No Trail, No Problem: Coromandel Peninsula & Kaimai-Mamaku Forest

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Day 28: Crosbie’s Hut, 19km

Sunset over the Coromandel Range from Crosbies Hut

Whew! I can’t even begin to tell you how much better I feel being back on the trail. My spirit is calmer, my soul is full, my heart is happy. I have been sitting on the deck outside of Crosbie’s Hut watching the sunset cast a pink and purple hue over the Coromandel Range as the clouds wisp up the valley and over the peaks in the distance, allowing the quiet beauty of the mountains to soothe my bones. After spending two busy, noisy, awesome days in the city I felt myself starting to wind up inside. It’s no secret that the wilderness has a powerful therapeutic effect on me, but I literally experienced the stark difference in scenery melt away any anxieties or tightness I may have picked up in Auckland. It’s truly a magical phenomenon. The only thing on my mind besides the cool breeze, bright stars and almost full moon is my Clea. Turns out her Achilles is actually slightly damaged and needs a week or so to heal and strengthen to prevent further injury. With so much trail still ahead of us, she decided to trust the doctor’s word and stay in Auckland for a few days while I continued hiking. On the bright side, the next section of the Te Araroa between Auckland and Hamilton is notoriously known for being a long, boring road walk. Also Auckland turned out to be a pretty sweet city, so the timing and location for a rest week is pretty stellar. That’s definitely not to say that either of us are stoked about splitting up. I can only imagine how challenging and frustrating the situation must be for her, and I wish I knew how to fix it. I will say that Clea’s positivity, gracefulness, and ability to look at the bigger picture is beyond impressive. I am seriously inspired by her because I know I would be a complete train wreck and she is just the opposite. I am also pretty bummed to be without my adventure buddy and best friend. The plan is to meet back up in a week or so and see how her ankle holds up. Fingers crossed that she heals quickly so we can be reunited!!! Part of me definitely feels almost guilty for leaving her alone in the city and continuing on. At the same time, I believe we understand and support each other enough that she wants me to keep going, and I know she will be able to hold her own for a couple of days. However you look at it the situation blows, but everything happens for a reason. Life has a plan. Our American friend Matt had stayed with us in Auckland all weekend and so we decided to team up to tackle the next stretch of trail. Rather than walk 200 kilometers on a road to Hamilton, we chose to ditch the TA for a week and head up to the Coromandel Peninsula. Sure, it’s not actually part of the TA, but I would much rather hike just as far in an epic spot than hike on a road. We are definitely not the only ones either to come up with an alternative to this section.

Lunch views of the Coromandel Forest

This morning after a delicious egg and toast brekky, Mike dropped Clea off at her hostel and drove me and Matt towards Thames. I was curious to see if hitch-hiking with a dude would be more difficult, but I guess Matt is a pretty chill normal looking guy so we got rides just as quickly. I finally got a ride in a giant camper van too! Stoked about that. We resupplied at Pak ‘N Save then headed up to the Karaka Trailhead to begin our journey to my first New Zealand hut. The wide, muddy trail blazed through a forest for maybe 10 kilometers before popping us out at the hut, perched in a clearing with an absolutely spectacular view. With Table Mountain to our right, more of the Coromandel Range ahead, ocean views, and Hot Water Beach off in the distance, this is a for sure contender for best view so far. We’re sharing the hut with two other groups, but sleeping outside on the porch because the night sky is too beautiful to pass up.


