The trail descended down a river of mud. I tried to remove one of my trekking poles that was stuck in the mud. The effort of trying to remove it pushed me off balance and forced me forward into a puddle of ankle deep mud. My phone fell out of my pocket into the mess, still attached to the now broken phone holder that I use to attach it to my mini tripod. I washed the phone of with some of my clean but precious drinking water. Luckily, my phone is waterproof. But the mud in my clothing, arms and legs prevented me from taking any more photos or video till I found a flowing stream to clean myself. Everything is a mess, who wants to hike the Te Araroa Trail?
Last night I camped at the last water source for the whole of the death forest. 16km of mud, hills, tree roots and fallen trees. I carried a total of 3 litres, much more than most other hikers. But that 16km (10 mikes) took me 8 hours. And I was moving fast. Some hikers took 2 days to get through the death forest.
It’s been a long time since I’ve hiked a section of trail as tough as that. It reminded me a but of a hike I did in new Zealand 20 years ago, around Steward Island. It’s south of the south island, next stop Antarctica. On that trail I regularly found myself thigh deep in mud. It’s still my favourite trail in New Zealand. I’ve since heard that the thigh deep mud has been replaced with boardwalk.
Despite the harsh trail there was beauty in the New Zealand rainforest. Droplets of water clinging to the tree ferns. The chorus of birds that Europeans and North Americans will never hear. It was a special place.
I overtook 7 other hikers during my death march. I’m camped in a farmers field just outside the forest. For a donation I get my water from a stream and have a long drop toilet.
As I lay here in my tent listening to the last calls of the birds some of the hikers are still not out of the forest. I later heard they were forced to drink muddy water as it trickled down the trail.