Murderers and Public Warning Devices.

I hitchhiked with two different vehicles the first night off the route, as I descended towards town. One a huge truck, so testosterone driven, even I could feel feminine for a moment; the other, a mini van full of Canadian college boys on a road trip. 

What a disappointment for them. Far down the road I stood, possibly a fun, dark skinned, kiwi girl on an adventure. Under closer inspection they would find a wild, hairy American beast; not tan but caked in dirt and carrying all the human smells of hiking for 5 days without a shower. 

The van deposited me in front of the Alpine Lodge, a small hotel with an adjacent building full of frugal rooms for dirty backpackers like myself. The rotting incubation of smelly shoes and B.O typically lends its self to segregation from the finer folks.

Kind of like being in steerage. 
Only no one danced like they did in the movie Titanic, so I expect to receive a partial refund. 

I bought a room from the front desk and a beer from the bar, which they allowed me to carry freely to my rat ridden bunk at the bottom of the ship, which turned out to be a clean, tidy room across the parking lot.

Walking 20 miles with few calories to support the efforts, made the first few sips of suds turn on the bright lights and disco ball in my brain, and I became a jolly child hopping up the stairs to my new home for the evening. 

I sat down on one of the three beds in the room, and my hefty butt sank into the squishy mattress that felt more like a thrift store trampoline. I lifted my feet off the ground and on to the bed, laying back and releasing my own weight from over them.  

I combed thru the contents of my bag while dialing my boyfriend on the phone. We chatted briefly before a loud siren pierced the evening silence, and I ceased talking to steal a glance outside. We were FaceTiming, and his face expressed immediate concern for the noise. Again the alarm rang out, but outside the window no one appeared to be running for their lives. After a pause, I shrugged widening my eyes and lowering my mouth to portray a look of “Meh, weird”, and continued talking. 

He cut me off.

“It’s a public warning device. Get off the phone and figure out what’s wrong.”

“It’s probably nothing,” I responded, flooding my mouth with heavenly IPA. 

“Call me back when you find out what it means.” 

“But!”

He hung up. 

He takes better care of me than I do. 

I cooperated, nonchalantly peering out the window; a stoned Nancy Drew. 

What did it mean? 

I swung the door to my room open, and stomped out into the hallway almost squashing a skinny woman with frizzy hair walking by. 

I am such a moose. 

“Excuse me, do you know what the sirens are for?” Her answer would determine whether I needed to find a hole to hide in, down my drink and grab a spatula from the kitchen to fight with, make a foil hat, or “D” all the above. 

“The alarm goes off every time the fire dept gets a 911 call.” She stated, although not in moose, so perhaps she took me for her kind.

Satisfied, I laughed and downed my drink, leaving out the spatula action, seeing as it was most likely stirring a dirt bag’s Top Ramen at the moment. 

I had two of the noodle bags in my pack myself, and couldn’t wait to crunch my furry teeth around them. 

The backpacker’s building reeked of foot odor and hikers who abandoned the trail because of the inclement weather. The answer to why I was so lonely on the trail. They were all cozy on the couch watching TV, while I froze my balls off in the storm. 

A sense of pride welled in me, followed by the immediate realization that I wasn’t more bad ass than them, they were just smarter than me. 

The mileage to the next town on the Te Araroa path would take me 6-7 days. The weather suffered from a personality disorder, emotional with rain. Back home precipitation hardly stood in my way. In New Zealand, the rivers flood, trapping hikers between water ways cutting off their escape routes. I couldn’t afford the luxury of being stranded in a hut for days. I only had a sliver of time in the country and wanted to use it productively; not with my thumb in my butt starring out a window into a whiteout. 

My heart ached as I debated how to spend the rest of my trip. I really looked forward to backpacking the entire time. I had 8 days left and it didn’t make sense to continue on trail in the clouds,  blind to the surrounding mountains. Looking up the rain patterns on my phone for other parts of the island, I considered alternatives. I could chase the sun, rent a car and find outdoor activities wherever it was drier? 

That is what I would do. The safe choice. 

Safety 3rd, ya know. 
Later I would make plenty of choices disregarding the above phrase. 

I checked out of the room, and began meandering down the road attempting to hitchhike. Anytime I stopped, tiny terrorist fleas called “sand flies” would land and feast on any exposed skin. The bites last for weeks and itch like what I can imagine fake meth bugs feel like. The road was an endless treadmill, and if I stepped off for a moment I would be eaten alive by vampires that did not look like Robert Pattinson. 

I was surprised I had walked so far without an offer, I mean who wouldn’t want to pick up this fragile female?

Eventually, a small sedan stopped containing two men in their twenties from the UK. Feeling the urgent need to climb in the car in case they changed their minds, I hurled myself into the back seat. 

I also split my coffee everywhere. 

The driver turned spying the crime scene. 

“I got most of it on me!” I chimed, mortified, looking down at my coffee covered white shirt. 

“I don’t care, it’s not my car.” The driver answered bluntly. 

Hopefully he meant he had stolen it, that would make for the better story. 

We made small talk as they drove 20 minutes up the road to a highway where they were going the opposite direction. At the intersection I popped out on the asphalt and happily threw my thumb into the air. After multiple cars passed, it occurred to me that the dried coffee stain covering my shirt looked like old blood.