Monday, December 4th, 2017

Day 29: Crosbies Hut to the Pinnacles, 34.5km

I woke up like this

Holy moly I am POOPED!!! Today was fucking RAD! WE CRUSHED! Probably my favorite day on the trail to date for a number of reasons. First of all, we escaped the Green Tunnel, as Matt would say. The whole entire 10 hour day was actually on a track, like no road walking with the exception of an hour on a rough 4WD path at the very end. And not just a plain, typical, green Northland Bush track either, but a variety of exciting terrain including expansive views, open air, significant ups and downs, huge mossy stairs, steep climbable roots, scrambly rock, slippery mud, and massive ruts to maneuver around. We got a little confused coming from Crosbies Hut because all of the trail maps are essentially useless without a scale, proper trail names, intersections, road names, full tracks, or even proper orientation. And it’s definitely possible that we intentionally got confused so that we could meander into the Pinnacles area which we had heard might be closed for storm damage. Typically I’m not one to disregard a closed trail sign, but technically speaking that was our only way to the other side. We just lucked out that the Pinnacles happened to be fucking amazing. The giant steps and steep slopes leading up to the Pinnacles Hut actually got my blood PUMPING and the sweat DRIPPING as I crushed to some Top 40, enjoying the open views along the way. Quite a change from the enclosed, dense forests we’ve been used to. I also couldn’t help but wonder what a pain in the ass it must have been to carve such massive steps out of these rocks. Thanks to that trail crew!

360 views from the summit

More familiar terrain!

I felt like a ninja as we explored the Pinnacles Hut, which turned out to be an enormous complex that can house up to 80 people during peak season. I’m really bad at breaking the rules, I get way too anxious about getting caught, but we couldn’t pass up the chance to drop packs and climb up to the summit of the Pinnacles. SO WORTH IT. The 20 minute climb ascended a shitload of stairs and finished with an actual mini scramble to the protruding rocks at the top. The view was unreal. For the first time since coming to New Zealand, I actually felt the freedom, power and exposure of a true summit. I could see coastline, beach and ocean in both directions with volcanic rock plugs, layered mountains, and undulating forest in between.


As we sat on the top soaking up every ounce of the exposure and eating the most delicious cheese and crackers, we heard voices. Matt had passed two rangers earlier, so I assumed it was probably them coming to tell us to leave. My anti-criminal mind attacked so we started descending. Matt, on the other hand, apparently loves the thrill of breaking the rules. He found us a stealthy spot to hide and let the rangers pass by. Well, they weren’t rangers after all but other hikers. And not just any hikers, but two dudes I had met on the trail literally over 2 weeks ago! And here we all were together on a closed trail on the Coromandel Peninsula nowhere near the Te Araroa. We marveled in the moment, invited them to join our Christmas paddle down the Whanganui, and continued our we descent. I thought we were in the clear until I saw the two tank-topped rangers waiting for us at the trailhead. Busted!!! I couldn’t tell at first if the dude was mad, worried, about to put me on New Zealand DOC most wanted list, or chillin’ when he asked to see my backcountry hut pass. I hesitantly gave him my card before he started going on about how this is a closed part of the trail and there is nobody on duty here and what are we doing here etc. I gave a spiel that wasn’t entirely fabricated about the maps lacking information and getting confused. More than really being mad, he seemed like he wanted to make sure we knew how to get out, and to make sure we paid if we’d be sleeping in the forest (which apparently is a thing, there’s no information on anything here). After we gave him $20, introduced ourselves as experienced backcountry folk who literally work with children in the outdoors, and made it clear we knew how to handle remote situations, he started to lighten up and give us excessive beta on how to get back to the road. I think he was more concerned with our survival than anything else. So we said goodbye and set out down the valley. After crossing the river, the trail literally went straight up the ridge until we connected with the main road. We followed the road until we saw some grass by the river and finally set up camp around 8:15. Talk about a long day of hiking! The elevation gain and giant steps had my legs feeling tight like a tiger. All I could manage was to set up camp and eat dinner. The only problem with river campsites is that there tends to be heaps of bugs. There were SO MANY GNATS!!! I opened my tent for 2 seconds to get inside and probably 100 got in before I could zip it up. I spent the next 15 minutes luring the trespassers towards my headlamp before squishing them to death, while Matt closed my fly for me to avoid further intrusion. I had to fall asleep with my sleeping bag and arm over my ears to drown out the pitter-patter, rain-like sound of thousands of gnats flying around between my tent and fly. Fortunately I was so tired and so happy though that I fell right into a deep slumber.


Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Day 30: Hahei, 27km

Cathedral Cove

You know, I definitely believe in magic sometimes. So I thought maybe, just maybe by magic, all of the gnats would have just disappeared by the morning. Well folks, magic isn’t real. It’s all a cheap scam where you’re filled with false hope and wake up with thousands of bugs in your face. Ok I’m probably being a little dramatic but for real the gnats were going at it this morning so I packed up maybe a little faster than usual. Not really having a set plan of any kind, we set off down the road towards highway 25, passing a few orchards along the way. I realize that the whole point of coming to the Coromandel Peninsula was to skip out on road walking, but Hahei was only 11 kilometers away. When you’re a hiker person used to walking 30 kilometers a day, you kind of feel like walking just for mileage, especially when it’s not even noon yet. So we cruised along the road for about an hour until the heat picked up and the sound of Cathedral Cove was calling us. Is it wrong that I feel lazy or like a cheater for hitching a ride 5 kilometers up the road?? Most normal people probably wouldn’t think twice but when was the last time anyone referred to me as a “normal” person? And you know what, I’m damn glad we got a ride because the rest of the day timed itself absolutely perfectly.

Unreal rocks at Cathedral Cove. We swam to the island behind!

I couldn’t resist a mango smoothie at the local dairy, which besides being a cool, delicious, treat, directed us towards an employee who offered to store our bags while we explored Cathedral Cove. The whole town of Hahei is super touristy, full of camper vans, families and groups of young people. The beautiful 45 minute walk down a gravel path by the coast was trafficked by flip-flops and sundresses on their way to take Instagram photos on the beach to document their BEST VACAY EVER TO NEW ZEALAND OMG!!! But I can see why. Cathedral Cove is mindblowingly gorgeous with a beach tucked into a perfect cove of some white rock (I wish I were a geologist). I’m assuming its name comes from the giant, Gothic-like, pointed-arched rock formation creating a natural walkway between two beaches that creates a pristine window-frame view of the vegetation behind. Massive, solitary rocks stand free in the water with rocky, green islands off in the distance. If you couldn’t tell, I’m not exactly the type to lay on the beach and take pictures of my sunkissed thighs with an ocean backdrop. My skort tan is too heinous for that anyway. So Matt and I stripped to our undies and flew into the waves like a seagull stealing a hot dog straight out of the bun. Next thing I knew we were swimming passed the break, out into the open water towards an island that Matt nicely pointed out was “much further than you think”. Ok, challenge accepted. Let’s not forget either that water is not exactly my element. I’d rather be traversing a 2 foot ledge with a thousand feet of exposure on either side than swimming across the wide open water. I know how to swim and the water is refreshing AF, but something about being one tiny person floating over a GIANT ENORMOUS MYSTERIOUS black hole of water kind of freaks me out. But I wanted to get to that island, so I pushed my fear aside and touched land about an hour later. A few tour boats floated by and asked if we were ok or wanted a ride. I got the impression nobody really swims outside of the immediate beach area. Like hmm do you think I would be all the way the fuck out here exploring my own private island if I wanted a ride back to shore? I hope that didn’t sound snooty, I truly appreciate everyone’s concern I just think it’s hilarious how much us hikers tend to stick out in an otherwise tourist environment.

Views into the bay

Sadly we did have to leave our personal paradise to swim back to shore. And shit am I glad we left when we did otherwise all of our most important belongings like wallet/passport/license/phone would have been swept out to sea. I kid you not, I saw one of Matt’s tevas being carried away the second we stepped out of the water. Our dry bag was almost underwater (but dry inside!!!) and my clothes and hat were in severe danger of drowning. The only casualty was Matt’s gray shirt, but had we been a minute later we’d have had a problem. Then we managed to get back to the shop where are bags were stored just as they were closing. Unfortunately freedom camping in Tourist Town seemed like a bad idea, so we sucked it up and tented up at the Hahei Resort for the night. I seriously can’t get over how perfectly things seem to work out on this trip. Maybe New Zealand is magical after all.


Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Day 31: Hahei to Waihi, 14km

The Little Merman on Hot Water Beach

Today was weird. Life is weird. Being off of the Te Araroa, not having a trail to follow is weird. People probably think the fact that we’re trying to walk all day every day is weird. And being weird is fucking awesome and exciting and I love it. The only kind of weird I’m not super into is when my surgery knee starts acting up and feeling funky, which has been happening for the last couple of days. Soooo I spent the first few hours of the morning emailing my surgeon to calm my mind, webmd-ing pinching knee pain, and using my Orb to roll out what I concluded is most likely an IT band issue. There was hardly a cloud in the sky as we cruised the 8 kilometers from Hahei to Hot Water Beach. HWB is apparently a dope spot where around low tide you can dig a hole in the sand to essentially build your own natural hot spring. We dropped packs and explored to the end of the beach where somebody had the dopest vacation home setup ever. Upon returning to our packs, I really had no desire to dig a hole and sit in hot water with the sun blazing down. So instead I beach bummed pretty hard. For all the shit I talk about lazy tourists doing nothing on a pretty beach, that’s essentially what I did for two hours. I broke up my sunbathing with a few topless dips in the ocean. I am feeling so much more comfortable in the water these days it’s amazing!!! Eventually I started to feel useless so I carefully dried off, making sure not to coat my body in a layer of sand before reapplying sunscreen and getting dressed. I’m basically a professional sand minimalist at this point, and left Hot Water Beach around 2pm happy and dry with just a little bit of salt.

I like your style New Zealand

Hitch-hiking to Waihi was ridiculously easy, and highly entertaining. As soon as I stuck my thumb out a van pulled over and gave us a ride to the highway. Within 2 minutes a couple from Arizona picked us up. We chatted about nannies and New Zealand until we hopped out at the junction. Before the Arizonians could even pull away, my thumb had hitched us another ride, which happened to be two young, kind of drunk, male Kiwis. They took us on a detour to check out the surf on Whangamata Beach which was dope. Also I bet however you are pronouncing Whangamata in your head is completely wrong in every way. Google it if you really want to know! After these two dudes dropped us off we actually had to walk for almost 20 minutes until our next ride scooped us up. Dean and his adorable pup Freedom live on a dairy farm off the main road, but delivered me and Matt all the way to the information center in Waihi. We stopped at the information center in search of beta regarding the North-South Track in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest. The woman on duty was probably the most helpful Kiwi I have encountered yet. She directed us to a store for resupply, let us drop our packs, and even offered to drive us to the trailhead. At this point it was already like 5pm, we weren’t totally informed on the upcoming 82 kilometer track, didn’t know how many days worth of food we needed, didn’t know how late we’d be getting to the campsite, etc. And perhaps were feeling a bit over it. Unlike the TA which has multiple connected tracks, the Coromandel Peninsula is mostly tourist traps spread out along roads with very limited camping options. So we turned around, grabbed our packs, and walked into the hotel across the street. The hotel didn’t really have a reception area, but was connected to a bar with a bunch of older people hanging out looking at us kind of weirdly. Here we are, dirty, confused, and carrying backpacks, asking where the hotel office is.

A shower for your convenience

Apparently the hotel office is some guy at the bar who, without conversation,  got up and proceeded to unlock a door down the hall with a broken #5 in the middle. We were kind of confused like was he offering us the room? How much does it cost? Do we pay him? We kind of just went with it and wound up in this super hot, little room with two twin beds and a random shower in the corner. I guess everybody should have a shower in their room to keep things exciting? I can’t explain it. Anyway, we politely utilized the weird shower before stocking up on groceries for our upcoming forest adventure. After sitting in our hot room getting sucked into all the sad news stories about current events in the United States involving our pathetic excuse for a president, I felt the urge to find an outside bar for some fresh air and a beer. We found a restaurant, splurged on a fried seafood platter, drank a coldy, and swapped stories about our families mostly. We arrived back to our hotel bar where a few locals were still sitting around, and schemed a general route for getting after it tomorrow. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself in a small town in New Zealand with some dude I met not even a week ago (who fortunately happens to be a rad human), not even on the TA, but isn’t the adventure the whole point? The only thing I’d change is for Clea to be here, laughing at the weirdness with me. Soon enough!


Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Day 32: Kaimai-Mamaku Forest to Waitawheta Hut, 27km

Cool river trails on the Karangahake

To say we woke up promptly, packed up efficiently, and hit the trail at an early hour would be a complete lie. In reality, I took my time getting out of bed, ate basically 3 breakfasts, iced my knee, Facetimed my mom and bugged Matt for awhile. We stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some fish oil and a knee brace before beginning our hitch to Karangahake. I’ve been so spoiled with easy rides recently that it felt weird to actually spend 30 minutes trying to hitch just a few kilometers down the road. Too many old people driving from Waihi apparently. We accidentally disembarked from our ride too early, but fortunately there was a gravel path by the river to follow to the start of the North-South Forest Track from Karangahake Gorge. The whole Kaimai-Mamaku Forest is full of mining history with old mining caves and railroad tracks. We explored one of the shafts until I started feeling pretty freaky and claustrophobic in the narrow, pitch-black tunnel with too many twists and turns. I don’t understand how anyone could actually work in there! After the mines, the trail meandered flatly along the Waitawheta River, passing by interesting rock and more caves. When we reached the river crossing, the sun was blazing hot and walking up the river seemed like a much better idea. Yippee for adventure! We slowly waded upstream for awhile, drenching ourselves in nipple-deep water at points. One may call it unnecessary wetness but I found the dip justifiably refreshing. We rejoined the trail and started our first steep ascent of the day towards the Dalys Clearing Hut. The most extraordinary thing we saw walking along the mellow, bush path was a group of what seemed to be about 5 million young teenagers and chaperones camping out at the hut. Apparently a school trip was in action so we swiftly moved along from all that chaos. It’s funny how Matt and I both work with teenagers in the outdoors, but when we’re not at work, teenagers in the outdoors is about the last thing I want anything to do with. We descended slippery steps to the Waitawheta Tramway Track which was another flat, mellow trail by the river passing by remnants of the old bush tramway. The Waitawheta Valley is absolutely gorgeous with its wide river, large rocks, numerous swinging bridges, and tall, vegetated valley walls. I laughed to myself as I watched Matt walking through a straight, flat corridor of greenery that literally could be the dictionary photo for the term “The Green Tunnel”.

The Green Tunnel
River crossings

The Waitawheta Hut sits tucked away in the peaceful valley. We also happened to be the only ones there which was fucking amazing. It’s been pretty rare having a campsite to yourself so we reveled in the tranquility and solitude. Just as we thought we were truly alone settling in for a night’s sleep on the porch, I spotted a pair of beady little eyes creeping up the stairs. At first I thought it must be a cat, but low and behold it was a possum! I was a bit shocked. I mean I’ve heard about the possums and seen about 100 dead ones stiffly hanging from the traps, but I’ve never seen a living, breathing wild possum. They look just like a GIANT rat, so gross and creepy. We scared it off but another one appeared on the other side. I don’t really know too much about possums…do they bite? Are they mean? Aggressive? Diseased? Will they eat my food, my gear, or me? I wasn’t interested in finding out, and conveniently there was this hut thing right there so we moved inside and fell asleep to the lovely sound of wild possum activity on the patio.


Friday, December 8th, 2017

Day 33: Waitawheta Hut to Kauritatahi Hut, 30km

A perfect morning at the Waitawheta Hut

What a glorious, fantastic, liberating day in the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest. We successfully escaped any overnight possum attack, and happily enjoyed a morning of rare solitude and light rain before hitting the track. Not only were we alone this morning, we also did not pass a single human soul all day. And now just the two of us are at the Kauritatahi Hut, enjoying the miraculous view down the valley, cooking a monstrous dinner, and feeling how deeply special a day to yourselves truly is. Today was my first full, real day of solitude here, if you count being with your partner as solitude. I feel small and yet powerful when I think about being one of the only two people climbing up and down the steep, rooty, rocky slopes of these round, forested peaks. I don’t think any section of today’s hike was flat. New Zealand has a unique style of building trails: straight up and straight down, no switchbacks. If there’s a steep rock face in the trail, just build a ladder and call it good. I appreciate the directness, certainly keeps the track exciting and will for sure give you a nice ass if you hike enough. The second half of trail today kept popping us out into an open, grassy clearing with exceptional views of the bushy ridgeline we were following with coastline on one side and rolling countryside on the other. I even saw what looked like an alpine lake down below too, another first of this trip. My knee has been giving me grief recently which can for sure start to stress me out and put me in my head. I also really miss Clea and have a few other things continuing to infiltrate my mind space the last couple of days.

