A story of Stone

Stone tools

Learning to make stone tools changed my life. It added a dimension to pre colonial maori I never thought about before and more importantly made me respect how good primitive technology really is. The way your eyes and hands become trained to see tools waiting to be shaped in seemingly worthless stones is like a super power (makers vision I called it).

Stone knife

I have been to a single stone tool workshop where we made basic toki (stone blades for cutting wood) and I am hungry for more. There is a gathering for maori tool makers at a marae in Plimmerton and I am so excited I flutter around trying to take an many mental snapshots as I can. I had only seen these things in books, I take in as many details as I can, unsure of what I should make under expert supervision.

There are many things being created around me, fish hooks made from shells, cloaks from flax and many forms of cutting tools from stone. Stone tooling is tedious work, there is a feeling of easy going conversation to make up for how boring it is. Sitting with everyone as they weave flax and knap stone, you could almost imagine this was how our ancestors were, making jokes, singing songs as they worked. I never got into kapa haka, but this I totally love.

Wanting to start small I take a stone from the pile and attempt to shape out a basic knife thinking it would be simple enough. Hefting my hammer stone I tapped at my piece of stone carefully only to have it break right down the middle. I try again and again but eventually the stone was too small to be much use and I have to look for a new one.
Eventually one of the older stone toolers takes me aside. “It’s easy” he says. “You don’t need to waste time making a knife shaped rock. Just take a piece of flint or obsidian and knap off a flake that you can use then throw away when you are done. This stone will give you many razor sharp blades with no effort. Just make sure you knap along the ridge you can’t go wrong”. He hands me a piece of obsidian as a gift and walks away.

Afterwards I am convinced I could totally shave with stone. I get rid of my straight razor the next day and am in the bathroom with the black volcanic obsidian in one hand and my trusty hammer stone in the other. Carefully taking aim I strike at the stone hoping to get a larger chunk to shave with. Only to have the whole stone break into cubes with no sharp edges on them what so ever. “Easy he said” I mutter to myself as I pick the pieces out of the sink.

   

The ultra light hiker

It has been a long day marching through the Pureora forest and I am tired when I reach the hut. Bog Inn hut is a rat infested tin shed that sits in the middle of the a dark goblin forest. I have pushed hard to make track times, but no matter how hard I press the trail notes alway seem to say I am slow. I tell myself its because my temperamental gear and barefooted I still can’t help but feel a blow to my ego.

At the hut a german hiker is there pouring over his gps muttering to himself. As we chat about how we are finding the trail, he informs me of how inaccurate the trail notes are in regard to timing and distance. This makes me feel a little better about my progress so far as I felt some of the places I couldn’t have made the distance if I was running. He had not had a good time so far

“This hut is surrounded by trees! I was hoping to take a beautiful picture of the sun set”

The conversation from all hikers usually moves from where you are from to food and hiking gear. With the way I have chosen to hike, sometimes I encounter strong opinions.

“What are you eating?”

“Whatever I can get my hands on. You?”

“I put carrot in my pasta. Do you have a map of the next area?” I pull my gear a part handing him the map.

“This is a very heavy map!” he weighs it up in his hand.

“I don’t mind really” I say.

“Every ounce counts you know” he explains sagely.

“Seriously its fine” I reaffirm.

“I even cut the handle off my tooth brush” he continues having not heard me.

“If you think my paper is heavy you are going to hate my ax”

“You are carrying an ax?!”

“Yeah I made it from a really nice river stone I found a few days back”

“It’s MADE OF STONE!?”

The rest of the evening he sits there in disbelief as I pull out an assortment of sticks and stones of various shapes and sizes from my dry bag. With every item he tells I am crazy repeatedly, we both laugh when I agree with him. The rats scurry around the old tin hut are the only background noise as we settle in for the night.

Hello again

So I have been writing about the walk and sadly it has been taken me longer to write about walking then actually walking.

Here is my plan. I will be leaving pieces of my writing here on my blog till the actual book is ready. Probably once a month. Hope you enjoy.

 

Discovering small universes

As I walked the trail I happened across many small communities. I was always welcomed, and got to partake in some amazing experiences I would never get anywhere else. It made me feel sorry for the people I saw in the buses called Kiwi Experience, little did they know they would find more if they got out and walked.

