Te Afteroa

It’s been a few weeks since I finished walking. A lot has happened. A lot hasn’t happened.

The biggest thing that has happened, however, is I’m back in Portland, sitting on my couch with my cats, contemplating things.

To quote an article a friend linked me to: “life has ceased to be linear”. On the trail I had very few decisions to make. What am I going to eat for breakfast? Well, I had bars and I had muesli, not a tough decision. What am I doing today? Well, I have 2 choices: walk, or not walk. And most days I chose walk, if I’d already been walking the day before. Where was I going to walk? Up the trail. How far? To the next hut. What am I going to do after that? Eat. After that? Read. After that? Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

Even adjusting to life off the trail while in New Zealand was hard. I’ve often found myself lacking the ability to make a decision about what to do, where to go, when I’m visiting a place. This was no exception. And it reminded me of what I liked so much about my time on the trail. Things were simpler, I just needed to feed myself and walk and everything was fine. Sometimes I’d get bored in a hut if I got in too early, but that’s ok, I can just eat, or sleep. Things I can’t necessarily do when I’m in the real world. I read somewhere once if you get hungry during the day to ask yourself “are you hungry or are you bored?”. 9 times out of 10 the answer to that is “bored”, but on the trail it’s ok if I just eat anyways, because I’m burning so many calories it’s all I can do to eat enough to get me through the day. When visiting places it ends up that I have this dilemma a lot, and I’ll recognize that I’m just bored, but I can’t figure out what to do, what I want to do, and so I’ll spin on that for a while until I end up going and eating anyways. Sometimes I’ll even get stuck on where to eat! That was also easy on the trail, eat what I have or if I’m in a town, eat something cheap or something good. Preferably both, but $8 fish and chips is always there and always good, so if all else fails, just go do that.

But I do the same thing at home. I’ve observed many times in the past that I can’t seem to leave my house without spending money. Like I have to have a destination in mind before I leave, and 99 times out of 100 that destination is “spend some money somewhere.” On a coffee, on food, a museum, whatever. I can’t seem to leave the house if I’m not going somewhere to spend money. On the trail there wasn’t anywhere to spend money, or any need to really. My goal for the day was always clear: walk to the next place. Because it was in support of my overall goal: walk across the country.

So the challenge now is that I’m currently at a major crossroads, with many options and none super clear. I can go try to find a job. Will I enjoy that job? Are there any jobs I would enjoy in Portland? Am I going to have to move somewhere? If so, where? What about a job doing something other than what I’ve been doing? What would I even do? How much would I be able to even make? Enough to support myself? I dunno.

One of the things I keep feeling like I “should” do is engage my creative side. Most of my career I’ve just been problem solving and bashing head against computer, and when not doing that I’m just watching TV or reading or whatever, all consumption and no creation. But there’s the problem of “what creative side?” I’ve never felt artistic or creative at all. I know the basics of knitting, but I don’t knit because I have no clue what to make. I’ve tried to just go make something, but my brain tells me that’s “leaving the house to spend money.” And so many of my ventures (read: all) into hobbies in the past have failed that I’m hesitant to even try.

Now, not all is doom and gloom. One of the biggest positive changes that I’ve noticed after the trail is I feel a lot less wired. I feel like I’m more able to stop spinning on something and if not find a clear path to go forward and execute, at least stop the spinning. Break out of the loop. It helps me be able to think more rationally and less anxiously. This means the fretting I’m doing about “what’s next” is at least feeling somewhat productive. I’m coming up with lots of ideas, and lots of them are really good. Each of them has something to be fearful of, anxious about, but this break in the cycle of my life, this exploration of what else is out there, is making me think more seriously about those things, and look at them with less “why won’t this work” and more “how could I make that work?” I feel like this in itself is a great change, and if I can continue that line of thinking, will be extremely positive for me overall.

