and son in law, and spend time looking after my grandchildren . I have got through all the jobs on their list except paining the bathroom, but they are okay for me to take a few weeks to complete that one.

I toyed with the idea of flying up and over Auckland to Kaitaia and staring Te Araora again from Cape Reinga as early October is a good time to start up in the winterless North. There would be quite a few others staring this week too. Auckland is in a Covid-19 lockdown, hence the need to fly over the city. Most people seem to be starting with the hope that the Auckland borders will be open by the time they arrive.

But an accounting job had come up that for 6 weeks so I start work on tomorrow 4th October at the Rangitikei District Council. I may as well earn some money and fill in my time until I can start the Te Araroa NOBO of the South Island after Christmas. The borders to Australia may be open again by the time I have finished so I may be back on track to do the Bibbulmun Track in 2022.

Therefore you won’t be hearing form me for a while. I know that us accountants get excited by excel spreadsheets, debits and credits, Funding Impact Statements and Statement of Changes in Net Assets/Equity, however I do also know that most other people don’t.

Day 5 Paekakareiki to Waikanae with some company – 22km

After another fun night with Phillipa and her friend I was ready for another 22km walk along the west coast with some company for the day. Pip and Jane are walking Te Araroa South Island SOBO starting before Christmas this year. They have followed my SOBO blog and are all kitted out and excited about the adventure to come. I am sure they will love every hard damn step of it!

Also along for the walk was Linda, a landscape gardener, who was involved in planning the original track through the area with Geoff Chapple. She must be proud to see the trail being used by so many people now.

It was a chatty day as you would expect with 4 women together for about 8 hours straight. We walked along paths adjacent to the beach most of the way with a small section on the actual beach. That was enough to remind me that beach walking is not so much fun with a full pack on my back.

We came across some locals whitebaiting. There is is a short season each year where we can catch these wee fish in nets, usually in estuaries. They are a iconic New Zealand delicacy. People have favourite spots which are closely guarded and defended.

The plan had been to head into the Taraura Ranges the next day with Lois but the weather was not looking good. It is an acceptable risk to be in rolling farmland in a gale but definitely not safe to be on a mountain range in a storm for 5 days. However Lois and Rohan met us along the trail and we joined them for a much deserved beer. over the beer or 3 we decided to try again for after the 25th, 2 weeks away. The others caught a train back to Plimmerton then I was picked up by my friend Trevor and taken to stay with him and Maxine in Paraparaumu for a few days while I tried to hatch another plan.

They were pleased to do their bit for society and take in a homeless, jobless tramp and feed her up with good nourishing food before sending me on my way back home.

It was 2 hour bus trip back to Palmerston North, all masked up, listening to my e-book “Batavia” about a shipwreck in 1629 along the Western Australian coast. I had downloaded this to set the scene for my walk in Australia. I definitely would not have wanted to come across any of the mutineers from that ship. They turned into thieves, rapists, murderers and brutes in their fight for survival and over the treasure aboard the ship. I hoped the resident Australians would have been a lot less scary. Those who survived had eaten a lot of the funny looking “cats” that hopped around on large feet and had babies in their pockets.

Day 4 Porirua to Paekakareiki – 22km

Today was a fine sunny day. Just my luck to have no wind on the day where I was walking on the flat all day. I was pleased with my 22km walk: legs felt good, feet were okay and I enjoyed the freedom from any other pressures. I also enjoyed a pie from a little shop at lunch time.

I was now following the coast on tracks beside the seaside and then inland along beside the motorway.

Te Araroa Trust has built a track high above the motorway but this was closed due to recent storm damage so the busy road was to be my company for the day. The photos below shows the track up on the ridge above the road. It would have given me great views this time had I been able to get up there. Instead I watched the people all streaming out of Wellington on the first Saturday after 3 weeks of lockdown. At times I was walking faster than the traffic was moving. Ha ha

The most exciting thing I saw was a truck driver peeing on the rocks while waiting for police to escort his broken down track. I stopped for a break and sat down right above him. I am not sure who got the biggest fright! No photo!

