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.
The Richmond Ranges
Rocks Hut to St Arnaud
Day 55: 26 December 2021
Rocks Hut to Hacket Hut
We’re back in the beech forest walking on a soft carpet of red, yellow and brown leaves. I can hear a robin calling in the distance and the soft whisper of wind in the trees, high above my head.
It’s just past 9am and we’ve been walking for a couple of hours. There looks to be clear blue sky all around, although once we pop out onto a ridgeline we’ll get a better view.
My little mate and my big mate are coming up the hill, as I can hear Emilie chattering away and Danilo responding.
It’s so lovely to have the companionship of another adult human, not that I’m getting much company since Emilie has made it pretty clear that she’s going to monopolize the conversation.
But even that is nice. I love to see her happy, chattering like a little bird, telling stories and learning fun facts about insects and nature from our resident entomologist.
And I’m enjoying my solitude as leader of the group, wandering through the forest a few minutes ahead of them, stopping every now and then for them to catch up.
I’m not really alone today, as I’m walking with my fourteen-year-old self listening to whatever she cares to tell me.
It occurs to me that this young girl has a lot to say, many things that nobody wanted to hear or that she was too ashamed to share.
It’s not easy, but the least I can do is to listen as she speaks from her heart. She’s often angry and defiant, but underneath she’s just a child trying to come to terms with a world of hurt.
Her anger is just a mask for sorrow too big for her to manage on her own. I’m sorry she’s had to wait for so long.
My therapist told me anger is a secondary emotion, one that masks something else.
“What are you feeling right now?” he asked me, leaning in to meet my gaze.
“Well I’m angry of course!” I responded, before he prompted.
“And underneath that? Why do you feel angry?”
“Because I’m so… sad.”
And that’s all it took, that millisecond to expose the chink in my armour and it all welled up inside, a tsunami in an ocean of sadness.
It flooded over me, thick, heavy, almost unbearable, tears welling up in my eyes as I staggered through the leaf litter.
Only nowadays I don’t react like my poor fourteen-year-old self. I don’t need to scream or pull out my hair or smash things or hurt myself in a cocktail of pain and despair.
Instead I let my motherly instinct take over and imagine pulling her onto my lap, her long legs wrapped around me, head against my chest, holding her so tight while she chokes out huge, angry, painful sobs. I rock her a little and stroke her hair. ‘It’s going to be alright, everything will be alright. You’ll see, my love.’
I loved her fine Nordic bone structure, bright blue eyes and white blonde hair. Loved even more that she seemed completely unaware of her appeal, dressing like a boy in baggy pants and t-shirts covering her slim frame. But most of all I loved Karina because she loved me. She was my best friend and partner in crime, a pair of goofy blondes united in our refusal to conform to the normal world.
Karina was an artist and a dreamer. She was very shy, but really funny and sweet when you got to know her. A real riot to be around.
It’s funny but we’d drifted through each other’s lives as teenagers, with the same loose circle of dropkick older friends, before coming together with a firm click as older teens. I first became aware of her as a shy thirteen/fourteen-year-old because we crossed paths walking to school each morning, me in my dorky green uniform and her in her emo/goth mufti. In fact, I think at the start I would smile and say hi because I thought she was a cute boy!
Then I went away to foster care and didn’t see her again until I was sixteen going on seventeen, while she was older, maybe already eighteen. At that point, we were in the same class – a catch-up class for adult learners seeking their university entry. We were both by far the youngest in the class (I’d had to lie and say I was seventeen to enroll) and I busted into her shyness by sitting beside her and chatting until she talked back.
She had an ID card that would buy us both long neck beers (tallies) from the local bottle shop – back in those days you could get a tallie of sour-tasting VB lager for $3! She lived at home with her parents and younger brother and I lived in a shared house with a bunch of pot-smoking boys. We were both fascinated with one another.
I snapped out of my daydreams to find myself sitting on a fallen log, leaning my heavy pack against the tree and watching hundreds, no thousands, of tiny-winged insects shimmering in the sunlight.
They are so tiny and so many of them that they appear to be simply hovering in one place, but if you try to focus your eye on one, they quickly dip and disappear.
Still, it’s beautiful to sit and watch this manifestation of forest magic, as swarms of these tiny shimmering creatures.
Day 56: 27 December 2021
Hacket Hut to Starveal Hut
Richmond Ranges section
“What would you like to work on together?” my therapist once asked me. “What are some aspects of your life you’d like to change or improve?”