In the mean time, I’m facing a bit of a financial snafu at home. I spent a lot more on this trip than I probably should have, and now my cash reserves are on the lower end of the spectrum. Nothing terrible, but it means I’m going to have to do some belt tightening. Eat out less (which is something I’ve been wanting to do forever anyways), spend less money on stupid crap (also something I’ve been wanting to do forever), probably sell some stuff that I’m not using or don’t need anymore. But it also means I have a bit of time pressure to take action, which is honestly a good thing. It means I can’t just sit around and do nothing, at least not all the time, that I need to get moving and do research and search for what’s next. Easier said than done, true, but it at least should help me focus my actions. I can’t just sit around and do nothing, or do effectively nothing all day, so that at least narrows the scope of my decision making process a bit!

Ok, I’m rambling, I’ve been rambling. It’s ok, but I’m going to stop rambling for now. I’m going to spend some time cuddling with my kitties. I really missed them a lot while I was gone.

Fin

I’ve called it. I’m finished with the trail. So many feels.

This morning the rain was pretty fierce and I just wasn’t feeling it. I delayed a couple of times and waited before making a decision, but ultimately decided to call it early and take the boat into Picton directly. I have a lot of mixed feelings about that decision, especially as now, at least here in Picton, it’s not raining, but honestly I feel like the end of the trail for me happened when I got to the gravel road at the end of the Richmonds, the last 15km or so into Pelorus Bridge. When I got to that road, I felt so much relief. So much accomplishment. Part of it was that I was fairly sure I was going to make my 5pm deadline into the campground, but in large part it was a recognition that the hard parts were behind me.

I’d been considering the Queen Charlotte track the “icing on the cake” of the trail, and that I was going to carry nothing and eat at places along the way and stay in fancy resorts and whatnot. Which I did do. But it just didn’t feel like the rest of the trail to me. Especially with the rain and then the shin splints. I let myself get lazy and that kinda hurt the experience, and I feel a little bad about that but I keep reminding myself that the QCT was never the challenge, getting there was. And I did.

So now I wait here in Picton waiting for my rental car to be ready to pick up, so I can go to my hostel for the night and do laundry and figure out what’s on for the rest of my time here in NZ. And also to figure out some things for my week in Sydney.

One thing I really want to do is try to reflect upon the trip. Write up some journal entries. Think about parts I liked, parts I didn’t like, look at photos, etc. I had some really great times on the trail, and some really trying times. I met some really amazing people and hopefully have made some good friends along the way. I’ve seen things so few will ever see, and done things few have even thought about doing. I mean honestly 2 years ago I had no idea this trail even existed, or that I might want to do it and today I’m writing about how it was to do. That’s pretty amazing, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to do it.

Anywho, I feel like I’m rambling now! I’ve got about 30 minutes to get my car and I forgot to pick up the postcard I mailed myself from Bluff, so I need to go do that and see what past me wrote to current me.

I got a few photos as we pulled into Picton. The setting for this place is really great, and the ships in the harbor here are huge. Very busy for such a small town.

Day 52: Punga Cove to Miner’s Camp

It rained today. A lot. I sat around at Punga Cove until just before 1pm when I left to head to Miner’s Camp a bit up the trail.

Ran into John and Christine one last time. They were headed back to the road to try to hitch out to Picton. Hugs and goodbyes all around. Gonna miss them. Will have to visit Asheville some time.

Rain so camera lens was wet which means I didn’t get any pictures. It’s ok, there was nothing to see. I walked for about 2.5 hours and was at Miner’s Camp. Really nice folks here. They have 2 pigs, a handful of sheep, ducks, chooks, and a cow. And lots of wekas of course. Apparently there are times when they feed the pigs that everyone comes over to take part, including some of the wekas. Funny little birds.

Tomorrow rainy again. Gonna be bleh into the finish line but looking forward to being done!

Portage Bay to Punga Cove zero

It rained today. In fact, it’s still raining. And hasn’t stopped once all day. Between that and the shin splints I decided I was not walking today. There wouldn’t have been anything to see along the trail, I would have been miserable, it wouldn’t have been a fun day. And I’m beyond the point of needing to prove anything, so no walking.

Instead, I took a water taxi! The sound is big enough with enough locals and enough tourists and such that there are actually 3 different competing water taxi services, some with fixed route and fixed schedule and others with on demand bookings too. Nifty. The boats range from fairly small to surprisingly large. The one I was on probably had capacity for about 30 people. I was expecting something like 8, maybe.