I tied the side of the shirt in a knot to cover up some of the evidence. 

Adorable.

People may not want to pick up a standard murderer, but maybe they would go for a CUTE murderer.

Sure enough, a tall French man, living out of his small van pulled over. Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have climbed into a car with a foreign man who transported murderers in his free time. I’ll remember this for the next time I play an escaped convict while mooching rides on the other side of the world. 

He introduced himself and based on his thick accent I expected a very French name. Something like Jacque, or Raphael. 

Turns out his name was Kevin. 
His parents named him after the main character of the movie, “Home Alone.”

I rolled with laughter. This was one of the best things I had heard all trip. Which, in reality didn’t mean much, seeing as I hadn’t talked to nearly anyone.

We drove the hour and a half in a casual dance of speech, him turning over stories of climbing and his girlfriend, while I spun tales about the trail. Once in the town of Nelson, we jumped out of the van and I grabbed my bag. He extended his hand to shake, as I went in for a hug, which made for an awkward goodbye jumble of limbs. When I’m not sure if someone is going to hug me, I go for it, somewhat aggressively because I am usually nervous when this is happening and I want to get it over with. This in turn makes the interaction even odder, and I consider why I didn’t go for a handshake. Meanwhile, the person I’m wrapped around wants to go home and take a shower. 

I rented a car and signed the required paperwork, stating my confidence driving in their country. Convinced, the well-kept blonde employee placed the keys to the car in my hand;

I immediately tried to get in the wrong side of the car.

She watched the pathetic debacle and pivoted, disappearing through the glass front doors of the office, most likely regretting the transaction. Either that or she was the heir to someone’s will in town, and didn’t care if I crashed into them. 

The town of Nelson is full of roundabouts. The first one my car was pulled into, was a traffic tornado with cars flying in out while I tried to navigate left looking the opposite direction for traffic, driving and sitting in the opposite side of the car. For a moment I was convinced I might have an aneurysm. Once I got the hang of it though, I felt like I was playing a really fun fucked up video game, only it was real life, and I could actually die. 

I wonder if people would live differently if they knew they had an “extra life” like some video games? Would they take more risks? I’m sure it would make my family and friends worry less about the shit I do, unless they too think they are the heir to my will. That would be a major disappointment to all involved. “Yes it says here you are listed as the receiver of goods from Ms. Monda- Please sign here for her crusty backpack, half a tube of mustard and 3 Rainier beers. 

In fact, the only time my house was broken into, I couldn’t find anything they had stolen. I scanned the house frantically, and finally found my piggy bank, empty on the floor. 

And by piggy bank, I mean Tupperwear I used for loose change. 

And by Tupperwear, I mean clear plastic container that I had written in massive letters, “CASH, MONEY, BUTT SEX” on the side it. 

A inspirational quote from my friend back in college.

Not only did I have to call the police, but forensics also showed up and had to finger print the CASH MONEY BUTT SEX jar. 

The man finger printing the work of art, did not think it was funny. 

I on the other hand, thought it made the break in almost worth it. 

Anyway-

I parked the car on the street without crashing it, and checked into a hostel downtown. The room I was placed in, had two bunk beds. Perched on one of them, sat a woman my age with hiking gear sprawled all over the bed. She was hiking the Te Araroa as well. 

“You finished the Richmond Range?” The brown haired stout woman questioned.

“Yeah it was crazy, they don’t use switchbacks, it’s really steep.”

“I’m doing that section next. I’ve heard It’s super dangerous.” 

“IT IS!” I almost yelled, thrilled to have my feelings validated. 

“I met a man who finished it in like 5 days! That is so fast! How many days did it take you?”

“4.5”.

She starred open-mouthed, surprised. 

“I mean it’s not a big deal”, I stammered embarrassed. “All you have to do is start walking at 6:30am and keep going until dark. 

“Was there firewood in the huts?”

“Yes, one night I used some during the cyclone at Hunter’s Hut, but I cut more to replace it.” My mind wandered, to standing in the rain with a large dull ax, hacking away at fallen bush limbs to supply what someone else had so graciously provided me. 

Warmth in dire need.

“One night a bunch of us were staying at a hut, and we were freezing and there was no fire wood.” The girl mused, looking away as if reliving the moment. 

“We ended up chopping up the bench provided in the middle of the cabin for heat; when we left, we wrote in the log book, that it would have been great if there were a bench to sit on.

I wondered if she was the type to light her house on fire for warmth back home when she was cold and didn’t want to chop wood. But I laughed instead of scolding the girl, just in case she had ran out of food and choose to eat me instead of going out and finding food outside the room. 

Preying on Weakness

After meditating, and playing my ukelele like the dirty hippy I strive to be, I laid down on a bunk to drop bones. Taking the silence in the hut for starter gun, a mouse maneuvered through a small hole into the cabin. Possessed by hunger, the hairy turd ran with magnificent gusto over the floorboards, in search of life giving crumbs. 

If I had dropped any, I assure you I would have licked them off the floor myself. 