Day 3. Ngaio to Porirua. Lost and blown around.

I was off at 7.30 as I had a 22 km day, with a stop at Johnsonville to have a cuppa with a friend.

Lois had given me instructions on a bit of a short cut which I got thoroughly wrong and it took me an extra 1.5 hours to get to my friends place, only about 5 km away. I was a bit grumpy with myself by the time I got there and have vowed not to take shortcuts again. What is obvious to a local is not to me and the closer we are to town the more tracks and trails there are in the parks meaning more places I can take a wrong turn.

Anyway a couple of chocolate biscuits, a coffee and a good natter saw me on my way again. This time in Rhona’s car to the local mall to pick up some ankle supports for me from a $2 shop. In my rush to leave I had forgotten to get new ones.

There was about 8 km of road walking to do so I easily got talked into a ride to the next trail head that would take me throughout forest up to Colonial Knob. I had walked this long section of road last time with Anouk and her parents and remembered hiding in a bus shelter to eat our lunch out of the wind. No need whatsoever to repeat that if there is an alternative.

This was when I began to get texts from friends and family saying that it was quite windy where they were. Lois and I had looked at the weather forecast last night and, yes, there was going to be some wind up there but it is always windy on the exposed farmland around Wellington. It is not called Windy Wellington for nothing. I assured my daughters that I would be okay as I was on rolling farmland hills and not a dangerous mountain.

I took a photo of the entrance so I had a time stamp (11.15am) and I was off up hill along a recently maintained track. I put on an audio book about a shipwreck and marched on. After about 45 minutes I came to 3 way junction with no signage so decided to keep straight. This took me out to a forestry road which did not match my app. So I turned around and went back to the crossroads. At this stage I had quite lost my bearings in the sunless day and thick bush meaning I did not know which way was North.

Come on Karen, figure it out!!! Read the trail notes…”go right” it said, so off I went engrossed in my shipwreck story. An hour and 45 minutes after I left the entrance sign I come to another sign that looked very familiar. I opened up my photos to see that I was back where I started. Grrr. Turn right if you are going SOBO does not mean turn right if going NOBO.

Damn hopeless person!! So my options were to admit defeat and walk back to town or continue back where I had just been. Option 2 was really the only way I could save face so off I went again up the lovely cleared track.

This time I made the correct turn and stopped for my first trail lunch in the shelter of the trees just before hitting the tops. I think the reason I tramp is for plastic cheese and salami on crackers. It is real a shame that red wine is too heavy to carry.

I could hear the wind roaring through the tree tops so knew I was in for some fun up there.

I came out from the trees to find it was really windy but I wasn’t on a mountain ledge so decided it was safe enough to carry on. If I was blown over it would be into gorse bushes, cow pats and down rolling hills.

So I pushed on in the clouds and wind enjoying the adventure much more than I would enjoy a day in the office. But as I got higher and into the more exposed areas I was getting knocked around a fair bit. I would rest in a sheltered area then make a run across the next exposed area hoping I would make it in one piece.

I was blown over a few times but managed to reach the highest point of the day where there was a cellphone tower and a shed to shelter behind get my heart rate back to normal.

I decided to keep going and hoped I would get down to the bush line without getting blown away for good. But I didn’t get far before I was knocked over and swepy across the path like a bag of rubbish only able to stop myself when I was up against a large prickly gorse back.

I lay there for some time trying to decide which way to go. Forward or back to the safety behind the cellphone tower. Go back to what I knew as I didn’t really know what was up ahead. I tried to crawl on all fours got blown over so ended up inching my way along the rocky path on my side, getting battered about and pushed closer to the edge with every move. Eventually I was protected from the wind by the towers.

