Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner and a worrier. These are my worst Type A personality traits that I inherited from my father, who books Thanksgiving dinner reservations in May. J is the complete opposite of me, and tries his very best to get me to go with the flow, but it's so much more fun to be Type A, don't you agree?
In any case, we leave in less than a month for New Zealand and my worrying (and hence my insomnia) is at an all-time high.
Here's the thing. Our AT thru hike was 5 years in the making. I read about 5 books written by people who had hiked the AT, kept up with 50+ different blogs and of course had the guidebook to help me when it came to really planning out our logistics of mail drops, resupply, water sources along the trail, hostels and everything else.
The Te Araroa (btw, pronounced Teh-Ah-Roar-Ah) is a whole different beast. Not only are there trail logistics, but there is the whole international twist to planning.
The TA has been in our "plans" for about 3 years, so I have been researching as much as I can over the years. But, there is very little information to go by, being the trail is so new. I read 1 book by the guy who dreamed of the trail and was the first person to hike the whole thing. I've stalked maybe a dozen blogs out there by TA hikers. The biggest puzzle piece missing is a detailed guidebook. There are trail notes (that change often) and maps that you piecemeal together. I have to say I am extremely lucky that another hiker did that this year and uploaded all the information for others to use, saving me loads and loads of time. Still, I like to read things over and put in my own notes, creating more work than I probably should.
The other thing is going international. I should say I am glad we chose an English-speaking country (with some interesting slang) as our international debut, but any international travel creates an extra to-do list. There's obtaining a 6-month visitor visa, booking flights, booking hostels, obtaining travel insurance, understanding their medical system, buying a converter plug, converting kilometers to miles, converting US dollars to NZ dollars, customs regulations and well, many other things my brain is forgetting in this very moment.
For your entertainment, I wrote down the questions that plague my mind sometime between the hours of 2:30am and 6am. Just in case you weren't sure how a Type A person operated. You're welcome.
1) Will we be forced to book our return flight from NZ sooner than we want?
***We booked a one-way flight with the intention of giving us flexibility. For our Visa, we had to prove we had bank account funds that would get us back out of the country after 6 months. However, we know of one couple who had the same intentions, but the airline would not let them on the plane until they booked their return tickets. We have made all the necessary phone calls to see that we won't have the same problem, but you just never know until you get there.
2) Will our 50 dehydrated meals we are planning to take with us be confiscated? Is it worth the risk bringing in a bunch of our favorite comfort meals? Or just risk depending on what is available in NZ grocery stores (called a "dairy")?
***NZ has some of the strictest border controls on what you can bring into the country. You declare everything and they inspect everything. And sometimes they taketh. Our camping gear/clothing/shoes cannot have a speck of dirt on it. Some of the food guidance is unclear. There are weight limitations for concentrated liquid food, non-liquid food, moisture-reduced foods and spices. I think I get the rules, but again, you just never know until you get there.
3) Will we see a penguin?
4) Will we get lost on the trail?
***Navigation is tricky on the TA. There are orange markers in some places, but there it's not like the white blazes found on the Appalachian Trail. This is why we are bringing a GPS and a Spot Satellite Messenger (thanks Fire Marshall for letting us borrow yours!). Oh, and we do a lot of coastal walking and have to pay attention to low tide and high tide. To be terribly honest, I don't even know what that means right now. Hopefully J has that covered.
5) Will something happen that needs our attention while we are "off the grid?"
***J & I have set up our lives so we can "disappear" (i.e., live on the road or trail with a roaming address). We have renters in our VA house who are staying at least through April. We have only a few bills, most of which are automatic. On a side note, we pay the water bill for our VA house and the city is possibly the only organization that is still stuck in 1999 and has no autopay option. On another note, their employees are not the brightest of the bunch and manage to screw it up every time we change our billing address (granted, we've changed it 10 times in the past 2 years … ) Anyway, we were mostly accessible on the AT with a phone signal at least once a week. This time, we will be 17 hours ahead of the East Coast and though we will have a smartphone, access will not be as readily available as it was on the AT.
6) Are drinks really free on Air New Zealand? How many?
7) Will our mail drops and resupply options go smoothly?
***On the AT, we sent ourselves (with the help of my post office-loving mother) 12 packages (http://wanderinglavignes.blogspot.com/p/mail-drops.html). It worked out perfectly. We were easily able to make adjustments. We loved having our comfort foods every so often. And, so many friends and family surprised us with mail magic to these drops. On the TA, we plan to send ourselves about 5 packages along the trail, mostly on the south island, which is more remote. But, it is so darn expensive to mail anything from the US to NZ that we will be sending them from NZ. We will put them together in Auckland. It is hard to imagine what breakfast items/lunch items/snacks/dinners they may have in NZ (which is why we really want to bring our 50 dehydrated meals). Will they have J's favorite honey buns? Will they have my favorite trail snack, Swedish Fish?
***No explanation needed.
9) Will I finish my never-ending and always-growing to-do list?
***We have made great progress on the to-do list, but time is really running out. We leave Mon., Nov. 3 to make our way to the Grand Canyon for our Leave No Trace Master Educator course and won't be back until Nov. 16. So that leaves 7 days for NZ prep/wrapping up other life things. On my to-do list includes e-mailing/calling a few friends. Believe it or not, 5 of my closest girlfriends are not on Facebook (the horror!) and I'm not even certain they know we are going to NZ unless they checked this blog recently (4 of them have kids and a full time job).
10) Will we remember to pack everything?
***This past summer, we backpacked a lot in the same kinds of conditions over and over again. When it came to packing our backpacks, we kept it simple and could do it with our eyes closed. There's a lot more gear and little things we wouldn't normally carry for this upcoming trek. And I could just see it now. We make camp, the sand flies are swarming and I realize I left my head net at home.
11) Last, but not least, will we meet Frodo on the trail?