My TA Pre-Journey.
It's April. COVID-19 has hit NZ hard. I am in full on panic. For reasons I'll not go into I'm now jobless and only have a month left on my visa. I've seen barely anything outside of Auckland, and now I'm going to be locked down for the remainder of my time in NZ in that same city.
Thank heavens. Under level 4 my visa is extended. I haven't however forgotten that dread I had about the prospect of returning home from a year in NZ and only having stories from Auckland.
^life in Auckland
So I'd actually heard about Te Araroa before I'd even left the UK. In fact in my rucksack along with me came the book 'Pants of Perspective' by Anna McNuff. I'd read it in my first few months in NZ, and planned to go off that December and do it. So now, in the face of COVID I became newly committed to this goal. All of New Zealand, on foot.
I spent lockdown watching videos and reading blog posts about people that had walked it in previous years. I joined the facebook groups and started to plan a budget. Gear reviews became my favourite things to watch, and my social media feeds became filled by hikers and outdoor brands. I learnt about trail lingo, the concept of ultralight hiking... these crazy people that cold soak! and so much more.
As lockdown eased I remained committed to getting out of Auckland. I took an opportunity to live in the Far North on Karikari Peninsula for a few weeks (Little did I know it would be my home for 5 months) and began creating my spread sheet. Budgeting all the factors of the trail, including visa costs, trail donations, gear, food, accommodation, kayak hire... EEEP! It was piling up!
Now, on the trail page, they clearly state; This trail is expensive, if you have limited finances maybe this is not the trail for you. So I had to make sure I had a budget plan. I'd left most of my outdoor gear in the UK, and been living an urban life in Auckland so didn't have much in the way of tramping gear, so I was going to have to do some shopping.
Shopping for a hike in the UK would basically involve a trip to Cotswolds or Go Outdoors, and grabbing couscous and noodles from Sainsbury's, but not in NZ. Instead high street names are Kathmandu, Bivouac and MacPac... And everything seemed so expensive! In my head a sleeping bag is £60, a decent tent £300 maybe, and with an exchange rate about 1:2, just double it. HA! No way José Looking at the NZ market, I seriously considered buying in the UK and getting it shipped over. But, thats not great for the planet, nor for the NZ economy. So I looked at the cost of buying local, and wether I'd feasibly be able to afford to do it.
It took me until July to make my first purchase. My sleeping bag. This was me committing to the hike. I was going to try and make this work. I'd extend my visa, stay in NZ another 11 months and eek out the money I had in the bank. I'd chosen a Big Agnes bag, that was made with recycled synthetic fill and managed to get hold of the size I was after with the help of the wonderful folks at GearShopNZ. Despite it being my first purchase I got it delivered to a friends place in Auckland, and wouldn't lay eyes on it until mid September.
Living the Far North meant that I was shopping online for everything. This definitely had its challenges, I love to hold and see the things I buy. So I was basically going off other peoples reviews and just clicking add to cart. I ordered most things from companies in Australia and New Zealand, and even with the effects of COVID, most items arrived in good time. While there were challenges having to order everything online, namely the cost involved of shipping and returns, getting mail is one of my favourite things. Living with three young boys they loved it too, the shout of "Holly there's a package for you!" followed quickly by "Can we open it?" "What is it?" was all good fun.
Giving it back
I'd been thinking off and on about using my hike to raise funds for charity, and finally settled upon it. Being in NZ I wanted to find a local charity doing work in the country I'm walking. I'm passionate about nature and the environment so set about finding a charity whose work I resonated with. After some research I settled upon Sustainable coastlines, an amazing NZ charity on a mission to enable people to look after the coastlines and waterways they love. I got in touch and set up a fundraising page which I hope will bring in money as I walk my way down the country! (If you can please donate here).
On August 5th I registered for the trail.
So I'm now not even a week away from starting. I have so many thoughts abut what lies ahead. What I'm doing is nothing particularly special, hundreds of people have done it, well thousands actually, a six year old has done it! And I don't even know if I can do it.
I've gone through waves of yep. This is what I'm doing I'm going to be fine, to sitting staring at my laptop screen, chewing my nails back to the skin, certain that I'm in way over my head.
I don't know how things will be once I get out there. I consider myself a stubborn person so I'm hoping that will get me through, but I also have a habit of giving up when things get tough or opting out rather than concede failure. This will test me; mentally and physically, and only time knows how I'll face up to Te Araroa.
Wish me luck!