• Liz Lucas

Hitchhikers, gravel road walking, Possum attacks and perfection

The freedom of life I am living allows for some spontaneous things to happen! Who knew that a meeting of friends at a lake would lead to me hanging out with the hitch hiker I picked up and warding off possums in the night? I sure as heck did not.

New Zealand is a safe place, people hitch hike to get from town to town and are generally pretty successful. I was determined to pick one up and transport them even if it was not too far. I was on the way to meet some friends at Moke Lake which was a little bit out of town. Today was the day I was going to pick up a hitch hiker, I knew it! As I drove toward the lake there was a young woman with her thumb out, she looked friendly enough so I stopped and told her to hop in. When we chatted about where I was going and where she needed to go they were the same place. She ended up hanging out with us all evening, it was wonderful.

Swollen morning faces, Jozefien

Fast forward to the next evening, I did not have plans so I decided to go back to the lake and see if she wanted to go on an overnight backpacking adventure to avoid paying another night at the campsite, she obliged and we were off. We dropped our packs and went exploring the river finding a water fall and playing around like we had no agenda. Since I wanted so badly to sleep under the stars, I talked her into it sleeping without a tent as well. We had a glorious backpacking dinner since we only hiked 45 minutes to the spot, we brought luxurious food. We had an appetizer of crackers, hummus, avocado, cheese and sausage while I made rice and beans and fried up falafel bites. We were living life. As dusk fell upon us so did the sand flies, I hid in my sleeping bag waiting for darkness shoe them away. Then the show began! We saw the most perfect shooting star ever, the one that crosses a good portion of the sky and leaves a streak behind it. It was amazing! Awesome, my night was made and now I could sleep. . . . . . . .

Suddenly, behind us the trees started rustling and I freaked out a little. Here is a good point to tell you, I consider myself a decently tough outdoors person EXCEPT when it comes to rodents. When they enter the scene I turn into a 5-year-old child who wants to jump on the table screaming because a mouse or other small rodent is going to attack me. Yes, I realize they can’t do much to me, and I realize it is an irrational fear, yet the fear is still there. These noises, I know belong to a possum and I try to remain cool, Jozefien convinces me that it is all good. I try to fall asleep again and then we hear it get VERY close, she turns the light and sees that the possum got within 5 feet of us. The light is on it, we are having an epic stare down with it. “That’s it” I say “we are getting in the tent; we saw the stars and I want to actually sleep without fear of being mauled by a possum”. We get up and pile in the tent, there is still a part of me that thinks a possum is just going to rip at the tent and bite my face.

I how it sounds dramatic but this is how deep this ridiculous fear goes, I know it makes me look pretty funny to share that story but we all gotta laugh at ourselves right hahaha. What a funny experience.

As each day is a new adventure, I end up climbing a few times with different people at some epic spots. One spot in Kingston where we were able to overlook the southern end of lake Wakatipu, the glacier blue is one of the prettiest things I can imagine. Climbing is such a good sport for me to do as it really challenges me mentally and physically, what a treat.

The last place I got to climb at is called drift bay. Talk about the most PERFECT place to climb. Imagine you get to climb a wall that is a perfect amount of challenge, not too scary and hard while also not being too boring and easy. Then when you get to the top of a climb you can choose to look over the edge to water fall in the distance or behind you at the lake. WHAT?! This is my life. We climbed all day, saw the sights, were completely alone and capped it off with in the lake. Yep, this is the life I am choosing to lead right now.

As the number days before my job began became smaller and smaller, I wanted to squeeze one last adventure in before I headed off on a whole new kind of adventure.

My good friend Sim decided to bravely thru hike the entire southern island of New Zealand along the Te Araroa track. I consider her pretty dang hard core and admire her determination to see it through. It will take her about 2.5 months to complete covering 1309 km (815 mi) of track. Basically, her day job is to hike. Her track plan fit perfectly into my schedule, just as she came through Queenstown she was able to attend one of my workshops and we were able to grab dinner and some beers. As a last hurrah before I flew to Australia to start my job, I joined her for what was meant to be three days.

I drove to where she was in Wanaka, we met in the morning and were off. This thru trail is not completely in the woods, and uses bike trails, side walks along road and so on, makes for an interesting time. The plan was to hike 25 km along the bike path to Lake Hawea, sleep there, then hike a huge hill to a ridge-line and camp at the hut, then on the last day I would hike out while she continued on. Well, let me tell you, I only made it to the morning of day two before I had to sadly disappointingly tap out ☹. The gravel bike path that we walked on day one created some gnarly blisters on the pads of my feet to where I was hobbling (and whining, thanks Sim for listening) as we reached our destination. That night I rested my feet and hoped they would be good to go in the morning. Normally, when I feel blisters forming, I immediately tape then and continue moving, unfortunately I did not realize soon enough that it was happening.

me resting my feet!

The next morning I was feeling optimistic that I could complete the journey, until about one hour in when my feet became as painful as they did the previous day. I weighed my options and had quite a dialogue in my head. Part of me wanted to keep going because I am tough, I want to do this, if I don’t complete this I am not capable and my ego would suffer, while the other was saying listen to your body, what is the point of walking in pain, you got this. After this aggressive back and forth, I voiced it to Sim who also helped me reframe the situation. I had to repeat in my head the whole day “I am listening to my body, I am taking care of myself, I am a strong individual for taking this decision”.

The time came to send Sim and her trail friend Uta on their way as I head out to the road to try and hitchhike (for the first time) back to Wanaka were my van was waiting for me. As I walk the road alone, I have to repeat my reframed thoughts as my negative ego self wants to shame me and devalue my abilities. I gently chat with the ego and acknowledge that is stinks that I cannot continue but that now I can rest my feet and properly prepare for my upcoming flight. It takes great energy but I have accepted that I made the right decision and I have applauded myself for listening to my body and pulling out. I was hobbling down the gravel road with my thumb out hoping someone would take mercy. To my surprise I was able to make it back to Wanaka in about 45 minutes to get my van, two different people gave me lifts. My first experience of hitch hiking was a success.

As I reflect on the last six weeks, I could not be happier with how they have gone. It was a great mix of earning some cash, hanging with friends, experiencing new things and loving life. Cheers to the adventure.

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