Three Forests in Five Days

Standing next to my pack, washed, refreshed and fed, I'm ready to go. There are three densely-forested mountain ranges, two valleys and a farmland walk between me and Kerikeri on the east coast, where I hope to meet Rosa on Thursday.

Between us stretch 110 kilometres, five days and unpredictable, even dangerous events.

In the forests, you can cover about two kilometres per hour. On roads, you can at least double and even triple that pace.

Yesterday, Mike and I had talked about timings.

"We're aiming to walk it in four days, maybe five max," he said. "What about you?"

"Five days," I replied. "New Zealand bush tracks make for slow walking compared to American trails."

It's true. Trampers from America and Europe are often surprised by just how difficult bush tramping in New Zealand is.

This is a young country in terms of geology and human settlement. The first Maori landed here only about 1000 years ago and pakeha (white people) less than 200 years ago.

Foreign trampers anticipate well-laid, well-maintained and well-travelled tracks.

What they get are steep and slippery ascents and descents, waterless and weather-exposed ridge walks, tangled roots, mud wallows, streams and rivers, fallen trees, overhanging shrubs, vines and branches.

Also, these areas are surprisingly remote.

The road is only about 50 metres away and I have heard perhaps half a dozen cars all morning. Mike and Becky are now a good eight kilometres ahead of me. I have seen no-one else.

Every week, there are news stories about tourists who take a wrong turning, hunters or trappers who become disorientated, trampers who slip and fall.

Although I won't hear the news for another week, a Te Araroa walker from Britain, Andrew Wyatt, went missing today on the South Island. Two weeks from today, his body will be found at the foot of the Lake Constance Bluff.

I think five days to cover this section of the Te Araroa is reasonable. I'm prepared to stay out a day longer than that if necessary.

There is no point in artificially adding more pressure.

These are places to go slow, think carefully and enjoy the challenge.

I'm not here to set records.

Let the light-footed hares run.

I'm a tortoise with a burden.

But I'm here to finish.