Adventure on hold

The decision has been made – I’m hanging up my walking shoes.

It’s been a fascinating (which is a euphemism for: emotional, crappy, euphoric, tumultuous, frustrating) process of recuperation. Being on the sidelines waiting for my shin to recover has messed with my mind and created some dark days and some sunny days.

I refuse to wait with my life on standby any longer.

  • I want to give my leg time to heal fully with no pressure to recommence a physically demanding trek by a certain date, especially with the weather now rather unfavourable.
  • I want to dedicate effort to writing the book without the shadow of “But how will it end?” looming overhead.
  • I want to get stuck into another couple of opportunities (I might even call them ‘adventures’ in their own right) that have presented themselves.
  • I want to get back to a financially healthy position.

Will I end up completing the remaining 700-ish kilometres to Bluff? Only time will tell, as that is another decision for another day.

Some of you will applaud my choice. Some will frown. Only a couple of people (long-distance walkers themselves) will fully understand.

Either way, I truly appreciate your support and encouragement. Thank you.

It’s certainly been an adventure ‘plus’…

Posted in Te Araroa | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Feet stop, mind races: help please!

Today is Day 16 not-walking. Well, I’m not bed-ridden but wearing a moonboot kills any chance of hiking 30km today. Or tomorrow.

Dr Mel is quietly happy with my progress. She gave me some big words to describe my shin: tibialis anterior tendinitis. That means ‘irritated tendon’.

Turns out Dr Mel’s colleague – who ranked my injury as “one of the most severe” cases she’s seen – was none other than Dr Deb, who is team doctor for the All Blacks. She was surprised I could walk at all, but when she said it might take up to four weeks to come right, I don’t think I registered the timeline.

Yet four weeks (if not longer) is now a distinct possibility. If I decide to be pig-headed and carry on regardless, I run the risk of doing permanent injury. That would mean my next forty years of hiking, dancing and tennis would be toast, which is unacceptable. Consequently, I’m following Dr Mel’s instructions.

A number of potential actions are swirling around my brain:

  • I hang up my shoes and call the adventure over. I always said this trek was to “see if I can walk Cape Reinga to Bluff” and whilst I’ve walked a very, very long way, it would seem that I might not be able to go the distance. [As much as it feels like “I’m almost there” – and I greatly appreciate the supportive comments which reflect that – please remember I still have 600-700km to go. That’s a big walk in its own right, let alone in winter.]
  • I press ‘pause’ and resume where I left off once warmer (and safer) weather conditions return in the spring/summer, sticking to the Te Araroa route. My intuition tells me this isn’t a good idea.
  • I rest up for 2-3 weeks more and then modify the intended route, sticking primarily to roadsides (instead of going back-country) and make a bee-line for Bluff. I would need a support person in a campervan or an arranged sequence of hosts who could pickup/dropoff since I don’t see carrying a full, heavy pack to be a wise idea.

I’m curious – what would you do? Your goal is threatened. Your physical health is not 100%. Your bank balance is less than zero. The season is against you. What would you do?

Posted in Health | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Pictures that make me smile

Our planet is bursting with beautiful, memorable sights…

Cameron Hut, up the Hurunui River between Lake Sumner and Harper Pass.

Upper Taramakau River as seen from Harper Pass.

Looking down the Otira River towards Aitkens.

There's not mush-room under there! 😀

New Zealand's very first hydro-electric power station: Lake Coleridge.

No risk of peeing in the wrong place at the 'Hamilton Hilton', Hamilton Creek.

Lagoon Saddle Shelter, along the Harper River.

Keeping on track.

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Intense rest is pretty intense

And yes, the facial fuzz has been removed 🙂

For a week I’ve been sporting this stylish ‘moonboot’ to restrict the flex in my right ankle and help me with “intense rest”. Doctor Mel at SportsMed, though impressed at how fast the severe swelling has gone down, has ordered another week of this stylish footwear. Then she reckons I might need some physio to get it limbered up and strong again.

So that means my let’s-rush-to-beat-the-really-cold-weather plans are blown out the window. It’ll be June before I get close to Bluff now! Brrrrrr.

It almost feels like I need to regroup and treat the Arundel to Bluff segment (all 700km-ish of it) as a completely separate adventure. The game is changing as the season changes…

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The doctor gets tough

Jonathon, David, Claire and Jack - my Ashburton saviours

Matt and Darlene: top-notch taxi drivers 🙂

If only my shin was as gorgeous as the Pudding Hill morning… instead I knew it needed rest so an SOS to Claire in Ashburton soon had me gorging myself on home baking and teaching Jonathon (Scout) and Jack (Cub) the finer points of practical joke etiquette.