I had decided I could easily put my tent up and spend the night there and wait for the weather to clear in the morning. So I sent messages to a few people to let them know my plans. Phillips was expecting me that afternoon so I didn’t want her to worry. Lois picked up my message and rang me to say that there was a track down the other side away from the wind, that would get me down and out on the road to Porirua as planned.

So I gad some food and fluids and took off into the clouds and wind again. Soon I was bit lower on the sheltered side away from 5he brunt of the storm and feeling much safer. I did get knocked over a couple more times, once my cellphone went tumbling away but soon I could see the city below so I felt relieved.

I came out by the local tip and had about a 4km walk to the railway station where I would catch a train on to Plimmerton first the night.

So I put my thumb out and my got picked up by a landscape gardener with a car full of cocoa kernels which smelt slightly better than I did.

I had an enjoyable evening with Pip and Jane who are planning to walk the South Island part of Te Araroa this summer.

Day 2 Wellington Central to Ngaio

Hostel bunk beds are usually metal and they squeak and creak everytime you move so I spend the night trying not to wriggle too much. My room mate has had 2 weeks alone so she will not be used to the noises of a room mate.

I woke to a beautiful sunny day and headed up through the Botanical Gardens for another short 12km day to stay with Trail Angels Lois and Rowan in Ngaio. Trail Angels do good deeds for long distant hikers such as providing a bed, or a place to pitch a tent, transport etc.

Lois is going to join me for the 5 days through the Tararua Ranges which is good as that part of the trail is up high and very exposed. I always say I need to have a witness if I fall off the mountain so that my story can be told.

I had plenty of time to kill so I stopped and enjoyed a coffee in the sun at a Cafe in the Rose Gardens watching others enjoying freedom after lockdown.

Again I managed to lose the trail as there are many paths through the gardens and I gad trouble finding the correct turns for Te Araroa. Last time I found that I was most likely to lose the trail when I was close to a town or city as there are more options that up in the mountains or in the bush.

The signage and trail notes for Te Araroa are designed mainly for people going South so I found it not so easy going North.

Spring is here

Gardeners busy with the roses

I followed the Northern Walkway finding one part where the track was closed because a bridge was washed out. I remembered that the bridges here were just over wee creeks and designed to keep the city slickers fancy shoes dry. So a climbed around the barrier and headed on finding a wee creek to step across. I felt a bit naughty doing this but carried on to climb under the next barrier and back onto the track without anyone seeing me.

I was surprised to see that everyone was wearing their masks even outside in the gardens and bush tracks. I suppose they know that our Prime Minister, Aunty Cindy lives in Wellington.

Looking back to Wellington.

I spent a lovely time with Lois and her family in Ngaio. Lois walked the South Island part of Te Araroa last summer and has been section walking the North Island over the last few years. They have also been Trail Angels for a number of years so we had lots of stories to share with each other. Our lips didn’t stop moving all evening.

Funnily enough Lois also had to be rescued when she got lost in the Longwood Forest just as I had the year before her. However she had cellphone coverage and was able to phone for help and was found by a group of SAR (Search and Rescue) on foot. I was winched out by helicopter.

Day 1. Island Bay to Wellington Railway Station 12km

Freedom again so I was out the gate like a cut cat. I enjoyed my stay with a cute wee grandson but I had left work for a bit more adventure so I was out the gate like a cut car as soon as we moved Covid levels.

Delta level 3 meant I could be on the move however buses and trains were still not running out of Palmerston North. To start my NOBO (Northbound) I needed to get to Wellington which is the Southern most end of our North Island.

So I called up my friend, Maxine and asked for a ride. I was pretty sure she would be eager to get out of the house after 2 weeks locked down and I was right. That got me half way and then I caught a commuter train, then a bus to Island Bay to start my walk.

Starting Te Araroa this time was nowhere as exciting or scary as when I began my SOBO in October 2019. This time I knew what I was in for, physically and mentally, I knew my gear was good and I knew the route.