Magical mountains

Alpine lake?
One solution to a steep slope
I spy Matt!

So when I turned around and saw a vast, mountainous vista to remind me of where I was, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and the importance of staying present. I truly believe that the mountains have healing abilities. If you respect their existence, allow their might to humble you, and recognize their power as greater than your own, the mountains will fuel you. They will give you the strength, the confidence, and the health that you need if you know where to look. Sometimes, on days like today, I quite literally stop for a moment, take a deep breath and ask the hills for what I need.




Sure, I probably looked like a weird hippie talking to myself in a field, but I literally don’t give two shits about what I look like. I continued my walk feeling recentered, happy, and strong. A few hours later we started up the last steep push to our hut. My knee was being annoying, I started getting really hangry, and I could feel my energy tightening up. Recognizing my oncoming bad vibe, I told Matt to cruise up without me while I stopped for a snack. Not long after I started the steep climb, I saw Matt had stopped to wait for me, we came to a view of the mountains covered in broccoli trees, and I remembered my moment from earlier. Within minutes I felt immensely lighter and a smile returned just in time to arrive at the quaint, cozy, absolutely peaceful in every way Kauritatahi Hut. As I’ve written this, the view has been replaced by gray clouds so now we’re in an awesome, ominous, impending storm on the top of a mountain. It hasn’t really rained in weeks either so I know it’s coming. Matt has an actual fire going, which is yet another first here, and is cooking up some beans, rice, and quinoa. We’re about to grub so unbelievably hard. There’s really, truly, quite positively no place I’d rather be.

Good eats
Change of scenery in 30 minutes!

















Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Day 34: Kauritatahi Hut to Mangamuka Hut, 37km

Hut life has me feeling like a million bucks

If you’ve read my first blog post before I even started walking the Te Araroa, you should remember my eager anticipation to experience a genuinely free, present mind space. I think today I truly, deeply tapped into that freedom. I am amazed where my mind can go when I spend an entire day completely detached from anyone or anything. A few other groups of people were on the trail, and I knew Matt was ahead of me the whole time, but I felt completely solitary. Compared to super steep, slick tracks in recent days, the trail itself today required minimal attention as the relatively level ground rolled up and down and flat along rivers and streams in thick, green vegetation. This simple, mindless cruiser trail through the forest combined with no conversation, no headphones, and no sounds besides the rivers, streams, birds, wind and rain left me entirely in my uninterrupted thoughts. The time flew by as each physical step was matched by a deeper step into the basement of my brain I almost didn’t know existed. I mean sure, I’ve had deep thoughts before, we all have, but I’ve never had so much time and energy to embrace a thought and let it run rampant. An hour long, torrential afternoon downpour added an extra refreshing element to the day too!

Chilling atop Waire Falls

We stopped at Waire Falls around 4 and perched ourselves on a rock atop the multi-hundred foot waterfalls, feeling crazy centered and happy. We still had another 4 hours of solo trekking through overgrown bushes, navigating around waist deep mud until we arrived at the quaint Mangamuka Hut settled way back in the forest. Apparently the solitude and silence of a day in the green tunnel had Matt’s brain working all day too. Sure we were exhausted from mobbing 37 kilometers, but our brains were wiped as we guzzled some noodles just before dark. We chilled by another fire, courtesy of Matt, letting the gravity of the day settle into our bones until sleep took over.


Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Day 35: Mangamuka Hut to Taupo, 16km

