Some Hero

I awoke at 9.30 AM, hot, tired and with a mouth tasting as if that possum had crept into it and nested there during the night.

Rolling out of my shelter, I quailed under the heat of the sun, staggered in a daze down to the stream I had followed inland the night before and gasped at the shock of cold water. A toe inspection showed that it looked and felt alright.

Nonetheless, I decided not to push too far or hard today.

Covering 40 kilometres over the first 24 hours had been a fantastic start. What with hitch-hiking, a wild pig, a shark, a beachcomber, possums and Californians, I'd packed a lot, maybe too much, into 48 hours.

And there was another reason to take it easy today.

Typically, on the first day of a trek or tramp, even a weekend one, you experience a kind of pressure release. It feels good to start and to get moving at last after days, weeks or even months of preparation and planning. You feel alive.

However, what goes up must come down and the second day is generally a tougher one. The mind has had time to let reality sink in and the body has worked harder than normal.

I call it, "second day blues".

If the first day is like a party and the second day is the hangover, then the third day is about coming to terms with this new life. It's the day when people decide, "Yes, this is for me and I'm going to finish" or  they pull out and find something else to do.

I call it, "third day syndrome".

Pondering this, I pottered about with washing up, stuffing things into bags and stuffing bags into my rucksack under the mounting sun.

I remembered what my hypnotherapy teacher, David Newton, had told me. "You can come to terms with anything in two to three days if your anxiety is within safe limits."

Day 2 is a day for playing it safe and for looking after yourself.

So, that's what I did. I walked for an hour to the next stream where I rigged a sun-shelter from a nylon tarp and pieces of driftwood.

I named it "Sandy Camp". It was all most unsatisfactory but it was better than walking. The stream was shallow, the water dirty, sand covered everything. I felt hot, gritty and out of sorts. I boiled, cooled and treated two litres of water and sipped it, worrying about giardia. I ate sandy chorizo sausage, made sandy instant soup, munched on sandy oat biscuits. I sweltered and dripped onto my thin sleeping mat under the flapping awning. I tried to doze but it was too hot. I hopped over the burning sand and used my pot to scoop water over my head.

I examined my solar charger and found it was not charging well.

I was a ship-wrecked mariner on a desolate coast.

By 4.00, I had had enough and set off down the beach again. It was cooler now and my tenderised feet became comfortably numb within twenty paces or so. I stepped out and told myself I would walk another two or three hours.

At about 7.00, I turned into a larger stream and found two other trampers contemplating a campsite there.

Mike (American and 36) and Rebecca (German) were both seasoned trampers and also walking the Te Araroa. As we crossed the stream to the camping spot, I envied the commendably slim profile of their packs. Like the Californians of yesterday, they too embraced the ultralight philosophy of hiking.

I found a pole standing on a dune. After hitching my hammock to it, I made a supper of pot noodles, tea and chocolate, then strolled down to the beach to see the sunset.

Mike and Becky joined me so the three of us stood and watched it unfold.

It took my breath away. Tears pricked my eyes. I took a few deep breaths and let the tension wash away in a nice cathartic release.

Darkness fell and I rolled into my hammock shelter with a sigh of contentment.

Tomorrow would be better.

A frog croaked. A second answered it and then a third. Within a minute, a froggy choir sang away in full-throated joy. It was frog heaven.

"Oh, be quiet!" I murmured. "Or I'll eat you."

A mosquito's whine joined the basses, trebles and tenors croaking outside the net.

But I was smiling and smiling, I slept.