I found it quite hard wearing a mask as my glasses fogged up meaning I couldn’t see much at all. I had trouble seeing enough through the fog and was fumbling to find money, so I was told not to bother, it was a free trip. Quite a good way to have a free ride.

I really respect all those people who have lived and worked with masks for the last 28 months.

I don’t like those masks but they are a necessity.

Starting was a bit of an anti climax as it was blowing a Wellington gale and there was no one else at the park to witness my start. Maybe that was a good omen as it was also blowing a gale when I started last time.

I was pleased to get away from the coast line and begin to walk up and over the first of the 2 mountains for the day, Mt Albert. Soon I was passing the line on the road telling me I was safe from a sunami so that was good. I followed the Southern Walkway up and over Mt Wellington along the high fence around the zoo then down to Oriental Parade and back through the centre of our capital city.

I managed to lose the track a couple of times so there goes my theory of knowing the route.

I was surprised to see everyone was wearing masks on the street and keeping their distance. There is no Covid in Wellington but being the home of our Parliament everyone is very compliant here. Noticeably no one else seemed to be wearing glasses and constantly having to wipe them as I was.

I had booked in at the Waterloo Backpackers and am sharing a room with a Japanese girl who got stuck here alone for the 2 weeks of lockdown so she was pleased to have some company.

Dinner out with my lovely granddaughter, Hope, has completed a good day for me.

Change of Plans

As I cannot get into Australia due to Covid restrictions I have had to change my plans. Tomorrow we move to Delta Level 2 which means I can start doing something with my 10 months away from working.

So I will begin by walking Te Araroa NOBO (North Bound) from Wellington. I plan to back in Palmerston North by 25th September to help celebrate my Grandsons first birthday.

It will be 235km of hard work as I have not been doing much exercise and am carrying more extra weight on my body than I carry in my pack.

Bags are packed and I am ready to see what adventure awaits us all.

I am ready to go but Covid-19 is not ready to let me leave

As planned I finished my 14 month contract position at Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. There I have learnt a lot about Revenue, Reporting and Analysis for all the different transport related taxes in New Zealand. My repertoire of accounting knowledge now includes Road User Charges, Regional Fuel Tax, Fuel Excise Duty, Clean Car Discounts, Tolling, Driver Licensing and Motor Vehicle Licensing and Registration. All great knowledge to have gained but basically useless in any other field of work. This was my first real Public Service role so that was a learning curve for me. It is undoubtedly different!

I have learnt about that people can prepay, post pay, not pay, repay, under pay, over pay, mispay, don’t pay, can’t pay, won’t pay and pay twice. That all creates quite a lot of work for the finance department.

I worked with people from all over the world, with different personalities, strengths, work ethics and foibles. I had a good team of bright young accountants to lead who showed up how much I am slowed down in my old age. I have also made some new friends along the way.

But it is time to go off an another adventure and I was all ready to leave on Wednesday. However New Zealand has gone into a strict lockdown because the Delta variant of Covid-19 has got through our borders. We have had a great run over the last year living our life as normal, unlike many countries. So I suppose we can’t complain about the snap lockdown as we need to all get vaccinated before life will really get back to normal (whatever that will be in the future). I have been fully vaccinated since early June and was ready to go to Western Australia which has tracked along a very similar path to New Zealand. I have a G2G Pass which allows me into WA with a 14 day self isolation clause. My son has a decent sized upstairs area for me to isolate in away from the rest of the household. They can put my meals at the bottom of the stairs and I can sneak down to pick them up, just like a stray dog. However, I cannot get on a plane out of New Zealand yet. Tickets re booked for 1 September and I just have to wait and see if that comes about. Locked down until midnight on 31 August.

Our All Blacks pulled out of a game scheduled for Saturday in Perth so we have upset the Aussies so I hope they don’t take it out on Kiwi Granny who just wants to come over to visit her family and walk one of their great walking tracks.