I have to admit, I really enjoy taking the mornings super slow and soaking up some peacefulness in the crisp morning air before heading out. I’m all for efficient starts when called for, such as dawn patrol missions for summit attempts, but when you know you’re about to crush miles through the bush, there’s literally no reason not to leisurely awaken your mind, body and soul. The rest of the North-South track consisted of more leveled adventure walking through thick vegetation, trying not to eat shit or choke yourself on the vines, ducking under and rolling over huge fallen trees, and laughably cursing the stinging grass nipping at your ankles. After a few solid days in the same forest, I really started to understand the flow of the track, knowing where to look for the next turn, where to put my feet, what character to look for in different parts of the trail. I zoomed out of the bush feeling like Michael Phelps in the 100-meter Butterfly: swift, confident and strong. I encountered an intense shock to the sensory system when I popped out onto a carpark right next to the highway with incredibly loud, eardrum-busting, headache-causing semis whizzing by. After 4 very quiet, very tranquil days of remote, bushy hut life, the harsh commotion was a stark thrust back into reality. With luck on our side, a very sexy young Kiwi named Owen was filling up water on the side of the road and agreed to give us a ride. No hitching necessary at all! Even more perfectly, Owen was heading straight through Taupo where we needed to go. I squeezed in next to his blue kayak, rolled the window down and let the breeze relax my mood as we cruised towards our destination. With even more luck, Owen wanted lunch so we stopped at a pizza and kebab restaurant in Tokoroa. We all ordered large kebab pitas which turned out to be fucking ENORMOUS, like the size of a small child, like the thing stood up on its own it was so big. And sooooo delicious. I could only eat half so I took the rest with me to devour later. Owen dropped us off in Taupo and within a few hours we were posted up in a cheap room at the Utopian Motel, beyond ready to start enjoying our much needed zero day. Being someone who can quickly feel suffocated by the confines of a small, indoor space, I suggested we leave our shit in the room and head down to enjoy a cold one and some meaningful conversation by Lake Taupo. It’s quite a beautiful lake, but it felt kind of weird to see houses and buoys and people everywhere. I think I’m getting spoiled by wilderness! On the way back from the lake, Matt asked two young locals if they would perform a Haka for us. Apparently a Haka is an aggressive, vivacious ancient Maori challenge/war dance that involves high energy stomping, loud vocals, and charismatic expressions. If you Google a Haka you might understand why I was so amazed that two dudes performed one for us in the street. It was epic.

Well deserved

Anyway, we followed up our lake chat sesh with a legit steak, potato and roasted broccoli/asparagus dinner conveniently cooked right in the room. Never have I ever eaten something more delicious. Maybe it’s because I’ve been eating ramen for a month, but a home-cooked meal really hit the spot. I can’t wait to zero hard tomorrow, restock my food supply, connect with Clea, and figure out what’s next on the docket!


Monday, December 11th, 2017



Have you ever been able to wear your broccoli on your finger? This was a first.

For being such an active person, I am exceptionally talented at doing absolutely nothing, especially when I know I deserve it. I woke up to the smell of burning food and the sound of a blaring smoke alarm, a result of Matt’s eager effort to cook bacon for breakfast. He relocated the pan of sliced meat to the communal kitchen downstairs, meanwhile I did my best to air out the smoky room. Not long after the morning mayhem we were munching on scrambled eggs, apples, strawberries and surprisingly phenomenal strips of pig. I swear all the food here just tastes better, it’s not as fake or something. I fucking dig it. I spent the whole rest of the morning waiting for my laundry, lounging in bed with a full belly, updating my blog, icing the knee and watching Snapped. The washer/dryer at Utopian Motel gets a D- for effectiveness and timeliness, considering it took 4 hours to wind up with damp clothes that were only kind of maybe a little less muddy and not quite as stinky. But whatever, my skort will be dirty again by tomorrow anyway.

This is what happens when you scratch old mosquito bites

We spent the afternoon running errands around Taupo including multiple outdoor stores for fuel, a sports store for a more supportive sports bra and new sneakers, a phone store to replace Matt’s Samsung that got eaten by the bush, and a café to scheme a plan for this week. Then I legitimately almost got kicked out of Pak ‘N Save for eating some of my bulk chocolate covered ginger during a food run so that was awkward. Our next move was to make brownies and organize ourselves before heading to the local hot springs. In search of the hot springs, Matt decided to taumahauk off of a 10 foot drop because he thought it was grass. But no, it was not grass, just air with a wet, bush landing. He recovered quickly and we found a boiling river pool away from everybody else to soak our muscles in for awhile.

Chef Stuhler strikes again

Dinner was a dank vegetable stir fry with baby shrimp and giant muscles…why is food so amazing??? We also crushed basically the whole tray of brownies because we can so why not?? Overall I would rate this zero day a solid 10/10.

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