I thought about it for a moment. By now I felt safe with Lance and appreciated our sessions together.
“Interpersonal relationships, I guess.”
“Do you mean romantic or just friendships, in general?” he asked.
I squirmed, “Both I guess. Romantic.”
I didn’t dream of being a single mum, but it seems I’ve been one for years now and I’m not sure if that’s ever going to change. And people. I’d like to have more people in my life, more people around to love and care for Emilie and me. But when I try to connect deeply with people, I’m full of anxiety. How will they react when I try to explain my PTSD? And my past lives? That I was in foster care? What will they think of me? What if I go to all this effort to open up and they reject me?
Perhaps only Lance could understand how painful this fear of rejection was for me, for my childhood self – how painful and terrifying to trigger those deep fears of being abandoned, proven unlovable, unworthy of love, yet again.
He understood the pain and over the years we worked together, showed me where it came from. Sadly and fortunately, it came from deep within me. Fortunately, I could learn to recognize this and take steps to manage it. Sadly, this pain, invisible and even irrational to others, was completely real to me.
PTSD is like living with a brain that’s constantly on the lookout for Sabre tooth tigers. In my case, the tiger was fear. Apparently the physical injury (rape, sexual abuse, foster care) created a mental injury (PTSD) because I was stuck in a completely terrifying situation from which I was unable to escape or keep myself safe.
After the wrist cutting episode, the social worker took me to the doctor who recommended a psychiatric assessment. I remember explaining to the doctor that I didn’t want to live anymore. I don’t want to cause any trouble, I told him, a greying old man in his sixties, peering at me with concern past his spectacles. I’ve thought it through and I simply don’t want to live anymore.
This perfectly reasonable explanation was apparently not acceptable and I was sent home to my foster family with a box of Prozac and some sleeping pills, to help settle me down until the medication kicked in.
I took them for a few days to appease everyone, but saved up the sleeping pills for a week. With half a bottle of vodka that I’d stolen from the foster mum, I washed a handful down.
Nothing really happened. I slept for a long time then awoke, broken-hearted.
Day 57: 28 December 2021
Starveall Hut to Slaty Hut (5 kms/3 hrs)
It was still dark when we got out of bed and started sleepily packing our gear. The forecast was for heavy rain in the afternoon, so we headed for Slaty Hut to sit out the worst of it, aiming for a huge day over to Rintoul tomorrow.
Although I was exhausted, there was something magical about wandering out in the early morning mist. Yesterday’s views were now completely obscured by thick, damp cloud, with scattered showers sweeping through.
We clambered up another 300m, admiring the tiny alpine plants in bloom – fragile pink hebes, mountain daisies and flowering dracophyllum – before dropping down into mossy beech forest.
My legs still trembled from yesterday’s punishing 1000m climb and my broken sleep had been fraught with bad dreams. Something had triggered more ghosts from long ago and this morning I was thinking of my father, as well as anger, fear and the anguish caused by intergenerational trauma.
A family had turned up at the hut yesterday, too late to claim a bunk, and the father seemed to be boiling with barely hidden rage. I’d caught his low voice and thought I’d glimpsed fear in his sons’ eyes as they avoided his face, their expression deadpan. I guess I’m sensitive to these vibes and it had me reflecting on my own father and the fear he instilled in my brother and me. How living in constant fear can have long lasting effects, your central nervous system constantly on high alert.
I don’t have any memories of cuddling with my father (the mere thought makes me uncomfortable). I never wanted to be in a room with him unless I was near the door. As children we were scared to go to the toilet in the night, in case we made the floorboards creak and he’d yell at us from our parents room. And we’d never, ever, flush the toilet in the night and wake him up. I remember hating him as a teenager, even as a pre-teen. Once my mother left, he sank low into depression, prone to sudden rages, often spending his evenings drinking red wine alone.
I preferred it when he’d stay out, away at the casino or visiting friends, and I would let myself into the quiet house after school and be alone or go hang out at my neighbours. I hated his rages, his aggression, the way he spoke to me, but most of all I hated my fear. Fear makes you feel weak, helpless. I learned that anger made you feel powerful, so for a long time I continued the pattern of learned behaviour my father had taught me, of being angry at myself and the world.
