“I’m pretty sure it will all sort itself out”, I’ve been telling everyone who asks me questions about intricate details of the trail that I have not planned. Until mid-last week, when I realised it will not, in fact, all sort itself out. Au contraire. I have to sort it all out. Well some of it. Cue a heady rush of mild panic as I tried to work out all the things I’ve been avoiding working out.

My modus operandi is to plan the fun out of everything, something I’m keen not to do for Te Araroa. One of the reasons I wanted to do the trip was to try to arrive at a more unplanned way of being. To wake up in the morning and make a decision that day about how far I’ll walk, or not to hike that day, or to camp somewhere unexpected if the mood takes me. But for this adventure, whether or not I have it within me to relax my plan-obsessed tendencies anyway, there are a few big pieces of the puzzle that need to be slotted together before I start in order for it all to go ok. Time to stop procrastinating. Here are some I’ve been working on this week.

Knowing where I’ll be when so that friends can join and leave me at certain stages of the trail. I’d be a bit less angsty about this if there weren’t international flights involved, but I think it would be a pretty big screw-up to have underestimated our speed so much that the plane left without them. So I’ve been researching every day of the trip using the published trail notes and other people’s blogs to get a sense of how many hours and kilometres will have us sleeping in approximately which hut or campsite or field on what day. Trying to predict our speed and gamble on the weather is a challenge. But after many hours pouring over a spreadsheet I’ve now got a schedule that should be accurate to within a day or two, at least for the first month, with built-in slack at appropriate points for the friendship-and-their-life-savings-preserving-flight-departure-strategy. 

Planning three food drops for places where there are no shops, or where those that shops are there are too meagre to keep three hungry tired girls topped up with vitamins and protein. Food drop is a rather fancy description for a parcel sent ahead by oneself. I’ve enjoyed looking at this lovely map made by Anthony Page of the food resupply locations. I’ll be sending food ahead to St Arnaud, Arthurs Pass and Boyle Village. I have a good feeling that future Frances is going to appreciate what current Frances decides to send ahead. But so far I’ve been feeling uninspired and all I’ve purchased is some dried textured vegetable protein. Save me from myself: suggestions warmly welcomed as to good trail treats.

Ending the dithering about gear choices. Shoes vs boots? A classic thru-hiker gear dilemma. Normally I hike in great big Asolo 535s, which I absolutely adore. But for much of the trail they will be unnecessarily solid, they are slow to dry, and they weigh a gigantic 1.8kg. That’s the equivalent of four jars of the best peanut butter in the world, something I plan to eat a lot of on the walk. Many people do Te Araroa in trail running shoes, and end up chewing through a couple of pairs or more. My front runners at the moment are the Salewa Mountain Trainers which are about half the weight of the boots. Do I dare? Apart from that most of my gear will be just my standard tramping stuff. The original plan was to upgrade nothing, working with a ‘ain’t broke, ain’t gonna fix it [because I don’t wanna be broke]’ kind of philosophy. As we get closer to the date I find this policy being eroded little by little. A second hand Terra Nova Laser Competition tent seemed a sensible choice to save 800g. A Titanium spoon to save 16g? Over my dead- oh shit.


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