Spine of the Fish  Day 4: it’s a small world after all

About to leave civilisation for a week, we meet our first trail people…

Waikanae to Waikanae

As I sat down for my Waikanae Big Breakfast at 12.30 I knew what the day’s story would be… the Te Araroa Weight Watchers Plan.

When we walked the South Island leg of the trail a couple of years ago I lost 11 and a half kilograms, so I know about these things. I’m an expert on Trail-o-rexia, but then I got distracted by events so you’re going to have to wait to read my dietary wisdom another day.

A short rest

We were sitting with Tony, an ‘accidental’ section walker from Paraparaumu who we’d met the previous year in Northland. He and his wife Belinda had made a couple of attempts at through-hiking the trail but on both occasions had been turned back by injury. If you can’t do the trail all at once there’s nothing wrong with doing it bit by bit. They’d nearly walked the whole North Island in sections and were about to leave for a sobo (southbound) attempt at the South Island. They seem determined.

It was a long lunch and could’ve easily been longer. Te Araroa isn’t just about the physical trail, it’s about the people and their shared experiences. Random people of different ages, cultures and backgrounds making their ways along New Zealand’s slowest road. We all have heaps in common but are so different. When trail hikers get together they usually talk a lot.

After saying goodbye to Tony, we headed for the supermarket. As we packed seven days of provisions on a bench outside we were approached by an older guy in shorts and sandals.

“Are you walking Te Araroa?” he asked.

We’d been waiting to bump into our first actual sobo and here he was.

In his late sixties, Michael was a section walker on his fifth trip to New Zealand from Australia. He was about to finish Te Araroa in Wellington and had just come out of the Tararua Ranges. Like us he planned to base himself somewhere and use the trains to make his last days easier.

Michael from Liverpool

As he talked Fi and I both started to click. His accent and manner were really familiar.

“You’re from Liverpool aren’t you? And you teach Yoga?” I asked.

He looked shocked.

“We’ve met you before. On the track down south near A Frame Hut a couple of years ago.”

It was the same Michael…and he still had the same dodgy Magellan GPS. Fiona spent a good half hour trying to help him figure it out.

Coincidences like this are common in the world of long distance walking.

Under State Highway 1

With packs bulging and gravity playing havoc with our feet we wandered up the Waikanae river valley to our bed for the night. We were clearly feeling pretty relaxed about things because we didn’t leave town until about 3.30pm. In the early days we were a lot more efficient and would’ve planned to arrive at our destination as early as possible.

Waikanae River Walkway and Waikane Estuary

At 6.30pm we made our way up Ruth’s drive. You won’t be surprised to learn that we were buggered.

I struggle with the term ‘Trail Angel’ because it seems like American overkill. To me Trail Angels are really just generous people who want to hang out with hikers. They don’t need some sort of religious anointing, but as I’ve got older and lazier, I’ve given up fighting.

And besides…Ruth has earned her wings. She lives at the end of a long road out of Waikanae on a couple of hectares of land surrounded by hills and beautiful bush. She has a caravan and a lawn she’s happy to share with any walker who books ahead with an approximate e.t.a. Her family don’t seem to mind and the cat appreciates the added attention.

Ruth’s Caravan

As the Moreporks start their ru-ruing we turn out the light of our temporary two wheeled shelter. It’s good being with trail people again…plus I can charge my phone.

 

Wilderlife