It had been amazing to meet long distance hikers but I was on a different mission. As I tinkered away with a new design made from bamboo I found by my campsite, I couldn’t help but notice more and more people stream into the camp ground. My odd shelter set up attracted people over to me and after introductions I was to find out that the surf life savers were having their annul get together. The smell of BBQ was alluring and lucky for me they were more then happy to share. Like all the small towns I would come into along my journey, I come to see the similarities and differences in New Zealand culture.

With version two of my pack and the abandonment of a lot of unnecessary equipment everything sat nicer on my back. I walked around the campground awkwardly being watched by locals who were still prepping for their prize giving later in the evening. The soon to be familiar questions were asked and I stumbled though my replies.

“What are you doing?”

“Walking the length of New Zealand using stuff that I made while hunting and gathering”

“Why are you doing it?”

“Seemed like a good idea at the time”

‘Are you crazy?’

“Yes”

I did my best impression of a person at ease in an unfamiliar environment and used making fun of myself to befriend the locals. Most were not so impressed with what I had made so far but they knew how far it was to Cape Reinga so I got brownie points for that. Dinner and beer was handed out and the life guards had at least three generations sitting around their tables. When speeches and prizing givings were under way it started to feel more like a mix of Marae and ruby club. Sea food, laughter, music, kids running around.

Peter Jackson once said “New Zealand is not a small country but a large village”. I was a little taken back by how many people there were. I never imagined the people who sit at the beach in those uniforms to be anything other then kids who knew how to swim. But these guys had history, ritual and community that seemed so big and very welcoming. As I parted with more new friends and a massive hangover the next morning I disappeared into the bush believing I would be greeted warmly if I returned.

Growing up I have always felt like I belonged in New Zealand, by living here my whole life I knew all there was to know about the place. I saw no reason to go to the smaller towns because nothing happened there. But only by being a TA walker did I literally stumble across how diverse this country is, traveling over seas you see how small New Zealand is but only by walking can you see how big it can be. Food, stories and music are common themes that connect our culture as a whole but within small town New Zealand are even smaller universes waiting to be discovered. 

Trials by error messages

Learning to code is like trying to hold a basic conversation in a second language. No matter how clear and precise you think you are being, there is only so much you information you can convey when you are limited to the words ‘Yes’ and ‘hello’.

Being at EDA everyday has changed my relationship with computers. The changes are hardly noticed by those unfamiliar with who I am but never the less they are there. Like a second language, you find the ways you can express yourself in code grows the more you practice. Words like array and variable now sit in a different place in my head. Through daily exposure the computer has become a familiar tool. Not quite an extension of my hands the way it seems to be for the people I have met on site but I still have time.

In our final week, the sole survivors of Kahu banded together to make Birdseye a community crime watch app. We had a week to make mvp but each of us had hopes in making the app something we could show off to future employers. This stress of what life after code school would be like  sometimes messed with our team dynamics. Each of us with personal dramas and our own demons to wrestle.

After many talks and many more mistakes it was interesting to see how we each had a chance to freak out and be picked up by a person who was feeling it that day. There were no real leaders just the person who had the ability to do what needed to be done that day. These mistakes shaped us and together we found out what each of us found was important. When we were on the same page nothing was impossible, we had the power to do anything.   

As we came up to presentation, each of us expressed what we felt was the most valuable learning experience. Standing together we shared our story of making something, despite our differences and inexperience. As Kahu we had got though the Dev acdemy bootcamp.    

I am aware my knowledge is limited but the prospects of growing as a developer by building apps I would use in everyday life is exciting. It has been months after EDA, I balance my time making technologies both old and new I really get a kick out of sharing my work space (a standing desk made from pallets) with stone tools and a laptop. At least I can still hunt and gather if job prospects don’t look good…..and maybe even write a blog about it.17_01

The grind

Learning to code is like building with legos.

Each piece of code is a small robust block that you arrange in relation to other blocks. Like lego, you can build almost anything!

But the way you approach the task is the real trick.