Three days of not doing much apart from eating (a much-needed 2kg managed to stick to my skeleton somehow) and I felt I could hit the trail again. According to Matt and Darlene, who deposited me back at Pudding Hill, I looked fine as I disappeared into the afternoon sun.

But trouble loomed. The longer I walked, the sorer and more swollen my right shin became. A decent pause at Staveley helped a little yet by the time I reached Mt Somers I was hobbling. Uh-oh…

Treated to a barbeque dinner and plenty of Easter eggs by Phillippa of Mega Advertising (she didn’t seem to mind me crashing her family weekend) I had crossed fingers, toes and tonsils for a miraculous overnight recovering.

Phillippa and her folks, shivering in the Easter air.

The season is changing! Brrrr...

My heart sank when I woke to find it raining and my shin still rather tender. Determined to reach Geraldine, or at least get closer, I gritted my teeth and plodded on. The road was dead straight and chock full of campervans, caravans and trailers heading home from the long weekend. I was walking face-first into the raindrops and cold rain. For the first time this adventure, the thought “I’m over this” started to skirt the periphery of my mind…

Rescued from the looming darkness, Brian (Group Leader for Geraldine Scouts) had arranged me a shower, food and pillow with next-door-neighbour Austin (Cub Leader) and Anna. Compared to my left ankle, my right was gigantic. Cold ice wasn’t making much difference. I needed help.

With Brian planning to drive to Christchurch the next day, I arranged a physiotherapist appointment at SportsMed. It was soon decided that my ailment wasn’t muscle/bone so I got passed to the GP team. Once again, I managed to raise the eyebrows of medical professionals…

It would seem I have a rather impressive case of inflamed tendons in my shin. To continue walking would have been a limiting move if I want to be active for the next 40 years. The end result? I now have a compression stocking (very fashionable), a ‘moonboot’ to stop my heel from flexing, anti-inflammatory pills plus the instruction for “severe rest”. Joy joy.

Doc even mentioned “at least two weeks” when I asked about expected recovery. Joy joy again, yet for some reason I’m not freaking out about the delay. I wonder what that means?

Posted in Health | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Why I love my sponsors

I’ve been asked several times along my journey whether I managed to secure any sponsorship. Whilst I was unable to find a “here’s a tonne of cash” benefactor (and hence very appreciative of everyone who has pre-bought my book to help fund this trek!) there are a lot of people who assisted in other ways.

Here’s a quick summary of why I like them all sooooo much:

Mega Advertising has given me online credibility – when newspapers and magazines and future sponsors check out my activities on this blog, they find my adventure ‘looks good’.

MapWorld‘s GME Accusat GPS emergency locator beacon is my very economical insurance policy should (touch wood) anything go wrong. Even a hunter I met up the Taramakau River was impressed I had one. The freshmap digital mapping software will be most useful as I write up the book and calculate exactly how many kilometres I strolled. The Garmin GPS has actually been more useful than I thought it would be, even when strolling through urban areas!

My Pacerpoles have become my two best friends on the trail. I credit them with supplying me the power to walk further each day than if I didn’t have them. I have not had one blister on my hands from holding them every single day and they are the perfect ‘how deep is that mud really?’ testers. Plus, they’ve given me rather defined triceps… 😉

The Aarn Design Natural Balance bodypack from Invercargill’s Southern Adventure has generated the most interest from fellow hikers. The twin balance pockets at my chest mean I look different from a traditional walker but there are three distinct advantages in the design: 1) My centre of gravity is over my hips, so I feel balanced and even gazelle-like as I hop over streams and from boulder to boulder. 2) My posture is upright, so I breathe more fully and don’t feel as tired at the end of the day. 3) Within easy reach is my camera, snacks, water-bottle, sunscreen, maps – I actually have to remember to take my pack off for a breather every now and again!

I have been thrashing the Earth Sea Sky clothing. It’s still all going strong. My long-sleeved shirt in particular is not quite the same colour as I started, but even now it can pass as ‘tidy’… just.

The powermonkey-eXplorer portable solar charger from Tightlines in Napier has come into it’s own in the South Island, since I’ve been far from electricity for days on end. It means my mobile phone can be fully charged when I really need it.

I feel sorry for the Formthotics Shock Stop insoles Podamo gave me – they have been subjected to a couple of thousand kilometres of pounding, days of sogginess from wet grass and river crossings, loose shingle and grass and twigs. They’re still rocking, treating my feet with love.

Thrashed. It’s the only word I can use to describe my poor old socks. For over 80 days I’ve walked in just three pairs of LifeSocks from The New Zealand Sock Company, sometimes for a week at a time without washing (unless you count a river crossing). The cream coloured pair aren’t really cream anymore, but the black pairs can still pass as ‘new’. They’re awesome.

