The End of the Road

Well, friends, it had to happen sometime. I will be leaving the shores of New Zealand and heading back to the US. In fact, if you’re reading this, I already have (or at least am in the air on my way back).

Fear not, though! I’ve still got a couple of posts up my sleeve, and if the weather is amenable you may even see some hikes from North Carolina show up on this site from time to time! The site which was originally created to help my US friends know what I’m up to in New Zealand can also serve the dual purpose of letting my NZ friends know what I’m up to in the United States.

Perhaps even more excitingly, this is not the end of my New Zealand adventure. I fully intend to make it back here, perhaps sooner than you think :)

Some thoughts, of mine and of others

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “When we travel, we travel not to see new places with new eyes; but that when we come home we see home with new eyes.” Similarly, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

We are shaped by our experiences, and I am incredibly grateful to have been shaped by New Zealand over these fourteen months. Returning home to the US is neither a victory nor a defeat; it is the next step along the road. Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”

The fearful, shortsighted response is to think back over the amazing experiences I’ve had and to be afraid that moving back to the US will mean I won’t have similar experiences again. But the faithful, understanding approach is to recognize the person those experiences have helped me become and to know that in no way can those experiences or that personhood be taken from me, no matter what the future holds.

Coelho also wrote, “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” My dreams are not in America. My dreams are not in New Zealand. My dreams are in Heaven.

A few months into my trip, I foresaw a looming difficulty: while I missed my relationships in North Carolina, I knew I was building great friendships in New Zealand as well and would equally miss those upon my return. I asked a friend from church who had been in a similar situation for some advice. She wrote, “… part of being a disciple is (I believe) being nomadic….What I’ve found is that no matter where you go as a disciple you are going to form meaningful relationships and in that way traveling to new places divides your heart between the families you’ve built, and that pain of that division will always be with you. But the joy of getting to know and love new people is worth it!”

I can certainly see the wisdom of those words. And I think it’s an immature worldview to deny oneself membership in a global family due to fear of eventual separation. Bertrand Russell said, “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness,” and George Bernard Shaw wrote, “There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart’s desire. The other is to get it.”

It is, perhaps, presumptuous to foretell the rest of my life, given both that I have no idea how long that will be and by any reasonable expectation have not lived even half of it yet. But it seems likely to me that I shall live out my life with my heart divided in two. If this ceases to be the case, it is less likely that the two have become one than that the two have become three. But rather than mourn what lies behind, I honor its memory by celebrating what lies ahead.

It is, I think, fitting that I end this post with the Old Walking Song, which is the origin of this blog’s name.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

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A return to Whatipu, Pt. 3: Omanawanui Track

In the previous installment, which you really should check out first if you’re just showing up, I hiked the very muddy Kura track. Now I’m getting ready to go back along the Omanawanui track.

When you’re hiking a loop, any elevation gained must eventually be lost again. Because of this, it’s easy to assume that being halfway done must mean that you must stop going up and start going down. This is, unfortunately, not true. And it’s definitively not true with this hike. The trail continues to climb as we turn around and start heading back along Omanawanui.

And climb…and climb. Sometimes quite steeply.

At least, through the trees, we get our first glimpse of the reason why I would drive all this way and hike up such a poor trail: the views!

And if we scramble up this last little bit of trail here…

Ahh, yes. There we go!

This is the Awhitu Peninsula, the Southern part of the Manukau Heads.

If we Zoom and Enhance(tm) a bit, you can see the lighthouse! It’s always really cool to see places from far away that I’ve been to in person. Also funny that it’s maybe a 15-minute boat trip but two hours of driving to get there!

Looking back along the mainland, Cornwallis Peninsula is barely visible through the trees.

The water is looking a little choppy, but it’s a nice deep blue color!

And looking down, well…uh…let’s not look down :)

The trail continues upward. Since there’s less tree cover, the sun has had a chance to evaporate off most of the mud; the trail is much easier to manage. Which is good. I don’t fancy trying to clamber up these hills only to slide back down again!

I’m hurrying a bit at this point in the hike. The weather is not looking great, but also my dallying on the beach and being delayed somewhat by the muddy Kura track have led to it being later than I would like.

The trail just keeps going up! The first time I hiked this I was pretty wiped out at this point. Thankfully, I’m in a little better shape now so I was only mostly wiped out this time!

Climbing and climbing and…wait, what’s that peeking over the brush there?

Achievement unlocked! Storm clouds unlocked too, though.

Looking out over the water shows another great view, but with those ominous dark clouds creeping in! Best not dawdle too long.

Dawdle long enough to capture this rainbow, though!

From this vantage point, I can see my goal: the carpark is down below.

With sufficient zooming, my car is even visible!

This show shows just how much altitude I need to shed before I get there, though! Onward and…upward?

Yep, despite reaching the trig mark, the trail continues to go up. Are those…chains?