Annoyed, I climbed out of bed, and hung my backpack from a the beam in the ceiling. A friend of mine had her water bladder chewed through by a mouse, and I didn’t want to take the risk of having anything damaged or stolen to make a merino wool nest. That mouse got to live in New Zealand, in the middle of the Southern Alps- 

I had no pity for that owl pellet with legs.

I woke up the next morning, and headed out with the plan of going 10-15 miles instead of my usual. The route began through a jungle like, thick forest gased with a blinding fog that lingered as ghostly fingers amongst the trees.

Dipping out of the bush, I climbed through various river valleys, and up precariously unstable rock fields.

Eventually I was spit out into a field. A faint tread, zigzagged through tall weeds with egg sized, white cottony tips on them. I squinted to decipher the fluffy white plant, a puzzle to my eyes.

It was grass; topped with penthouses of thickly wound spider nests.

Villages of them. 

My eye brows raised into wide Vs, and my mouth smeared over the lower half of my face in surprising disgust. I have an equation for my fear of spiders and it solves as follows-

Distance away + speed + size x surprise factor = FEAR OF SPIDER

For example in this case-

Distance away = 2 feet 

Speed, size = Unknown so zero

Surprise factor = 1 based on surprise of creepy web pod

2 + 0 + 0 x 1 = 2

A relatively low fear number. 

A strong possibility I would live to tell about it.

I grabbed a pitch fork and torch out of my bag just in case though. 

This trail knew my weaknesses, and preyed on them.

If I was met by a land shark, a man with really long finger nails, or a dog with huge eye boogers at the next hut,  I would know for sure someone read my diary, and was out to get me. 

At the edge of the field, I reached my ten mile mark in the form of the second hut. 

Luckily it was empty. 

It was however, 3PM and I’d have been bored out of my gourd until bed time if I stayed, so I broke my new 10 mile rule the second day in. I’d push on to the highway at 20 miles, and hitch to the small town of St. Arnaud for my resupply box of food. 

My feet were in terrible shape from

being hot and soaking wet two days. Immersion foot was setting in. Which means basically your feet start to rot, and by basically… I mean your feet start to rot. They were itchy, swelling, and I could smell the deathly stench 5 feet 9 inches above, where my head was connected to them. The flesh was water logged, bright white on the bottom, with a red, blotchy rash crawling up the sides.

Kind of like a raw hamburger patty with one side partially cooked. 

It’s important to be sexy on the trail-

And beef is a sexy meat.

Leaving the hut, my bovine hooves took me trotting up a forest dripping with a spindly, sea foam green moss. The ground rose to the occasion with a spongy, rigid, off white moss that appeared to be reaching for the trees with every fiber. It was enchanting. 

I had happened upon a fairy land. 

I almost felt like I was trespassing, being the tall, smelly human monster I was. 

The contrast between the moss and trees was stunning. I was bewitched. I hiked under the spell of the trees, moving swiftly but wanting to linger forever. 

As the evening set in, the trail widened becoming a dirt road for the last 5 miles, until I was deposited on a road with houses and speeding vehicles.


The noise pollution shattered the human silence of the past 4.5 days and I was made more aware of how truly alone I had been. I had only 30 minutes of face to face talking with other people during my entire 70 mile trip. Suddenly I felt I had been wandering a deserted island waiting to be found by cannibals. 

Perhaps they lived in these houses I was walking by. 

Better walk quicker. 

I checked my phone for service, and called my boyfriend. With the gift of hindsight, I must have sounded like tickle me Elmo on cocaine. I was so excited to talk to another human, and that the human was him. After the phone call he text me,

“You need more human interaction.”

He wasn’t wrong.

If I was lucky hitching, I would accomplish this. 

The highway, was a narrow paved road, weaving through thin forests and farm lands. I stopped to change into sandals, which someone had left at a hut, as if the universe knew I would lose my crocks over a cliff.

I’m still grieving. 

The funeral is in two days. 

On my quest to dig for my sandals, a car sped by on the left side of the road. Lifting my eyes from my yard sale of gear I had emptied into the dirt, I locked my vision on the driver’s side to make eye contact as I stuck my thumb out.

There was no one there. 

I stretched my head out further to investigate, and my eye brows furrowed. 

The car appeared to be driving its self. 

The sheet metal ghost flew by, and in a blur I could see that there was a passenger. 

Witchcraft.

Then I remembered they also drive on the opposite side of the car.

What a relief, shit was really bizarre there for a moment.

Chumming the street with my thumb for bait, I walked quietly through the country side, waiting for any risk takers.

After 20 minutes of walking, a behemoth of a truck pulled over to answer the call of a the fake drifter. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I climbed 4 feet up into the vehicle. The man greeted me with a gentle smile. Thrilled, I slammed the door, and immediately turned to the stranger as he pushed on the gas. While asking the superficial questions one does when they put their lives in a stranger’s hands in a different country, the man’s eyes grew wide. I didn’t think my questions were too vulgar, (although I do suffer from a small vocabulary of verbal abortions), but his surprised expression spread to the rest of his face. 

Perhaps I had something in my teeth.

He pointed past me in terror. 

“Your door!” He yelled.

I turned around in my seat, easily, as I had not yet put on my seat belt on.

My door was open and I could see the cement flying under me at highway speed. 