Later in life I eventually came to forgive my father. His dad had been a real prick and from what little he told me, later, when I was in my twenties and could hold a beer with him, he’d grown up an angry young man who hated his own father. Back in those days I guess people didn’t talk about these things, depression and mental distress went undiagnosed and therapy was even less common.
My dad told me of an instance one Christmas, our last one together, when he’d been taken to the psychiatric unit of the local hospital after having a breakdown. He’d been drunk. We’d had an argument where he’d chased me out of the house and I’d ran all the way down the block to the payphone and called the cops on him. I then waited until they picked me up and took me to some children’s refuge for a couple of nights. Apparently when they’d gone to see him, he’d been in quite a state and ended up in the psych ward. I felt really sorry for him when he told me this. Sorry for him, sorry for myself, sorry for the whole bloody mess we’d ended up in.
Day 58: 29 December 2021
Slaty Hut to Old Man Hut
Emilie is an actress, a comedian, an entertainer extraordinaire. She loves reciting stories to me, her voice rising and falling as she imitates the different characters. It really is quite entertaining and wonderful companionship on a long day’s walk through the forest, although I eventually need to gently ask her to recite the stories in her head so I can have some quiet time to think too.
But she often suggests, “Let’s be quiet now Mummy and just listen to the forest talking.” We listen to the birdsong, to the hum of cicadas, to the leaves rustling in the breeze or crunching underfoot. This morning we heard the high pitched call of a baby goat across the open tussocks and the tinkle of little birds, like bells.
Emilie is my sunshine. If you could bottle up her laughter, you’d have yourself a tonic of pure joy.
We’d hoped to make it over Mt Rintoul today but with the heavy cloud and intermittent rain, we called it a day at Old Man Hut, joining a couple of groups of other trampers who had the same plan.
The five-bunk hut was packed and overflowing with tents dotted around the grassy clearing.
Emilie was in her element with all the people and quickly corralled the men and boys into a game of catch the wild goats.
She was particularly drawn to a handsome French guy who was with a group of three Italians, his accented voice rising in good humour as he played with her. I believe they tried to sneak up on a few grazing goats and after they all ran off, the pair spent a joyful hour sharpening sticks into spears and practicing their throws, all under the direction of a chatty seven-year-old. When she eventually wandered back to me, I asked her how it all went.
“We made a hunting group. I was the boss and we all had to practice with our spears, but we waited for ages and the goats didn’t come back, so I got bored,” she told me.
Day 59: 30 December 2021
Old Man Hut to Purple Top
We woke at 5:30am to bellbirds and clear skies, the top of Little Mt Rintoul standing out against the sky.
Delighted that our decision to camp out the wet weather seemed to have paid off, we quickly packed and stomped off up the hill, legs groaning at the 250m climb back onto the track.
I left my hiking companions behind and powered up towards the bushline, willing my strong legs to act as a hinge and lever, muscles bunching and coiling to propel me onwards.
Despite our early start, the French-led Italian party (and other groups) caught and overtook us as we clambered up the rocks, promising Emilie to be on the lookout for goats.
We clambered up the rocky slopes, stopping many times to admire the views, the warmth of the morning sun offsetting the chill wind.
Beyond the summit of Little Mt Rintoul lay the huge bulk of Mt Rintoul, with steep drop-offs into the stunted beech forest below.
Mountain daisies were everywhere, their thick greenish grey stems anchored firmly into the red rocks, white petals and yellow centres a soft contrast against the desert landscape.
The world opened up in every direction, from the turquoise glow of the ocean to the darker blues and purples of distant mountains.
I’d been concerned about Emilie, but quickly saw that I had no need to worry — that kid was a mountain goat with her little red Solomon trail shoes gripping the rocks. I only had to remind her to stop chattering and watch where she was going!
After a steep descent on shaky legs, we were down at Rintoul Hut, where Emilie discovered a note and care package for us on the bench. Rose, Imogen and Michael with whom we’d shared Slaty Hut on that wet weather day had left us some food! What legends! The three were doing the Richmond Alpine Section and had made the call to cross the Richmonds yesterday in the mist, absolute troopers. Rose and I had shared an epic rainbow outside Slaty Hut when the others were in bed. While chatting, I’d confided I was worried about our food supplies lasting the distance to St Arnaud, but now we had spare freeze dried meals and porridge. Thanks guys!
The quiet grounds of Rintoul Hut soon filled up with other hikers, including a brother and sister who arrived before their parents and recognized Emilie and me from the newspaper! Emilie was delighted to have some companions and skipped off to play while I rested in the shade.
