The Hillary Trail – Week 6: Achievement Unlocked: Camping

Friday Night

I think I packed and repacked 3 times over the night. I was excited, but I was nervous. I decided to have pizza and sort of carb-load. This turned out to not work out as much as I had hoped because I didn’t eat enough pizza. I still had some chicken sushi I had yet to eat as well. My pre-eating wasn’t going well.

(note: In Australia and New Zealand, they *also* have Chicken and Beef sushi. No, the meat is not raw, but cooked. Generally, you can get Chicken.Beef Teriyaki or Crispy Chicken, its strange to me as I had never heard of non-seafood sushi before moving here, but I dislike seafood, so it is the only sushi I eat.)

I ended up going to bed at 11pm, a little later than I typically do for a walk.


Starting off

Starting in the Garage. Gotta start somewhere. 

I woke up excited and nervous around 5:30. From there, I waited until 7:30 to leave home. From there, I headed to Huia. The ride was pretty nice, and starting right off by the ocean, I knew I would off for a big day.


I arrived at the car park at around 8:10 am, and the first thing I noticed was how many people were already there. Generally, when I get to a place, I am the first one here. Not today. I soon realised that a lot of people had the same idea as I had, and wanted to spend Labour Day weekend tramping.

I am actually excited to see people on the trail.

Fletcher Track  – So starting off on the Karamatura Loop walk. I see a sign for the Fletcher Track. And it is going pretty much going up. I take a look, and start off. Of course, the Track walk is well maintained. The Fletcher track. is. not. I head up the trail, and it is definitely a challenge. I am taking to it pretty voraciously, right up to where I needed to climb about 3-4 meters to continue.

I utter a phrase that I found myself saying often over the course of the next two days.


I look at it for a few moments and decide to give it a go. A few minutes, and some crafty sidestepping later, I was at the top. This is officially tramping, I feel super excited and if anything, I did some fucking climbing.

So, I immediately turn the wrong way.

The good thing was that it wasn’t the “wrong way” it just led to a lookout.

Fletcher Lookout

Lookout from Fletcher Trail

From there, I turned around and made my way to the next track.

Donald McClean track – Officially apart of the Hillary Trail, this was like night and day with the Fletcher. it was well drained, wide, and it was a nice walk. I got to point where I could climb Mt. Donald McClean Walk to the top, but in looking at my time, I figured I could save it for a future Saturday walk. I am very glad I made that decision.

Puriri Ridge Track – From Donald McClean, I took the Puriri Ridge Track. This was my first encounter with mud. Up to this point, there is a no rain, but a little wind. Having rained earlier in the week. I expected mud. But up to this point, the trail had been pretty good, or at worst, easily avoidable mud.

Also, I have decided that after this tramp, there need to be more words for “mud.” Like “snow for the Inuit, I feel that New Zealand need to have 5, 6, 45 words for mud. More on that later.

Puriri Ridge seeing the Omanawunui Track

On the Puriri Ridge Track, behind me, the next challenge. 

Anyhow, the Puriri had some majestic views, it was a good decent through the bush. It didn’t realise it until after I got home and looked at my elevation changes how much I initially climbed. I hit an open patch and I was able to see the Tasman Sea and the opening of Manakau Habour. Of course, I knew I was going to walk that ridge, hens the face.


Anyhow, this was a good walk, and it led back to the road a few kms. Now… I was ready for the big walk of the day.

Omanawanui Track – This is one of those tracks that people talk about on the tramping sites. It starts along the road (at least for the Hillary) and you start heading up the ridge. There are two big peaks in this walk, and they can be pretty daunting. By this point, I met another tramper, Emma. She was doing the Hillary so we were going to end up at the same campground. It was cool to know someone on the trail, but also know to look for them at the end. It was actually a bit of comfort.

The ascent was significant, but every time I stopped, I saw awesome-ness… Seriously.

Omamawanui Trail 1

Omanawanui Track – Before the First Peak

I made it to the first peak, and it was stunning to see. The only downside was that there was a large group of trampers who had stopped for lunch. And while I did not begrudge them (it was a fantastic spot), I moved on quickly. That, and the wind was picking up, so I moved on. There was a second peak a bit further on, so I decided to try and snap a pic there.

The descent from the first peak to the second peak was surprisingly hard. At one point, there was a chain bolted to the rock, and you had to use that to lift/lower yourself to the next level. When I saw that, I did my now trademark, “Seriously…”

Finally, the second peak was mine. I sat down at the seat at the top, drank some water, and took an amazing pic.

Omamawanui Trail 2

Omanawanui Trail – Second Peak

From the second peak, I descended quickly to the Whatipu car park area. That was when I encountered my first Black Sand in a while. While I only had sand on a tiny part this time, I have to remind myself that future sections of the Hillary will have more sand.

After taking a brief break, I then headed off towards my campsite.


Gibbons Track – The Gibbons track is one of those tracks that are amazing after the first third. The ascent was pretty challenging, but it was dry. I did a steady climb, but I started to notice my right knee was starting to give me trouble. With a tinge here and there as I was climbing, I wasn’t sure what was going on. The trail was steep, and surprising a lot of people were on it. I had to stop several times to let people pass. I actually enjoyed it. I wished everyone well, and it was great to see so many people and so many types of people enjoying rural New Zealand. Throughout this experience, I have mostly been a solo hiker, but today, I got to meet a lot of people and it was really nice to see. I also found Emma a time or two as we were travelling. I was really excited because she was an experienced tramper, and I am such a noob, so I felt that I could be in the ballpark of decent tramping speed.


