I haven’t worn deodorant in four months. And forget about makeup. My sense of vanity — and perhaps my sense of smell — were flung to the wayside when I started hiking 3,000 km across New Zealand with my dad. We are on the new long-distance trail, Te Araroa, which connects the northern tip of the country at Cape Reinga to the most southern at Bluff. In between is a landscape of beauty, diversity and seriously tough terrain.
As I write this, from my tent pitched safely above the Rangitata River, I realize the walk itself has been only half the journey. Since leaving LMU, I’ve found myself at home in the remote San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where I balance my need to be knee-deep in fresh powder with my insatiable desire to seduce words from a pen. For the past four years, I’ve worked as a freelance writer, producer and host for a regional TV station. When I learned about Te Araroa, I saw a chance to really challenge myself as a writer. For some reason I assumed that I was ready for the whole hiking bit.
Not so much. Nothing could have prepared me for climbing straight up mountains, ankle-deep in mud, clawing at rocks and roots, heaving my way upward against a green tide of impenetrable rain forest. Not to mention picking a path down a vertical cliff face, slick from a storm, where a fellow tramper fell to his death just a year before. Or wading across a snow-cold river in my pink underwear since soaking wet pants might adversely affect my luck hitching into town. And, yes, my dad crossed the river in his underwear, too. It was weird.
Five months on foot in New Zealand has been an incredible experience few tourists will ever have. Along the way, I have been writing weekly articles and producing video episodes for NewZealandOnFoot.com, my website, as well as for my sponsors and the paper back home. Keeping up with the demands of self-inflicted deadlines and standards while walking across mountain range after braided river after thick rain forest has pushed my limits as a writer and producer, but, as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!