Last week we were asked to make a simple blog app in Rails in under two hours. There was no pressure, it was just a way of seeing what we had learnt (and more importantly what we hadn’t). The most revealing thing was how much I really didn’t understand. I had things that I knew I should do, but when it came down to it I couldn’t figure out a way to tackle the problem. A little lost, I sat for most of the two hours achieving very little (much like I am writing this late at night when I should be coding).

I dug around looking for something to latch onto; I thought I knew the steps but what to tackle first was difficult to see. Given the freedom to do anything I liked I was frozen in place, my mind looking for the first step but finding nothing. In the end I had two pages with a button that went from one page to another and nothing else. It was pathetic.

Disheartened by my lack of coding, and coming to the realization that I didn’t really understand much of anything, I got angry. Anger is normally a negative attribute for people, but I felt alive, after months of sitting on my butt staring at a computer my blood was pumping. My mind became determined, however I had to figure out a plan of attack.

Normally if I come against a block in the physical world, I push through by sheer will power. When I tried to learn archery there was a moment of absolute failure before I gained clarity. I had a clear object of hitting a dinner plate size target from twenty meters. Every day I would go up to the range and practice, but on one day in particular everything went wrong. I hit myself in the face three times, I missed more then I hit, the pain from having poor technique and a bruised ego (and wrist) was enough to make me want to give up. It was in this moment I kept going; in this moment there is something to be discovered, some simple bit of common sense or something that someone said that dawns on you.

This attitude doesn’t work with code however. Pushing past the point of mental exhaustion only means not taking anything in. Learning to back away from a problem has been difficult for me. When it comes to mental challenges, gaining space from the project and doing chin ups (I am getting so good at them) helps more then pushing through. It is astounding how your brain still works on stuff in the background. Outside the space you code, the solutions slowly began bubble to the surface. I needed to find a coding compass.

The guiding rule of martial arts is about distance. If you want to hit someone, get close enough to do it, and if you don’t want to be hit get far enough away. This is a simple rule and dictates the how and why of every movement. Discovering a governing rule of coding however was another thing entirely.

I asked anyone I saw coding what they were doing, watching them solve problems. My mind slowly started to form the beginnings of something. In my minds eye, code became like small blocks of lego being built piece by piece. Methodically tested to ensure it’s reliability, each block taking data from the block below then applying the changes to the block above. Though it is tempting to race head or to think of everything at once, you can become lost and your tower falls. But by taking the code block by block you create strong foundations to build great things.

Getting through the grind is never easy and it’s been a steep curve to figuring out how to tackle the  mental challenges but the rewards for your persistence are worth it…. I still haven’t finished that blog app though.  8_01

The cave man becomes a coder

Learning to code is like walking in half way through a movie. You sit and listen trying to memorize names and get a hint of what they might be on about. But ultimately you don’t want to ask what’s going on because that guy is annoying, no one wants to be that guy. I actually liked to see how much of a movie I can understand out of context. The trick is to forget about the details and focus on what they do. You let the names wash over you and watch their actions. Then slowly the picture is formed. Piece by piece. Then once the movie finishes you ask for peoples opinions. They fill in the blanks and you look like a good listener when secretly you have no idea what the hell was going on.

So life off the trail has been hard. I have been attempting to write a book about my experiences (The process will take longer then walking the trail). Working a cafe job in the weekends and generally trying to figure out what this experience has been about. 

I did however say I would keep myself open to whatever opportunities that come up. The thing that was important to me was that I could do more good for others seen as I was so well looked after on the trail. I figured I would be doing a DOC job, or fruit picking or doing something that would take advantage of my new found outdoors skills. But though a series of events I found myself in a 18 week coding bootcamp called Dev academy.

Luckily!!

This bootcamp does not require computer skills (I really don’t have any, The first computer I had I was 25 and I sat on it in the first month) you just need the enthusiasm to learn. The first nine weeks I was given tasks to do from home, that was hard. A lot of information didn’t really sink in at all. The sharp contrast to life off the trail making sitting in front of a computer difficult and the stress of thinking I may have bitten off more then I can chew really got to me.

But I don’t give up, ever. No matter how much pain and suffering I have to go though. (It’s a gift?)

