Botanic Gardens to Island Bay
Katie and Hayley joined me for the final day. James dropped us off at the Botanic Gardens and we had breakfast at the cafe there. The walk started off nice and easy through the gardens, past the Beehive and down onto the waterfront which we followed to Oriental Bay. The weather was perfect. The sun was out and there was a good amount of wind to keep us cool. Then we climbed up to the Mt Victoria lookout and followed the Southern Walkway all the way to the south coast. There were great views along the town belt down onto the city and in all directions. It is a very nice walk. Katie and Hayley were not expecting so much uphill walking and I had not actually checked beforehand to prepare them but they both did very well. It was a nice easy day for me though!
The end of the trail is marked by Te Araroa’s foundation stone at Shorland Park. Catherine Hall, the CEO of Alzheimers NZ, was there to meet me as we approached. I reached my fundraising goal the day before which I am very pleased about. The donations are still rolling in so I am exceeding my target. So I will take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated to the cause and also to everyone who has supported me along the way, including all the efforts for fundraising that took place prior to me leaving which made this whole dream possible.
I did not feel any major sense of joy, relief or achievement when I reached the end. I had already spent plenty of time reflecting and thinking about it since I came out of the Tararua ranges. Day 69 was the day I felt like the job was done as I came over the hill and was looking down on Wellington city.
We were all hungry and keen to get to a cafe so we found a place close by and had a burger and beer to celebrate. Katie and I got dropped off into the city and we stayed at the QT hotel for the night. We went out for dinner and enjoyed some luxury. The next morning we went out for breakfast and then visited my step siblings, Adam and Hayley before catching our flight back to Whangarei.
The kids were at the airport waiting with Granny and Poppi. They had made a ‘Welcome Home Daddy’ sign for me and they all came running into my arms when I walked into the terminal. I have missed them all so much! We all went home for dinner and a few drinks and dad came around too. It feels great to be home again and getting lots of love from everyone.
This journey has been an amazing experience. It was hard work. Every day was hard. Some were easier than others, but none were ever easy. I pushed myself hard every day. Some days to total exhaustion. I learnt what my body and mind is capable of. I learnt about perseverance. Some days everything was against you, the wind, rain, mud, steep ascents, long distances, fatigue, pain, thirst, hunger. I never wanted to give up and a lot of the time that was not even an option due to where I was. Most of all, I learnt about resilience. I feel like a stronger and more confident person. I’m excited about setting more goals and I am confident I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I can see my kids are proud of me and I would like to think they will grow from this and be more confident themselves in achieving their own future goals or ambitions. They already want to go on big walks so I am keen to get them outdoors more and onto the trails. I hope that one day they might even do a ‘thru-hike’ with me. There are families walking the TA by the way. Parents and kids as young as six, walking the length of NZ together! I think that is just awesome. I saw many families out doing shorter hikes together as well.
We live in a beautiful country. The sights were amazing. I would encourage every New Zealander to do what I have done. As long as you do not have any major health issues then you can do it if you really want to. There are people of all ages doing it. You will get fit along the way and you can take as long as you want. I was not a hiker going into this. I still do not consider myself to be a die hard hiker. I did this for the adventure and to see my country. I am keen to try something new like Crossfit or cycling or even running, maybe trail running.
I have been living another life for the last 10 weeks. It wont take long though to adjust back to normality. I have another two weeks off before I go back to work. I need to come up with some new goals and a new health and fitness regime so I do not slip into old habits and get lazy. I have never been this fit, so I want to make sure I maintain it and build on it. I will start the South Island leg in a couple of years but I will not do it all in one go. I will break it up into 2-3 week sections each year. 10 weeks is too long to be away from home again.
There were lots of highlights along the way. I don’t think there were any lowlights. The worst days are also some of the most memorable because they tested my resolve and built my resilience. The highlights for me were:
- 90 Mile Beach. Three days walking down the beach with the constant roar of the waves and winds coming off the ocean.
- Then the right of passage through the Raetea forest. 10 hours battling a relentlessly muddy trail.
- East Coast from Kerikeri to Mangawhai. Stunningly beautiful coastline and understandably one of the top rated coastlines in the world. I had great weather for it too.
- Pureora Forest Park (The Timber Trail) Three days walking an easy going cycle-way through ancient forest and over massive gorges on long suspension bridges. Lots of history along the way too.
- The 42 Traverse. A long wet day through the Tongariro forest, crossing swollen rivers, flooded tracks, steep muddy climbs, all in the rain for 37kms and being nearly hypothermic by the end of it.
- The Tongariro Crossing. Its like being on another planet. The Blue and Emerald lakes, the Red Crater, bathing on top of a waterfall. I spent two days up there.
- Cycling the Fisher Track to Whakahoro. Mostly downhill mountain biking. Very fun!
- The Whanganui River. Paddled for three days with dad and Scott. The rapids were exciting and it was a very memorable experience.
- The Tararua Ranges. The toughest section of trail in the North Island. The views and landscape was spectacular with magical mossy forests.