When I got up to the top of the Gibbons trail, I was treated to a spectacular view.

Gibbons Track 2

The trail then evened out and walking was good. Finally, I hit the last track of the day.

Muir Track – At this point, I was almost to the campground. I am feeling my right knee, and it is not doing the best. I have never hurt my knee before, but generally, I know that things are not going perfectly. While I was walking on a level surface, or ascending, I was fine. It was Descending that was the issue. And my campground, Pararaha Valley campground was definitely down.

So, I descended.

Muir Track

Muir Track Descent

The good thing about the Muir Trail is that there are a lot of steps. Normally, I hate steps but today, they were the perfect thing. I could put weight on my leg, it would just hurt if I put weight as I was stepping down with my other leg. Steps made this process easier.


The downside of the Muir track is that it is steep, and the step down was a bit rough. At one point another Chain bolted tot he rock appeared, and I had a little harder time traversing it. But I managed. In the back of my mind, I am worried about tomorrow morning, as I am walking up this very same trail. but that is for tomorrow.

With my final steps, I make it to the campground. Emma was there, smiling, and welcomed me. She was very positive the entire trip, and I was really happy to see her.

Pararaha Campground


My tent! I put it up myself!

The campground was pretty amazing. Nestled in the valley next to a stream, it was pretty epic. I set up camp and my tent, and I felt that I was very successful. Next, after setting set up. I made dinner in a small shelter (at 5pm, but I don’t care), and met the other people coming in. It was kinda crazy how many people showed up. The campsite can hold 40, and there were like 25 people there easily. I saw a family with two kids there, they were like 8-10 years old. There were duos and trios and singles as well. It was a nice group of people and talking about my

Aaron dinner.jpg

Making Dinner

training, and their experiences… it was an amazing time to get to know them. I was worried about the social aspect of camping, especially because I figured I would be kinda introverted. But it was a positive experience… and I also crashed early so there was that.


Now, onto the stats of the day.

Overall, I walked 18.91 Kilometers on the trail. I did the walk in 7:27:22 which means I did an average of 2.5km per hour for the day. I did four peaks during the day, though my first one was the biggest by far. I actually thought that the ridge peaks were taller, but I was surprisingly wrong. I did get down to just around sea level at Whatipu, which was expected, but the second ascent from the Gibbons Track was surprising for me.

Day 1 Map

My Day 1 Hike on the Map


Day 1 Walk

Day 1 Elevation Map




Pararaha Campground – Waking up at 5:30, I felt good. The place I put the tent was really good… with the exception of it being on a slight angle, so I moved around a bit during the night. Otherwise, the wind stayed down and I got a good nights rest. Also, Emma gave me some nurophen (aka Tylenol) and some tape for my leg. Also, my leg felt almost perfect! I got changed, ate, and packed my stuff, and I was off by 7:15. This was a good move on my part because the weather began to set it. While I was packing, the rain started, so I was lucky that I was able to pack up before the rain set in. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t try my knee in wet weather.

Muir Track – Going up was much better than going down. The ascent was quick, and my knee was in good spirits. I think it had to do with being kept warm all night in the sleeping bag and not moving it too much. The Chain section was pretty easy on the way up, so I was happy with that. With lots of motivation, I met back where the Gibbons and Muir meet, and then went in the third direction.

Walker Ridge Track – Mud gets a new name on the Walker Ridge Track. While I had

Walker Ridge Track

This was the best of the mud situation on the Walker Ridge Trail

avoided mud for most of this hike, my luck ran out here. Walker Ridge was a mess. Going up, going down. It was slop from top to bottom. And worse, the rain had started coming regularly. While under the bush, the rain wasn’t too bad, it created a mist that hung over the trail. It was some serious Cursed Hallow/Blair Witch/Horror Movie vibes going on. But rather than being scared, it was crazy peaceful. I was chuffed that I did not have a better camera to capture the mist better. Next time… next time.


Anyhow, the ascent was decent, while windy and rainy over the exposed parts. The Descent was tough, my knee was starting to act up, and I knew this would take a while. It was this moment when my husband’s words of “pacing myself” popped into my head. So, I slowed down and took the descent conservatively. This slowed me down a lot, but overall, I think it was the right answer. The rain was making everything wet, from the ground to rocks, and one wrong slip could mean something worse. So, I took my time and came up finally to a big fork in the forest. I am nearing the end.

Karamatura Track – I thought Walker was a challenge. No. Karamatura is a bigger challenge. It was pretty much a pure descent off the mountain. That big mountain I walked yesterday? Yeah… that was the one I was now walking down from. Of course, I didn’t realise this until afterwards, so this descent just kept going… and going… and going. The mud was insane, and the decent so steep I slowed down to below 2kph. Again, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fuck anything up for the future, so I was ok with that. Slow and steady wins the race.

I didn’t get my phone out because I wanted to focus on the decent, but even in my state, I absolutely loved what was around me. The trees, the rain creating a mood (which was mostly good), and I could hear the stream getting closer and closer. Finally, I crossed the stream, and I knew I was nearing the end.