The class room environment was a different space all together. I worried that my personal quirkiness (You know making stone tools, hunter, gathering and general barefootedness) would be a problem in a office environment. But really I have felt nothing but welcome. There is hard work to done but there are also plenty of help to get there. The hungrier you are to learn the more you can get out of the space. But you have to do the pushing to get there.

The people side of programming is an important aspect to Dev academy. Computer programs are made by people, and used by people. Good code has to be understood like carefully written stories. Group projects are thought out in teams and paper versions of web sites are made to keep everyone on the same page. Piece by piece they are put together, testing and refactoring as you go. Until you are left with a working product. Though to be honest it seems there is always improvements to be made.

I am only in week four and taking on projects feels bit like climbing mountains. You are never sure if the peak you have in your sights is the top. The only thing you can do is put your head down and get to it. Sometimes I still weave and shape stones, but for the next 6 weeks (How long it I graduate) I have to hang up my rain cape and put my crazy determination into this new journey. Do I have what it takes to work a computer? I’m not sure. But at least the warmer weather is coming up so if I fail I can always go for a hunt or something.

By the way t

his time last year I was on 90 mile beach digging for shell fish, fishing and shooting at quails. It is amazing how life can be so different year to year.7_01 (1)

Jory

I know it’s been awhile but…

I have been busy.
I will be over sharing soon I promise.
In the meantime I wrote a fictional short story based on my walk across New Zealand and I would like to share it.
So here it is.

I march head down, staring at my muddy bare feet. I am surrounded by heavy rain drops and a moss covered forest, the track is replaced by streams of water over flowing like rivers. I take a step into a puddle only to have my leg disappear up to my hip “at least the terrain is flat,” I say aloud. My hiking friends have left me behind, and my homemade pack groans as I try to drag myself out of the sink hole. The thin shoulder straps I have been using as a quick fix protest as I use a nearby branch to right myself. I carefully find my feet again, fearing the straps will break and I will be carrying my broken pack on my head.
My legs are going dead from my belt being too tight around my hips and my arms are tingling again where the straps bite into my shoulders. It must be time for a break – I see a stump to sit on and instantly blood rushes back to my limbs. I set my watch to five minutes and will myself to be healed from all the aches and pains I feel in my bare feet. Mornings are the hardest part, it takes a while for the pain in my feet to get to the point where I stop noticing it happens by ten am, like clock work. Through the trees I can see the beginning of a steep climb, the hut I am trying to get to is on the top of a ridge at a one thousand meter elevation and the only way is up.

“How was the walk?”
I am asked on my way home. My mind pauses for a moment as I remember that day climbing that ridge.
With a careful smile I reply “Great.”
Another pause as I try to recall the response I had prearranged for this situation.
“Sick of instant mashed potato though,” we both laugh.
“You must be really fit now.”

An image flickers in my mind’s eye, of my reflection in the mirror in a public toilet. It is the day after I finished. I look small and run down. Skin dry with weird tan lines. I never really looked at myself until this point and I wouldn’t call this fit.
“Yeah I can walk forever,” I reply. Another pause then smile.
“Was it worth it?”

Alone on the ridge line over 1700m above sea-level the narrow rocky tops stretch out in front of me. The clouds flow over the mountains below me like water to a dam. I don’t have clear visibility but if I look down I can see worn grooves in the rock where years of walking have formed a track. Sometimes I hear goats calling each other below, sometimes I hear nothing. Each peak I climb is replaced by another, and the track sometimes becomes a rocky balancing beam with steep drops on either side. I look out into the sea of clouds knowing that there is supposed to be an amazing view but I just happened to be passing though on the wrong day.

“Definitely,” I say.
I got a free coffee out of this conversation, there is no way I will tell her that I am returning home broke, jobless and living back at my parents. Too poor to get a bus back, I had decided to hitch home from Bluff and hope for the best once I got to Picton. With my money card bent I have no idea how much I have.… I think I have enough? In a moment of weakness I had bought a pack of fresh blueberries from a fruit shop on the side of the road (and tipped the whole pack into my mouth) and was about to get a coffee when the barista had asked if I was one of those hikers. Next thing I know I have a free coffee in my hand and I am being asked the same questions I get asked when I re-enter society.

