Tuesday, 28 October 2014

D-1, Now in Kaitaia

It has been a fun week sorting out the last of my preparations. I have taken my time when completing my tasks to try and make the time go quicker. This has allowed me to do more preparation than I may have done otherwise. I have also enjoyed being spoiled my my wonderful and patient parents who took my challenge to gain 2 kg in a week seriously, and forgave my singular focus.

Food was the biggest task to get done. I have repackaged nearly everything into Zip Lock Plastic Bags to sort into complete meals and reduce weight. For example Dehydrated meals packaging was 12 g difference between the maufacturer packaging and plastic bag. However I have kept one package to use to heat the food up and I will just reuse this.

I have taken menu ideas from other peoples blogs and personal experience. For dinners I have settled on 3 meal types + Backcountry Cuisine Dehydrated Meals. The base meals are; Pasta, Couscous and Potatoe flakes. To these I have added flavouring like onion flakes, garlic powder, surprise peas, bacon bits, curry paste. For the dehydrated meals I am starting with single serve meals for the first 2 weeks, then 1 1/2 meals and then 2 person meals. For breakfast I don't like solid meals so I will be having Complan and MilkPowder with hot water. I have used this for most of my tramping and know this will give me enough energy until lunch. Lunch will be tortilla with either peanut butter or cheese, Sundried Tomatoes and Salami. Closer to towns I will add hummus to this. For snacks I have OSM, Muslea Bars, Beef Jerkey and Scroggin of my own mix which includes; almonds, peanuts, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, dried apricot (NZ type not turkish), dried apple and dried berry mix.

I have prepared enough breakfasts and dinners for the North Island. I have enough lunch and snacks for the first 8 days and then I will start buying as I go. These have been packaged up in bundles based on where I expect to mail resupply packages to myself. Also in these resupply packages are my maps.
Four days of food

The same food packaged ready to go

I went for a 3 hour trial walk wearing the clothes I will be taking and with everything in my pack less food. This was a lovely walk around a couple of big hills with stunning views in every direction.
The view looking North at start of trial Tramp

More stunning views

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable my pack was (ZPacks Arc Blast 60 l). The weight was sitting nicely on my hips and nothing on my shoulders. I experimented with my water bottles and have them sitting on my shoulder straps in a way that I can just lower my head to drink from them. They are Platypus Flexible Bottles so I just squeeze them to get water up to my mouth. My feet felt good in my new Innov8 Rocklite 295 shoes. Though I discovered there is a gap between the shoe and the shoe tongue which is letting in dirt so that will be sewed up.
Looking South East. 2 hours into the Tramp and feeling good.

I have been experimenting with a gas cylinder to try and figure out exactly how many meals I will get out of each one. Using My Titanium 900ml Pot, with 600ml water and no lid it is taking an average of 6.5g of gas and 3 min 28 seconds per boil. I managed to get 28 boils out of the cylinder so with 2 boils a day each cylinder will last me 14 days.

This morning I started my journey North. My first package was posted to Ahipara on the way to the airport. The flight from Dunedin to Auckland to Kaitaia went well.
Weather looks great from the air

Unfortunately weather not so good in Kaitia on landing. Forecast tomorrow is for rain and gale force winds - crap!

 In Kaitaia I asked someone about getting into town and was offered a ride. My good samaritan even let me drop of my kit at the motel before dropping me of at The Warehouse to buy a gas cylinder. (Trail Angel #1). Then it was a nutritious dinner of KFC before a final repacking of my pack. Tomorrow pickup is at 0900 by Sandrunner Tours who have given me a good discount for only going one way of the tour to Cape Reinga.

It will be good, and also scary, to drive up 90 mile beach in a couple of hours knowing that will take me 4 days to walk back down.

It still hasn't really sunk in that tomorrow I will finally be starting this journey which had been 11 months in the planning. I am nervous about how my body will hold up but looking forward to starting.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Back Home and Gear Sorted

After more than 48 hours I made it home to New Zealand. I left DR Congo mid afternoon on Friday and arrived into Christchurch, NZ just after midnight on Sunday night (technically Monday morning).

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.
Tea Plantation in Rwanda

People Everywhere, Rwanda

Once at the airport I was refused entry into the terminal building for check in. They would only open the building when a flight was 3 hours from takeoff. Unfortunately due to the DR Congo Border closing at 5pm I had to cross early meaning I had 3 hours to fill. Luckily there was a cafe within walking distance and I had a fantastic coffee, something I had been desperately missing in Goma.

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.
My packages waiting to be played with

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).
The fantastic view from my room - no people!

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.
All of the gear in my pack

My gear packed into drybags

And packing completed

This is what I will be wearing

And this is my clothing layering system

The next couple of days will involve a test Tramp with full weight, setting the tent up in the paddock, sorting food and finalising resupply packages.

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.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Less than a month to go

Wow there is now less than a month to go and more importantly only 13 days until I start my journey back to New Zealand. I am really looking forward to being able to do some hands on preparation for my tramp.

I have managed to fill in my time by working on combining the maps, trail notes and resupply notes into one document. I figure it will make navigation much easier not having to switch between the map and the trail notes, some of which do not match exactly on first reading which could lead to confusion when I am exhaused and not thinking straight at the end of a long day. This has been a fun way to really get to know the trail and help with some of the logistical preparation. More importantly it has given me something to help ease the fustration of having to wait to get started. I have posted all of these on http://tawiki.org/wiki/navigation.

This fustration is even more apparent now we have people on the trail. Every morning I eagerly check facebook to see what the TA Trampers have been up to. Unfortunately not many people walking now are doing a blog so there is not a lot of information but that is starting to change and some of the more active people on social media will be starting soon. Of the tramers out there I particulary like the blog from Glen and Sherren glenandsherren.blogspot.co.nz which is a good mix of information about the trail and how they are finding their experience.

There has also been some excellent work to help with compressed trail notes, reformated maps and GPS files. Check out facebook Te Araroa and Tearoa 2014-15 groups which have some great information. A special thanks to Judith Hubert who is doing some great work getting information out to this years trampers, Ken and Rob from the Te Araroa Trust for the great Maps and Trail Notes and Jorg Flugge and Joe Delphine for compressing these trail notes.

As for my physical training that is a short paragraph as there has been none for a variety of legitimate reasons as well as a bit of laziness. I just do not feel like doing the same 2km circuit over and over again which is all I am allowed to walk/run in Kinshasa for security reasons. I am going to have to take it really slowly for the first couple of weeks to compensate for the lack of training. One area of physical preparation I am doing well in is creating a weight buffer.It is well known that weight loss is an issue on long distance tramping so I have used this as an explanation for why I have gained weight recently and most people seem to be buying it!

On another front I have been really surprised by the number of people reading this blog. It is now over the 1000 mark so thank you all for your interest. I think this is a great indication of the number of people getting interested in the Te Araroa Trail which is great. I hope more people take the oppourtunity to challenge themselves and see some of this amazing country.

My next post will be from Dunedin, New Zealand around 22 October. It will be nice to be home, and especially nice to be out of a country where there is an Ebola outbreak, though thankfully contained a lot better than in West Africa. Tramping 3,000km freaks me out a lot less than the though of getting a disease with a 50% surival rate. I am definately counting the days until I fly home.