In my hast to climb in the car,I had slammed the door on my backpack and it was unable to latch. 

In some countries, you may get killed hitch hiking.

In New Zealand, they won’t allow you die hitch hiking

The Cyclone

“You’re alive.” A balding, short man exclaimed, peering up at me from beneath the top bunk my limp body sunk into. 

His face showed more concern than humor. 

“Yes.” I confirmed.

An assertive brown haired brick stood next to him. 

“What happened last night? She demanded. 

“I wanted to hike 20 miles, and it took longer than I thought it would.” 

“Why are you doing that?” 

I almost felt like I were a family member with a drinking problem. 

“I want to see as much as I can, I only have so much time here. I planned my trip like I do back home. Turns out it’s a lot harder here.”

The women lifted her eyebrows, and nodded in non-verbal agreement. 

“How far are you going every day?” I questioned, shifting the spot light.

“We usually go 2 huts”. 

This would be equivalent to 10ish miles. 

Okay, so I was the crazy one everyone made me out to be. Perhaps I would consider slashing my itinerary in half. 

Seems odd, but this proves to be extremely difficult for me. I have trained myself over the years to walk until dark, and if I stop early, I feel anxious as if I am wasting time. 

Time equals life. 

I’m like a dog on a leash, pulling my owner forward chocking myself with my collar, worried I’m going to miss something. Of course being the owner as well becomes a conflict of interest. I should be paid to babysit myself. 

“This track is known for being really slippery.” The women cautioned, and I remembered reading that I should avoid this particular area in inclement weather. 

Does a cyclone count as inclement weather? 

I asked what they thought about the storm hitting land that day. The two had spent the last few months of their lives living on this dirt path. Neither of them seemed concerned. 

I was relieved when they left; I didn’t want to crack the seal of my sleeping bag with others around. I smelt like a dead animal laying in a bed of rotten spinach. 3 days of working out 6-13 hours a day without showering or deodorant in the humid heat of New Zealand cooked up a real spicy brew. 

I returned shoe to dirt, tired, but my foot no longer hurt which gifted a major relief. I kind of needed that part of my body to work.

The sky drizzled lazily, as I side stepped the narrow, spongy, 1 foot wide trail which slanted towards an arduous ravine, plummeting down to the river 30 feet below. Massive roots crawled all over the trail; the varicose veins of Mother Nature. To avoid my previous plight with gravity, my eyes fixated heavily on my steps, choosing life over the stunning scenery. Despite my heavy emphasis on foot placement, the ground gave way once again, dropping my soft flesh below, straining my body through the trees beneath the footpath. My limbs did their best impression of a starfish slamming my shoe into a tiny waif of a tree, halting what might have been a crushing, early morning swim, or hospital visit.

Look Mom one leg

I laughed it off in a nervous awkward fashion, the way you do when you just miss hitting another car and realize you could have died, but were spared, and now have the rest of your life ahead of you. 

You know, the little things. 

The route curved like a serpentine, swerving across the river many times requiring a great deal of focus. I moved quickly, passing the couple and continuing on past them, scrambling and hop-scotching my way through the valley. We would be at the same hut that night if I cut back miles, so I dropped a quick hello, and continued on. 

The route was a rib cage of roots, wrapping around mud and stones guts. At one point, I prepared to descend a steep section, and I slipped and flipped over myself like a pancake that thought it was a slinky. My head rolled under my feet as they flew through the air above me. I laid in the dirt for a moment waiting for any new pain to arise, but it didn’t.

PAR CORE! 

Slippery narrow pathways

I made it to the next cabin, and took a break elevating my legs and stuffing my face with energy in the form of shitty dry wall bars and powders. Visions of the water tornado swirled around in my mind. The cyclone was supposed to hit mid day. The time was noon, and apart from some dark clouds and tiny farts of wind, I sided with both groups of thru hikers who said the storm would be bullshit. 

I needed this to be true. 

A substantial mountain with 2 summits stood as the only obstacle between myself and the next hut and I intended to conquer it without any friction of chaos. 

I would not be granted this gift.

The dirt disappeared as I gained elevation, replaced with sharp uneven boulders that were sand papery to the touch. These boulder fields required me to pin ball my path vertically on top of whatever rocks looked sturdy enough, like one of those old choose your own adventure books. I employed my rock hopping method I use on the Washington coast, jumping meticulously, shoving my feet in between boulders to avoid slipping. 

The rock field dissipated eventually, and I found myself in a grassy, steep meadow below the first summit. A breeze wafted in a mild fashion, and I laughed ; how silly for me to be worried about this weather.
Storms are mind readers. 

Offended- The wind picked up, and the sky began to breath, blowing its wrath over the mountain, submitting all trees and plants to bend to its overpowering will. 
I turned back as a dense white fog crept up from below, flooding the valley, stalking me. The clouds lowered, the fog rose, and I was gnashed between the teeth of both, in an almost a complete white-out. 

I ascended in only a tank top and hiking skirt with no rain gear, because I do not sweat enough to cool my body down. I observed my clothes absorbing water, but knew I would be too hot if I put my rain jacket on, which would cause me to sweat and soak through my clothes anyway. 
I pressed on climbing in my hiker Barbie outfit. 