Karamatura Loop walk – This is the final leg. I only had to do half of the walk, since it is a loop, but since the ground was fairly even, I made excellent time. My knee was sore, but not hitting me with pain. I quickly made way back, and finally, with a steady rain on me… I made it back to my car.

Huia Lodge Car Park –

Overall, my second day was shorter than my first day. I basically took a more direct route from the campground to my car. Today, I did 9.84km in 4:37:10 which equates to 2.13kph, which while slower than yesterday, is considered good given my knee, the sharp descent throughout the day, and the less than great weather. Let’s look at the maps/stats:


Day 2 Map

Day 2 Map




Day 2 Walk

Day Two Elevation Map



Closing thoughts

Overall, I did 28.75km over 12:02:32. That is an average of 2.31kph, or about 1.42 miles an hour. When saying it in miles doesn’t sound so impressive though, but in saying that, the trampers I met over the two days all said I was doing really great, and gave me a lot of confidence. I think I did well, and I think if my knee didn’t act up, I would be at a solid 2.5kph, and I will be happy with that overall.

I liked this weekend. Knee and weather on the second day aside, I had a fantastic time. The people I met on the trail and campground were really awesome and so nice. At the campground, I met people tramping from all over the world, and to see so many people just enjoy the scenery was awesome. Throughout the trail, I saw Kiwis (the people) and tourist seeing the area, and again, it made my heart sing. New Zealand is an amazing place, and I am so lucky to get see it.

I consider this an achievement unlocked. I am going to take a few days to rest my knee and reassess on what I want, and then… make the final decision on the Hillary and planning the nights out. I may take next weekend off, but I am considering some other tramps in the Waitakeres, as well as the Hunua Ranges as Spring (hopefully), dries out.

I feel like I met the challenge, and I am looking forward to the next time I head out.


The Hillary Trail: Week 6 – The Test

This is a big week for me. After 5 weeks of walking in the bush, this weekend I will be taking my first overnight camping trip in the Waitakere Ranges.

I am really excited, and I am a little nervous.

Firstly, let’s talk about the route I am taking.



This should be about 16kms on the first day, and 7 km on the second day. I figured I would want to do the hardest part first, and then allow myself all day to get back on Sunday… though realistically, I want to be finished by midday because…

A Weather map of New Zealand for Sunday

Sunday Midday Weather – getting out before the weather settles in.

The weather looks to be cloudy on Saturday, possible rain overnight, and then a variable morning until the rain starts to come in during the afternoon.

From Sunday afternoon, the weather further deteriorates and I hope to find myself back home either napping or playing Shadow of War, South Park, or Desinty 2.


During the week, I have tested out my tent, my sleeping bag, and other equipment ahead of this weekend, so I feel that I competently can handle the trip.

The big question, of course, is food.  I have been the most nervous about my food intake, and my energy levels during my single day tramps, so I am doubly worried about an overnight trip. I have some freeze dried food that I bought this week, and today I will be buying some water, some trail mix, and (at the behest of my Husband) something for breakfast. But I worry it will not be enough, or that I am underestimating my energy. The other big thing is that this will be the first time I travel with a full pack, which will add 10-12 kilos to my weight, making things a bit harder. So, I am trying to figure out what my body needs, what I should bring, and what I should avoid.

This weekend, I am not planning on bringing my camera. With a mixture of the weather and the fact that my full body camera is bulky and heavy, I feel it is best to leave it behind. It sucks though because I really want to take pictures other than my phone. If this weekend is successful, I think the next thing I get will be a small camera to take photos. I may have my Olympus Tough somewhere… and if I can find it, I may charge it up and see what happens. But otherwise, I think I will be without a decent camera for this trip.

The other “concern” I have is what to do with myself after I get to the campground. I have a full day of hiking, then I will spend (hopefully) about a half hour setting up, and then of course dinner.


What does one do when they camp by themselves?

On on hand, there are other people scheduled to be at that campground so I won’t be “alone,” but conversely I am not likely to spend the whole night with them either. Now, typical me would be like “My iPad”, but I find it a bit hysterical to bring such a piece of tech on a hike like this. That, and the weather may cause issues. The same thought goes for books in that situation. Do I just sit there and gaze out until dark and go to sleep?  Do I explore? What do I do? I am still trying to figure that out.

I really like the idea of doing this on my own. It is a big test for me. I have set myself to do this Hillary, without any camping experience, or hiking experience. For me, this weekend is “proof of concept” that I can do this. ANd if I am successful (and I enjoy it), then on my next paycheck. I will book the Hillary.

It’s a big moment.

With that, I will let everyone know how it goes, and I hope it is a good experience for me.

Wish me luck, and see you on the other side.



What do we do? #MeToo and what men need to do

Over the last week, there has been a lot of talk about Harvey Weinstein, and from a larger perspective, sexual harassment and its pervasiveness in our society. I feel like this is a part of the cycle we in the western world live in. The power dynamic in society is always on display, and despite our attempts at change, we have only changed the methods of how we engage in that toxic power dynamic.

I feel that the voices that have come out over the last week in terms of sexual harassment, from celebrities to everyday women using the hashtag #metoo, are vitally important for us to begin talking about what we need to do as men to 1) stop this behaviour in ourselves, and 2) call out this behaviour when we see it.

To begin with, with this post, I will group people rather generally, “Men,” or “Women,” and other terms are meant to talk about the general aspects of these groups, but I also want to point out that we are not slaves to our gender, that we are not defined by our gender or group, and most importantly, not everyone in their gender or group think or act in the same way. So please do not mean to take this post as equating to everyone in a particular group. These are only my perspectives and the things I have noted and seen in my personal life.

