The first part of the journey was crossing the border from DR Congo into Rwanda and then a 4 hour drive to Kigali Airport. While I have been in Africa for a while and am used to the amount of people I was amazed at the number of people on the roads. During daylight there was a maximum of 5 seconds without seeing someone walking on the road. There was a continuous stream of all ages walking, pushing carts, cycling with massive loads or just standing on the road. Interestingly my driver would not slow down for any of the people but the minute he saw a goat immediately he slowed down and gave them room. I am assuming there must be a bigger payout for a damaged goat than for a person. He also slowed down for the numerous Police checkpoints and we were only stopped twice. I was pleaseantly surprised that both times there was just a warning and no bribe needed to clear the checkpoint. When it got dark 2 hours after we started I was expecting the number of people to reduce and they did marginally. It was now a maximum of 15 seconds of empty road before seeing someone.
From there the journey to Johannesburg, via Burundi for 30 minutes and Nairobi for 2 hours was fine. Unfortunately my bag did not appear in Johannesburg but before I had time to panic the Kenya Airlines staff approached me and told me my bag was on the next plane arriving in 2 1/2 hours. As my flight wasn't for another 6 hours there was plenty of time. My bag arrived on time and I still had to wait an hour before I was able to check in. The rest of the journey, via Sydney, was smooth and I touched down in Christchurch just after midnight on Sunday. I had made the decision to spend the day shopping there as I knew where all the outdoor shops are. Monday was a good day drooling over gear in the Outdoor Shops. Somehow I managed to maintain my discipline and only buy the gear on my list, though I was severely tempted by some new technology. As I achived my aims early I switched my flight for an earlier one and got into Dunedin at 5pm. From there my Parents drove me home and I was reunited with my gear which they had been storing for me.
It was great to finally see all of the gear I had ordered but never got to play with. I didn't last long catching up with my parents before cracking and playing with the gear.
The next day I headed into Dunedin for final shopping and an appointment with a Podiatristto get new Orthotics. He proceded to tell me all about my many biomechanical issues which did not inspire confidence at the start of a 3000km walk. Luckily I am well practiced at ignoring things I don't like to hear so I disregarded all the potential issues and left happy with my new orthotics and some exercises to do to try and fix some of my issues.
The next few days were spend sorting out my gear and weighing everything. Unfortunately to my horror the first time I put my pack on my back with about 10kg in it the strap broke. I was in shock thinking in 5 days I was starting my walk and now I would have to find a new pack. On closer examination I saw the strap had not been fully folded under before being sewn so only had one thin layer of stitching. The other strap seemed fine. After firing an email to ZPacks explaining the issue I started the repair. Luckily my mum has waterproof cord which was ideal for the repair so for the next 20 minutes I sewed the strap back on and thankfully it looks pretty solid. A 1 hour full dress rehearsal walk gave confidence that the repair would hold. ZPacks appologised and gave $25 towards sewing costs and said they would replace the straps at the end of my walk when I had time to send the pack to them (at their cost).
I got my maps printed onto waterproof, tearproof paper and was really happy with the speed they were done, the quality and the price. I think having the trail notes and resupply notes on the maps themselves will make navigation much easier. If anyone wants copies of this format I have downloaded them onto the Facebook Te Araroa 2014-15 Files page and also on www.tawiki/wiki/navigation.
I used some precision digital scales to weigh all of my kit and it was exciting seeing my estimated weights being slashed. I did some slashing of my own to reduce weights such as reducing the size of my sleeping bag liner and cutting off the handle of my toothbrush. I also modified some fluffy slippers (by removing all of the fluffy parts) and adding a velcro strap to make some fantastic and super light camp shoes.
And the final result of the weigh in ..... (drumroll) ....... 6955g (15.33 lb). Fantastic I managed to get under the 7kg mark. While this is not Ultralight it is still much lighter than I imagined when I started planning. I have put my final gear list on the Gear Page.
On 28th I fly up to Kaitaia where I stay the night before taking the Sandrunner Bus up 90 mile beach to Cape Reinga and the start of the adventure.