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December 1 2023, Ship Cove to Madsens Camp:
We started walking towards the ferry to get on by 8am so we could start our journey of hiking the South Island of the Te Araroa. On the walk to the dock I saw trees that at first glance appeared to look like palm trees, yet at the tippy top center it looked like a giant pineapple, expressing itself through the tall and bendy leaves.
We got on the ferry and saw our friend Bon Appetit talking to a couple of kiwis. They all smiled upon us walking in with our giant packs. I saw a couple of backpackers in the back as well. I felt I was in the right place with my kind of people.
The ferry took off and I knew there was no turning back. Orange and I immediately went outside to look at the waves and the scenic range of the mountain ridges. He used his finger to point and trace where would be walking. It seemed we were heading into a very rural area and waving goodbye to Picton, our last civilization for at least a few days.
I was feeling extremely nervous and excited for the trek. My body language expressed shyness and anxiety. I was longing for a trek that was much more remote as I was getting more drawn away from crowds each coming year.
The views of the mountains grew covered in a veil of mist, but I enjoyed the effect it gave off very deeply. It felt like an adventure and I didn’t bother for the weather to turn out a certain way. I felt open to however it would present itself.
The mountains grew superimposed with a blueish grey haze. The sun casted a heavenly ray into the sea, shining its white light upon the mountain ridges. The rays glistened a golden glow onto the shimmering sea as a boat in the distance made its way towards us.
We went back inside to sit down after the sprinkling rain grew a bit too cold. The kiwi couple and Bon were all making gentle eye contact with us and talking, but we couldn’t hear them over the loud sound of the motor so we made our way over to them. We sat in front of them and naturally started a conversation.
“Bon said you completed the triple crown?”
“Yes,” I said.
“It’s my dream to hike the PCT,” she said.
“That’s how Orange and I met! Back in 2019,” I said.
“That’s so cute!” she exclaimed.
I could see how it appeared everyone thought we were a couple. I wasn’t really correcting people, I just let them have their perception.
Further into our conversation, they invited us to come visit them in Queenstown.
“Please let us trail magic you,” she said.
She was so sweet and it showed through her eyes and smile how much she loved and adored thru-hikers. It was in her vision to hike the PCT at some point, but she felt closer called to start a family with her loved one first. I hoped she wouldn’t forget about her dream, as I knew how easy it was to get caught up in life.
We arrived to Ship Cove, walked the boat dock and stepped onto the pebbles along the beach. I saw my first ever bird and was immediately excited by its fluffiness and approachability.
“That’s a weka,” the kiwi girl said, “they’re very cheeky.”
We took a photo at the monument and we began our climb. The journey was only just beginning and I could feel we had no idea what was coming—at least I didn’t.
“It never really hits me when I start a new thru,” I said to Orange as we meandered through the mud-like clay. “There’s all this anticipation but I feel as if it hits me after the fact. It feels like the journey of actually hiking the trail and looking back on it is when it really hits me.”
With experience, I found it harder and harder to find myself as a ‘doer.’ In the moments of hiking, there appeared to be a body and physical pain, yet at the end of the day, it didn’t really feel there was an ‘I’ that hiked a trail. Still, I found myself in immense appreciation of the apparent experience.
We took a break on a bench so I could eat my lemon seed muffins, to which were now my new favorite. They had a lemon jelly filling in the center and the tops were extremely doughy. New Zealand for the win.
Along the trail, the streams were plentiful and the ferns were bountiful. I enjoyed witnessing their different stages, especially when they were only just spirals. The fauna was similar to that of Volcano Hawaii, reminding me of somewhere dinosaurs might have resided.
I felt so grateful to be in a different country on a different trek.
“I can’t wait to camp in my tent,” I said as I pondered. “You know, I say I would take a year off of hiking but I don’t think I actually would,” I added as I went up the hill. “Thank you for the chicken sandwich yesterday, by the way.”