My experience with sexual harassment personally started as a younger gay man coming out first in the rural Midwest, and then the American East Coast and onwards. From there, I have experienced the effects of sexual harassment that have been done to women. I have had friends and loved ones sexually harassed, and even then I know that my knowledge of these events are very limited, as I saw to my consternation with the #MeToo protest throughout social media. (And my consternation that I was surprised that so many friends have experienced this)

In the face of widespread experiences of this nature, one must take a step back and ask “What can I do?”  How can I help break this cycle of abuse, outrage, cosmetic change, and repeat? I don’t want my niece, or my nephew, or my friends or family to have to experience this abuse, but at the same time, I am just a single person, in an out of the way country in the world. I am a gay man whose interactions with women are decidedly non-sexual, so what I can do in the face of such an overwhelming problem that has pervaded our culture since we *had* culture.

The first thing to do is the acknowledge that this is a problem. Yes, we have a problem with how we, as the male gender, treat women and at times, each other. This is not a new issue, and on a larger level, it is an issue that we only selectively condemn when it suits the parties involved. The fact that Harvey Weinstein is being destroyed publicly while Donald Trump became President is proof enough that this type of abuse is weaponised or ignored depending on who is the perpetrator.

Second, we need to call out those who exhibit this behaviour. Just as speaking out against pejoratives towards someone’s ethnicity, or calling out other things we find not in the keeping of a good and pleasant society. We, as men, need to be strong allies for women, as well as each other, in confronting this toxic behaviour. This is something that, as a culture, we say is important, but in practice, leaves much to be desired.

So it is the time that we put up, or shut up.

In my small world, I look at how gay men treat each other. In the Bear community, there has been a lot of discussion about sexual harassment, and it generally comes from older men towards younger men (again, not always though). Today, there was an article in USA Today about our behaviour in gay bars. This behaviour is seen as pretty normal, however, it typifies the male experience: if you like it, you react to it. Over the years, the calls from younger men or men who freshly come out, are confronted with how pervasive and acceptable it is to grope someone you like and are often told to quiet down if they push back or are uncomfortable. This mentality is seemingly baked into the gay male experience, and it is one that we need to honestly examine within ourselves and change.

I know that as a gay man, I have been pressured into sex by men. I have been in situations where I have had sex to get out of a bad /dangerous situation. I have had situations where I had to be insistent on saying “No” to other men. I have had online dates turn into awkward moments where I had to decide whether to push back and cause a potential incident or let it go in order to stay “safe.” I have been shamed for pushing back and been called a prude. I have been told that I am too thinned skinned by friends and I have been told that “This is what you should expect” as living life as a gay man.

And in conversations over the past few days, I know that I am not alone in this feeling, not only from Gay men but by far from more women.

I will admit. In a gay bar, I tend to be more affectionate. I reach out, and though I almost always do it with permission or with friends whom I am comfortable with. However, I can recall moments when I have reached out to someone I do not know before I seek permission. I have also been in situations where I have been attracted to someone and be turned down, and I have always respected that, but I can identify where the impulse to react harshly or ignoring the refusal can come from. There is a sort of “code” in the gay world in certain situations where actions and advances can be made and rebuffed without blowback, but that code often is blurry and is used all the time, everywhere, rather than in specific situations.

But also, Sexual Harassment happens in different mediums. By far the worst sexual harassment I have faced has been online, while the physical barriers are removed, but the words, the actions, and sometimes, the stalking… comes into play heavily. I will fully admit that I have had a number of stalkers in my life that I have had to forcefully cut off because they would not relent. Even as a mid-30’s gay man, I often have to deal with overzealous men who will not take No for an answer, online or otherwise. This is by far a more common experience for me and one that has increased over time.  I currently have two “stalkers” who keep popping up in my online life and will not take no for an answer. This is my reality, and sadly, I know this is a reality of far more women and men than it should be, and worse, this is almost he expected action many women come to expect, which is sad and depressing.

So, what do we do?

It starts with me. Firstly, regardless of gender, I will treat every person with respect and respect their personal space and their bodies. They may be attractive, but that does not invite engagement from me, and while I am good with this, I am not perfect, so reminding myself of this is important, because I am *never* entitled to engage someone else sexually who isn’t interested.

Second, I will call out the behaviour when I see it applied to me or when I see it in general. This doesn’t mean I go into full-on warrior mode, but pointing out that that behaviour isn’t acceptable, and not shying away from that is important. Too often silence = complicity, and we shouldn’t be silent when we see it happen, to ourselves, or to others. This is why we see so many women post #metoo in social media because our silence allows this toxicity to fester.

Third, I am going to talk about this with my male friends. Right now, the conversation often boils down to women saying “You do this to us” and men going “but not *us*, other men do this.” This argument is used all the time to stop conversations from happening at a larger scale. Sure, individuals will say they are the exception, or that they do not sexually harass, but in reality, we are seeing that there is a significant group of men who *do* sexually harass, and worse, most of us silently let it happen, and we need to talk about this. This is bigger than individual responsibility, this is on everyone. And more importantly, we need to have this conversation with ourselves. We men need to start being more responsible for each other, and having these tough conversations helps that.

