New Zealand -Naked but Not Alone. Chapter 3.
Updated: Aug 9
Sunday, November 25, 1984
We headed back to Christchurch for a day before we planned to fly to Australia.
That night we met two guys at the hostel.
Peter and Andy.
Andy has dark hair and glasses with a fit body. He’s a cyclist and triathlete from New York.
Peter has blond hair and a beard and stood about 6’ 3” tall. He had just finished traveling the world, and Andy came to join him in New Zealand. I think they met in college.
Peter brought a chess game. I love chess. I’m not the best player, but I do love to give an ass whooping if I have the chance. We ended up playing into the wee hours of the night. Everyone was talking and getting along wonderfully.
I thought to myself, too bad we didn't meet these guys a week ago.
The next day we all went running together in the morning and planned to meet for lunch at the Botanic Gardens.
The gardens were founded in 1863 when an English oak was planted to commemorate the solemnization of the marriage of Prince Albert and Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
"Hey, we were wondering, do you guys want to come with us?" asked Peter.
They asked us to go with them for the next nine days around New Zealand.
My mind started to spiral as I debated what to do.
"They have a Range Rover."
"Yes, we just met them last night, and they could be psycho killers."
" No, they're nice guys."
"Ted Bundy appeared to be a nice guy."
Before I started this trip, I promised myself that I would be open to adventures that came my way.
I would say yes to the things that might scare the hell out of me or weren’t part of the plan.
I would say yes because it was the only way to experience another place and let it change me...
which is why I’m here in the first place.
Beth looked at me, and I at her.
"Let's do it."
We were supposed to fly to Australia the next day, but how can you call yourself a "world traveler" if you allow the constraints of "plans" or what you're "supposed to do" to keep you from being adventurous?
We changed our departure date on our flight tickets, went to the bank to get money, and hit the road with Peter and Andy.
First, stop Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its height is l3,724 meters. It sits in the Southern Alps, the mountain range that runs the length of the South Island. The mountain itself holds huge significance to the Ngai Tahu people, the local Maori tribe.
In the morning, Beth and I got up early to go for a run. We entered a paddock that was the home of some cattle. They looked pretty docile and just looked at us like they were not interested. We were running across the field when they started to charge us.
We made it to the gate and jumped over.
I read later that people get hurt, if not killed, all the time when they nonchalantly walk into a paddock, they don't belong. Cows and cattle can run up to 25 mph, while the average human tops out at 15 mph. I'm not sure how fast we ran that day, but it was fast.
The next stop, Queenstown,to get everything ready for the Milford Track.
Around 100 years ago, in an article that appeared in the London Spectator, the poet Blanche Baughan declared the Milford Track to be "the finest walk in the world."
Arguably New Zealand’s most famous walk, the 53-kilometer journey begins at the head of Lake Te Anau, and leads you across suspension bridges, boardwalks, and a mountain pass. The Milford Track will show you pristine lakes, sky-scraping mountain peaks, and enormous valley views, and it will take you to feel the misty breath of Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand.
That night we went to a lovely restaurant and ate like pigs. We split four desserts. Maybe we were carbo-loading, knowing we’ll be on a trail for days and eating only the food we can carry.
In the morning, we drove to Te Anau to catch the bus for the Milford Track.
We had some problems getting our tickets, but it all worked out. We left on the bus at 1:15 to launch across the lake to start Milford. It’s a beautiful sunny day for a five-day hut-to-hut trek on one of the most iconic walks in New Zealand.
We’ll walk eight to ten hours a day through green, wet valleys, sometimes in the rain, always surrounded by dozens of waterfalls streaming down the black mountains on either side. At night we slept in huts.
I spent the walking days alternating between peaceful and angry. Sometimes just breathing in the green, sometimes playing out various situations of what went wrong in my marriage.
We made it to hut #1.
It was a long day but worth the walk. The rainforest is like no other place I’ve ever seen.
The next day we walked for 8 miles through the bush and never-ending beauty. A lovely sunny day again.
We all walked, talked, and sometimes separated and spent hours walking alone. The scenery looks like that of The Lord of the Rings, and I felt like an explorer on a quest.
I started replaying the last three years of my life less and less and began to think about the future more. My failed marriage started to become less important. Less shame. Less of my identity.
We came upon a beautiful waterfall cascading from the high top of the mountain.
“We should take our Christmas card photo,” Beth suggested
"I'll go," I replied.