In the mean time I am jobless and homeless as of tomorrow as my tenants take over then. This had always been the plan as living with what is on my back is something I do every now and then and quite enjoy. I will be staying with my youngest daughter, her husband and 11 month old grandson. This will give me some good time with them before I go away but I hope lockdown doesn’t last longer that they can put up with me. My eldest daughter had me for 4 months of the last lockdown as I had just finished Te Araroa when Covid-19 hit. I will do some much needed training for Bibbulmun Track by pushing the baby in the pram around the neighborhood with my pack on my back. That should do the trick!!

My bags are packed and I am ready to go but I may not be leaving on a jet plane too soon.

Hit the Subscribe Button if you want to get notification of any new posts. I will need to know that there are people out there waiting to hear about my encounters with poisonous snakes and spiders, ticks and mosquitoes, kangaroos, pigs and dingoes. I will be walking during the Wild Flower season so will try and keep the gardeners happy too.

Getting Ready for Bibbulmun Track

I have booked flights to Perth, Australia for 26 August and plan to start the 1,000km walk on 1 September. My son, Cameron, will walk the first week with me which I am very excited about. Hopefully my teenage grand daughters, Bec and Elle, will join me during their school holidays at some stage.

I am bringing some gear over for them to use so will need to pack carefully so as not to go over the weight restrictions. My gear list has not changed much from what I took on Te Araroa as I had that working well.

The first week of walking will be a shock for my poor body as I have put back on all the weight I lost on the Te Araroa and I have lost a lot of fitness and strength also. However I am sure I will be okay and end up fit and strong by the end and back to looking like the photo below.

Eat, Drink and Be Healthy

Firstly I have to state that I am not fussy about my food. I generally eat anything and everything, with the exception of Peanut Butter and I think I may have been the only person on the Te Araroa who didn’t eat this disgusting food daily. I am not allergic to it but struggle just looking at the stuff, let alone smelling it,. However I was able to sit reasonably close to people eating it by the end of the trail. That was probably my biggest achievement on the TA.

Also I have never had any issues with regularly eating the same foods and believe that it is the nutritional value of the food that matters rather than the taste, form or presentation. Obviously, I am not interested in the recent cooking show fad and anyone who knows me won’t let me near the kitchen. This suits me fine as I would much rather be the person sitting on the other side of the kitchen bench drinking wine and chatting.

Therefore, adjusting to the reduced options of trail food easy for me. I basically ate the same things for the whole 5 months and was happy to do so. I kept healthy and always had enough energy to get through the day. So I kept doing what was working all the way through the Te Araroa. There were times where I enjoyed the aromas coming from other peoples’ dinners and I did enjoy looking at what they were carrying but I was happy with my limited menu.

50% of my dinners were trail food, and I estimate that I spent about $15 a day feeding myself. The remainder of the time off trail I ate “proper food” and didn’t skimp on that at all. I sometimes cooked a meal of steak and vegetables if I was at a backpackers but I usually ate out.

Cooking System

Started With

  • Jet-boil Flash 500 ml
  • Morsel Spork
  • Pocket knife
  • Cooking cosy
  • 2 Food packing cells
  • Titanium double walled cup
  • Collapsible cup
  • Total weight 896 gms

Finished With

  • Pot MSR 850 ml titanium
  • Macpac Cooker
  • Kitchen knife
  • Spork
  • Bic lighter
  • Zpacks Food bag
  • Total weight 267 gms

I saved 629 gms by changing changing to the cooker and pot I could prepare a wider variety of foods, however when I came to choosing foods to take I struggled with the choices and ended up only buying packets of instant pasta that had very little food value. So I was back to Back Country freeze dried meals most of the time. Twice I bought Instant Noodles which seemed to be the basic foods for most people on the TA and I did enjoy them. I saved 629 gms by changing systems.

Breakfast – A mixture of muesli and yogurt powder

Frances and I started out with porridge with some protein powder and a few chopped dates. We measured out the oats into our cups and added boiling water. About 5 minutes later our breakfast was ready. However after about 6 weeks of this I was having trouble eating it. Stodgy porridge no longer appealed to me.