“What was your favorite part?”
I remember the sudden cold snap one morning on the ridge line. I have to hike again despite the conditions. What few clothes I have I am wearing but my fingers have gone numb and I can’t think straight. I am a little worried that it is the beginning of hypothermia. I increase my pace to stay warm but I notice a shoe lace is untied. I bend down to tie it. My fingers don’t work anymore and I can’t recall how to tie my laces, defiantly hypothermia. I know there are no huts for the rest of this section of trail so I will be sleeping in the exposed hills. Keeping my limbs in tight, I push on, abandoning the complex task of shoe tying. When I decide to make camp it is only early evening, but I have had no breaks and found little shelter to protect me. The wind is like ice, I make a rain cover from my poncho and check my water bottles, I have enough for tea and my dehydrated potatoes for dinner and even some for morning porridge if I am lucky.

I clear a space amongst the tall dry grass for my cooker to boil water and do my best to shelter it from the wind. I stare hungrily at the water waiting for it to boil. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast, all is silent maybe the storm has passed. I hear the wind roll in from afar this time in the other direction, it picks up the poncho, pulling at the pegs that secure it to the ground. The cooker’s flame licks at some nearby grass and the side of my little campsite is in flames instantly. I empty one of my water bottles to put out the fire. Well there goes porridge my campsite is now surrounded by black scorch marks. I drop a tea bag into my cup and settle down watching the full moon rise over the mountains that I am amongst. The barely warm tea is strangely satisfying to drink after a long cold day of uneventful hardship.

“Long distance walking means you walk for weeks in beautiful environments then just when you start getting sick of it, you’re over a hill and you’re in a new environment.” By the expression on her face I can tell that she doesn’t quite get it. But she smiles politely anyway.
“What made you want to do it?”
“….Ummm.”

This was the question I asked myself frequently when things were going wrong. It has been one of the longest distances I have covered in one day and my body is complaining about it. At least it was flat grasslands instead of the weeks of mountain walking, but I am still dead tired. I stumble into the hut and grunt something that resembles a “hello,” to the other occupants. The ritual of dinner has been refined to take less than ten minutes and I have searched and sorted the reading material in the hut knowing I have another hour before it starts getting too dark to read. I am settled in with my tea and have found old powdered milk in the hut – a luxury. The reading material is that good this time I use my head lamp to finish my chapter in bed.

It is about three am when I realize there is something wrong with my stomach but I just try to sleep it off. Please don’t be the milk powder but my body confirms my fear and I race out the door heading for where I think the long drop is. I pause long enough to vomit as the wave of nausea sends me to my knees. It is pitch black outside – I find my bearings and stumble towards the long drop again. I vomit, harder this time. What little food I had eaten today is now wasted calories. The waste is what I am thinking about, even in my weakened state. I calculate that 150 grams of potato flakes, carried for a week, now a puddle in the grass. I make it onto the toilet seat and sit with my head resting in my hands

as sickness comes in waves for an eternity. Sometimes I drift off before another wave hits me. I wait until I am sure that it is over before I move. I am too exhausted to care that I am sitting on a long drop in nothing but my underwear. That is when it dawns on me; I forgot to grab my toilet paper. My only option is to wipe my ass with my underwear before heading to the outside water tank to hand wash them naked in the dark. I collapse back onto my bed asking myself that question. What made me want to do this?.

“I am young and able enough to be to achieve it. I thought I would take the opportunity while I still could.”
There were a million things that led me to do this but people want simple answers when it comes to why. This is the best I can do. She nods. I really should have walked for a charity – people understand charity.
“I see you have a bow with you, did you catch much with it?”

I am lost. The track is an informal one, meaning little foot sign. The orange poles marking the way are at about thirty minute intervals and I broke my glasses long ago. I stumble though rough terrain, hoping to find my way as I go but frequently finding myself far from the next orange marker. I think I am doing more rock climbing than hiking. It will be another late night before I get to the hut I am looking for. Stubbornly my bare feet walk though the long grasses despite the fear of spear grass doing them serious injury. I take another careful step over a bush only to find something squirm underfoot. Instead of the normal instinct to lift my foot, I press down harder to inspect what I have caught. Its a hare. I have been missing every hare that I have shot at this whole trip, some being as big as dogs. I have been carrying a 50 pound hunting bow for six months, trained for two years, and the

only hare I have caught, I stepped on.
“Sorry about this,” I say to the frightened creature as I grab it by the neck and break it swiftly.