The route was indicated by tall metal poles with orange tips. I’d spy one in the distance, find the path of the least resistance to it, then search for the next one. With the white-out enveloping the landscape, I could hardly navigate by vision. If it got bad enough I carried 2 GPS, and if they shit the bed, I had a compass, or a tent to crawl into. 

Redundancy was key.

The drizzle turned into a harsh sideways down pour, and he blasts of wind reached 60 MPH, tossing me over, forcing me to throw my trekking poles out to catch my balance. 

This wasn’t the salad I ordered.

My pack cover began to aggressively flap in the wind like an enormous manic bird, trying to lift my body with its talons. I feared it may blow off, so I jammed an attached string between my teeth to anchor the backpack condom. No sooner had I done this, and the pack cover blew off my bag completely. Now the flimsy nylon deployed behind me, the string still clamped down in my grill, as if my mouth was flying a kite. 

My pack didn’t trust me, and pulled its own make shift parachute. 

I worried about hypothermia if I stopped even for a moment, so I staggered on with the fake parachute fluttering behind me. My fingers were numb, and I struggled to grip them around my poles. I was effectively drenched to the skin, and with the pummeling wind and cold shower, it was a risk to stop and try to dig thru my bag for rain gear. All my clothes and sleeping bag would get wet and possibly blown away. 

I had to keep moving.

I felt small, like a flee crawling on the back of a gigantic wild animal that just discovered my existence, and didn’t want me there.

I fought the wind relentlessly, suffocating in nature’s cleavage as I reached the first summit and descended. 

I was a mouse in a bucket of water, drowning.

My mind wandered to the idea of collapsing and hiding in the fetal position between rocks, but that was how people got hypothermia- 
And died.

The only way out was up.

I was almost savagely knocked over again by the wind, but this time I hurled my head up in a carnivorous rage and roared back at the faucet of a ceiling, as if I sat across a debate table and it was my turn to retaliate. 

This proved to be a conduit of energy for my eroding morale, and I boosted my body up the second summit, feeling an overwhelming sense of alleviation when the ground become lower under foot. 

The relief was brief.

To my horror, the sky ripped open as if a damn had broken showering down with such passion, that I could no longer open my eyes. 

I was blind. 

What good were the brightly colored poles, my GPS, or my compass if I couldn’t open my eyes?

Useless, and so was I. 

The primordial need for vision in order to escape my predator was all encompassing, but my predator loomed everywhere. There was no liberation until I made the tree line, and I couldn’t open my eyes to find it.

I stood wiping my eyes incessantly, only to move my hands away and allow more water to flood them. 

I was terribly cold and an unfamiliar pang of fear swelled inside my gut. 

I stopped walking to collect myself.

Stay calm. You’re OK. Find the next pole. 

After a hand full of floundering attempts, I wiped my eyes again, and using my hands to shield them, I squinted in every direction. Far to my left in a deep fog, I spied a ghostly orange tip of metal.

THE WAY OUT. 

I moved obsessively towards it. I never thought I would have such a love affair with a pole, probably why I never ended up as a stripper. I can hardly find a pole when I need one.
Once I arrived at the route indicator, I skipped down to the next and the pattern repeated until the bush line crept up through the choking fog. 

I was a kaleidoscope of emotions- relieved, overwhelmed, stressed, satisfied, fearful and happy. I snatched my rain gear out of my bag, now that I wouldn’t jeopardize it flying away, and covered my pathetically waterlogged body. The barrier for convective heat loss worked instantly.

I took a deep breathe.

Thrown up out of the storm

Today I would only go 10 miles.

I assumed I should cry when I made it to the final hut for the day. My adult years however, had hardened me in a way that sensitivity did not leak through my cement veneer so easily, and I smiled instead.

Safe inside, there were 2 wooden bunks, a table with 2 benches, a metal counter and fire place with a modest pile of wood. I feverishly worked to light a fire, and my soul began to thaw. 

Once the fire was effectively eating through the wood, I peeled off all my layers and hung them over the fire, over joyed by the radiant heat. 

Oh to be warm again. 

My view into the storm.

Under the shelf I found a pot I could use on the stove to boil water. I had cold soaked all my dinners until this point, so hot Top Ramen would make a fine delicacy.

A feast reserved for nobility. 

Pleasantly toasty and dry, I sat with immense gratitude over my peanut butter jar full of frugal soup.

In the shelter I felt world away from the physical agony I endured hours before. A pirate on a shipwrecked vessel, lost in the vast unknown of an impenetrable fog. 

Outside, the wind snored, thundering against the walls, strangling the building in a thick suffocating war of rain. 

The couple never arrived. 

The Ridge Walk of Dreams, and the Boot Ski of Terror

So no shit, there I was-

Marching like a jolly child down the trail, until a bird lurched out timidly onto the path pausing my rhythm. I immediately recognized it to be a kiwi and with the excitement of a child opening a mildly interesting Christmas present, I snapped some shitty pictures. Later, only after bragging about seeing one, did I find out that this imposter was not a kiwi, it was a pest bird called a Waka. 

Rude.

Fake.

Reminds me of the time I thought Keane Reeves walked into my work, only to find out it was an underwear model instead. 

Such disappointment. 