She wasn’t keen to leave, but we eventually pressed on up to Purple Top and found a beautiful camping spot under the stars.
Day 60: 31 December 2021
Purple Top to Mid Wairoa
Last night’s breeze had evaporated into a cool, clear morning and while we were too high to hear the bellbirds, my body clock roused me at 5am. I lay happy and warm for a while before deciding to get up and watch the sunrise.
I clambered up the jagged purple rocks that give this peak its name and sleepily waited for the sun to erupt into the pink and orange sky.
A scrabbling noise made me turn – it was Emilie, already dressed and not wanting to miss out on anything Mum might be doing.
After the sunrise, today’s highlight was definitely the froglet I found resting on the shores of the alpine tarn, neatly camouflaged against the golden green rocks. We’d stopped at Tarn Hut for lunch and I’d followed Emilie down to the water, only to discover hoards of huge brown tadpoles in the warm shallows.
We captured the froglet and photographed him, then released him back into his watery paradise. To our delight he swam calmly back to the shore and clambered out onto a rock, blinking in the sunlight. Red damselflies zoomed around, alighting on my bare feet that I was wiggling in the water.
We lay around on the water’s edge watching the froglet and to our amazement, a big black damselfly larvae crawled out of the water and headed determinedly towards the scrub, clambering over the froglet on its way. It was as though we were honoured guests in this watery kingdom, which was coming alive before our eyes.
I should explain that as a kid growing up in Australia, I was obsessed with frogs. This was a passion that continued into my teens or at least until the foster care years, during which I no longer cared about anything. When I was Emilie’s age, we lived on a three acre block in rural Tasmania, with a creek running from the bush clad mountains near our home. My brother and I would spend hours searching for frogs and had discovered that if we carefully arranged flat chunks of bark near the creek edge, then the next day we could turn them over and find little brown native frogs huddling underneath. My brother hated touching the frogs, but I loved to handle them, very gently, with wet hands as I knew they had delicate skin. I would collect frogs and tadpoles and take them home to my aquarium. Unfortunately I knew nothing of conservation then and I do hope the native frog population didn’t suffer as a result of my enthusiasm. Through trial and error I learned that unlike tadpoles, frogs don’t like to constantly swim (they tire and drown), so I’d decked out my aquarium with pebbles, rocks and wood to hide under.
But you had to be sure each frog had adequate space to hide, particularly in the colder months, as one crisp morning I’d woken to find the aquarium iced over and one little fellow had his leg stuck in the ice. I felt so bad about it. Upon further reflection, I guess I could have pursued my frog passion and studied science and biology. I could have become a frog scientist! My Brazilian flatmate found my frog enthusiasm amusing and not long ago, surprised me with a gift – a bumper sticker for my car that read ‘MILF – Man, I Love Frogs’ with a very cute picture of a green tree frog. Funny guy aye!
Day 61: 1 January 2022
Mid Wairoa to Top Wairoa
Happy New Year!
I rang in the new year hunting for wētā to photograph with Danilo. We found tiny grey and gold ground wētā, a cleverly camouflaged brown cave wētā and a handsome reddish brown wētā, all within a 20 metre radius of the tent site. We surprised two large possums on our nocturnal outing, startling them with our head torches. One of them turned and ran for the hut, careering straight into it with a doiiing! before scuttling underneath.
Today’s track from Mid Wairoa to Top Wairoa was a tricky one, winding along and above an increasingly deep gorge.
Barely a foot across in places with a steep drop off on one side, it was slow going. I then experienced one of those moments that are every parent’s nightmare. Emilie was trying to make her way around a low side of a beech tree growing in the centre of the track when she lost her grip, teetered for a moment then fell backwards, tumbling head over heels down the steep bank towards the river far below. I’ll never forget the terrified look in her eyes. They were fixed on mine as she tumbled away from me with a cry of “Mummeeeee!”
Adrenaline thundered in my ears as I shrieked out her name, a useless thing to do really. It was as though I was ordering her to stop something she had no control over. I ripped off my pack and plunged after her, tearing up my thighs as I slid down the hill, wanting only to gather her in my arms and cushion her inevitable fall. But then, after some ten metres, she stopped falling and hung, clinging to a small but sturdy tree branch overhanging the gorge. I reached her and sitting back on my bum, wrenched her into my lap and held her tight. Her beautiful hair was full of moss and leaves and her little face all scratched up – overall, badly shaken but nothing broken. What a miracle.
