Settling Down

At some point while I slept, the frogs had turned from singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" to love-making, feasting on mosquitos or whatever else frogs do during the darker hours. Certainly, all was quiet when I awoke at 4.30 AM. Below me, Mike and Becky slumbered in their twin shelters.

By 5.45, I was stepping down the beach once again, heading southwards and feeling a little self-satisfied at stealing a march on my trail-mates.

My notes show that I walked six legs of about 90 minutes each. I stopped at midday and after lunch, dozed by my pack.

A car pulled up to next me and the driver leaned out to ask if I was OK. "Just resting," I said. He looked at me with misgiving before driving off. I must have looked a sight with three days' stubble, sunburned, peeling nose, chapped lips, tousled hair stiff with salt.

The afternoon walking was harder. My notes say, "Very tired and lost. Foot sore. 'I'm a geriatric gypsy'".

I wasn't lost exactly because it's impossible to be really lost on a beach but I certainly felt misplaced on this endless strand with landmarks few and far between.

My iPhone was next to useless. For whatever reason. the Power Monkey hadn't charged it properly the night before. I hoarded its battery life like a miser. Infrequent map checks meant turning it on and then waiting several minutes for the maps I had downloaded back in Auckland to appear.

I would have to do something about that. The next phase of the walk would be crossing from the west coast to the east over three forested mountain ranges where navigation would be more difficult.

Shadows of doubt about this venture kept arising to be blown away by more positive thoughts.

Good karma: I'm fit for my age. I'm experienced. I'm well-equipped and supplied. I'm resourceful. Rosa supports me.

Bad karma: I'm nearly 53. I'm injured. I'm carrying too much. I don't have the physical resilience I used to have. I'm relying on uncertain technology for my safety. 

Neutral karma: I can stop if I want to or go on. 

I keep walking on, counting time, steps, metres, kilometres while another part of my mind churns over thoughts and dreams and yet another part simply observes.

At 5.00, I reached a small settlement, Waipapakauri, and halt to cook supper outside the public toilets. There's a holiday park down the street and for a moment, it tempted me with the promise of a hot shower, a beer, human company. I had spoken to only one person all day.

Otherwise, the beach has been empty save for a few tourist coaches and cars, whizzing past with their cargos of insulated and air-conditioned passengers.

I pushed the temptation away. I could walk a little further and a a promising belt of pine forest beckoned just south of the settlement.

Indeed, by 7.00 PM, I sat in the shelter of trees, with my hammock stretched neat and tight between two trunks.

No sand! I stretched my legs and wriggled my toes on the carpet of pine needles.  I sighed with luxury.

I'm pleased with myself. I've walked since early morning and I covered 36 kilometres.

I'm off that damned beach for a night at least. I'll reach the end of the beach and the small town of Ahipara tomorrow, Friday. Mentally, I calculate time, speed, distance: 14 kilometres at an average pace of 4 kilometres per hour equals about 3 1/2 hours.

I can be off the beach around midday. Food! Beer! A call to Rosa!

Turning in before sunset, my over-tired body and mind refused to sleep. Eventually, as the light faded and the fly sheet above the hammock netting turned dark, my eyes drooped and suddenly, I slipped down into rest.