In September I achieved one of the biggest physical challenges I’ve set myself to date. I walked the Abel Tasman Coastal Track in New Zealand. I’d never hiked for more than an hour or two before, and never while carrying a backpack and spending the night in a park.
I’m coming back to this draft unsure of what to say. The truth is that this adventure was meant to be a culminating moment in the journey to heal a broken heart. I was meant to get in touch with nature and let her mend me. I was told that the spirituality of the quiet and the purity of the park would help me see the truth.
I wished with every cell in my body for that to happen. Yet the alleged solitary journey became just, although not quite just, another leg of the trip. By then I was used to travelling alone, and hiking was not that much different. I met wonderful people, but I also had time to marvel at the nature around me and my own resilience.
This is an extract of my travel journal from those days:
The silence of walking has not bothered me at all. At times my mind goes completely blank and I’m just focusing on walking and breathing. Others it just goes crazy and only thinks of him. Him Him Him. How can I love and hate someone at the same time? How is it possible to want to endure so much pain?
But I press on. I put a foot in front of the other. Sometimes I let the tears flow freely and others I stop for a second to swallow them.
At the time, it didn’t feel like I was moving on. Now I know I did. I thought that the memory of my ex partner was going to torture me throughout, that I would see him in every shadowy corner, waterfall and stream. In the beginning it was like that – and I could not free my mind of him for much of the journey – but I met so many wonderful people along the way that I could not not start seeing a different perspective.
So to that, I wanted to say thanks.
Thanks to the two teachers from Wellington for showing me how to use my burner, feeding me treats, explaining New Zealand politics, discussing parenting and mental health, and giving me much needed hiking advice.
Thanks to the English writer who walked the second leg of the hike with me and patiently waited while my leg hurt and when the incline was too much for me and I struggled. Thanks for the conversation and welcoming me into Wellington.
Thanks to the two huge families that lit a fire and let all the helpless millennials sit around it instead of their much more resilient kids.
Thanks to the camper couple who encouraged all of us to go outside in the freezing cold and look at the stars.
Thanks to the ridiculously under prepared German kid, because helping him showed me I had my shit together (finally!). Thanks for chopping all the wood we used that night and for showing me how to do it!
Thanks to the hard-core American hiker. After four days of following each other, we finally introduced ourselves and ended the hike in the most strenuous leg of the journey. Thanks for your ukelele and for waiting for the water taxi with me.
And thanks to my body. After years of hatred and abuse it didn’t fail me for a second. I did it. I finished it. I loved every minute of it. And I love her, my body, too. This is not a particularly funny or descriptive note on how to hike the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Nonetheless, it’s important because it’s when I became myself again. And I’m here to stay.