I forgot to mention in my previous post, that when I typed my trail name, “Nut Crusher” into my phone, it predicted that I meant to type “But Crusher.”
My phone really wants to write for a porn site.
I woke up, happy to find that there were no palm size, mouse killing Huntsmen spiders on my face.
The apex of living.
I read about this New Zealand tarantula before I left for my trip, and I was pondering the spindly monster while hiking the day before, when a fern brushed up against my shoulder and I almost shit my pants.
My plan was to trek 22 miles per day, so I raced out onto the trail, doing my best impression of a cheetah wearing a backpack; walking on its hide legs. This would prove to be a painful plan.
Turns out cheetahs are not bipedal.
The mileage I planned per day, was based on what I usually hike in the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t realize this trail could chew up and spit out everything I’ve done before. I had no idea the size of the whale I was preparing to sink my fork into.
I also had no idea why I was eating a whale.
I was only beginning to appreciate the complexity of this track. I knew it was one of the harder, more dangerous trails in New Zealand, but I had no idea it was considered the most difficult and dangerous section on whole Te Araroa.
The crumbling skinny path turned away from the river, and climbed in a rather rude fashion up the side of a mountain. The Richmond Range (section I was in) follows a route and not always a trail, meaning that much of the distance is made off trail and requires strong navigation skills.
It also doesn’t use switchbacks.
This trail gives no fucks about anyone.
Then again, if I were walked all over I would be angry as well.
Every time the route gains elevation, you are expected to ride the escalator that is your own feet, directly up the side of the fucking Earth.
I ascended straight up the mountains and directly back down, scrambling and rock climbing while employing tree roots as ladders. I’d lose 2,000 feet, then gain it right back, only to be robbed again.
A terrifically physical game of yo-yo. I felt like I had unknowingly signed up for American Ninja Warrior, the outdoor Kiwi addition.
In my gritty, salt rolled mind, I should have been moving faster, despite the fact that I did not train.
This is what I do.
I compared my speed with my last hikes, thinking there was something wrong with me. In reality, I was used to gaining 3,000 feet in elevation on a normal day and now I was gaining 6,000 and continuing to curse myself for not moving at my normal speed. It couldn’t be the difficulty of the trail, nooo I must have gotten weak!
My brain is a mental pin cushion, and I am never at a loss for needles.
I slammed my feet into the ground and listened to an audiobook, determined to make my 22 miles and over 6,000 feet of elevation before dark.
“Unfuck Yourself” is a great listen. I laughed out loud, and found motivation to rage through the jungle. I was a moose trampling my prey! I recommend the book. Not that I felt I needed to be unfucked in any fashion, but I’m all about bettering yourself and it doesn’t take a witch hunt to find things I can burn.
Mid day, I stopped at a creek to filter water and found a grave yard of chewed up animal bones in it.
The views however, were deliciously satisfying.
Climbing the final push to Starveall Hut, I hit 18.2 miles and called it quits. The sky was loosing light and I was pooped. I had pushed for 13 hours and still I did not make my goal.
This disturbed me.
To my delight however, a group of backpackers sat around a picnic table next to the hut. With hardly any human interaction in the last 24 hours, I walked up with a thirst for conversation.
“Where did you hike from?” A German accent inquired.
“18 miles away, Starveall Hut.”
“Wow, really? We can’t do those miles yet, we haven’t gotten our hiking legs yet”
“Neither have I” I stated.
Why do I have to be an asshole.
Or sorry, a “but crusher”.
Luckily, they laughed at my comment, although the chuckling was choked immediately by a Swedish man who chimed in.
“You heard about the bad weather?” he questioned.
“Yeah it’s supposed to rain.” I blew him off non chalantely.
“There’s a cyclone coming the day after tomorrow.” His voice grave with concern.
“Yes, 100km per hour, lots of rain, the rivers may flood. Do you have a few extra days of food to hold you over and hunker down?”
“Yes” I lied.
I figured if I got trapped in a hut, I could eat one of them; stranger would probably taste better than the slop I was eating.
I told them I could amend my plan to hike 25 plus miles per day to out run the storm. They exchanged glances, insinuating that I was crazy.
They proved to be right.