TA Day 19, Dragon’s Spell to beach near Pakiri – 39 km

A grand sleep with my kiwi hoot-whistling softly and waves rumbling far below. I dream about a person who hasn’t been in my life a long time, feeling that familiar out-of-control reaction but in sleep I rewrite the ending.

Omra and Johnny let me speak about not fitting in, wanting a group of friends, but finding being alone is working for me, even if I have to weigh all decisions myself. I do have contact with Richard, so not totally alone, but we’re 19 hours apart. My confidence is building – and my trust – that it will work out. This doesn’t come easily to this control freak. I trade the (mostly) known but beginning to be routine life I know for a long trail that, even with so much information, remains to be revealed. Omra would say my subconscious needed this even if it’s hard for me.

The trail begins in sun dappled bush, Johnny heads to town so puts up a ‘keep out’ sign. I arrived just in time.

Traps and poison are set all along the track for stoats, weasels, possums and rats – all introduced species that have wreaked havoc on the bird population. It’s a gruesome business, possums have to be trapped live and clubbed. If they’re skinned immediately, the soft pelt is prized, blended with merino.

I ponder why I dreamed about that sad chapter from so long ago, a man who told me I’d need to quit my beloved job and sell my house to be with him. I was so in his thrall, I would have done anything he said. To this day, I thank the goddess she broke the spell and I was set free. Next to my dystonia diagnosis, the saddest period of my life, but one that forced me to live my life and take full responsibility for it.

The path reminds me of Colorado, steep with ball-bearing loose stones. Soon I reach a road but the trail turns off, twists around and lets me out up the road, which I have to walk right back down again. Could have just crossed – damn purist!

I meet a grumpy man wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt who became a NZ citizen 27 years ago. I can’t make out if he supported social democrats or that was all there was to wear. A young ultra-minimalist Kiwi passes me, his thin legs supporting a day pack walk him ahead to the Mangawhai cliffs.

I stop to eat two kiwis, succulent and tangy. For a good portion of my life, I maintained a rescue fantasy. Fiercely defiant about my independence, I secretly longed for the princely kiss to awaken me to my true self. If Omra’s philosophy is to be believed, the natural conclusion to my life script was that relationship I dreamed about, one where I gave away my power and lost myself.

I believe I’m not looking for anyone here, but I’m confused by the disconnection and that forces me to look squarely at what expectations I bring here with me. Am I ‘hiking my own hike’ or am I hoping friends appear who help me find the way – thus lessening the challenge and possible encounters along the way?

Just when you thought the view couldn’t improve, it gets even more spectacular; azure sea looking towards rocky islands, gnarled trees covered with orchids. Soon I join the tiny ant people I see far below on the beach. Scallops flat, heavy, colorful pressed in by the tide.

It’s a big detour around the harbor, through the quiet villages.

Now loud seemingly never-ending road walk. Hugely grateful for a dedicated path. Crossing the estuary where herons stalk. Desperate for the beach and bush.

I spy a pizza place, not busy but man behind counter is impatient and sighs when I ask for variation on the toppings. I give up and go to the supermarket instead. It’s way too far to the camp spot I had in mind so I take a break to sort things out in the heat, but I don’t like this noisy town.

And it feels too early to stop. I think of a conversation I had with another hiker who works seasonally for the park service. “The trail will provide,” he tells me confidently. The nice folks at the caravan park fill my water bottle in spite of the fact I decide not to stay to just gaze at the river. I press on trying to just allow the trail to provide, people driving fast, leaving me in clouds of dust. I hope that hiker is right.

I hear the ocean first, then spy a deep blue surrounded by peach colored dunes. So happy to get out of this dust. There’s a community down here but no friendly faces – yet.

Jellyfish are on the beach like gelatinous magnifying glasses randomly dropped, surfers plying the waves in thick neoprene. Three surfers finish and offer me an IPA aghast to discover the TA trail just veers to the center of the country, missing all the spots they love. I’ll have to take Richard when he comes in March. One encourages me to go for it and camp on the beach.

The sand is compact under my tired feet. Late in the day, the sun now behind me sets off little diamond specks of light on and off as I walk, leading the way. I am smiling with a small beer and trail angel buzz. This part of the beach all the way to Pakiri, I’m told by Angel Surfer 1 is deserted. His uncle’s is the only house on the way and he’s never there. But that isn’t exactly the case. There are others on the beach. One just finishing up fishing waves, another is too far away moving wood across a path. I then run into a guy with two dogs and a beer in hand. I ask if I might camp on his lawn. He says he’ll be out for three hours, but to search out the little house with no roof; no one minds if you camp in the dunes, he promises me.

The house is on spongy dune grasses, not at all conducive to a good night’s rest. But ahead I spy a different kind of grass on a flat bit – this just as a couple comes out on the beach to fish.

It’s idyllic, setting sun behind me, crashing waves and pink glow in front of me, soft grasses and flowers growing in sturdy-tent-peg dirt.

I ask the couple if they might let a weary – and quiet – TA hiker set up. Praise all believers in trail magic, they say yes! In a flash, the alicoop is up, food is being consumed and this weary full time pedestrian is soon turning in.

Not every moment of today’s longest k’s was perfect, but it was all mine, including deciding to go for it when it felt right. I knew if worse came to worse, I had all I needed with me. I also could keep walking with a bright half moon. But here is delight of all delights, the surprise, the unexpected, the gift I was open to receiving.

I wonder what I will dream about tonight?

Reader Comments

  1. Hi Alison, am loving your blog and your adventure. Although largely different than my recent (mere) 600 miles on the Camino de Santiago, your experiences are resonating with some of those I had on my 39 day trek. I, too, wondered whether I would want to walk with other trekkers, or rather walk alone. I mostly ended up walking alone and enjoyed it. However, like you, I did some walking off and on with friends I made along the way. Those were fun miles, too, though I would never have desired any but occasional company along my camino.

    Keep walking and keep writing.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I read your blog first thing in the morning and think about you during the day. You are a very brave person physically, emotionally and psychologically. I honor your sense of exploration.

  3. As a therapist, I love the introspective nature of this post and the pics that accompany it. Seashells, of course, connect us to water, the element that represents our emotions.
    Your journey back into time and through experiences mentally bring clarity and your
    physical journey is a guide and a metaphor for that emotional journey on which you
    have embarked. I also loved the pic of the shell of the house. You can rebuild; restyle-
    change the floorpan or keep the basic plan and update. Wonderful archetypal photos.
    Keep writing, journaling, photo journaling and you’ll arrive at new incremental ah-ha’s along the way. The end point is a long way off. xoxo, M

  4. I’m enjoying your descriptive and introspective blogs, and the responses are intriguing as well. What a gift this trip is for you. MD

  5. I have been following your hike – just saw it on the MPR page before you started. Now I am caught and look forward to your writing and pictures of a magical place I only dream of ever seeing – New Zealand. You inspire me because you are honest and strong and willing to share your vulnerabilities as well. And you just keep walking. Thank you!

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