So I changed to having a mixture of muesli and yogurt powder. I had seen other hikers eating this and I really loved it. This added macrobiotics to my diet and I could change both the muesli and the yogurt powder when I needed to resupply so had a good variety. This was my favourite food by far as it was easily prepared: just pour some of the mixture into my pot and add water. Yum

I started out having a cup of black coffee in the mornings but soon didn’t bother with this as it just took up an extra 10 minutes in the morning and I wasn’t enjoying it at all. Therefore I no longer needed to carry a cup. My pot became the go to for cooking, eating and drinking. I really enjoyed a proper coffee when I was off trail.

Lunch

Wraps (Farrah’s) or crackers (Arnott’s Vita-Wheat ) with cheese, salami and carrot with was my lunch for 95% of the time, followed by some dates and occasionally an apple or a mandarin. The slice of carrot gave it a fresh and crunchy feel and I stored the carrot in a zip lock plastic bag with a small piece of paper towel or toilet paper which kept the carrot fresh for many days. Sometimes I had an avocado instead. Sometimes I used a Parmesan cheese but usually cheese slices as they keep forever.

Occasionally I had a sachet of fish in my wrap but only as a last resort because they reminded me of cat food. Frances would toast a loaf of Vogels bread on resupply day to use for the base for lunches however I didn’t bother after she finished. I never tired of cheese and crackers.

Dinner

Fifty percent of my meals were on trail. Most of these trail meals were freeze dried meals from Back Country Cuisine. https://backcountrycuisine.co.nz/our-products

A typical Back Country meal

I bought the 2 person packs and halved them and repacked into small zip lock plastic bags. This reduced the weight of the bag and the room they took up. I would add a couple of tablespoons of extra instant mashed potato, noodles or rice to bulk it up a bit. These cost anywhere from $10.50 to $15 (For a 2 meal pack) and were available at most supermarkets and 4 Square shops on the trail. There are about 20 different flavors but most shops only stocked a limited variety. This didn’t matter too much because I never knew what I was eating from the zip lock plastic bag anyway. It was just Dinner.

To begin with I heated the water in my Jet Boil, poured it into the plastic bag which was in the foil cosy then let it re-hydrate. When I changed to carrying a pot I just added the dried food to the boiling water, sealed the lid and waited. This worked well.

Snacks while walking

Dates, Protein bars and OSM bars and occasionally some cashew nuts were my snacks. Each evening I would restock my snack bag that hangs on my front strap. I would try to eat at least a half a protein bar or a OSM each day by having a mouthful every hour or so in the afternoons. However most days I didn’t manage this as I was seldom hungry. The protein bars contained 45gms of protein each and were very dense and filling. I would stock up when Countdown had them on special for about $5.50 which was quite expensive for one bar. However I would see other hikers carrying 2 or 3 packets of cheap bars to get the same food value for probably more cost. So I thought they were worth the money. In the afternoons I would also have a few dates or nuts. I only bought chocolate 3 times on the TA and managed to make a cake of chocolate last for about 3 – 4 weeks. I really had little interest in it. This was quite out of character for me!

Snacks at Camp

On arrival at camp I usually cooked up a cup of soup and in the South Island I sometimes had a some chippies (Crisps) to keep me going until dinner time. I think the salt was what I needed. I started off with a stock of Cup a Soups that I had reduced the package size by down, but later bought Maggi Soups and decanted them into a zip lock plastic bag. I just kept refilling it with different flavours so it became a real medley of mushroom, chicken, vegetable and pumpkin etc. As I said earlier I am not too fussy. Soup is soup!

The chippies were a real treat for me and I carried in the outside mesh on the back of my pack so I had to be careful not to squash them. The mice really liked these so I found myself sharing them on a number of occasions.

