Life on the trail is like nothing we’ve ever experienced. From gourmet dehydrated meals to sleeping in ancient huts with 12 equally smelly, exhausted trampers…somehow it all becomes normality.
To give you a glimpse into the tramping life, here’s what 24 hours on the trail looks like:
Mat’s alarm wakes us with a start. It’s already daylight in the hut and the sandflies are ready for breakfast, so we quickly rise and throw on our long sleeved trousers, tops, indoor socks and thongs. We roll up our sleeping bags, using the “stretch and roll” technique, and pack everything into our dry bags, desperately trying to make them smaller and lighter than the day before. In the process, we wake the rest of the hut.
Breakfast is muesli and water or – a new favourite – tortilla wraps smeared with crunchy peanut butter. The aim here is to get some fast energy into our systems without having to fire up the camp stove.
After brushing our teeth, visiting the long drop and bidding farewell to the hut gang, we’re on our way. Now our only mission is to follow the orange triangles or snow poles to our next destination. Easier said than done…
Everything feels amazing. The scenery is spectacular. Our bags are as one with our bodies. The trail is wonderful and easy and a beautiful place to be.
Everything aches. Our shoulders are getting tight, the bags feel heavier and energy is starting to run low. Time for a pit stop. We throw the bags to the ground and take five minutes to stretch. But we have to be quick – the sandflies are moving in.
Everything is amazing once more.
We’re not clock watching but our stomachs know it’s lunchtime. Finding a place on a rock with an incredible view, we dig out a couple of muesli bars, a bag of nuts and sultanas or some crispy noodles. If it’s early in the section, we might even have a banana (fresh food!). Mat finds something to sketch or photograph, while Nicki perfects the sandfly dance.
Back on the trail, it’s time for some river crossings. True to Te Araroa style, we don’t just cross the river once but follow it upstream for 5 kilometres and cross it every 500 metres. Within seconds, our socks and runners are saturated. Somehow, this feels normal now. Dry feet are a luxury on this trail. But we’re invigorated by the cold water (which also help soothe our sandfly itchies) and keen to crack on.
Our bodies are getting weary. We know it must only be another couple of hours to the hut, but the trail gives us no clues. Conversation has turned to food. Again.
We sidle another river and climb another saddle. The views give us the push we need to make it to the hut.
A sign! The hut is only 20 minutes away.
The sign lied.
We arrive at the hut, our home for the night. Wasting no time, we throw our bags onto the bottom bunks and change into our long-sleeved gear and indoor socks. Wet shoes and socks are strategically placed in the sun. Mat puts the billy on for tea while Nicki writes our names in the Trail Log and investigates who else has visited the hut lately. We check out the water supply, which sometimes means a short walk to a nearby stream, and pass verdict on the long drop.
More TA walkers arrive! We play Yahtzee, share stories about the trail and strategise our next few days. What will the weather hold? Is it safe to cross the rivers? Which hut should we stay at?
Dinner time at last. Mat transforms something dehydrated into something that tastes FANTASTIC. But it’s over way too fast. Nicki washes up while Mat sketches and daydreams.
A final treat for the night – hot chocolate and a few lines of Whittakers. This is bliss.
Time for bed. We pack our things for the next day, snuggle onto our bunks, read a chapter of Moby Dick and soon drift off into a deep sleep. It’s still daylight.