Thing #73 – Take a Walk in Paradise – The Abel Tasman National Park
I’ve been sat in this little cafe in Wellington staring at my computer screen for the past 15 minutes trying to think of a name that will do justice to this new addition to my list.
This has been one of my favourite things I’ve done so far in the past 2 years and for so many reasons that to call it ‘Trek the Abel Tasman just doesn’t do it justice.
There are 9 ‘Great Walks’ in New Zealand and the Abel Tasman is one of them. This is without doubt my idea of paradise. Lush rainforest, golden beaches, breathtaking views, turquoise water and crystal clear river pools. It is heaven and best of all everyone, no matter what fitness level can visit and enjoy this wondrous place.
This was the first multi day hikes I have ever done on my own and I have to be honest I was pretty apprehensive about the whole thing. The last multi day hike I did was in Patagonia almost a year ago where my friend Ryan and I spent 6 days hiking in the Torres Del Paine. I found that incredibly difficult but had Ryan there who took on most of the food and equipment. This time however I had to carry it myself and I was slightly nervous that I might not be able to do it. I chose to stay in the huts rather than camp as the weight of carrying a tent might have been a bit too much.
The trek itself is 60km in length and with 5 days to do it might not seem that far for a hiker or a fit person but for someone with a blood clot its a bloomin long way even without having to carry a big pack back on your shoulders. As my main vein is blocked so my body uses enlarged superficial veins on my left side to get blood back to my heart. This can be annoying especially when carrying a backpack as the straps to take the weight off you shoulders are located around the waste which means my veins get crushed when fastened. I’ve attached a pic so you can see. Some would say they are not pretty but they work and that’s all I care about.
The crazy thing is that I didn’t need to do this way. There is a water taxi service that will transport your bag to each stop over hut each day which would have made the whole thing 100 times easier.
My problem is that I am constantly trying to convince myself that I don’t have cancer anymore. I do this on a daily basis from when I wake up to when I go to sleep. By doing challenging things like this it makes me feel ‘normal’, invincible and healthy. However, this way of living is exhausting and it’s something I really need to work on otherwise I’m just going to cause my body some serious damage.
I did the trek backwards from finish to start to try and avoid being on the usual tourist trail and perhaps avoid the crowds.
On the second day I chose to take the most difficult route and went inland. This is the only time I didn’t see another person for a good 3 hours. The route I took was up a steep hill and I used my visualisation techniques which I’ve used ever since my operation to help me do it. With every step I imagined the fresh oxygen I was breathing in from the rainforest, the lack of pollutants in the air, my leg and shoulder muscles getting stronger as I walked and when I got to a steep part I would visualise how I was going to feel when I got to the top and stood looking down at where I just climbed carrying a backpack.
I was knackered but I did it and I arrived at my second hut after 7 hours of hiking.
You can either camp or stay in one of the huts which has dormitory style rooms and an area to set up your stove. On the second night I met an amazing group of people who became my dinner buddies each night. A lovely kiwi couple, a newly married Swiss couple and a Dutch girl called Floor (pronounced Fleur or if your funny like me; ground, pavement, path:). I gave her the name Flo Flo!:)
Flo Flo and I got on like a house on fire and she was kind enough to walk with me for the remaining three days. I have annoyed lots of people in the past for being so slow and some have accused me for not trying but Flo Flo didn’t care at all. I look like a pretty fit guy but for a whole range of reasons, the main one being my blood clot, I struggle to do anything that involves high impact excursion on my legs like hiking and running. I was so grateful that Flo was so patient.
Flo and I had the most wonderful time and got on like a house on fire. Within a few hours I felt like I had known Flo all my life and we had such a laugh the whole way to the end. She is a wonderfully kind and funny girl and made this trek more fun and memorable than I ever imagined it would be. As with my whole trip I set off on my own and came out with a friend for life.
I trekked on my own for the frost couple of days and this gave me lots of time to reflect on life, my trip and how I am going to be when I finally go home.
On the first day I met a girl in the boat going to the first stop. I noticed her first as we waited to board the boat. She was very thin and frail and seemed to be wearing a lot of clothes given the temperature. She asked the driver if he would help her onto the boat explaining that her legs weren’t very strong.
I briefly chatted to her on the boat and she told me she was going to do the day hike before heading back to her hostel later that day. She had a very small backpack and seemed so excited to see the Abel Tasman.
Flo and I bumped into her again on day day three of the track. I was genuinely excited to see her as I thought she was amazing for doing the day trek but it I think it took her a while to recognise me as we had only chatted for a few minutes.
I told her that I thought she was only doing the day trek and that I was surprised to see her again. She told us that she was doing the entire trek but one part each day as she wanted to see the entire National Park as she had problems with her legs. She didn’t go into details about her health but on a hot sunny day she was again wearing a lot of clothes. She said she returned to her hostel each night via water taxi and would come back again in the morning.
As she walked away Flo and I were in absolute awe and Flo said “that’s pretty inspiring hey”. This amazing girl was doing the same trek as me but in a way that her body could manage and cope with it. I was in pain carrying a big back pack around trying to prove something to myself. In a few months time when I go home I will be saying the exact same thing to my friends as this girl will say to hers; I trekked the Abel Tasman.
This girl knew her bodies limitations and she adapted her walk around it. My body can’t really do things like this anymore. My mind can but my body struggles and I was inspired more by this amazing girl who I only spoke to for no more than 10 minutes than I was by my own achievement. It’s made me realise that I need to figure out a different and more lasting way to reassure myself that I am well. I am so grateful that my legs work as well as they do despite this blood clot and I don’t want to exploit that and cause them damage doing needless things. When I get tired I worry so much and I want nothing more than to believe I’m tired because I just am and not because I think I still have cancer. I clearly still have a lot to work on there.
So all in all this was a very wonderful and enlightening experience. I walked in paradise, met amazing people and learned a few things on the way.
Definitely one for your list but just make sure you take Flo Flo with you!:)