"What am I going to write about today?"
I was a bit worried. We were about to leave an industrial-scale campground, walk around a manicured pathway and back to civilization. Wanaka.
Not really. The road from Glendhu to Wanaka is boring, but the new pathway and cycleway is pretty nice.
A few ks in and we found Ron sleeping in his tent in one of the many beautiful bays on the walkway. Freedom camper extraordinaire. Fine that man!
He'd found my sunglasses on top of the mountain I'd nearly got naked on yesterday, so saved me twenty bucks.
Then we came across German Sobo Fabian.
We all have our off mornings. Days when we don't feel the TeA Love. But I think Fabian was having a bit more than that.
"If Te Araroa was a product that I'd paid for I'd ask for my money back."
"I'm thinking of writing a letter to Wilderness Magazine. Te Araroa is not a trail," he said.
Yes he'd just spent a night in a shared dorm room in a terrible backpackers in Wanaka. Yes he was feeling a bit grumpy.
He had a point. He had a lot of points actually.
There are whole sections of The Long Pathway that are almost completely unformed. There are huge sections that aren't linked. (Whanganui to Palmerston, Bluff to Invercargill for example.)
He felt that the trail concept had been rushed through before it was ready - just to get it done. It might be a trail in 10 or 20 years...but was nothing of the sort at the moment.
"I am disappointed by it," he said with a frown.
"You realise that I'm interviewing you don't you? I'm going to put what you just said in my blog..." I said.
He was happy with that.
He was nearly finished his big Kiwi adventure and was feeling a bit stuck by his decision to come to do the New Zealand trail instead of a more established American one.
We've thought about what Fabian has had to say a lot since then...which is why what he said was so valuable.
We agree with him. But at the same time don't.
TeA is new. I could be wrong here but I think less than a thousand people have completed it.
Te Araroa is not the Pacific Crest Trail. It's not the Appalachian Trail. It's not the Camino de Santiago. These trails have histories, culture and traditions behind them. It wasn't so long ago that TeA was just an idea.
Fabian, us and the few hundred people who are either doing the whole thing, or parts of it, this year are kind of pioneers. We're ironing kinks. Finding better paths (Rory in the Ruahines...Dave and Willy on Wakatipu).
Yes there are some problems. But this is New Zealand. Not Europe. Not the States. We're young. The Trail is young. It's what makes this whole thing different.
One of the biggest surprises for us has been the people. When we started we didn't realise how important they were going to be. They are what has made the whole thing really special.
People like Marion in Riverton. Canadian Ron with his guitar. The nice guy in the Internet cafe in Wanaka. Little conversations. Big favours. Strange coincidences. These are what we've really enjoyed.
Yep. The trail ain't perfect. But that's why we like it.
We even liked what Fabian had to say. If people don't talk about what's wrong...it won't get better.
Sorry for the rant.
As for the Glendhu to Albert Town stretch of the trail we think it's great. We restocked in Wanaka but didn't stay there which meant it was cheap. Best of all we haven't walked on a single road - the pathway system around here is amazing.
We finished the day on the banks of the river that drains Lake Hawea (the Hawea River? Where's the map...). It was late and raining when we got in. We're camping in a section only the locals know about that's away from the party crowd.
The locals who told us about this peaceful little secret are relations we've almost stumbled on. They've just sold their house and are "roughing" it for a bit.
Roughing it in an imperfect paradise.
Tomorrow we walk to Hawea on more manicured paths. I wonder if it will be as interesting as today was.