And finally, I will be there for those who need it. From women who have been raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, to the gay men who have been pressured into sex, or uncomfortable, we need to make sure that we don’t silence them because it makes things uncomfortable for us. Fear and silence allow this cycle to continue. Similar to abuse, or intolerance, or bigotry, being silent means that the behaviour will continue, we also need to stand with those who make these claims, especially when they are confirmed in happening. As we have seen in the media, when someone comes forward with allegations, there is an immediate push to discredit the person. Depending on the situation, this often works, and the man walks away from the incident. In so many other areas of law and justice, we take the accusers word and we seek the truth. It seems with sexual harassment, we try and destroy the accuser to see if they can withstand the scrutiny before we pay heed to their words. We need to change the culture of destroying the accuser because they spoke up. This is another reason for the silence within our culture.

In other words, I need to be an ally for women who need my support, and I need to be an advocate for gay men who have experienced this toxicity. I need to be a good example of what is appropriate, and be accountable for my actions, and speak up when I see that behaviour in others.

Look. I know this will not change overnight. I know this will not change in a year. However, it is important that we begin changing and teaching our younger generations what we have failed to learn. We need to push so that when my Niece and Nephew are old enough, they look at our rampant sexual assault culture and marvel at how backwards we were or how boorish we come off as, and how they are lucky we have begun to move from that place. It will not be easy, and this will always be a struggle, but it is one we must always strive to make.

The Hillary Trail: Week 5 – Planning

It is crazy to think that I am now planning my 5th consecutive weekend Tramping in the Waitakere Ranges. I have been really happy with my progress so far, and I am starting to look ahead to the next big phase of my Tramping training.

For Week 5, I am actually going to do a fairly easy walk ahead of Labour Day weekend next weekend. I will do the Fairy Falls/Old Coach Road track once again, and I will be doing it either 2 or loops, depending on my mood on the day. I am doing this for several reasons.

  • I want to walk with some friends, and trying to get them to do a 15km walk is much harder than a 5.5km walk.
  • I can do several loops, meaning I can go further, even if my fellow walkers want to do only one loop.
  • I want to save up some energy ahead of the Labour day weekend.

It seems that planning for this week is pretty easy, so let’s talk about next weekend; Labour Day weekend.

So, last week, I settled on a campground to stay at. I will stay at the Pararaha Valley Campground. The Question is of course, what is the trail there and back going to be?

For this weekend, I see it as my first big test for the Hillary. While I have proven that I can walk 15+kms in a day and that I can do it with a small pack on, I need to test myself with a larger pack, and a multi-day walk. This is where I am most worried. I can walk just fine on my own with a day pack, but can I walk with my tent, my sleeping bad, and everything else? And will I be able to trudge home afterwards?

Well, I am going to find out!

Labour Day weekend, I think I will focus on the Southern Portion of the Waitakere Ranges, a place I have yet to go on my walks.

Currently, this is my tentative plan for the walk:


By my estimates, this will make for about 9 hours of walking, which is what I will need to be prepared for on the Hillary. It sits at around 16kms, but I suspect it will be longer because everything I have done has been longer than I thought it would be. This also covers the second day of the Hillary. It is not exact, but many of the trails line up with the Hillary, and again. I see this as a great opportunity to learn the area and to test myself. Also, I am planning some stopping times, so I see this as a true full day walk.


Sunday is a much shorter day, with only about 7-8kms for the walk. There are some challenging bits to this walk, however, and I suspect it will be slower going than I initially think.

It is obviously the most extensive walk I have done yet, but I feel that despite the ambition, I am close enough to services if I need help or if there is an issue. I am really excited about the walk, but also a bit nervous. Hopefully, this technophile will be fine living off the grid for two days.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will do this weekend first with friends, and then on to the big weekend! Hope to see some friends out there!




The Hillary Trail: Week: Week 4 – The WanderingExPat trail

Hello again! Sorry for the late entry. I had a busy weekend.

So, bright and early, I set off once again for the Falls Road parking lot in the Cascade Kauri region of the Waitakere Ranges. For my first “Choose your own adventure” walk, I decided to do a mix of trails I have previously done, with a couple of new trails as well. I figured this would be a good time to start being a little more adventurous, as well as getting some confidence with my decision making.

I started on the Auckland City Walk which is a nice easy start. One of the things with starting a trail you have already done is that you get to look up more often. Right now, I will admit that I have an issue of being too focused on the goals of walking, and not enjoy the walking itself. This time, knowing the trail a bit more, and being a bit more comfortable, I was able to take in the scenery much more than before. Which was quite awesome.

walk3From there, I then decided to head off to the Anderson Track. The Anderson track was new to me, and soon, I found it to be a bit similar to some of the other tracks int he immediate area.

After crossing a small stream, the climb went pretty uphill. There was a lot of mud covered steps along the path, and while I generally despise stairs like these, I manage to get past them quickly without too much grumbling.

From there, I kept up with the walking and soon came to my first decision point. In my planning, I was considering going down a long tunnel. On the map, it said it was open, but I couldn;t find any information on the tunnel, or how good/stable it was. My original goal was to go to the East side of the tunnel, but on the day, I decided to take the trail to the west end of the tunnel, and skip it all together. I am glad I did because as I came upon the tunnel, I found it to be closed.

