I’m no longer walking for the journey, I’m walking to reach Bluff. It has become a blind race and it is destroying me slowly.
We were heading into our last forest range, last hut and last muddy terrain. It didn’t feel glorious or exciting though. The weather was horrendous and I had been dreading going back in ever since we got out of the last wet forest range.
If we really pushed it we could do this section in two days and I was not going to spend an hour more than needed so we pushed our wet bodies forward. The first few kilometres were on a forest road so the going was good, even though we were climbing a hill in the rain. Eventually the road stopped though and we were left on a small forest path.
We were tramping through mud up to our ears. The walking was slow and felt like torture, as my feet sank deeper in to the swamps so did my mind. I tried to think happy thoughts, go through all the things in my mind that made me happy, even sing but eventually my body won over my mind. Everything was closing in around me, I couldn’t breathe or think straight. I was having a panic attack in the middle of the forest. I felt so trapped, the trees were giving me a claustrophobic feeling and I was sobbing like child. I had to really hold on in order not to collapse there and then.
Arthur was incredibly supportive. All I could manage to whisper through my tears and rugged breath was that I needed to get out. After a look on the map we found a forest road we would be joining that would take us out towards Otautau were we could walk along a road to Riverton. It would not only take us out of this nightmare forest but also get us there a day faster.
The weather got even worse on the top of the hill, the wind was so strong I had problems standing, let alone walking forward and the rain was hitting us straight in the face but I was going to get out and the thought alone was enough to keep me moving.
I felt so much better once we were on our way out but I felt silly too. It was our last forest section, last hut. Why did I react like that now, it would have been over in two long days. This weather was really starting to affect me and the walk
We were walking on a small forest road and coming across a car was highly unlikely but to our surprise a car came towards us with the most helpful guys ever. They stopped and told us they would give us a lift. It was as if they came here to get us.
They were locals and drove us to a sweet little campsite with a shower. We couldn’t thank them enough, they just brushed it off and drove away. We set up our tent in a small garage to escape the rain and had the most amazing shower ever.
Standing in the hot stream of water was all I needed, all the tensions and traumas of the day were going down the drain along with the dirty water.
The town was amazing. The locals all wanted to have a chat and the next day when we were on our way an older lady poked her head out her window and asked if we wanted some coffee.
It was incredibly windy and rainy and at one stage even hailing. People kept stopping to ask us if we needed a ride and despite the temptations we politely declined and kept on powering through the stormy weather like two stubborn donkeys.
I was starting to wonder why I was doing this, why I was pushing so hard and why I thought I had to walk every step even if it was torturous. This trip was supposed to make me stronger and even though initially it had it was slowly breaking me now. Arthur didn’t seem to have the same problems, he said it was more rewarding in the end if it was harder, but I couldn’t understand that. I didn’t think I needed to suffer anymore to make it more powerful in the end.
Never in my life have days felt so long as they have the past days. Reaching the campsite in Riverton marked two more days to Bluff and yet it seemed a million years away.
Despite the depressing weather forecast, the next day wasn’t so bad. It rained now and again but the winds had died down and sometimes the sun even popped out. A good night sleep and the change of weather was defiantly lifting my spirits.
We were walking along a beach towards Invercargill on our second to last day and things were looking so much better. It got even better when we came across Brandon and Jenny who initially were ahead of us but had taken some rest days due to the bad weather and now happened to be on the beach at the same day (Jenny, by the way, had become sort of a legendary figure to us as for almost two months her name would be printed in the hut books only days ahead of us. It had become our goal to catch up with her. Until then we never had. Now we had finally met Jenny from Dunedin on our home stretch). It was so interesting to share stories. Even though we walked the same trail, each day was different and the experiences too. Everyone’s journeys, although on the same path, are always individually unique.
It was a long day and I was very tired but so excited about the next day being the last.
We had decided to wake up at 3 am to catch the sunrise and to get to Bluff early as it was a long way away and, after all, this was our very last day on this walk, a concept that was hard to grasp.
The moon outside shone on our path and the sky was clear. We felt happy and ready to do this.
It felt so strange, so unreal. The last weeks had really made a strong impact on me and it made me want this moment even more. Maybe Arthur had been right. In some ways, I certainly felt a lot more emotional than I had previously imagined.
The day went slowly, maybe because we got up so early or maybe because I was so full of thoughts. Our feet were hurting from all the road walking, our bodies tired and sore yet we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces.
Still, there was something sad about this day too. I enjoyed being on this journeys so much, it had become my life now. How do you just end that. How do you go back to normal after enduring everything I had, seeing everything I saw and learned all the things.
Towards the end I was so tired I just wanted to finish the day and was worried I wouldn’t feel the impact of Bluff as much but I didn’t need to worry. When the sign post came into sight all the overwhelming emotions exploded in my heart. I had seen that signpost in so many pictures, thought about it so many times and wished to be there at least once every day and here I was, now for real.
I kept looking out at the rough sea, swallowing happy tears and grinning like a mad woman. I did it. I walked 3007km from the top to the bottom. I finished my walk. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, so many things that could have stopped me from getting there yet there I was feeling a million different things standing at the edge of New Zealand with nothing but Antarctica bellow (Except Stuart Island but that’s a technicality right)
I wasn’t sure how to end this evening as we hadn’t planned anything other than eating Bluff oysters but I knew, whatever it was, it didn’t include staying in a tent or walking.
Jenny had some family friends she had stayed with who offered to take us in as well. Not only did we have a big beautiful bed there but we got to soak in a spa and they made us delicious dinner. It was unbelievable to have such an amazing end to our journey. Thank you so much for letting us stay and spoiling us on such an important day.
I hopped on the scales at one point too and discovered that I had lost 10kg.
Apart from being insanely tired, sore and exhausted, I have become fit and my body is in its prime shape, I just have to keep it up. I feel ready for the next chapter in my life and I am looking forward to a well-deserved long break with lots of sleeping, eating and being warm.
In so many ways, this journey was so different to what I expected, both good and bad and I learned a huge amount abut life, myself and the amazing place we call our home. I have learned to appreciate things so much more, I have opened myself up to so many more things and I feel like I am so much richer than I ever was even though I am now officially living off my credit card.
I am going to miss the mountains, valleys, rivers and forests, being waken up to bird songs, seeing sunsets and sunrises, meeting fantastic people and feeling the wind on my face. I will miss it all but for now I can’t wait to meet my friends, eat the food I have dreamt about and have a rest.