Yep! This bit is steep enough that the council has bolted chains to the side of the hill to help hikers not die on their way up. How convenient!

At the top, I take a parting look at Awhitu. Looks like it’s getting darker!

Yep. The sun is setting behind that ridge there! I’ve still got some minutes of sunlight left before it sets over the horizon, but darkness is approaching.

Might as well stay and admire the sunset while I can, though.

And the hills are ablaze.

The harbor is lovely in the light of the setting sun!

A bit further on, there’s a bench up here for sitting and taking in these lovely views! I really do like this shot. I didn’t sample the bench for myself, though, since I needed to hoof it.

Before consummating said hoofing, I did pause to take this photo of Paratutae Island, which is what that blobular outcropping is called (despite not being, properly speaking, an island).

And now for the descent. You would absolutely need that bench if you did the loop in the other direction, as this trail sheds (or gains, depending on where you start) a few hundred meters of elevation very, very quickly.

As it heads down back into the wooded area, the trail gets a bit marshy again. Don’t let your proximity to the end lull you into a false sense of security! Steady footwork is needed here.

I was also hampered by this tree that decided to block my path. If I had more time I would have paused to tidy it up a bit, but as it was I just ducked through.

And at least, back down. It’s only a short walk along this grassy bit before you get back to the road and the carpark. A look at my camera timestamps show that I did this bit in one hour and 42 minutes, which is about half an hour less than the signs estimate. Not too bad for such a steep track, and it just shows the difference between muddy and relatively clean trails!

And that, my friends, is Whatipu! I had a glance back over my previous posts, and though these ones are much longer and have much better pictures, it’s interesting how in some cases I captured much the same views and even said similar things (I did mis-count the fords on the previous post, claiming four when there are in fact five. Some simple math will prove the latter figure true, as after all the fords are done you wind up on the opposite side of the river from where you start).

I’m glad I got a chance to return to Whatipu. This beach — and this hike — will forever hold a special place in my heart!

A return to Whatipu, Pt. 2: Kura Track

As introduced last time, I’m at Whatipu again! I’m doing the same hike I did nearly a year ago, taking the Kura track up to Omanawanui track and then back around to the carpark. Let’s see how I got on.

You may recall from my previous trip here that I spent a bit of time wandering about looking for the trailhead. Fortunately, this time I was able to recall that you have to walk down the road a bit to get to the start of the Kura track.

(Yes, I did reuse this picture from the previous post. I try not to do that, but I only took one photo of the gravel road. What’s a guy to do?)

Once you get to this bit, you will need to notice the orange blaze on a lonely post in the field and follow the vaguely-defined trail to the gate. Through the gate is the proper start of the Kura track.

There is also a sign for the more clueless, such as myself.

Let’s be fair: it’s still Winter here in New Zealand, and it’s been raining. Expecting the trail to be pristine would be unreasonable. But even so, the Kura track is not great.

As you can see, between the beach and the walk I changed into my boots. But by the end of the walk my boots — as well as the cuffs of my Action Khakis ™ — were covered in mud! Note: this picture is of the trail, not of a stream next to the trail.

In addition to being yucky, which comes with the territory sometimes, hiking through mud is slower and also more dangerous (well, those two are related; it’s slower because it’s more dangerous). Be careful in tricky terrain conditions, especially if you’re by yourself.

I like this lone palm tree in a sea of ferns.

The Kura track borders, and frequently crosses, this stream.

The fords are all unbridged, and in the Winter there’s really nothing for it but to just wade in.

There are a total of five crossings. Be prepared for this when you set out. It’s no good being taken by surprise!

Though there are no bridges, in a couple of places where the trail is just completely washed out, there are boardwalk sections installed.

As the trail leaves the stream and starts to climb through the woods, the muddy conditions (plus wet feet from the fords) makes for slow going.

I will say this: though the trail still sometimes gets confusing at times, it’s better marked than it was last time I was here.

This is where I missed the path previously. Someone’s put a tree across the fake path to help folks like me not make the same mistake again!

(The pink ribbons, while somewhat helpful, are not trail blazes. They mark traps and bait stations for pest control. They roughly follow the trail, but can sometimes lead you astray. It’s the orange triangles which are the proper blazes.)

I should create a Where’s Wally style book called Find the Trail.

Eventually, after quite a bit of climbing, we reach the Puiri Ridge track. From here, it’s possible to continue Northeast to Huia (which we’ve been to before) or go along the coast on the Omanawanui track. We’re interested in option 2.

The time estimate on the sign at the bottom is 1 hour 45 minutes, and the camera timestamps show that I did it in 1 hour 35. Thanks to trail conditions and multiple rocky fords, don’t assume that you’re going to outpace the trail signs if you’re hiking this in Winter.

The Puiri Ridge track does pop out onto the road for a very small way.

Just a bit down the street and now we’re on the Omanawanui Track.

I’ll save that bit for next time!