After about 5 miles, I came across a group of 4 well organized and clean hikers who didn’t appear to share my make out sessions with the dirt. 

They claimed to be hiking off the trail to avoid the cyclone. 

The man’s words flirted with my level of concern for the storm, and my uneasiness grew. I was hoping the men from the evening before were just being pussies about it. 

Turns out this was serious. 

Or these mountains were full of pussies.

The curious group inquired about my plan, and I informed them that I intended to trek 25 or so miles a day and beat the cyclone to town. 

They were shocked; I was a rare breed to their kind.

The trail conversations were taking on a pattern I was unfamiliar with. On the Pacific Crest Trail, many people did 20-30 miles per day. 

Here, everyone thought I was insane.

“You’re no soft boiled egg.” One of the men stated with a thick British accent. 

I carried on, head down, speed walking, piercing the dirt vigorously with my trekking poles, as if to puncture the lungs of a beast I was fighting. 

I had read about the ridge I was to traverse, and prayed for good weather, so that I could be party to the majestic views. 

My prayers were answered. 

This was a ridge walk of dreams. 


The REAL “Great Valley” The Land Before Time characters talked about. 

And by the way can we all agree that the triceratops, “Sarah”, was a total bitch? 

Cause she was.

My trekking poles clicked connecting with  tiny pebbles that coated the trail, much in the way a roller coast clicks as you ascend; which is exactly what I was doing; in a direct line up the mountain. Lifting my knees high to meet the occasion, I huffed and puffed out both ends, in hopes the winds of my insides would help surge me to the top.

No sooner did I reach the summit of one mountain and begin to pass out my celebratory party hats, did I have to immediately repack them to descend and climb the next masterful pile of rocks. 


God loves his rock statues. 

So do I.

But this next down climb was fucking insane.

My mouth sagged open as I peered down over the side of the pyramid of dirt, at the route of sure death I was expected to “walk down”.

The steep mountain side was made up of tiny dusty pebbles, that slid under boot the moment you gave them your weight. 

You can not walk down this chute. 

You have to ski.

But not on skis. On your boots.

And not on snow. ON GRAVEL. 

I didn’t know how to ski, and I broke my collarbone snowboarding a few years ago going over what I thought was a jump. When asked to recall what happened, I told the paramedic and he stated they didn’t have any jumps in the park, and claimed I went off a “jib” instead. 

I found this insulting. 

I held my arm, vulnerably and through my painful suffering, I listened in on the medic’s phone call with a doctor.

“She had a ground level fall.” He whispered. 

“I HAD AIR.” I blurted.

No one was convinced. 

Needless to say, flying down a hill in a standing position, is not on the short list of things I excel at. 

Above the rock slide, I tightened my core and my face muscles clenched as my rigid legs attempted to accomplish the morbid task at hand. 

There was no grace in my movements. I blame this on the ballet teacher who kicked me out of class when I was a kid, because I wasn’t good enough. 

THATS WHY I WAS TAKING LESSONS you pretentious, tutu wearing flamingo. 

Childhood is so hard.

Time to send it. 

I leaned forward over my skis that did not exist, and the boot ski of terror took me prisoner. Throwing out my poles for support, I looked like I was attempting to surf, while holding a walker. I slipped and carved my boots through the pebbles, crumbling to the task multiple times. I’d land on my butt, flying down the chute and digging my heels in as emergency breaks to avoid my ass being completely cheese grated. 

Mother Nature has no sympathy. 

The summit from far away with the boot ski of terror coming down the side

Now let’s zoom in.

THIS is what I endured

This CD of experience, skipped and repeated, over and over until I had played out every walking dance move possible, and was spit out in a field below. 

NAILING THE LANDING. 

I wasn’t even bleeding!

Take that, ya old ballet sea hag. 

I took a break at the next hut to elevate my feet, and have a snack episode. Two other riders of the boot coaster streamed in. 

The couple appeared pirate-like in appearance.  Old, crusty clothing hung from their tanned, muscular frames. They had been hiking the Te Araroa for 4 months, and their gear was worn and tired. When the subject of weather inevitably forced its way into the conversation, they told me the cyclone was nothing to worry about. 

I studied the lines in their faces. 

The women spoke up. Perhaps she could tell I was suspicious. 

“The weather forecasts always make a storm out to be something crazy, and it ends up just being a drizzle- Maybe some wind.” She tossed the words mindlessly in my direction, while unpacking her bag. 

She smelt terrible, and I immediately believed them to be thru hikers who would be competent in the weather patterns of the island. 

Looks like the other backpackers were safe from my belly after all. 

With this knowledge I decided to only go 20 miles instead of 25. If I got caught in a little rain like they said, it would be no jalapeño on my junk.

For the rest of the sun lit day, the scenary grew even more vivacious and grand.

I was overwhelmed by the size, and greenery of the mountains; it was as if I had discovered another species of outdoors. 

Time passed, and by mile 16 I was totally exhausted. The stair master quality of the route had my body breaking down, and I limped from a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot. 

I was angry with my body. I had to make atleast 20 miles that day! 

The sun set, and I was drown in a deep blackness that only a heavy canopy of leaves can provide. I heaved my body over the trail, a chewed up piece of meat, greasing my way over the dim path.