“What the fock are you talking about,” Orange said, “you just changed the subject like three times. I’m trying to keep up, but fo Christ’s sake slow down.”
I busted out laughing. I noticed I talked really fast when I found myself comfortable around someone and trusting of their space. It was often funny because when him and I were alone, I just talked his ears off, yet when we hitchhiked we were both super quiet in the car. I also really enjoyed hiking with Orange because he would stay stuff like “watch your head” as we passed under a tree or “look out for the puddle.” I thanked him often for his kind and calm energy. It seemed it was exactly what I needed at the time.
We took another break at a picnic table. Bon joined us along with one of his Aussie friends that stopped by for a second to say hello. Shortly after, a guy came up to me who was a triple crowner that Bon had mentioned to me earlier on.
I didn’t recognize him straight away when he walked up to me, but then he gave a mischievous look and said, “I know you.”
We quickly connected the dots and I recalled sharing conversation with him at PCT Trail Days this year! Bon looked at us in complete shock. He couldn’t fathom how we knew each other from the same country but now on different continents.
“This shit happens all the time,” I said.
Too Clean added, “When you start doing long distance hikes, you run into the same people or at least run into people that you both know.“ He looked back and me and asked, “What are you doing here by the way? You’re not supposed to be here,” implying I was supposed to be in Hawaii last he heard.
“Yeah, I didn’t tell anyone I was here yet,” I said, “I actually kind of like it that way.”
So, he sat down and ate some lunch with us while the wekas, or “demon chickens” as he liked to call them, attempted to take our food.
Shortly after, he trekked on. Orange and I passed him along the way not long after. The manuka trees parted ways to reveal scenic views of the ocean. I grew fond of pink flowers scattered throughout the trail that were shaped like bells covered in rain droplets.
We approached a more exposed region where Orange caught sight of a tui perched up in the tree branch above us. He had me listen to the way it sang. I had never heard anything like it. The melody brought me to another realm. It didn’t even sound real, as if it was a bird pretending to be a bird. It was making what sounded like computer generated glitches. He said they made sound frequencies we couldn’t even hear, hence their being gaps in their speech. The energy I felt after the fact was similar to the sharpness of mind I experienced to that of being on Ayahuasca.
We began looking for a campsite, but the few areas that were listed now happened to be permanently closed for various reasons, so we had to work with what we had. Orange and I took a break on a boat dock and ate some maple bacon chips to ponder life. I hung my legs over the dock and enjoyed the freshness of the air, feeling into the sun and wind.
Suddenly, Orange pointed out a black blob in the sea that was shifting through the water. We stood up to get a closer look and it was a stingray making its way over to us! I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen one in person, let alone in the wild.
Too Clean saw us in the distance so we waved at him and he made his way over to us. We all looked at the stingrays together in complete awe, one even being the span of Too Clean’s arms wide open. At one point, the stingray slithered underneath the sand, leaving only its eyes and tail exposed.
We walked to the end of the dock and leaned over the wooden railing. We saw mussels, small fishies, jellyfish and birds. I felt as though I was experiencing a live version of National Geographic.
We all continued trekking and got on the topic of how we met.
“Orange saw me from the very beginning of my hiking journey when I was very much a princess still,” I said.
“Oh so she wasn’t feral yet when you knew her,” Too Clean said.
“Oh she was definitely feral even at the time when I knew her,” Orange said.
We were all pau for the day so we stealth camped near Madsens Camp (apologies for camping in a closed area). We set up our tents then joined each other for dinner. I watched the way Orange Man was so proud of his massive stove pot, slowly lifting the lid numerous times to see if the water was boiling yet.
I noticed I got pretty sunburnt fairly quickly today to which I was surprised. Apparently there was a hole in the ozone layer in this part of the world.
Our topics of conversation for the night consisted of what the correct pronunciation of the word aluminum was along with Too Clean saying he should be sponsored for his underwear lasting on so many thru-hikes.