It seemed surreal, standing on the north island’s southernmost point at the end of the City to Sea Walkway. No more north island to walk on. We sat on top of the island’s last hill for a while, looking over the ocean, over the Cook Strait, and over the rugged south island outlined in the distance. I felt speechless.
The three days walking into Wellington felt like an extended victory march. Yes, I know, it’s only one out of two islands, nevertheless it feels great. This is where we landed three months ago, this is where we set out north from and started our journey from. And we walked all the way back, all the 1690 kilometers from the meeting place between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean to their next meeting point at the Cook Strait. In itself it already feels like an accomplishment.
The walk from Waikanae into Wellington is a beautiful one along the coastline. We passed by Kapiti Island, by numerous cosy little beach towns on the outskirts of the capital and over the hills right outside of the city offering spectacular views of the harbour and the Cook Strait. Even the gale force winds couldn’t come between us and the fun.
We thought back about the beginning, about standing at Cape Reinga. We looked at pictures from our trip to the north, from us on those hard first trails along the beach and through the forests. It was hard to recognize the people in those pictures. Making a through-tramp doesn’t leave you untouched, and we feel how the trail changed our way of looking at things, looking at life. I think we both feel that we’ve grown, became more mature and self-confident. We take things more at ease, on a day by day basis. What will come will come and whatever the problem is, a solution will come by too. We are living at a slow pace, a true luxury in our times where everything and everyone needs to be fast. Get there fast, do things fast, get away fast.
I can see it on the people around us too, people we’ve seen returning on the trail for several hundreds of kilometers. I can see it on Serina, who is by far the person I am most impressed with in our company. From the hobbling person in the back at the beach who never hiked before she is now pushing and running in the front. The trail has not left any of us untouched.
And it has been an unbelievable journey so far. I have written about it before, and now that I have made it across I will repeat my point. The north is a highly underestimated, undervalued island. The trail is not perfect here: there is still lots of works to do, lots of roadwalk to avoid, but one can not have experienced Te Araroa without having walked across New Zealand’s northern island.
Because Te Araroa is people and nature. The nature we have witnessesed here has been stunning. Pristine forests, beautiful coastlines and majectic mountains. Places that made us stand around in silence, panorama’s that made our jaws drop, sunsets we will remember for the rest of our days. And there is lots of things I will miss in the southern tussock countries. The birdsang at dusk and dawn, the recognizable shout of the Tui and the beautiful singing of the Bellbird in the forests, the call of the Morepork owl in the night, looking over the beach and the ocean from the top of a rolling grassy hill.
And of course the people. The countless trail angels, coincidental bypassers and curious inhabitants who saw us walking by and showed us true hospitality. Some of them did not know about the trail but got curious because of all the hikers walking by their house, or just saw us passing on the street and got so enthusiastic they decided to help out. Others systematically go out of their way to help TA-ers on their path.
We’ve been given accommodation, food, showers, lemonades, teas, cookies, chocolates and many, many relaxed talks on porches and in houses. We were relieved of our packs on a few occasions for a few kilometers. Sometimes the offers were so many we had to decline half of them. Sometimes the fifth offer to take a ride on that long road made it hard to say no.
More than anything it has been the people who made this journey into the unforgettable thing it already is. New Zealand, you have called us legends, you have called us brave and strong, you have called us the coolest people ever, you have called us crazy people, you have called us idiots and you have asked us if we know that there is trains and buses going around this country. You’ve made our day so many times, you’ve made us smile when we had it rough. Thank you, you have been great. More than that, you have been astonishing. Amazing.
I can’t wait to cross the Cook Street tomorrow and see what surprises await on the other side. The south island will be a treat of mountains, of sheer wilderness and natural splendour. I hope that in between those we can meet more fantastic individuals in this country. And finally: thanks to all of you who have been enthusiastically following and supporting us along the way. You have been amazing as well, and countless times your warm messages and encouraging words have kept us going. You’ll hear from us soon for part two!
– by Eef De Boeck
P.S.: we finally had the time to upload images from our Canon camera. I am no longer carrying a DSLR, it has been replaced with a Canon G16, which does a very decent job. All images are unedited and I hope to upload the first southern ones when we reach Wanaka. You can find them on Flickr