“Nah, sadly I am a terrible shot.”
She laughs but it is always hard to explain just how difficult long distance walking is. I don’t like to press the point that hunters in general hunt areas they know well and that failure is common when hunting new areas. The calories need to hike long distances are more than I could catch anyway.
“Anything you looking forward to once you’re back in Wellington?” This is an easy question and I answer before she finishes.

The lakeside town of Wanaka is picturesque, I love the smooth pavement that marks this section of trail in contrast to mountains I have came from. It must be a weekend since people are walking their dogs and riding their bikes. I am enjoying the atmosphere of having people going about their lives. I am hanging around because I know I will soon be back to the isolation of the bush for another week. As I make my way a sweet scent drifts in the air – it is amazing how keen my sense of smell has become over the last five months. It’s not like the scents weren’t there before, I just never paid attention. But now they mean something to me. They mean fresh fruit.
I follow my nose off-trail and back towards the township. The colorful apricots stand out as the trees branches hang over the fence. They strain to hold the abundance of fresh fruit. I laugh like a maniac, setting down my pack and filling my arms with as much as I can carry. Crouching on the side of the street under the fence I stuff my mouth full as the juices dribble down my chin. This is when I notice three kids staring at me. I am a hairy, barefooted bow man with eyes rolling in the back of my head sitting on the ground with a mouth full of apricots. I try to reclaim my composure, swallow my mouthful and explain
“It’s been a while since I’ve eaten fruit that wasn’t dried and I hate instant mash you know?” By their expression I can tell they don’t know.

“Family and friends.”
I say fearing what she might think of the truth. I finish my coffee, savor it’s bitter taste and thank her. She shrugs it off like it was nothing. I understand it’s a small thing to give but it’s amazing how much it means when you have nothing but what you can carry on your back. The people of New Zealand are generous and I don’t think I could ever do enough to repay that.

Over the next few months home I read the stories of others who had walked long distances, trying to connect with people who had been through something similar. It was strangely satisfying to hear them express the jealously around knowing your friends and family were safe and comfortable while you are sitting in the bush counting how many toenails you have left. Each story I read finishes with an inspirational message that each walker had discovered along the way. Somehow they found meaning in their completion and sometimes changed their lives after going though the hardship of long distance walking.

The day I got to Bluff, I remember jogging along State Highway One on a sunny day. With every step my mind recalls all the times I thought about what I would do at the end of the trail.

Day One
Carrying more then I need, feet blistered, body protesting at the new demands put upon it. I am sitting in an unfamiliar landscape on my sixth break. I try to picture the great outdoorsman I would become, then push on.

Day 105
Sitting on the side of a mountain with other hikers. Our conversation normally centers around food but today a different question is asked:
“What are you going to do when you get to Bluff?.”
I am whittling my wooden pack frame trying to remove the sharp bit that will eventually lead to a scar on my back.
“Throw this bloody thing into the sea,” I reply, full of resentment.
“I will carry you to the finish like in Lord of the Rings if you want, little hobbit.”
“I HAVE A BOW! How is it I’m a Hobbit?!”
The laughter echoes in the valley.

Day 261
I am in a small hut I don’t remember the name of. I have been walking for weeks and feel robotic. Two hikers enter, they are the text book definition of the long distance walker. We discuss the next section trying to decide the best route when I realize I still don’t know how far I have come.
“Do your notes say how long till you get to Bluff?,” I ask.
“Two weeks by my calculations. I can’t wait! I am going to pick up some champagne in Invercargill. ”
I smile at the idea of not having to buy food items based on how much they weigh.
“That is a genius idea.”

Day 275

At four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon I reach the end of the South Island and feel nothing, really. I make my way to a nearby bar to get a beer. The bartender asks how my day is going, I tell him I just finished walking the length of New Zealand. He peers outside, shrugs and says “Nice day for it I suppose,” I take the obligatory Facebook selfie and hitch home.

