Last Sunday I woke up in the Chateau Tongariro a 1930s grand hotel where I wasn’t able to eat in the restaurant due to not having clothes to fit the dress code, the dress code is actually very relaxed but running shorts worn over long johns doesnt count as suitable trousers. The Whakapapa Village is, as it currently stands My Te Araroa journey’s termination point.
Due to comming in and out of contact with daily media saturation I remained largely unaware to the unfolding of the covid-19 deal untill the mic-drop announcement of the level 4 lockdown.
Despondent to the news reports
People were dying overseas, but weren’t they always? , weren’t we (humanity) always in some kind of ‘crisis of epic proportions?’. The weeks preceeding the order to lockdown, I came into news updates and people sporadically relaying the events to be frank my brain couldn’t compute what people were saying. Internet commentary now asks of visitors stranded here ‘how could they not know ?’ As I’ve found – easily. Very easily. Who could fathom that NZ would ever be isolated without free movements? The North and South not able to touch each other ? I could comprehend shutting boarders, yes, but the sanction on free movement around NZ for people on the ground in NZ ? No. And being confined to one residential location ? That sounded absurd also. Of course it’s not though, it’s the real deal daily for now. ‘Unprecedented’ I dont know how many times a day we hear that now ? 100s. An ‘unprecedented’ amount.
As I read and heard the news, the covid events seemed so far away, not like the other side of the world far away, but planetary far away. I saw a meme that had aliens sitting on the couch drinking wine looking at at T.V saying ‘Setteling in for the latest episode of earth 2020’. That’s exactly how it felt. This is happening to ‘other people’ a world which doesn’t include me. So I kept planning and just thinking ‘this is so odd…’ I wasn’t not taking things seriously with concious effort, it all just seemed so ‘does not apply to me’. NZ being ordered by the Prime Minister to go home stay home ? Shut NZ down? Really? Quite impossible to my little brain at that moment. Although on the whole NZ is now applauding the lockdown direction.
Still attempting to proceed
After National Park the journey proceeds down the Wanganui River, I attempted to hire a canoe, however respectable companies would not hire a boat to a solo padler. I contemplated getting one from a non-respectable company, but reviews were heavily warning against the cowboy companies. Not one to listen to strangers and their internet reviews to seriously I checked in with a family member and ex-collegues who have intimate knowledge and life long blood ties to the river who empathically said ‘NO’! No go to the river solo! Wait till next year and get a buddy.’ OK. Now i’ve listened but I don’t want to cut the journey, I’m so close to Wellington. If I can just keep walking till the end of the North Island at least I will be able to feel the accomplishment with a well known a tangible marker, the capital city. ‘I have walked Te Araroa right across the North Island’. A psychological box and bow. So canoe is out, looks like I take the walk route, a jet boat in the section inaccessable to legs and a bike from Raetihi to Wanganui. Nice! I’ve got a plan and i’m ready to execute it. Feeling good. I start calling accomodation along the river. The Blue Duck Station a lodge and hotel with room for 100+ where I want to stay this evening politely tells me ‘yes you can book for the night, but you will be the only guest here. Prehaps call along the river first to make sure you can get a jetboat in the no legs section?’ hmmm OK. Yeah OK. CLOSED. NO BOOKINGS. CLOSED. NO JETBOATS. CLOSED. Shit! This sucks. Some places are tentitive. ‘We just don’t know what’s going to happen, we can take your booking now, but we might have to cancel it’ comes from a jetboat operator. I’m really zero percent keen to backtrack out of the bush again if the jet boat gets cancelled. humpf. Guess i’m not doing the river then, even on foot. Next plan is to get to Wanganui city then walk to Palmerston North. Thanks to my dear friend and my auntie and uncle I get to Wanganui city and spend time catching up on the happenings with whanau, go the shops, stock up and plan out to continue walking. I call a couple of places along the next section. DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT $200!. FFS. What the heck is happening ? It’s my birthday and the Prime Minister makes a statement ‘right that’s it, shut it down, time to go home’. And there is nothing I can do about that. Like 4.7 million other NZers and our visitors the course I planned is canned. Sympathically condolences are given ‘oh well you can come back to it’. Empathically a moment is shared in the hole with me ‘sorry, I know this journey meant a lot to you’. Thank you for acknowledging that. It did mean a lot to me. I saw a couple on the TA page who were 83km from Bluff when the had to go home. Geezus I felt painful for them! 83km from Bluff! Purist walkers too, meaning every single step of the TA occured on their feet. Not like me, who took rides for some road walks. Many people wrote congratulations for them, amongst that of course was sympathy ‘Oh well the TA will still be there’ true, but maybe they will not. But also as came a pouring of empathy ‘Awesome. Congratulations. I’m sorry you had to come home early’. Empathic response makes so much difference, without a doubt a major reason people are loving our Prime Minister right now, if not loving at least respecting her.
As i’m not supposed to be contractully anywhere till June, i’m in a limbo state. No fixed abode. No job. I call my Mum to ask if can stay in Canterbury with her and Colin (my step dad). There is no time to try and arrange anything in Nelson, it’s the day before the lockdown. The Prime Minister has said ‘get home before 11:59PM Wednesday’. Where you sleep that night is where you need to stay for the next 4 weeks. Mum and Colin welcome me back letting me know they can pick me up with the airport.
Auntie Del and Uncle Jim drop me off at the airport in Palmerston North for the (so called) last day of domestic flights for ‘non-essentials’. The airport is bare, I take two flights to get to Christchurch. The flights are being run 1/2 empty so everyone has 2 seats at least to keep thier distances. The atmosphere is so frekn quite.
In Christchurch I go the Warehouse with Mum. There has been a petition signed by 25000 NZers to close the Warehouse. Obiviously signed by people who already have everything they might possibly need to be in a lockdown for 4weeks. I do not. There is a strict policy of numbers in and out. X marks are drawn on the floor to show where two metres is in the check outlines. The lockdown comes on and that’s that. Stay Home Save Lives is the catch phrase for here on in untill it’s enough.
But I can’t really be just staying home ?
I still think I can plan to do this and that walk in Arthurs Pass or Castle Hill or Mt. Sommers or Lale Colridge. I don’t want the walk journey to be over. But the reality is. It is (for now). The government issue tighter dirrectives and contiually re-iterate Stay Home Save Lives on repeat. On the whole NZ appears to be following the rules. Me included. And the reason i’m staying local is I couldn’t bare how gulity I would feel if I needed to be rescued. And the societal backlash for going too far from home when the explict dirrective is to not go to far and within walking distance. Stay Local! Would be pitch-fork level. But a problem for a long-walker what’s far ? We can walk anywhere. 30, 40, 50km a day is not a biggy, I read someone upset because the beach was 3km away and they couldn’t go because of the restrictions on driving to beaches. Ohh I wish a beach was 3km from me; however I need to remember only 70 days ago I practically walked of the couch 5km in the wrong direction at Cape Reinga and I thought I would die of exhaustion. Were I lived in Nelson Tahuna Beach was only 30mins walk from my house and I used to drive there just to lie in the sand.
Even though physically I didn’t get to touch my feet on the destination I wanted when I wanted, I’ve come a long way indeed. For now I’m staying local and doing dirt road and padock block walks. Looks like I get to make up for the all the roads I missed! Yay. Haha
P.S I haven’t shared about what it was like in the section between leaving the goat and Tongariro (expressway) Crossing, which i’d like to. So another post comming soon
Te Araroa – the long path way – on hold