It is 126 days until I set off on my epic adventure from Cape Reinga to Wellington. 1733 kilometers of back country terrain, forests, beaches, farmland, rivers and roads. I am very excited and it is coming around quick! The adventure that awaits me has been consuming my thoughts and often keeps me awake at night! While I cant wait to get out there and on the trail, I do have some fear around how I will cope without seeing my family every day. I have my wife Katie and three young children, Ayla (6), Abby (4) and Jesse (1), that fill my life with joy and happiness and I know this is going to be the biggest challenge not being able to see them or get my daily fix of cuddles and kisses. I will see them during the first month as I pass through my home city Whangarei, but for the most part, I will rely on catching up via phone calls and Skype whenever I am in range of internet or cell phone reception. But no matter how hard it is I must not let it stop me. The time is now. I am very lucky to have a wife who is fully in support of me doing this and will be facing her own challenge holding the fort at home for the 10 weeks I will be away.
I have already put so much planning and training hours into preparing for this and I have a long way to go before I am even close to being ready. It doesn’t help that I have little to no previous experience in hiking! There is a lot more to it than I anticipated but the planning is all part of the fun. I am learning so much. So far, I have spent most of my time researching trail notes and maps and determining my start and finish points for each day including where I will be sleeping. This is what my spreadsheet looks like for that:
Researching gear and equipment is another big part of the planning. I will need to be strict on how much weight I am carrying so I can only take essential items and lightweight gear where possible. I quickly discovered lightweight gear is expensive! My base weight goal is 10kg’s (not including food or water). My max weight I hope will not exceed 15kg’s. Food will be mostly dehydrated and I will have a small gas stove or Jet Boil system for boiling water and cooking. I will carry a minimal amount of heavier food such as tuna sachets, cheese and salami as these are good sources of protein, fats and carbs that will be essential for maintaining energy levels and also keeping sane! Of course when I pass through a town I will be consuming as many burgers and calories as possible with a Subway foot long to go!
Training is very time consuming. The best way to train for hiking is by hiking. So I walk at night after work and on weekends I try to get out both days for a 20km walk/hike. As I get closer to my start date I will be increasing the distance and carrying weight in a pack. On top of training I am maintaining a healthy diet which I have been doing for the past 18 months anyway. I am getting soft tissue massage from Tania at Strength & Soul in Whangarei. This is so important making sure my muscles are going to be in good shape for the trail and to avoid injury while training. My posture was terrible before going to Strength & Soul but it wasn’t long before Tania got me straightened out. Carrying a pack with bad posture would lead to a whole lot of pain and likely injury over such a long distance. Too many years of being a couch potato!
Here is a screen shot of my training schedule:
The cost of the trip is around $7,000. This breaks down to $4000 for equipment, trail fees, canoe hire etc. $1000 accommodation (mostly camp sites but the odd cabin or hostel), $1000 for food and another $1000 for miscellaneous items and consumables such as replacement gear or unforeseen costs.
I have applied for sponsorship from Kathmandu so fingers crossed I am approved as it will cover a big part of the expense. I have also received a sponsorship of $1000 from a good friend and local business owner Stacey Nicholson at Northland Refinishers. This is an amazing gesture and I am hugely grateful for this. I have been blown away by the amount of support and interest I have received from everyone so far.
So now I have my Facebook page, The Path Less Travelled. There I will be posting everything to do with my walk including fundraising for Alzheimers Northland and using it as a way to share this with as many people as possible. I have also set up an Every Day Hero page called The Ultimate Memory Walk. Alzheimer’s New Zealand run annual Memory Walks all around NZ to raise awareness for people affected by dementia. This is why we have chosen to promote my fundraising effort as The Ultimate Memory Walk!
This blog site is where I will be sharing all my experiences on the trail and it will be a permanent record for me and my family. It will also be a way to share what I have learnt along the way for future Te Araroa (TA) hikers to help with their planning. I have found the blogs and records previous TA walkers have kept to be very helpful.
Why am I doing this? Mostly I am motivated by a desire to get outdoors and experience the back country of my beautiful home land. But there is more to it than that. Up until the last 18 months I have been unfit, unhealthy and no motivation to do anything. In January last year just after Jesse was born, my wife and I started on a health transformation. We have both changed our eating habits, introduced heaps of good nutrition into our diets and added regular exercise into our lifestyle. I started running and going to the gym. Then I purchased my own gear at home which was a great idea being so convenient. I have lost 28kg’s and am easily keeping it off without being too strict with my eating. It is easy and enjoyable once you commit properly and stop making excuses. So as well as just getting outdoors, I am doing this because with all my new found energy and zest for life, I am going to set out to achieve something that a few years ago I would have never dreamed of doing or being capable of doing. Another reason is just the pure adventure of it! I get so excited just thinking about it. 10 weeks away from the day to day grind and getting out and connecting with the land. Not knowing what challenges I will encounter each day, who I might meet and simply being somewhere new every day.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” – Gandalf the Grey.