How to; hitch hike (The hitch hikers guild)

On my way home from bluff I was picked up by a guy who was a seasoned hitch hiker and we got talking. New Zealand is a great country for hitching and as long as you aren’t to pressed for time it is a very inexpensive way to travel. So here are some tips from a seasoned pro.

1. Location location

Early bird gets the worm

Most people traveling long distances will leave early. So being out early gives you the best chance of getting there in one hit.

Last road out of town

Keeping your destination in mind you are looking for the road where cars wanting to go the same way will travel. It’s an odds game and you want to stack as many things in your favor as possible.

10 seconds of visibility

People driving don’t expect to see hitch hikers around every corner. And 10 seconds from the time they first see you to when the car reaches you is generally enough time for a person to make up there mind. So count aloud 10 seconds from when the car appears to account for their speed.

Enough room to pull over

This can be difficult on some roads but having a space that a driver can clearly see they can safely pull into is really important. It can make or brake the decision to pull over.

2. Logistics

Don’t bring too much baggage

Try to have a single bag no more then 20 litres Another reason to not pull over is baggage. Make sure what you carry can fit on your lap if need be and you increase your appeal to offer a ride.

Know where you are heading

At the very least know the name of your destination. The better you know the lay of the land the easier it is to communicate possible routes. Some people may only go a short way or pull you on a slightly different route. The game you are playing is all about odds so try to stick to busy roads.

3. Helpful stuff

Smile and have a tidy appearance. I totally used to carry props like guitars and signs saying ‘I have chocolate’ but I really don’t know if they actually helped. But being friendly in appearance really helps so no hockey masks.

Be friendly and polite they are giving you a ride after all.

Small talk can go a long way when sitting in a car with a stranger.

4. Safety 

Yes there is an element of risk when hitch hiking (some people are scary drivers) so if you aren’t feeling comfortable it’s ok to turn down or ask to be dropped early. Hitching isn’t for everyone and if you do feel unsafe I wouldn’t recommend it. However as a Male, with kung fu skills and owning nothing worth stealing I have never felt at risk. In general I have been picked up by people who used to hitch themselves like some kind of unspoken code of the traveller.

How to; be an Athletic Diabetic (an advice piece)

Before I started my adventure I went looking for advice for undertaking a long distance walk as a diabetic. I kind of nerded out on it, asking doctors, fellow diabetics and general know it alls. Everyone I asked had small pieces of advice that slowly accumulated until I left for the trail. With every challenge I met on the trail as a diabetic I became more capable and gained better understanding of what it takes to push my limits. After almost six months and three thousand kilometers I present some hints and tips for other Diabetics wanting to push their limits too.

Be batman

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Ok I may have started a little strong but it is always helpful to plan for every eventuality. I am the kind of guy who would practice setting up and pack down his sheather as if it were raining when it wasn’t. It may be a little extreme but it does pay off to have a plan as it takes a lot of stress out of the equation when the unexpected does happen. For hiking long distances this meant having my diabetic stuff in easy access including sugar, food items, BG tester and medication. I also had a friendly note saying to look in my first aid (around my neck) if I was found confused or unconscious and keep a more detailed note on what to do in the first aid itself. Doubt anyone else had skittles in their first aid kit.

Record your levels often

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I know this is probably said over and over but it is seriously the only way to really see how the relationship between medication, exercise and food work for you. One of the advantages of long distance walking is the exercise and food elements are fixed making it easier to find balance as the only major factor that could effect my levels was my medication. For this reason I think hiking is great for diabetics I have really learnt a lot about my self by undertaking such a epic challenge. On a side note writing down your levels in a way that helps you see the patterns helps. Some apps are great for the convenience of recording but I had trouble seeing the overall happenings over a day of testing (so I pen and papered it).

Have no emotional connection to your levels

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Like everyone in the beginning I had really trouble adjusting to diabeticness (for starters I had a massive needle phobia) but I was lucky enough to be interested in health and fitness and was relatively old (16) when I started showing symptoms. The biggest stumbling block for me in the old days was how personally I would take bad levels. I would stop testing all together if I didn’t get it exactly perfect every time this ended up being the opposite of helpful.