The Tram line was pretty awesome honestly, and one of my favorite trails so far. Maybe it was the scene of walking down overgrown tracks. Maybe it was the setting, an overcast day, but thick with humidity, but I loved the feel, the smell, and the ambience.

Walk main 2

Soon, I came upon the Waitakere Dam, and from there, met up with the Fence Line Track, which I had done previously. This portion I have done before, but the last time it was raining pretty consistently. This time, however, I was able to enjoy better the area. And it is quite gorgeous. Taking the walk by the lake is really nice, and the trail is nice and clear. This was where I thought I had escaped the mud that has plagued me for the last three weeks.

I was wrong.

The Long Road track is a muddy one. It is really muddy. I am not sure if it is because it is used a lot, or if it is just muddly all the time, but it is just a muddy mess. There were points where I just had to suck it up and get dirty… which… fair enough. Both times I have walked this trail it has been equally muddly, so I am not sure if I should go on it again until there is a significant dry spell (and for Auckland… well… we will see about that.)

Walk Main

Taking the long Road past where I turned off last time, I walked to the edges of the park and to the Whatitiri Track back to my car. At first, I thought this would be a kinda easy track. It sits just on the edge of the forest and it is buttressed against a golf course. Sounds really easy. But surprisingly, the forays into the forest were spectacular.  I ended up crossing a couple of streams and had a great time of it overall. I truly loved the day.

walk2My timing for the walk exceeded my expectations. Firstly, doing a longer stretch this time than week one’s trek was a good decision, and I felt stronger and healthier throughout the process. I *did* eat more the night before, and I felt that the extra food helped me out greatly in the walk. I did not feel tired or run out of energy, and I was really happy about that. The first week, I did 10-11kms (my app didn’t work for me so I cannot give a direct comparison sadly, but this walk, I ended up doing 16kms in just under 4 hours. This was a great result for me. While not as high or as long as last weeks hikes, this one was a much better one for me to scale and conquer, and it gives me more confidence heading into the next couple of weeks.

Also, looking at the elevation differences, I did not have as huge of an elevation change as the previous week, but having almost 475 meters (1550-ish feet) in elevation gain is a good effort for the weekend.



I did like how the climb was one “big” climb other than several different climbs, but I suspect that I will get better with time in that regard. I will admit though, that descent didn’t feel as sharp as the graph says it does, and there were no steps on the way down… lol.

Overall, this was a great walk, and one that I would put as an early favorite. With the Long Track and the muddiness aside, I really enjoy this walk, and I hope to do it again sometime later in the summer. I may also try and do another similar walk by cutting out as much of the Long Road as possible… we will have to see on that.

Next week, I will go back to familar territory, but also a lot of planning for my big walk for Labour day weekend. Stay tuned.

The Hillary Trail: Week 4 – Planning

So this week, I am tossing up a break in the training. After 3 weeks of building up my endurance and my walking, I was thinking perhaps a week off, especially heading into the period ahead of my weekend away.

Then I started looking at new routes to take.

Right now I am looking at both my weekly walks, as well as my Labour Day weekend overnighter. The more I look, the more I think I should walk this weekend. And this morning, I decided, fuck it, I am walking this weekend.

After looking through routes taken by other people, I have decided to try and make my own route. This will be interesting because I am only a month into the whole tramping thing, and I have been following other people’s routes. So, this will be interesting to try. For my first “Choose your own adventure” route, I will go back to some familiar territory but also set off to some new tracks.

So, here is what I am looking to do (I will need to give it a name at some point):

In week one, I did the Montant Heritage trail, which starts in the same place but creates a smaller loop in the area. This time, I am planning to go a bit wider, and further, and see how I go. The good part of this is once I am on the Long Road Track, I can decide to cut things short by taking the Upper Kauri Track, which I have taken before. This will be important if I feel my energy depleted by that part of the walk.

Going back to the same area will be good. it will remind me to look up more, and see the sites. And, because I am planning to skip the first part of the Fence Line Track (which is a lot of stairs), I think I will find it a little more enjoyable. That being said, I *think* the Anderson Trail is actually quite challenging so we will see.

Also, there are some Tunnels! I think that will be quite fun, though I am trying to figure out what the name of the big tunnel is… I will admit, that the maps are not super clear on this.

In other news. My city walking shoes are giving me problems again. Since getting these shoes a few months ago, it seems that I cannot break them in, getting blisters on my heels almost every time I walk in them. I am at a loss to how to fix the situation outside wearing hiking socks all the time or buying new shoes… which I am loathed to do.


I am hoping to decide on my two-day walk here in the next couple of days, I have an area, I just need to finalise the route. Take care and talk to you on Saturday!




An Open letter to the Victims of America’s next Mass Casualty Event

A moment of silence for the victims of America’s next Mass Casualty Event.

. . .

I don’t know where it will happen. Maybe it will happen in a big city, like Atlanta, or Denver. Perhaps, it will be a smaller city like Boise, Idaho or Columbus, Ohio or maybe it will be in a place like Christmas, Indiana or in Camden, Maine.

Perhaps it will happen in your town, who knows. It could happen to you, or your family.

It may happen next week, or next month, or 6 months from now, but knowing the US, we will have another one sooner, rather than later.

The gunman (and it will 99% be a man), while I don’t know his race, or ethnicity, or his religion, will use the laws of America to easily get the tools he needs to carry out his terrible plans. Pundits like Bill O’Reilly will claim that these deaths are “the price of Freedom” and that we as Americans must accept that this is what Freedom looks like. Decrying those who seek to change the laws in our country to make people safer.

