What a difference 65 days has made...a little tanner, bug bitten and muscular...
Please excuse the excess of exclamation points. I simply cannot overstate my enthusiasm for finishing the NI. I recently read a quote from the philosopher Epictetus, "circumstances don't make the man, they revel him to himself."
I feel like this is the most fitting summary for the NI. J & I agree, this hike has been the hardest challenge we've undertaken. I would be lying if I didn't admit it almost broke me. And even though finishing the NI is only the first half of our entire trek on the TA, it feels like winning more than half the battle. It felt like a victory march getting to Wellington. A huge mental milestone.
Any long distance hike is going to teach you about yourself and your limits. This is part of why we do it, to build character and our relationship. On the TA, J & I have had to rely on each other in ways like never before. I said this probably a million times already; the navigation of this trail is just unreal. It is a good, insanely difficult test of so many skills and communication with your partner. We've had to make crucial, split-second decisions together and bear the consequences of those (sometimes good, sometimes bad) without getting angry at each other. Together, we learned to just get angry at the trail. We have definitely grown and now take it all with a little more ease.
The trail in the NI is raw. It certainly is not perfect and needs a lot of work. We are among the first pioneers on this now-becoming-famous trail. Many TA alumni tell you to consider skipping the NI, waiting for the trail to improve. But now that we have licked our battle wounds and survived it, we can say we are happy we did it.
So thanks for the unforgettable memories NI.
Thanks for the high-stepping rooty trails and rocks
Thanks for letting us trudge through shin-deep multicolored mud
Thanks for all the pavement pounding on traffic-heavy roads as we hugged the tiny highway shoulders
Thanks for the jungle scrambling in rugged, but pristine, forests, complete with thorns and vines
Thanks for letting us to cross countless stiles over hilly and tall grass farmlands
Thanks for your beautiful, windy, uninhabitable coastlines overlooking the turquoise waters
Thanks for the tide-dependent estuaries and river crossing that were "not recommended to be attempted"
Thanks for your majestic mountains and volcanoes
Thanks for your harmonious birdsong, especially the Tui (R2D2 bird)
Thanks for the unsafe crossings of your eel-filled rivers either by foot or unsteady swingbridges
Thanks for the biting sandflies that make us itch like crazy at night
Thanks for your cowardly cows, skiddish sheep, pudgy pigs and hilarious horses - they were all wildly entertaining
Thanks even for all the dead animals we saw (seriously more than the total we had ever seen leading up to now)
But most of all, thanks for your people. Whether they were coincidental bystanders or purposeful trail angels, they were our saviors. We wouldn't have gotten through the NI without them.
And now, here is the grand summary of the NI:
1686 kilometers/1076 miles
Rough Breakdown of Ks/Ms
780.5K/499.5M of road walking (HOLY CANOLI - ALMOST MORE THAN HALF THE TRAIL WAS ROAD WALKING!!!)
462K/295.7M of forest walking
88K/56.3M of river canoeing
56K/35.8M of mixed urban paths
55K/35.2M of farm walking
155K/99.2M of beach walking
14K/8.4M of river/estuary "walking"
13K/7.8M of boat rides
3 zero days (days off)
47 nights in a tent
16 nights in a bed
4 nights in a hut
2 pairs of shoes
13 falls for P (this means I was on my butt)
5 falls for J
2 lost toenails (P)
16 holes dug for "business" for J
11 holes dug for "business" for P
10 other TA hikers met
7 servings of fish and chips
7 meat pies
3 lamb meals (plus one lamb dehydrated meal)
15 FaceTime calls to US
Favorite Section: toss up Tongariro Crossing and Tararuas
Least Favorite Section: every time we got lost and turned around, which was too often to count
Best Breakfast: Top of the Dome Cafe after the Dome Forest
Best Lunch: Hamburger at General Store in Waitomo
Best Dinner: Every time we've shared a meal with a gracious kiwi who invited us into their home