Strangely enough, I felt deadly calm, holding my child and telling her to just breathe. She was safe now and I would unclip her pack and in a moment, we’d climb together back up the cliff to the track. We sat together by that young totara tree, letting the adrenaline settle and our hearts quiet, before scrambling back up to my pack where I squatted to give her water and chocolate fish, feeling the big muscles in my legs tremble like jelly. I would have loved to take a shot of brandy and have a lie down with Emilie in my arms, but we were over halfway to Top Wairoa Hut so we just kept going.
I carried some more of Emilie’s gear so her pack would be light and walked her in front of me, watching with lightning fast reflexes should she tumble again, but she didn’t. I swear these were the longest and hardest 2 kilometres of the entire trip.
Maybe it was adrenaline, fear, emotion, hunger or a combination of them all, but my strong legs felt like stone. From time to time I clutched at my pounamu, feeling the soothing cool of the greenstone transform to a gentle warmth against my skin. Thanks so much Papatūānuku for providing us that strong little totara tree.
By the time we staggered up to Top Wairoa Hut, we were all completely shattered and collapsed on the empty bunks to rest.
We had a peaceful evening in this tidy little orange hut, perched high between two beautiful stony creeks on the edge of a red, arid desert landscape dotted with pink and white mānuka.
Day 62: 2 January 2022
Top Wairoa to Hunters Hut
I woke as the bellbirds were clearing their throats to call up the sun and lay happily in the predawn darkness.
We’d set the alarm for 5:30am so we could get a head start before the heat of the day. I’d planned to make us all freeze-dried scrambled eggs for breakfast with wraps — a Sunday treat to break up the monotony of porridge oats.
Today the track climbed steeply up to the saddle of Maungakura/Red Hill, gaining around 500m elevation as we rock hopped over orange and red boulders.
It was as though we’d wandered into outback Australia, entering a desert of scorched red earth with the early morning sun already beating down upon us.
I was in a happy nostalgic heaven. This brought up memories of exploring with my brother, clambering over baking red rocky outcrops looking for blue tongue lizards and skinks.
A mixture of flowering mānuka, red and gold dracophyllum, tussock and flax covered the lower flanks of Red Hill, while the towering bulk was bare red and purplish rock.
As we ascended, the stubbly shrubs were replaced by tiny daisies, forget-me-nots and other fragile alpine plants.
Such a barren landscape might seem devoid of life but if you stop and look, it’s actually teeming with tiny insects, black cicadas whirring and clicking, huge grasshoppers, native bees and butterflies.
It was so dreamy. All of nature’s colours were on display, from the dark blue of the distant mountains to the greenish gold of the tussock to shades of red, pink and purple rock.
We climbed the ridgeline and wandered across a scree slope on the side of Mt Ellis before finally dropping down to the sanctuary of the creek.
Emilie and I stripped off to bathe in a shallow pool, like two little naked forest nymphs, before making the final climb up to Hunters Hut.
Day 63: 3 January 2022
Hunters Hut to Porters Creek Hut
We woke in the predawn for another early start, fumbling sleepily with gear and food. Emilie was definitely not in the mood for it and was bolshy and uncooperative, to the point I asked her to go outside and cool down so I could pack.
I was tired too, but privately I loved the cool blue moments before the sun rose to scald the red desert landscape, when the scrub rang with the sound of bellbirds.
Peace had resumed inside the small hut when a series of bloodcurdling screams pierced our ears. I ran outside to see Emilie staggering towards me from the scrub, writhing and clawing at herself.
“Wasps!!!” she shrieked. “There’s a wasp biting me!”
Shit. My brain shot off a series of unhelpful expletives as I tried to hold her still and pull off her fleece jumper to examine the stings. But she kept screaming, horrible, agonising sounds and I realised there was a wasp crawling in her hair! I squashed it and held her tight, feeling incredibly useless, as she stiffened and moaned with the intense pain that must have been shooting through her little body.
Jacqui and Shuma, the young couple we had shared the hut with last night, looked a bit pale and Danilo held Emilie in his arms while I wet my buff and applied it to her burning red skin. We all felt so bad for her. Shuma produced a tube of bee sting topical antihistamine, which I applied to Emilie and then we lay down with her cuddled, attempting to distract her with a story.