Meanwhile, we will hear politicians stoically come to the podium to denounce such evil and tell us that “Now is not the time to politicise this tragedy

So, let’s talk about it now.

Since Columbine in 1999, (and truly we could look back to 1966 to the University of Texas incident where a man took to the University’s tower and sniper attacked people) we have heard the constant refrain of “Today isn’t the day to have a debate on guns” by our elected officials.  The US has steadfastly ignored these incidents, each time deflecting and obfuscating the event with more and more fervour. People will argue passionately about Mental health if the shooter was white (or Asian, as the case in the Virginia Tech Massacre). We will talk about gang and racial violence if the shooter happens to be black. We will argue relentlessness about immigration if the shooter is Hispanic, and of course, the dark spectre of Terrorism if the shooter appears to be middle eastern or Muslim in any way.

We will argue, people will try and shut down debate, and after a few days, the debate will indeed shut down. From there, the families of the victims of the next Mass Casualty Event will mourn, trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, trying to make sense how their country has failed them, as they have failed thousands of other Mass Casualty Victims in the past.

We will see people passionately talking about reform and change, yet fall on deaf ears, because to politicize a tragedy that is more than a week old borders on obsession, the topic is too depressing to talk about after the fact. Think of the families of the people who were lost is hard, sometimes too hard to see day after day. We will see Victims, widows, and family members plead to a Government to change the laws. And that government, run by those who rely on gun lobbyist money to maintain their control in government, will do nothing, saying that “This is not the time to politicize a tragedy.”

We will see the victims of these Mass Casualty events treated poorly by pundits and conspiracy theorists, calling them actors, and call the event False Flag in order to take guns away from people. Meanwhile, debate dies, because people are too tired to listen, too numb to care, and… After 20 years of the same process, will resign themselves to the fact that this is everyday life.

The next election cycle, politicians, funded by the lobbyist who wants to keep the status quo, will tell us that Gun Control is against law enforcement, That Gun Control will lead to more terror and crime, That gun control is against the Constitution, because if they don’t, they lose money, and if they lose money, they lose their seat.

And the cycle continues.

People are dying because politicians want to keep in power, and the only way to do that is to be funded by people who want to maintain the right to Murder.

When we talk about gun control, we are not talking about taking away the right to own a weapon. We are talking about whether a man has a right to murder another person indiscriminately with weapons meant only to kill others in the most efficient way possible. When you hear “This is the Price of Freedom” you should hear, “This is the price of corruption” because there is nothing free about death. There is nothing “free” about dying at a concert, or at school, or in a mall, or at a Nightclub. When people sacrifice their lives for “freedom” it is in defence of their nation, not partaking in everyday life. The only freedom pundits are talking about in this situation is the freedom to murder.

The gun debate is toxic, and it is full of traps meant to stop progress from happening. Around the world, when events like these happen in the past, governments passed laws to restrict the freedom to murder indiscriminately. From Australia to the UK, to New Zealand when situations like our future Massacre occurred, they changed the laws to protect their citizens from a repeat. And those laws have *worked.* and we do not see the same frequency and escalation of murder in those countries.

This is not a debate about owning a gun. This is a debate about how easy we make it for people to kill.

Sure we can talk about Mental Health, sure we can talk about Toxic masculinity and the radicalisation of men in America. We can absolutely talk about these issues in regards to the escalation of these attacks. However, with a complacent and willful political party to allow nothing to be done, they are complicit in our future Mass Casualty Events. They will say touching words, yet do nothing except accept collect their next paycheck to keep the status quo.

When the next Mass Casualty Event happens, and it affects you, or the ones you love. Know that their deaths were not in vain. Their deaths help gun manufacturers make bigger profits, which leads to more donations to lobbyists, who pay the politicians to tell you that “There is something we can do. We can offer comfort to someone near us who is suffering or heavy laden, and we can mourn with those who mourn…

And then proceed to do nothing.

My deepest condolences to the future victims and family of the next Mass Casualty Event. I hope it doesn’t happen to you.

The Hillary Trail: Week Three – The Inland Piha Loop

Yesterday, I made my way to the wild west coast of the Auckland region and decided to do a more challenging hike than the previous weeks. Of course, in doing the Hillary, I will have challenging days, so I decided to pick a trail that is would match one of the more strenuous days of the Hillary. Since most of the tracks in the Waitakeres are relatively short, I use to find a good challenge. I found, the Inland Piha Loop.

I got to Piha a little earlier than expected. I generally try to start after 8am, but yesterday, I ended up getting to the parking lot about 15 minutes till 8am. So I decided “why not! this is a long trek!”

The weather was forecasted for trouble, with light rain for the morning getting a bit heavier around 12pm. My goal was to try to end by 1pm.

On the good side, the weather, for the most part, stayed away. I only had 2 real periods of rain, and it wasn’t that bad overall. The downside was my belief I could smash the route out in only 4 hours.


A Map of my talk, called the Inland Piha Loop Trail

Starting from the parking lot, I made my way west to the first incline. This was the first of two major elevation inclines of the walk. The trail was immediately different from the other trails I had taken so far. Unlike the Montana Heritage Trail and the Fairy Falls/Old Coach trail, this trail was smaller, narrower, and less kept up. This means some fallen trees, so brush across the trail, and later on… lots of mud.