Earlier in the trip I had experienced a bizarre epiphany; I realized I missed the danger of having predators to watch out for. In New Zealand, they have no large predators like cougar or bear. In fact, they don’t even have any small spiders or snakes that are poisoness. I felt this particular appetite for danger was not being met, and this surprised me.

It only took the absence of light for this opinion to change, and be replaced by gratitude. That evening I was happy to be the biggest creature lugging my way through the dark ocean of tree puppet shadows.

The final descent to the next hut was incredibly steep and unforgiving. Covered once again in tiny dusty pebbles, I was at the mercy of my large man feet and trekking poles to save me from falling victim to the gritty, blood eating roots and rocks below my boots. 

I must have eaten shit 3 or 4 times. 

I don’t know what Mother Nature ate, but it didn’t taste good.

Too tired to find my misfortunes funny,  I cursed, a bull with my balls tied, screaming out my anger in high pitched shrieks every time my boots went on holiday,  flying out from under me. 

In terrific frustration, I checked my map. I must have been close.

I was. Thank God. 

The hut lived right across the stream. 

A wooden ramp appeared in my small field of vision and I clamored up it, landing on a narrow wire held suspension bridge which hung high over a deep ravine. Below, a swollen stream flowed with angry water, that tossed and fought with the rocks in its path. 

Half blind by the night air, following my tiny beam of light, it was all the strength I had left to balance on the foot wide beam below my feet. I swayed side to side on the vulnerable toothpick bridge, with the wood rolling like a wave under my weight. 

Gripping the wire hand rails with white knuckles, I stopped for a moment to peer up at the sky.

It was the most beautifully romantic black, dotted with a sea of stars, starring down on me, encouraging me.

My smile returned.

This is why I do this. 

NOT because I hate myself, but because  it’s FUCKING AWESOME.

I reached the small hut after 10PM, and was greeted with two pairs of hiking shoes on the porch. Gingerly I snuck inside, dimming my light so as not to disturb the other inhabitants.

“Are you okay?” A women’s voice came out the corner, curious and concerned. 

“Yes, it just took me longer to hike 20 miles than I planned.”

I slept so hard that night I may have died. 

Bad News


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. 

Anyway-

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.

Gross.

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.

Sexy.

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.

This is why I preach filtering your water
Gross

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.

Nice distraction

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.

“A CYCLONE?” 

“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. 

Pretty sure this is bar is made of bear poop

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.

A Tragic Loss

“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.

From second day because I had a better National Geographic vantage point

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.

Accents, Scared People and Weird Tastes

Hours before I loaded the sardine can with wings, I stood in line waiting for the Apple store to open, to buy new battery for my phone. A grey handle bar mustache behind me, attempted to engage in an exilerating conversation about phones. I played along, I had nothing else to do. I told him I was purchasing a new battery for my trip to New Zealand. 

“You need a bigger pocket if you’re carrying your phone.” The man stated intelligently, as if I would be wearing the cotton sweats I was currently wrapped in on the trail, with no backpack. 

“…I’ll be carrying a backpack.” I stated, folding my cards of the conversation, and mentally walking away from the man. 

He scoffed, “Well, I hope it goes well for YOU, there was another plane crash the other day.” His voice trailed off, as his eyes watched an invisible plane crash over the Apple store. 

I wanted to tell him to lick mold, but I was stuck in line with him, and didn’t want to be forced to watch him do it. I’m one of those weirdos that can’t look away from gross shit, and starring is rude. 

“You worried about the Coronavirus? I heard 3,000 people on a cruise ship got it the other day.” 

“No.”

Although looking back it would have been great if I started coughing on him. 

“You know, I used to work over seas…Until my brother was shot and died back home and I had to return…The man got out of jail too”.

I turned away. Clearly some people just need to talk, but for that level of negative fuckery, you gotta pay a stranger to listen. 

What a barnacle. 

People get defensive when they see other people doing things that scare them. They’ll try and talk you out if it. “Don’t better yourself, it makes me feel bad about myself.”

Don’t let people pop your fun balloon. You fill that shit with helium, and float to the nearest sky bar and order yourself a shot of tequila with no chaser. 

Don’t let others yuck your yum. 

Fill your life with challenging incredible tasks and if that intimidates other people, tell them to make themselves useful and grab some toilet paper to support your awesome shit. 

Alright I’ll get off my soap box.

I’m on my way to the trailhead right now, listening to the bus driver talk in his amazing accent. He just informed us we can’t eat “hot pies” on the bus but we can eat “lollies and biscuits.” 

New Zealand has already lit up a room in the house of my soul. 

My first plane ride yesterday, commenced with me farting when I first sat down and hoping the lady next to me wouldn’t smell it. Then I couldn’t hold back my cough from my cold anymore, and I proceeded to hack like a cat pushing hair balls which probably lead her to believe I have the Coronavirus. 

I excel at making friends on planes.

When we landed in Fiji for a short lay over, I was handed a flower by a very large native man who was playing in a ukelele band.

I was feeling fabulously feminine. 

When I arrived in Auckland I loaded my final plane to Christchurch. I felt tied but belligerent with joy. 