Sometimes I carried a packet of Griffins Gingernut biscuits to have for my supper. They take a bit of chewing so feel satisfying after the mushy dinners and never break en-route so are a good choice for a tramping biscuit.

Off Trail Food

While on trail I didn’t really crave any foods and wasn’t hungry. For many people hiker hunger was a reality and I saw people eating huge amounts on trail. They talked a lot about what they would eat when they arrived in town but I was not particularly effected. However, when I did hit town I enjoyed a meat pie, or a steak and chips meal, a beer, a big bowl of fresh salad and some fruit, in that order. Early on, when it was really hot in the North Island, I would look forward to an ice cream at the end of the day. I enjoyed the social times sharing meals in town.

Weight and Health

I started the trail definitely over weight and somewhat unfit. In total I lost about 12 kg over the 5 months. My body fat % decreased by over 10% and my bone mass increased by 1% so my muscle % definitely increased. I lost 13 cm from each thigh, 11 cm from my hips, 5 cm from my waist and 7 cm from my bust. Overall I was a much healthier body than I started with. My challenge now is to keep it that way.

I am relieved to say that I did not have any sickness and had no injuries either. There was the odd day when I rolled an ankle and had a bit of pain but it was always okay the next day. I did develop a sore shoulder over the last couple of weeks and couldn’t manage to get my pack to sit right so that it didn’t hurt me. My hip gave me pain at night if I laid on it too long but this didn’t worry me while walking. This continues to be an issue now that I have finished. I need to get some help with this when the lock down is over.

Hydration and Health

I was never unwell, always finished the day feeling good and I was fit and healthy at the end of the Te Araroa. Therefore what I did worked well for me. However everyone is different and what worked for me may not be what works for others; there are endless combinations of food, fluids, supplements that can be used.

System

  • 125 ml bottle with hydration Tube
  • 2 x 1 litre Platypus collapsible bottles

Fluids

  • Town water
  • Rivers and creeks

Supplements

  • Hydration salts
  • Magnesium Tablets
  • Vital Daily Health Supplement
  • Water purifying tablets (very seldom)

I am a big water drinker at the best of times so keeping hydrated was par for the course for me. I had bought a system to turn a 125 ml bottle into a hydration system. The bottle sat in a side pocket or the back mesh area of my pack so I could see how much water I had. The attached hose mean I could sip as I walked. It was easy to refill and I bought a new bottle every month or so when it began to look a bit manky. I also carried 2 Platypus folding bottles for when I needed to carry a full days water. There were very few days on trail where I was unable to fill up during the day.

I carried some re-hydration salts that I would use at lunchtime during the hot days and usually had a dose each evening on arrival at camp, along with a daily Magnesium tablet. I had no issues with cramps on the trail but had a lot of cramps in my legs after the trail. I began taking the Magnesium tablets again and that settled down.

I also took a spoonful of Vital which is an All in One Daily health Supplement containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and pro and prebiotics. It is a very light powder which I carried in a zip lock plastic bag and refilled at my Christmas break. I also carried some Raro powder so I could have an orange drink for a change. I didn’t manage to find any dehydrated alcohol to bring with me.

I did carry some water purification tablets and used them mostly as a result of peer pressure. The Europeans all carried water filtration systems and even filtered the town water. Conversely, before the TA, I have never filtered or boiled any NZ water from huts or rivers or creeks. There were notices at all the DOC (Department of Conservation) huts saying that water needed to be boiled. These notices are only a recent addition, and I believe they are just to “cover their backs in case someone does get sick” and I mostly ignored them. The people from overseas all routinely filtered their water and this was a daily ritual for them, even on town. I had one yukky tummy in Tamarunui which saw me running down the main street and into an outdoors shop asking for the toilet. But other than that I had no problems. My father used to say that I had a “cast iron gut’ and I think he was right!

In the North Island finding water was rarely an issue as we stayed mostly in campgrounds or houses and all town water is good to drink from the taps in New Zealand. I carried plenty of water if I was going to be on a farm all day but that didn’t happen too often.