I made my way to McKenzie Junction, this is a small clearing where 5 or 6 trails meet up. In my pre-trip planning, I was considering a deviation from NZtramper, but on the day, I decided that with the muddier conditions, a little time on the road wouldn’t be too bad. So I I decided to keep to the original course and walk up to Anawhata Road. The Pole Line track was actually really nice. It was more in line with some of the other walks I have done, and it was a bit drier there. From there, I walked along the road until I hit the Centennial Track. Now, the Centennial track is kinda amazing. It got REALLY narrow, and it hugged some cliffsides to show some amazing views.

Centennial Track 2

Then, the track began to slow down a lot. The decent for the Centennial track is definitely some of the more challenge walks I have done. There were some washout points, as well as a lot of fallen logs, and trees. It was here when I was thankful that I had two walking sticks instead of one. This may become my standard moving forward. The fact that I could anchor myself which traversing mud and steep steps without losing my balance too much.

The biggest challenge of the walk came with the next three tracks; The Home Track, the Marguerite Track, and the Kauri Grove Track. These tracks had obviously not seen much human interaction in the last few days. Spiderwebs crisscrossed the track, and debris, trees, and mud were rampant. My first 2 hours, I did 8 kilometres, after that, I slowed down a lot in this section. This was also when the rain started. slowing down mighty, I trudged through these three tracks methodically, stopping a couple of times after a slip, or an after a huge incline. This was also where I felt my energy shift. Similar to the Montana walk, I just felt my body switch into a new mode of burning.  I slowed to about a 2.5kms an hour pace, but I had my pace. The second incline was really tough, so I am going to have to figure out how I am going to approach those late day inclines so I can keep my motivation, and speed.


Mauritga track

The Marguerite Trail 

The trail was muddy but gorgeous, and soon the rain stopped and I was still making my way back to my car. I ended up heading towards Kitekite falls. The way to the falls was pretty cool. I ended up crossing some headwaters in several places, and as I walked along the Kauri Grove Track, I could hear the water coming down and collecting into the stream. The water was so gorgeous. Cold and with a blueish/turquoise tint, the water was so inviting, and I can definitely see another trip to enjoy the water when things are a bit warmer, and dryer overall.


Now up to this point in my walk, I had met no person on the trail. With the exception of seeing a biker on Anawhata Road, I hadn’t seen another tramper on the trail. There is both a thrill and a worry with that throughout the day. For the most part, I loved the solitude. Being out in nature on your own is great, and you get to do what you want, and there is time and space to think and contemplate things in your life. Conversely, it is a worry, because knowing how little these tracks were being used, and how narrow and potentially dangerous some of the parts were, I was worried that if I got hurt, and being out of Mobil service range, I could be stuck for a while. The good thing is that with this blog, as well as my manic planning skills, people should know where I am generally to find me if anything were amiss.

But the thought did cross my mind a time or two.



Top of Kitekite Falls

I made it to the top of Kitekite calls at around 1:15pm, about 525 hours into the hike. This is much longer than I anticipated. My overall walking rate came to about 3.5 Kilometers and Hour, and that is pretty good, but I will admit, I felt a little bad with not maintaining a 4km pace. That being said, I did do a much harder tramp than ever before, so I need to keep that in mind.


It was here I saw the first people on the tramp of the day. Three people were just finishing a quick swim in the pool area right before the falls. As a side note, it was not warm yesterday. I was wearing my walking coat, tramping pants, thermals underneath, and I was still cold. Maybe it was because I was warm and cold, sweating throughout the tramp, and then go through rain and mud. Luckily up to this point, my feet were still dry.

Being really tired, I took a break and then crossed the falls. Now, I could have gone down the side and walked around the falls, but I was quite tired at this point and took the path of least resistance. I did wash my face briefly in the water, and OMG, it was so gloriously cold and refreshing. This is definitely a place I want to stop again and spend some time there.  From there, I descended the rest of the way to the parking lot. Towards the bottom, I had to ford one more stream, There were rocks crossing the stream, and as I had before during the day, I started hopping from rock to rock.

And there, I slipped on a slick rock and my foot plunged into the refreshingly cold water. However, it was no longer refreshing. My hiking boots are waterproof… to a point, and unfortunately, water just dumped into my shoe. The last 500 meters or so were quite squishy and cold in a not good way.

I got back to the parking lot, to see that it was full, with more people heading off into the tracks. The weather had cleared in the last 15 minutes, and the skies were now clear. But I was done. Checking my phone, the 15.3-kilometre track advertised turned into a 17.9km walk for me. I don’t know where the extra distance came from, and I wonder if there is a GPS program that is more accurate than my phone. I did the whole track at 6 hours, which, looking back is a good first effort for a first medium difficult track. I ended up doing about a half hour longer than NZtramper, but that being said, I may have walked further than they did.


One last thing, the elevation of this walk was more strenuous than my other walks. I did two main climbs, and the first one was rather easy, but the second one was my struggle.I think it was the up and down, and of course, the depleted energy likely played into it. But it was a good for me.

Overall, I enjoyed this track, but one I will not do again for a while. walking nearly 18kms in the bush is longer than any point on the Hillary Trail, and while I want to train up, I don’t want to overdo it. Next week will be a shorter tramp I suspect, and maybe an easier one as well.

With that, thanks for reading, and see you next week!