January 22nd 2017
Whanganui – Koitiata camp ground
Total distance: 742.1 miles
We went to bed late and I probably didn’t get enough sleep. I had no interest in getting out of the ridiculously comfy bed, lifting my head off the wonderful pillows, or packing up my stuff, but I was very interested in the call for breakfast.
I was feeling a bit weird this morning, I had spent too much time involved in social media (number of likes qualify your existence, right?) and the internet in general. I was feeling abandoned by my friends, I haven’t heard from anyone for what feels like such a long time. In reality, people are just getting on with their lives and it’s me who has abandoned them. I also got myself into a bit of a downer about my fundraising achievements, or lack of. 3,374 miles walked, £2,064 raised. I don’t think I will reach my target and I don’t like failure! I was also doing a bit of thinking about what the future may hold and whether I had given away any chance I may have had of having a family and a career by choosing to go and walk around the world? Operation MLW looks like it’s dead in the water, and there are a wasteland of alternative options. Ugh. One of those too-much-time-to-think moments. People keep telling me ‘I’m young’ and ‘I have plenty of time ahead of me’, but they are all the people who assume I’m a 25 year old!
Anyway, Mike and June prepared a delicious breakfast, we had cereals and fruit and homemade bread – which is one of the most wonderful things in the world. We then got to make sandwiches to pack out with us. They suggested that we might want to stay with them for the day and wait out the weather but we said no we had to get the miles done, so they suggested they could come and pick us up again at the end of our walk today and bring us back to their home for another night in a dry comfy bed. Well we couldn’t refuse that offer could we!! Mike suggested we leave our packs behind and slackpack it. Unfortunately we seem to have made up this rule between us that we have to carry our packs or it doesn’t count. Why we have done this I do not know because not having to carry a pack today would have been great. With a time and place agreed for them to pick us up later on they then gave us a ride back into town, we decided to start from town, rather than 3ish miles further back to the holiday park and will do those miles at the end of our canoe trip.
We headed into the centre of town because I wanted to go to Kathmandu. As I have holes in everything I own, and I have been wearing it everyday for over 6 months, it was time to get something new. I really didn’t want to have to buy anything, I wanted my current stuff to last me all the way to the end, but now the top has holes in the shoulders I think it’s demise will be rapid. As we were wondering about Everett and Jeff walked in so we had a chat with them. They had just finished the canoe section, they had chosen to do only a couple of days on the river and hire bikes for the rest. There are several ways to do this section and you just need to work out which one is of interest to you and go with that. No rights or wrongs here. They seemed to have had a very enjoyable time and were on the lookout for some cold weather gear as New Zealand seems to have bypassed summer and we are heading straight into autumn.
They made their decisions a lot quicker than I did and were in and out before us. I looked around but didn’t really like anything. I also had an image crisis when in the changing rooms. It’s not often on the trail where you get to really look at yourself in a full length mirror with harsh shop lights beating down on you and I didn’t like what I saw. I felt gross and I’m supposed to be thin and fit and healthy. Well I didn’t feel any of those things and I felt the prickle of tears behind my eyes. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I feel really stressed in the shop but I do end up buying a quite revolting coloured shirt which was in the sale for NZ$45 which was reasonable, it’s a size 14 so it’s massive on me but it’s all they had! The shorts I chose were full price at NZ$95 which was more than I wanted to pay but hopefully they will last, and they have pockets which is excellent, and they are a size 8 which is great. I put my old clothes back on, which is just like sliding into another layer of skin they fit so perfectly to my body. I wasn’t ready to part ways with them just yet and I put my new clothes in my pack to carry for the day. I really need to get a grip with the body thing. What is perfect anyway?
After an hour (too long) in Kathmandu we headed to Countdown to pick up a few bits for our resupply, not that we would need much, just a few snacks. I can’t even remember what I bought, some crisps, chocolate and sweets I think. I was still feeling fat and ugly after my terrible encounter with the full length mirror, and I was feeling bloated and unhealthy, but that didn’t stop me stocking up on crap food. I only have myself to blame!
