Here at Wilderlife, we’re collating Victoria’s diaries, photos and videos into a digest. Each post spans a section of Te Araroa between major towns and rest days.
Walking with her seven-year-old daughter Emilie, together they are raising funds for Federated Mountain Clubs and telling stories about the mental health benefits of time spent in the wild places of NZ, as well as the importance of protecting those areas for future generations to enjoy.
11 October 2021
“I couldn’t sleep . . .”
The wind was wild and restless, and so were my thoughts. They raced around, tangling over one another, leaving me alert and wired.
On one side of me, Emilie breathed deeply in her sleep, one arm flung out. Oh to be sleeping peacefully, knowing that someone else would sort it all out. One of the loneliest moments of sole parenting is when you have to make big decisions with no one to back you. Sometimes I just want to jump into that passenger seat, put my feet up on the dashboard and cruise, letting someone else take the wheel.
But as a single parent, you gotta do it all – you’ve got to drive the bus and make sure everyone on it is doing okay. It’s so tiring and the weight of that responsibility can be so heavy.
Kids, like most people, profit from a sense of routine and consistency, so while I’m stoked Miss Emilie stormed down Ninety Mile Beach with me, I’m feeling more than a little bummed for her that we’re now stuck in Level 3 and unable to continue our Trail dreams.
And as I don’t know when our government is changing alert levels, I can’t give her that certainty either.
There are some decisions to be made and I need to make them, but there’s also so much emotion and existential questioning going on that I can’t hear myself think.
I guess I’ll close my eyes and do some deep breathing myself, until the restless wind blows itself out and calm returns.
14 October 2021
Diversions: i-Naturalist in Ahipara
It was low tide this morning and the day broke bright and calm, so we grabbed our trail shoes and Emilie’s pack and set off around the peninsula to see what treasures we could find.
We must have walked 20km there and back — to the point where we didn’t want to walk any further — where the whip of the open ocean was stinging our faces and semi-wild horses grazed amongst a small settlement of ramshackle houses. Emilie fed one of them grass from her hand.
The rocks revealed hermit crabs, seagulls, oystercatchers and the sad little body of a dead baby seal — almost sleeping except for the flies on his eyelids. I told Emilie he’d be at peace now with the ocean spirits, not in pain or hungry anymore and she seemed okay with it.
The day’s exploration prompted us to learn more about citizen science, with iNaturalist.
It’s an app allowing anyone to photograph flora and fauna. Then experts help you identify them and contribute data to those who might be researching. Emilie wrote a great article (with a little help from mum) published on the Kiwi Conservation Club (Forest & Bird Kids) website: https://kcc.org.nz/be-a-citizen-scientist-with-inaturalist/.
It was good to walk. It was good to swim. It was good to feel the sun on our skin and the sand between our feet. Later, we dodged the salty fingers of the incoming tide as we scrambled back around the rocks to the bay, to climb back up the hill to our beautiful little hideaway.
We’re getting used to life at the beach! But lots of other Trail treasures await…
15 October 2021
Reflections on our first two weeks
Overall, we spent 12 glorious days in the far North, six on the Trail and a further six in lockdown, moving between the holiday park to the gift of a seaside cottage paradise.
Life on the beach was simple and warm and I’m sure we could have stayed on for much longer — but we didn’t. We decided to keep moving, away from Level 3 and leaky borders, back to the bush and back onto the Trail.
Northland stole a piece of our hearts and we will be back to appreciate all its glory, hopefully without the pressure of daily announcements and lockdowns.
My heart was heavy as we took off from Kerikeri airport, but it was better than the agony of paralysing indecision. Sadly there’s no crystal ball for the current COVID crisis, as it seems the best-laid plans are made to be broken . . . or at least bent into other creative designs.
If anything, our lockdown in Ahipara helped teach us to celebrate the highs and roll with the lows, as well as to back ourselves in whatever decisions we make. It gave us time to relax, regather our thoughts, soak up some much needed sunshine and explore some beautiful scenery that we might otherwise have stormed right past on the Trail.
We also got to experience the gift of human kindness — from burgers on the beach, ice cream, the keys to a seaside paradise and lots of other gestures of love and support.
Thank you from our hearts to yours.
And now let the adventure continue!
Xx Victoria and Emilie
Victoria and Emilie left Northland after contacting the Ministry of Health and following the government advice which allowed you to ‘travel to go to your principal home or place of residence’ following a negative covid test. They will be resuming Te Araroa from Taumarunui, headed southbound and hopefully completing the missed section when covid allows.
During their journey, they are raising funds and telling stories about the mental health benefits of time spent in the wild places of NZ, as well as the importance of protecting those areas for future generations to enjoy. To see all their stories, visit wilderlife.nz/adventures_with_emilie/ and follow them @adventures_with_emilie on Instagram and Facebook.
90% of the funds raised are donated evenly between the Mental Health Foundation and the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ Mountain & Forest Charitable Trust. 10% is going towards some of the expenses of walking the trail.
If you’d like to help them out, please donate via their give a little page.