The mornings are when I feel the most discouraged. While my body is well-rested, my mind is not ready for the hours ahead. When we take our morning break, I often think to myself: how will I get through this? It’s not the aches and pains I dread, but how I will entertain my mind.
I was tested these past four days walking the 100 kilometre stretch of 90 mile beach, the first leg of the Te Araroa Trail. It is a beach untouched by development, the land surrounding it preserved as farmland, much of it for the Maori, we’re told. It is a scene straight out of a meditation film.
But we’d also heard that a lot of hikers quit after the beach. And now I can see why. It’s mind-numbingly beautiful. In all directions all you see is basically the same thing for 25 km a day, about six hours of walking, for four days in a row. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re moving anywhere.
So when we weren’t talking, this is how I kept entertained: I watched the seagulls and wished I could fly. I watched them drop things from the air, then swoop down, I think to eat the prey they’d cracked from their shells.
I looked at the garbage swept up onto the beach, so much plastic, a roof?, plastic crates, glow sticks and wondered where they were from. We saw a dead seal and some fish carcasses. We saw people driving down the beach (it’s used like a farm road), met an Australian biker and one other hiker doing the TA.
Instead of thinking about the five months we have ahead, I thought of each step. I can do one more step, one more kilometre. I can get to that piece of driftwood, I can get to that tree, I can get to that next sand dune. I can get through four more days.
And when we made camp, ate our dinner with the sun and the sound of the waves, cleaned our two dishes, and were tucked warm in our tent ready for bed at about 8 p.m., all was forgotten. That wasn’t that bad, right?
We laughed today. We smiled and tried to sing. We enjoyed being outside, moving our bodies, observing. We can get through another day.