Jennifer Manson has been donating $1 from the sale of each of her ‘Tasha Stuart Interviews…’ novels – if you haven’t checked out this brilliant read, you need to.

Now as much as I love chocolate and sweet things, I’ve been super impressed with how tasty and filling the beef jerky and steak bars of Jack Link’s have been. Full of protein and energy, they keep me going until dinner time. My favourite is the BBQ flavour steak bar! M-mmmmm…

Now that the temperatures are dropping, I’m very glad I have a merino GT Velocity Crew tee from Icebreaker to sleep in each night. Toasty! And their Hike Lite Crew socks are perfect for an evening in a mountain hut.

The Pacer1 tent from Aarn Design was the smallest tent at the Scout Jamboree in Hamilton in January. But that’s a good thing, because I wouldn’t want to carry more than it’s 1.3kg! It keeps me warm and dry and safe from all the creepy crawlies I’ve encountered along the trail.

Meals from Back Country Cuisine have been a godsend at the end of a long day walking. Fast and easy to prepare, tasty with a wide range of flavours (Chicken Tikka Masala rocks!) they’ve been handy to have in my pack if I need them.


Of course, Bluebridge and L.A.Fitness teamed up to help me walk across Cook Strait. Without them, I’d have spent 3.5 hours just sitting down, relaxing. Now when I reach Bluff I’ll be able to say I’ve walked ALL the way from Cape Reinga!

Huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me so far on this journey: sponsors, friends and unexpected Trail Angels. You’re all awesome… 😀


[Oh, and remember, being super-clear, these people and companies are supporting my walk of Te Araroa and thus MyAdventurePlus. They don’t have a direct connection with SCOUTS New Zealand. And any donations via the ‘Donate’ button at the top of this page go to me, Stuart Fleming, for use during the trek.]

That said, if you would like to enquire about how you can support SCOUTS directly (yes, achieving sustainable funding is a very high priority for our National Office!) then please contact National Fundraising Manager, Tony Hickmore on +64 (0)4 495 8675 or Thanks! 🙂

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Crossed the Rakaia without getting wet!

After a hectic afternoon in Arthur’s Pass setting up an Indiegogo campaign to (fingers crossed!) garner some further donations to fill the I-need-to-eat-more fund, I beetled my way past Klondyke Corner to Bealey, arriving at the ever-so-cute Bealey Hut in the dark. It started raining minutes after I arrived.

I could have watched the clouds and sun all morning!

The next morning was calm, with low cloud casting mysterious shadows on the mountains and down into the Waimakariri Valley. My day ended at Hamilton Hut, which rightly deserves it’s nickname of ‘Hamilton Hilton’!

Then came the rain. Walking all morning down Harper River in the pouring rain was tiring. My poor hands couldn’t grip the wrapper on my yummy Jack Link’s beef snack – I had to go hungry until my fingers thawed!

By the time I reached the Ryton campsite on the edge of Lake Coleridge the rain and wind had ceased. It was a surreal scene – water like glass, low clouds just hanging, silence. Beautiful.

Cold water. Ominous clouds. The joys of hiking...

I couldn’t reach Lake Coleridge Village the next day without getting wet again. Thankfully Hugh, a friendly local, pointed me in the direction of some trees which ‘officially’ I could camp beneath. In the rain. Brrrr. Looking across the Rakaia River the dark clouds were ominous – that was the direction Te Araroa was taking me next…

Monday meant I had visitors! (That makes it sound like I’ve been in jail – I guess I have been ‘doing time’!) Vicki and Jennifer – two of the original bunch of friends who insisted I embark on this adventure – were coming to transport me safely across the Rakaia since the river is deemed a ‘safety zone’, ie. too dangerous to cross.

No flippin wonder it was cold last night!!

However the morning had dawned with a healthy dump of snow on the hills. Heavens – and they were the hills I was planning to walk amongst?!

So we drove to Methven for delicious food and grocery shopping, and to devise (yup, you guessed it) yet another Plan B.

Instead of spending over a week trying to navigate the snowy back-country and survive tentative ‘iffy’ marginal weather forecasts, I’m going to stick to the road/populated bits for a time, hopefully accelerating my journey south.

So Vicki and Jennifer duly returned me to delightful Lake Coleridge Village to dry my tent and pitch it once again beneath the towering trees.

At 5.00pm – just 90 minutes from darkness – a large green Landcruiser pulled up. A lady got out. We spoke. I was being ordered out of town. “No camping is allowed anywhere.” Oh good 😦

So I promptly picked up my tent and plonked it on the spare grassy part of Hugh’s section, as he’d already offered. Easy 🙂

Dawn however had my tent white with frost – brrrrr! But it was fine, and a perfect morning for hiking down the road to the Rakaia Gorge Bridge. Why was my lower back sore, I wonder? And was that the cause of my right shin to once again feel tight and uncomfortable…?

