“Do you have maps for the Te Araroa trail?” I asked the claymation elf, who wanted to be a dentist in the old “Rudolph” Christmas series, who in reality, worked at the visitor’s center. A puzzled expression smeared over his face. “How do you spell it?” He quizzed me.
I spelled it.
He lifted his head high, as if to put it on a pedestal above mine, nodding the egg in an understanding, yet condescending way. He said the name back to me- A completely different way that was so foreign, I couldn’t repeat it again if I tried.
I had no idea how to say the name of the trail I intended to live on.
I walked across the road. I kept searching for cars in the wrong direction to proceed into traffic, and almost getting hit because they drive on the left side of the road.
“One coffee please.” I stated confidently, once I successful survived Frogger; sauntering into a coffee shop. One thing I know how to do really fucking well, is order a cup of joe.
After my kind command, the man behind the counter starred blankly at me.
“What kind?” he asked.
I couldn’t even do this thing right.
“Would like like a flat white?” He inquired. Although part of me felt like he was giving me a new nick name. I observed as the barista made my coffee. “Excuse me, is that sheep’s milk?” I asked. Again I was met with furrowed eye brows. “No. It’s cows.” A co-worker of mine had convinced me before I departed, that if I didn’t insist on cow’s milk or beef in my burger that I would get sheep. This embarrassing interaction bridged my belief that he was messing with me.
I have terrible friends.
Sipping on my coffee, I peered over the food items in the shop, which by the way are not labeled with “calories”, they are labeled with how much “energy” they have. So it’s perfectly acceptable to eat fatty food here because it wont make you fat, it will just give you lots of energy.
I was, however, concerned when I came across this particular food.
Climbing back on the bus with a cup of myself, I leaned against the window, as the coast whirred by with its jagged brown rocks covered in flopping seals. As we ascended into the mountains, I felt like a dog throwing my legs up on the glass and continuing to re position them as they slipped down waiting for my owner to let me out.
I was dropped off at Pelorus Bridge, which is a popular swimming hole in the river used to film “The Hobbit.”
The route began with 10 miles of road walking, through fields of sheep; transforming into a winding gravel road weaving through jungle like forest. 80 degrees out and humid, I was ecstatic.
I had taken a plane to summer.
It was gorgeous. Almost too gorgeous. Having passed multiple “Do Not Enter, Hazardous Materials On Site” signs, it became clear that I was in the region of the island that breeds dinosaurs, and I stepped lightly to avoid being eaten by a “clever girl”.
My Dad created a playlist on Spotify of radical female lead bands that he stated I couldn’t listen to until I was in New Zealand. I turned the playlist on, and bee bopped down the road to the incredible sounds of Jesse Sykes and Air biting my tongue to remind myself that the moment was real.
Eventually I passed two backpackers chewing avocado, sitting in the dirt on the side of the road. They introduced themselves with their real names.
“They don’t use trail names down here?” I asked. “No not really.” The man replied. Good thing I didn’t lead with my trail name, for if they thought that was my family name, they would have ran the other direction cupping their balls in fright.
“Hello, my name is Nut Crusher.”
As I stated before, I excell at making friends.
I got the trail name on the PCT in California, when I was drinking beers and destroying handfuls of peanuts at bar.
And possibly throwing them at people.
After a few hours, I reached the bush!
The path carved a tunnel through thick jungle like vegetation, filled with loud buzzing beetles. The trees were alive and energetic. Majestic and ethereal, the trail crossed over a copious amount of angelic streams with small waterfalls cascading down over piles of rocks. I crossed multiple of these by suspension bridges, that I’m pretty sure were copied and pasted from a National Geographic Magazine.
Nice try nature, fake.
As the sun set, I peered up from the root covered, uneven trail to steal a glance of the smiling light as it descended behind the canopy of thin green leaves. I succeeded for a moment in zen like bliss, when all at once the ground from under my left foot gave out.
I could not fathom the tragic loss that was about to occur.
I was falling down a steep hill side. The second I had taken my eyes from the path, I let my foot fall on the thin edge of the trail, and the dirt gave way cascading my body below it. Sliding quickly, while squealing like a scared pig, I plunged off below the trail. I knew if I did not regain control, the steep slide would send me 30 feet below into the rushing waters of the Pelorus River. Digging my fingers into the spongy dirt, my hiking skirt caught a branch, and between the clawing and stretching of both, I was stopped.
SKIRTS SAVE LIVES.
I froze, my breath in my throat, afraid to move and slip further. My fingers crawled in a spider like fashion to the root that my skirt was caught on, and gripped the wood.
I could breathe again.
Pulling myself gingerly back on to the trail, I investigated my body for damage. One scratch on my right forearm, and a large abrasion on my right leg. A grin grew over the lower half of my face. I love when my legs are scratched up, it means I’m doing fun shit.
Arriving at The Captain’s Hut an hour or so later, I found the building completely empty. On the Te Araroa they have adapted a hut system, small cabins you can stay in for a 5 dollar fee which contain bunk beds with sleeping pads and a fire place. I was satisfied to have the cabin to myself, but impressed by the lack of hikers I had seen in the past 14 plus miles.
I grabbed my pack to change into my sexy, stylish, behemoth size 11 purple Crocks. The dream camp shoe; the only shoe that will increase your social life ten fold.
But they were no longer attached to my pack.
I contemplated this in disbelief, as I had felt them flopping around hours before in an inappropriate fashion, slapping my butt.
They had flung off over the cliff.
A devastating loss.