So much for our early start. I wondered what else could go wrong!
After an hour, she’d calmed enough for us to leave and we staggered morosely up the hill behind Hunters Hut, aiming for Porters Creek Hut some four to five hours away and possibly to camp by the river beyond.
Poor little Emilie. She’d been stung on the temple, on the back of her neck, in her hair and on her elbow. One eye was swelling up and combined with the red scab from her tumble down the bank she really looked like she’d been in the wars.
But the kid was pretty staunch about it all. She asked me to photograph her face so she could see what it all looked like and I repeatedly told her how she was strong and brave. We talked about wasps and how they sting when people go near their nests, as well as about other insects that bite.
I told her about Australia and the agony of bull ant stings — everything seemed to want to sting or bite you over there! Big red ants, jumping ants, those chunky black ants that nip you from the grass.
It was 1pm when we climbed over the little bluff and saw the bright orange hut in the distance, a tiny speck in a sea of green.
But even from this distance it was clear to see some of the green belonged to invaders — wilding pines! Now we could see them everywhere, popping up amongst the darker tones of the native shrubs.
Emilie gasped. “We need to call Fiona,” she cried, “so she can come and we get a group together to pull them out!”
I melted with love for her earnest and practical solution. She was of course referring to the wonderful couple Fi and Anthony from Whiowhio Hut in Palmerston North, who had shown us a YouTube video of Fiona orchestrating a wilding pine-clearing expedition.
They’d definitely left a lingering impression on her, as she often declared she wanted to learn to set traps to save the native animals. Moreover, when we saw a particularly nice river or stream she’d ask me, “Do you think whio would like to live here?”
We arrived at the empty hut, sweaty and sore, and decided to have a rest before determining whether we wanted to continue another 6kms to the river. It would make tomorrow’s walk out to St Arnaud a bit shorter, but we were all worn out and lacking motivation.
I sat and did a watercolor painting of the hut and surrounding scenery, the bright green contrast of the flowering hebes against the reddish blue of the ranges.
Shortly after, some NOBOs turned up and Emilie and I got chatting, then a lovely older SOBO couple arrived. Emilie was fully in her social bunny element.
I could only socialize for a short time before I got tired out and craved the magical solitude of the bush. Even after 12 days, I was in no hurry to leave.
But by then no one could be bothered pressing on to the river, so we set alarms for 4:30am and planned to make tomorrow one big day, walking past Red Hills Hut and out to St Arnaud.
Day 64: 4 January 2022
Porters Creek Hut to St Arnaud
Last night I’d gone to bed feeling a little dejected, sad to leave the rugged beauty of the Richmonds, but woke invigorated in the pale blue of morning.
It felt magical to be walking at this time of day, 6am, with the sun still over an hour away. Everything was tinged with a cool blue light, the mānuka flowers glowing against their spiky dark scrub.
Emilie’s eye was now hugely swollen and she wasn’t impressed with these early morning antics. I reminded her that a hot shower, warm bed and an ice cream awaited, plus we were meeting our friends, Melissa, Felix and their daughter Allegra, tomorrow for more tramping adventures, which gave her the motivation she needed.
I found myself walking ahead alone again, peacefully soaking in the magic of the bush.
The walk to Red Hills Hut was long enough for me to lose myself and become part of that red rock landscape, admiring the unique geology and the plants that thrived amongst it. Some of the stones resembled black-burned glass while others were the green of serpentine. The cotton daisies looked stiff and crisply white against the orange earth.
By 9am we’d reached a river and I wandered over the bank to discover the perfect calm pool just beside the crossing point, nestled beside a huge boulder. The sun was already hot and the lure of the cool water proved very tempting.
As my tramping companions were nowhere to be seen, I decided to go for it, stripping off naked to lay in the pool and listening to the gurgle of the river flowing past.
It’s moments like these that I treasure, feeling completely at one with my natural environment. My floating body moved gently up and down with my breath and I lay my head back to listen, ears underwater, to the secrets of the river.
The Richmond Ranges hold some deep healing magic and I feel so fortunate to have shared a little of it. The immense physical challenge of this huge section balanced well with the emotional purging that seemed to have come through me eight days ago. With this hard work out of the way, I felt lighter, calmer, more deeply grounded in myself.
Victoria and Emilie are walking the Te Araroa over the 21/22 summer season. 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.