146 days into this journey and I realise I’ve come a long way. And I’m not just talking about the 2800km of trail behind me.
In the last week I tramped alone along the Mavora Walkway, a stunning route through vast open valleys flanked by huge mountains. Wandering for hours through trail-less tussock it dawned on me how things have changed. Being without a trail or the next marker pole in sight no longer fills me with a mild panic like it might once have. I feel comfortable knowing if and where I can cross a river. My GPS and I now have a comfortable relationship – I know it won’t always tell me the truth about where the TA route is but it will tell me my exact co-ordinates from which I can work out where to go. I feel comfortable being alone in the wilderness. And this feels a significant step after having walked with new friends for much of the way.
On the second day of this section I tramped through the valley with rainclouds chasing up behind me. Round balls of tussock grass shook and rustled from side to side in the wind like cheerleader’s pom poms as I picked my way through to Boundary Hut where I ended up having my first night alone in a mountain hut.
And being out in the middle of nowhere on your own opens up a whole world of possibilities. With no one around to hear me, I got the Ipod out and sang at the top of my voice. In fact maybe I went outside and had a bit of a dance too with all that open space to run around in! Singing and dancing to the mountains felt quite surreal and I almost felt drunk though there wasn’t a drop of alcohol within miles. It was purely the other-worldly freedom of being out there without a care. The contrast between this and the anxious and stressed pre-hike Laura from the city couldn’t be greater. The simplicity of life, the fresh air, and the lack of schedules or demands other than to walk. This country and this tramp has cleansed me.
There is around 200km left to go and within two weeks I will finish this epic journey. And it will be ‘Mission Successful’ on all accounts.