“Hello” I stated confidently to the sanitary hair bun checking my plane ticket. Although I didn’t just say hello. I accidentally said hello in a New Zealand accent. 

I had only been around people with accents for an hour.

Why am I allowed to leave the country. 

Reminds me of an American guy I went to a Mexican restaurant with in my early twenties, who wanted to impress me by proudly answering “Dos” when they asked how many people for the table. 

It didn’t work out. 

When I landed in New Zealand, I hailed a taxi to a post office, so I could send myself a resupply box of food to a town I would pass through on the 4th day of my expedition. When I opened the passenger door to throw my backpack in the taxi, the driver inquired, 

“Do you want to put that in the boot?” 

I had no idea what a “boot” was and it occurred to me, that perhaps he meant “butt”. 

Was was my taxi driver offering to put my backpack in his butt while we drove?

Must be a New Zealand thing. 

Well, like they say, “When in Rome.”

Turns out “boot” means trunk in these parts.

Good thing I wasn’t aggressive about it. 

I’m now on a 7 hour bus drive from Christchurch to Nelson, where I will start the trail and I’m overflowing with gratitude, and luckily for the lady next to me, not gas. 

Excuse me Sir, are we supposed to be on this side of the road?

Christchurch looks suspiciously like Eastern Washington, and I was beginning to get concerned that I had flown 21 hours to land in Pullman. However, we just passed the first of many sheep fields, so I am feeling more confident that I didn’t pay lots of money to be taking a bus tour of WSU, where I went to college for 1.5 years. Although if there were a degree in drinking, I would have surely graduated.

Sheep. The cows of New Zealand.

I usually start a backpacking trip with a base of deodorant on, then don’t carry any with me. I find I’m gonna smell no matter what working out 10 hours a day. This trip however, I didn’t pack any with me to begin with, so I’m already starting off smelly and I haven’t lifted a boot yet. 

Or a butt. 

I like to think of myself as a fine cast iron pan. I can’t use deodorant on backpacking trips, I’m too porous. 

Cast irons remind me of a hot springs trip recently. I was cooking sweet potatoes on a cast iron pan. I took a bite, and they tasted like sweet tropical coconut. This was disturbing seeing as the only ingredients were oil and potatoes. 

Under much investigation I found I had accidentally used my ziplock baggy of hair conditioner to fry the potatoes, instead of my ziplock baggie of solidified oil. 

Probably because I didn’t finish my degree at WSU.

Next post I will have been tramping in the bush for a few days. Stay tuned for the misadventures I get myself into. 

New Zealand, Pee, and Sheep Riding

I end up in a lot of bizarre situations while backpacking, which make for epic and terrifically horrible stories. 

I was a writer for multiple hiking pages, and was encouraged by many (one person and my mom) to sequester my trip reports and ramblings in one place. Works for me, I’m lazy, and this saves me time so I can spend more hours starring in the mirror trying to find zits to pop, or even better, laying in bed at night on my phone researching cancers I must be plagued by, because I found some new tiny mole on my finger. 

Tomorrow I leave for New Zealand to backpack 272+ miles in 12.5 days on the Te Araroa Trail. 

By myself. 

I feel like an excited nervous poodle, I just wanna throw up and eat it. Then pee all over the floor in a panic because I hate flying. I once got a prescription for Xanax to make peace with the mechanical birds. This plan failed when I convinced myself that once I was on pills and the plane crashed, I wouldn’t be able to save myself because I’d be too high thinking about more important things, like what the color blue tasted like. I’d be a squirrel in a wool sock if we went down. Plus if I did crawl out of the crushed metal cloud vehicle in my Xanax state, I would be left to survive floating in the ocean on a door for days. Eating only seaweed. 
The pubic hair of the sea. 

Needless to say, I’m leaving the Xanax in my underwear drawer. 
Whiskey tastes better anyway. 

I am fucking thrilled about the forest playground New Zealand has to offer. All the pictures I am googling over leave me with eye boners. Which are painful, but I find if I cry a little it relieves the pressure. 

I will start at Pelorus Bridge, near Nelson on the Southern Island. I’ll tramp through the bush South, (New Zealand for hike South) over one hundred water crossings. The trail weaves through high mountains, and dirt roads littered with sheep and hopefully people who pity me and give me free beer. And maybe a sheep.

I’d rather ride a sheep back to the airport than hitch hike, and my blog would get a lot more views if it were called, “The Sheep Rider”! 

This blog is already terrible decision.

For the first time, I am packing ultralight, to include not bringing a stove. This means I will be cold soaking all my dehydrated food, shoveling cold mush down my throat the entire trip. It’ll be like being momma birded my food…but the momma bird is cold and dead. I figure I’m always so fucking hungry while I’m hiking you could feed me kitty litter and I would open wide, stoked for the almond roca chunks hidden in the box. 
So cold slop shouldn’t be too bad. 

I mean it’s not King Tritan’s salty ocean ball hair.   

I will post on here as often as I am able to, at least once a week, starting off with my New Zealand tales and adding in short stories from all over.


*Sign up below to get a notice when I post! Let me know what you guys wanna hear about.*

If I don’t reply, it’s because there isn’t any service from my door in the middle of the ocean. 


– A. Monda 
A.K.A Grownasswoman