I was feeling a bit dehydrated and sought out a soda before hiking out. 2 cans of dirty Mountain Dew later and I was good to go. We left countdown and walked over the bridge, taking a last look at the Whanganui river until we come back in a couple of weeks. The weather was on the turn and it was getting cold. We discussed putting on our rain coats, but it was too late. The rain fell in enormous volumes from the sky and forced us to run for cover. We ran in a very girly fashion, while screaming, laughing and yelling, to seek shelter in the porch of a garage. We managed to get our coats out of our packs and put them on just as the wind turned and blew the rain straight into where we were sheltering. We got soaked and that prompted more shrieks and hysterical laughter at the ridiculousness of our situation.
The noise piqued the interest of a man across the street and he shouted over to us to come and take shelter in his home. We ran across the road and he directed us into his garage. He gave us a seat, made us a cup of tea and offered us the use of the dryer to dry our clothes. We weren’t that wet so we didn’t dry our clothes but we did sit and have a cup of tea with Tony and Diane (this is what we think their names were, we could be wrong!). We ended up staying there for about an hour, even after the weather had cleared up. Tony showed us around and we saw a duck with her little yellow ducklings which was too cute! It got to a point when we really had to leave. We had been there about an hour and it was now 1pm and we had moved less than a mile. We had so far to go in very little time to make our ride on time. Diane gave us a couple of homemade blueberry muffins to send us on our way.
Then we were off, finally on our way, not sure if Everett and Jeff were ahead or behind. Only about 20 minutes after we left their house it started to rain again. We got soaked, but we figured that it would be doing this all day and we could cope with it considering we were being picked up at the end of the day. Tony was obviously worried about us because a short while later he appeared in his car asking if he could give us a ride anywhere. We declined his kind offer and continued on in the rain along the highway.
The highway walking was rubbish. Not because walking along a road is rubbish, but because the cars go so fast and they drive so close to you. The first half wasn’t too bad as there was a decent shoulder. We got drenched by the spray of the lorries which was quite unpleasant, then we would dry out in the wind, only to be soaked again by another heavy rainfall and the cycle would begin again.
We were going as fast as we could, we had 17 miles to do in 4.5 hours if we were going to make it by 5:30pm to be picked up. We were maintaining a good pace at 4mph but I didn’t think we would be able to keep that up the whole way. I text June, ‘weather is terrible we will be there between 5:30 and 6’. She replied and told us to concentrate on the hot shower and roast chicken for dinner. ROAST CHICKEN!!! I have been craving a roast dinner for at least 6 months, probably longer as when I thought about it I couldn’t remember the last one I had, it’s got to be over a year ago. Too long to wait for my favourite food.
The fact we were being picked up at the end of this made walking in the rain and wind a lot easier. I think we would have been pretty miserable if we were thinking about pitching our tents in this. The rain continued on and off. A guy pulled over and asked us if we wanted a ride. I couldn’t understand anything he was saying but Julia spoke to him and he said he had just finished the trail about a week ago and this is the worst highway on the north island. We thanked him and declined the ride. The shoulder then disappeared and we were walking in the road which was really unpleasant. So cars gave you no room at all. My biggest fear was that a big gust of wind would blow me into the traffic but luckily that never happened.
Julia was ahead and setting the pace, I was practically running to keep up with her but I didn’t want to get left behind. We continued on until we finally left the highway and turned down a more minor road without so many cars. We were able to walk a little more comfortably and the cars had a lot more room to move over. The wind, which had been behind us for most of the day so at least wasn’t blowing in our faces, was now blowing sideways. We were getting soaked and beaten by the wind, the rain drops were hurting as they slammed into our faces.
We had to stop for a couple of stealth wees by the side of the road as there was no where else to go. My hips were hurting and my feet were sore but we were getting closer. Another man stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. At 5:45pm with just 0.4 miles to go, Mike and June pull up behind us, our saviours! We tell them we want to finish the last 0.4 miles to the campground and they continue on and wait for us there.
Getting in the car was magnificent. I would have been close to strop territory if I had to set up my tent in the rain and eat terrible food from my food bag, but as it was we were whisked away, whizzing back down the road we walked down. We saw Everett and Jeff walking along in the road, and later we saw Michael. I felt bad that they were still out there walking along the road.
We got back, greeted by Polly and Puff, and we got that wonderful sense of familiarity again. After a perfect hot chocolate and a warming shower we sat down to the much anticipated roast dinner. It didn’t disappoint and I was thrilled to be having such a wonderful meal at the end of a pretty crappy day. After our discussion yesterday Mike had been to the store and bought a bottle of L&P especially for us! Then, an apple crumble was produced. Having just consumed 4 of my favourite things I was very, very happy.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.