Christmas is coming. With no plans for Christmas it would be very likely that I would either be alone or with other hikers camped in the middle of nowhere. My old Pacific Crest Trail hiking buddy Zigzag lived nearby in the pleasant city of Palmerston North. We hatched a plan that saw me hike 30km on the Te Araroa trail to a predetermined spot where he would pick me up.
It was getting late in the afternoon when Zigzag drive past me without seeing me. It’s been over 3 years since we last saw each other. If anyone has read my blog on the Pacific Crest Trail you may remember our times hiking together. We met in the desert section when I was asleep on the middle of the trail and he walked around me at 9pm. I had completely ran out of energy and couldn’t hike any further. I was on the side of a mountain with no flat ground anywhere except the turning point of one of the switchbacks, or Zigzags as they are called in New Zealand. We’ve been in contact since then.
I stayed several days in total with Mr and Mrs Zigzag. I was shuttled back to the trail with only a water bottle, packed lunch and rain jacket to complete the sections of trail I missed. With such a light backpack I sped alone the road and dreamed of my backpack always being this light. After I finish this trail, I thought, I’m ready to move from a lightweight hiker to ultra light.
I also had the chance to catch up with my other Kiwi mate Ross. He picked me up from the airport and dropped me at the start of the Te Araroa Trail. Ross, his partner Sarah and daughter Meg picked me up at Zigzags place and took me north to Hawkes Bay for a couple of days away from the trail. An interesting thing happened when I was there. Nearby, New Zealand launched a rocket into space. That’s correct, New Zealand is a space going nation. The launch site wasn’t too far from their house but the weather made for poor viewing. Live streaming from YouTube was the best we could do. New Zealand is only a small country of less than 4 million people but they are quite clever.
I enjoyed driving through the farmland and taking a few short hikes around the towns of Hastings and Napier. The latter was a quaint renaissance village complete with vintage cars on the streets to ferry the thousands of tourists that arrived on a cruise ship.
Back at Zigzags place, Mrs Zigzag looked after me with bacon and eggs and strong coffee every morning. I had done little planning for upcoming sections of the Te Araroa trail. My time spent with Ross and Zigzag allowed me to opportunity to ask questions and do research about upcoming sections of trail. Very soon I will reached the wettest, stormiest and windiest section of trail on the north island, a place called the Tararua Mountains. Several hikers had to retreat off the mountains after being stuck in a hut with bad weather and 100km/h winds howling outside. It’s an unforgiving place. But more on that in a couple of days when I get there.
My research also revealed that I should buy food and send it to myself at a couple of places on the south island. There are many remote, expensive villages with long distances between resupply. I bought 28 days worth of food and divided it into 3 boxes to be posted away and 7 days food for my next hiking section. Although its only about 5 days to my next resupply the likelyhood of being stuck in a hut for several days is higher here than anywhere else on the trail. I’m being very prepared to wait out a storm. And there will be storms, no doubt. My early Christmas meeting with friends renewed my spirit. I’m ready to hike the second half of the Te Araroa trail. It promises to be more visually stunning and more dramatic than the first. I can hardly wait.