Reaching the gorge, I crossed the formidable river staying nice and dry. Cutting the day short to rest my leg, I pitched on the grass overlooking the river at the gorge campground – a fantastic site. Dennis and Annette from Christchurch made conversation and as we chatted in the warmth of their cosy campervan, the wind started.

Not just a gently zephyr or meandering breeze, a true-blue howling gale down the gorge. I was impressed at how my PacerTent (nice one Aarn Design!) was handling the gusts. My biggest issue was the noise!

So at midnight I threw in the towel, (actually I couldn’t since my towel was hanging to dry and I never found it in the tussock until daylight) dropped the tent and moved everything into the dining shelter. Not a bad few hours sleep, considering!

Today was wet and my shin is hurting like a painful thing. Rats! Drat! Blast! Only on Monday I said to Vicki I was feeling fit and strong and healthy. Today I feel 103 years old with the energy level of a corpse. Did I mention it’s raining?

I shuffled through the dampness (big thumbs up to the Fulton Hogan truck drivers who kept giving me the widest berth of all the vehicles today – thanks guys!) as far as Pudding Hill Lodge. That’s where I’m staying put tonight, leg up and fingers crossed for improvements all round tomorrow.

Bluff seems soooo close and yet there’s still an awful lot of effort to go…

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Arthurs Pass? Done!

I’m pleased to report there was no snow on top of Harper Pass, unlike Waiau Pass. Instead I enjoyed stunning sunshine as I walked up the valley to reach the top, and then down along the Taramakau River.

The forecast however has kept me from attempting the Mingha/Deception route so I followed the road through Otira to Arthurs Pass. Now Bealey and Harper River and Lake Coleridge beckon. Fingers crossed the rain stays away…

And on Monday morning I meet up with Vicki (one of the original “you better complete this walk, Stuart!” gang) who will ensure I don’t drown in the powerful Rakaia River by transporting me from one bank to the next.

The help I’m receiving along the way by friends and strangers is heartwarming… thanks guys! 🙂

Posted in Te Araroa | 2 Comments

Crampons and ice-axe, anyone?

So much has happened since I last was able to post an update… here are the highlights:

Beautiful Lake Rotoiti



ANY hut is 5-star when it has a fireplace and mattress!

Got a ride to Christchurch with Nicky from Blenheim. Attended the Queen’s Scout Award presentation with the Governor General and a dozen very proud teenager Venturer Scouts. Caught up with all my family (including Dad who was recovering from emergency intestinal surgery) and only a handful of buddies. Didn’t really see much of the quake-hit parts of town – too quick a visit.

Relocated a rental car back to get back north (via Lewis Pass to arrange the bounce-box handling) and Nicky and Aaron once again put me back on trail, from where I had finished up beneath the shadow of Mt Richmond.

Strolled along to St Arnard (3 days worth). It was a frosty morning when I set off from there around the postcard-worthy Lake Rotoiti and up Travers Valley. Cold crossing Travers Saddle and spent the next day stuck in a hut as the rain poured and poured and poured.

The next morning however, all was silent on the roof. That’s because snowflakes don’t make much noise. Decided to head towards Waiau Pass and see if conditions were OK for a crossing. Fair to say hindsight is a wonderful thing, and another day tucked up warm in my sleeping bag in Blue Lake Hut probably would have been a good idea.

Instead I forged up and over a very windy, very snowy and very cold Waiau Pass, and lived to now tell the tale!

Linked up with St James Walkway and am posting this from Hanmer – a superquick visit to grab some more food and head into Lake Sumner / Harper Pass area to reach Arthurs Pass before the next forecast cold and rain-filled front blows in from the south.

Thanks to everyone who has dropped me a note, hoping I’m staying warm and dry… I’m doing my best to! And once again, I’ll be out of coverage for a week or two – I’m going to try a full-on effort to chomp some kilometres and get out of the alpine neighbourhood as soon as possible.

Comments and messages are a real treat when I do hit ‘civilisation’ so please keep ’em coming! 🙂

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South Island (+ Bluebridge) pics

Bluebridge ferry + L.A.Fitness treadmill = 3.5 hours of 'walking on water'

Picton and Blenheim Venturers fuelled up on sausages, bread and sauce.

Thanks for the ride Endeavour Express - the best way to get to Ship Cove!

Was a gorgeous morning to start the Queen Charlotte Track.

The sun was shining and the birds were singing...

The next day was a bit more overcast and drizzly...

By the time I reached Anakiwa's Outward Bound, the sun had gone!

What kind of mailbox does a Porshe restorer have? This one!

Thought you might like to see some of the country I’ve been walking and people I’ve been meeting…


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