Despite the weather, the sound was actually quite pretty. And there are a lot more houses along the water than I could have imagined. Makes me wonder how many of them are residents vs baches.

After some cruising around picking up and dropping others off, I was finally dropped off at Punga Cove Resort. This place is pretty nice with a little bar and cafe by the water and a kinda fancy restaurant up the hill with great views. Their backpackers accommodation is actually a bunch of small private rooms with shared facilities. Mine is at the very end, and actually has a pretty great view.

Not too bad for $63NZD a night. I spent more than that on dinner, which was delicious. I had the steak. And the fanciest sundae I’ve ever seen. Also the head waitress was extremely good. Always awesome to watch a master at work.

With nothing much to do here during the wet cold rainy day I used the WiFi to book some things for after I’m done with the trail and read a book. Pretty relaxing day, if a bit boring.

The resident weka population was showing off just how cheeky they are. One had ventured into the laundry room and made off with a plastic bag of toiletries, many of which had spilled out onto the ground. But it wasn’t going to give up the bag. Silly bird. I tried to get a photo of it but it’s just not really possible to see it sadly. Mischievous little weird chicken duck looking things.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain most of the day too, but the route is fairly flat and pretty short, and there’s supposed to be a window of not rain in the afternoon so I’ll probably sleep in a bit, hang out at the cafe some more, and leave the moment the rain stops. The place I’m heading tomorrow night has pet pigs. It should be awesome.

Day 51: Anakiwa to Portage Bay

Showering in the morning before going out has been pretty rare for me lately. I’ve been cleaning up a bit when I roll into huts in the afternoon, or showering when I arrive into town, but I haven’t been doing my usual morning shower routine. This morning, I had a shower. It was rather nice.

The weather was also rather nice. A bit warm, but a cool breeze. I was sweating a lot, but didn’t feel overly hot. Fairly decent overall.

The only real downside right now is that I’ve developed shin splints. Pretty sure it was due in part to the literal running I did a few days ago, along with the fast pace I was trying to keep up that day to get into town. Especially on descents. And now I’m paying the price.

Fortunately the trail is quite beautiful, and while I have longish days, I’m still beating the estimates by a lot, I’m just dealing with a fair amount of pain and discomfort. 4 more days and my legs can finally rest.

Anywho, the track goes up and down along the peninsula, crossing back and forth from one side to the other, meaning I get amazing views of both sides, and from time to time I get a peak thrown in with some really amazing views. But I’ll shut up and post pictures.

Also in the area there are lots of wekas. At the high point for the day there was one in particular which didn’t seem to care too much about my presence and was going about its day, so I got some good pictures of it.

They’re such weird little birds, and they are super cheeky. You don’t want to leave anything you care about near them as they are notorious thieves. But they’re just funny little things. I like them.

Along the trail there are numerous places to sit. I liked this one in particular because it felt like it was carved out of the trail, which I guess it kinda was.

Finally I got a view of my destination for the day.

After struggling down the hill with my shin splints I made it into my home for the night, took a shower, and chatted with the folks I’m sharing the place with. The nearby resort has a restaurant so I popped over there for dinner, the view was pretty good.

Sadly I am not sure if they have takeaway lunches anymore so I might just need to eat an extra big breakfast since there’s no lunch stop tomorrow. I have some snacks and such I can eat but was really counting on being able to take a packed lunch away. Oh well.

As far as my shin splints go, I’m not 100% sure I’ll be walking tomorrow. The road here goes directly to tomorrow’s destination, so there’s a possibility I could hitch it. Fortunately there seems to be a bail out from the trail to the road a few hours in, so if I need to I can do that. I should be ok though, I’ll just have to take it slow and take lots of breaks. Something I should probably do more anyways!

Oh, one thing which is pretty neat about this area. A lot of the things on the Queen Charlotte sound side of the peninsula are only accessible by boat or via the trail. So the trail itself is kind of a transportation corridor. Which means you get signs calling out accommodations and such off the trail in places. Pretty neat.