In the South Island I mostly filled up in creeks and rivers as I was usually up quite high and above animals. There was a couple of days in the Richmond Ranges where there was limited water so the pack was a bit heavy with the extra water at the beginning of those days. The huts tanks all had water however I tried to use the nearby creeks rather than the hut tank water if I could.

Hygiene / Night bag

A light, see through pencil case from a $2 Shop was used as my Night Bag.

It didn’t contain much at all. I didn’t even carry a brush or comb as I kept my hair short and I didn’t care what I looked like. We were all in the same boat anyway. When on trail I would have a quick wipe down on arrival at camp to remove the salt, sweat and mud, before changing out of my walking clothes. I always cleaned my teeth night and morning. Other than that the only times I was really clean was when in town where I would have a decent shower. I was most happy to find a proper sized towel and even used the bath mat if need be. I only used shampoo if staying at private houses and my hair was all good.

My luxury item was my razor as I just couldn’t bring myself to let my legs get hairy. Some of the girls did and I didn’t think it looked pretty at all.

  • Toothbrush with slightly shortened handle
  • Toothpaste 20 gm tube refilled when I stayed at a house
  • Small soap in a thin drawstring bag so I wouldn’t lose it. Used for body, hair and clothes washing
  • Small Kathmandu travel towel 20 cm by 20 cm (this was okay on trail but not much good for drying myself after a proper shower)
  • Earplugs – silicon type which I used most nights and would never be without. Once they are sealed well all mice rustling, snoring, wind and traffic noises are gone
  • Eye mask – Also a must have to keep out light from other peoples torches, devices, the moon, sun and other light coming in hostel windows etc.
  • Razor – disposable
  • Torch -LEDLENSER SOE 5. I replaced the heavy strap with thin hat elastic to save weight. I recharged it about once a month as I usually went to bed in the light and woke up in the light.

Toileting stuff

I soon got into the routine of using my bowels first thing in the morning which meant I was able to ditch my plastic shovel. Some of the toilets on trail were a bit rough but most were very good considering. Sometimes sharing with a lot of flies or sandflies made toilet time a bit interesting but I can’t really complain.

  • Kulacloth – PeeRag– An anti microbial pee cloth for wiping after peeing. – My best piece of gear. https://kulacloth.com/pages/faqs
  • Hand sanitiser – after toilet
  • Wet Wipes – a packet of 10 would last about a week- Used one each day to firstly to wipe my face, hands then my bottom, in that order. I usually carried the used ones out in a separate zip lock plastic bag.

First Aid and Repair Kit

I had very little in my First Aid Kit as my experience tramping showed that there was not much that I had ever needed and usually it was used for other trampers, rather than myself. In the case of any major injury that meant I could not continue I would use my PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) to obtain assistance. I expected Blisters, sandflies, sun protection, and minor aches and pains to be my issues. I was correct.

I had a few basic repair bits and pieces, which came in handy.

First Aid

  • PLB – ResQLink (Used twice)
  • A few plasters (used a couple)
  • 6 large blister pads (used 2 and gave to others)
  • 6 small blister pads (used 4)
  • 2 Op site dressings (Not used
  • Iodine swabs (Used on blisters)
  • Paracetamol tablets (Used)
  • Anti Inflammatory tablets (Used)
  • Anti Histamine Tablets (Used for bee stings)
  • DermAid Hydrocortisone cream (Used for rash on back and for others)
  • Sunscreen – Invisible Zinc (Used on face and backs of hands)
  • Insect repellent – BiteGuard (Absolute necessity in South Island)

Repair Gear

  • Needle and strong thread (used by others)
  • Zip ties (not used)
  • Small pencil (used)
  • Duct tape wrapped around pencil (not used)
  • Piece of bicycle tube (Used to light fire once)
  • Patches for air mattress (used twice)
  • Patches for Z Packs tent and pack (used )