So far the “major” accommodation areas have had paved roads leading up from the north side, up and over let the trail to the other, but there are a few places tomorrow and almost all of the next day where the trail and by boat is what you’ve got. Super cool.

Day 50ish: Havelock to Anakiwa

Really happy I decided to hitch in last night rather than this morning. I was able to get laundry done, hang out with John and Christine, get a shower, and not have to pitch my tent and then tear it down in the morning! I also had plenty of time today to visit the i-Site and line up all of my accommodation and figure out where food was going to come from for the next few days! Yay!

After all of that I remembered I needed to get cash as I seemed to recall that some of the places on the QCT don’t take cards as they have no cell or internet service. The local four square’s ATM was broken so I used the one at the gas station. Except it apparently, despite saying “accepts all cards”, doesn’t work with foreign cards. And those are the only 2 ATMs in town. Hmm. I called my banks and Chase said I could use my credit card to get cash probably but I’d need a PIN and they’d mail it to me, 7-10 days. Not helpful. Schwab didn’t have anything for me other than “have you tried a different ATM”, after I’d already explained the 2 atm thing twice. Oops. So back to the I-site I went to see if they had any ideas. Honestly I was half hoping the lady working there would say “just take my car and pop over to Picton and use one there”. No luck on that part, but she did call the places I had planned to get food and ask if they took cards for me, and they all said yes. Hooray!

So off I went after a quick stop at the four square to pick up some snacks for the trail, dinner and breakfast for Anakiwa, and a replacement for my ill-fated travel power adapter.

There’s a quite lovely trail east of Havelock called the Link trail. It takes you along the road for a bit then sidles along a hillside with amazing views of the Pelorus Sound and Havelock.

The cup by the waterfall was rather cute. I would have sampled some but I’ve been drinking (mostly untreated) river water and rain tank water for the past 2 months so the novelty is lost on me. Takes me back to the similar cup I saw on the Banks Peninsula Track a year ago. Memories…

Anyways, eventually the track ended and brought me back to the road. Not wanting to spend the rest of my afternoon walking along a road I stuck out my thumb and after a short while got a ride from a lovely Aussie couple who took the extra time to divert off of the main road to take me in to Anakiwa, which was super nice of them!

In Anakiwa I came across John and Christine again and we walked the rest of the way into town. They were heading up the trail for some cheap camping and I was staying at the YHA for the night. We stopped at the only shop in town, ate some ice cream and said our see you laters. They’re doing the track a day faster than I am but they’re doubling back to get a ride back into town after they’re finished, so I’ll see them one last time before I head home.

The YHA is suuuuuuper nice. Comfy beds, a nice kitchen, ensuite with soap AND towels, and the place is basically empty. I am supposed to have a roommate but I don’t think they’re showing up. There’s also a tv room complete with surround sound! Books, puzzles, etc. They even have some food for sale, which I was sad to learn about after getting here because I’d brought food, but that’s fine.

Anakiwa is at the inside end of the Queen Charlotte Sound, and it’s just an amazing setting. Lots of boaters come here and lots of folks have baches (vacation homes) here, and I can see why.

After getting settled in I grabbed Mr and Mrs Smith and watched it. I’d seen it before but it’s a fun movie and it caught my eye immediately when looking at the movie list so I went with my gut. Totally worth it.

While getting ready for bed I heard a lot of commotion outside from some birds. I’ve heard there are lots of wekas here. And wekas are little thieves. So despite the smell, my pack and shoes are safely inside my room for the night, lest one of the wekas decides to go shopping. I went outside to see if I could see one but it scampered off into the bushes when the lights came on. Sadly I think I heard one tangling with a cat nearby, though given that wekas are considered a threatened species and cats are an introduced predator, I’m much more sad for the weka than the cat.

Fun fact: when barely heard, a sheep baaing in the distance sounds something like a cat meowing quietly. So I’ll be lulled to sleep tonight by sheep and wekas tonight! Should be fun.

Really looking forward to the next few days. The icing on the cake that has been this walk. The Richmonds were stunning and amazing and awesome and challenging and all of that. The QCT is similarly stunning but way less challenging, and I don’t need to carry very much food!