The fact of the matter is the human body is an amazing machine capable of achieving balance that technology has not yet been able to match. Celebrating consistency is better for your sanity then trying to do what the body does with inferior tools. On trail this meant having automatic responses to highs and lows without the why me drama. Adjustments to my medication were always small and gradual and over the six months on trail balance came more consistently. Don’t get me wrong I had random fluctuations especially on the days where I came back to civilization but the fluctuations get less extreme as I got better with my ratios without taking it as a personal shortcoming.

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Diabetes has been great for me because I have become better informed about all things health and nutrition (I love nerding out). Though pushing the limits as a diabetic needs a bit more forethought over time these things get easier, you just have to persist to get there. Something hard won is worth so much more once you are out the other side and no I may not be able to eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want but I have bigger aspirations in life then that eating a tub of ice cream in one sitting.

There and back again

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The final week of the walk went like a blur, after arriving in Queenstown to resupply I felt ready to take on the track with new found strength. The rhythm of walking became second nature, talking about what I was doing with people on trail became part of that rhythm and an unexpected drive to push for longer distances started to take hold as bluff came into view.

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As I moved through the rural southland landscape into the muddy forest trail then back onto the beaches I felt a sense of familiar of the far North those many months ago. Only my legs were strong, my gear balanced and confidence at an all time high.

10991084_10205163553321004_5608799227966293640_nOn a late sunday afternoon I had completed my journey, the sun was warm, and the sign post was deserted. I had been warned that finishing doesn’t really hit you for a few weeks. But for me the arrival to Bluff wasn’t as significant as the transformation for someone who had read a lot about techniques to make your own gear to someone who had made it. So finishing was great but I felt that I had achieved my goals the week before, the icing on the cake was the chance to share a beer with other TA walkers in Invercargill that night. As always sharing stories about our time on trail and generally laughing about how lucky we were to have had done something not many people had. 11018895_10206394514765176_5277155482910233937_n

My return to Wellington involved a four day hitch (I had always enjoyed hitch hiking) where I reconnected with old friends I never got a chance to see while walking. This ended up being a great way to rehabilitate into the rest of society and get used to how out of place I looked off trail. With final celebrations at my parents house in Wellington, surrounded by friends and family we laughed and ate a lot. There really was no better way to end one of the most physically and mentally difficult things I had ever done in my life.

I do have a lot of people to thank for the support they have given me over my time on the trail but blanket public thanks don’t sit well with me and I will actively be visiting those whom helped so I can thank them in person (this is going to take awhile).

So what next?

It is hard to say, not sure what kind of career choices there are for a guy who can walk forever and make rope out of flax. I think walking three thousand kilometers is a lot easier then finding a job with a cv that lists can make a rock sharp and weaving ugly but practical flax bags as skills and once caught a rabbit by standing on it as greatest achievement. Think I would rather climb a 2000 meter elevation.

As for the blog, I am not done making!! The greatest satisfaction of trying to making the tools of my ancestors is feeling connected to them. Walking their tracks and using their tools really gives you a sense of what the Maori of the past were like in a more tangible way then reading about it in a book. So this blog will continue to share my explorations into making gear and using it (I am still trying to figure out how to sleep sitting up in a rain cape).

In my new life off trail I will be writing, making and walking you can count on that. So if you see and crazy looking bare foot, flax wearing bow man around feel free to say hello.

Jory

Bearing the fruits of labour

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(This last track will forever be the fruit trail for me because dam there was a lot of fruit. These are all the ones I gathered on trail.)
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The funniest thing happened to me on this last trail. There was a sign warning about me about only undertaking this track if you are an experienced hiker. This made me stop and think am I experienced?
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Well after five months of making mistakes and plenty of pain and suffering I am beginning to feel like maybe I am. Don’t get me wrong the track was steep but it was well formed, with both shoes and a rebalanced pack frame I even started to look the part.
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You see you don’t notice your fitness until you leave an hour after the last people and catch them. Or how organised your pack is until you see how quickly you can unpack and repack in under 15 minutes. The most notably change has been people saying “is that all your carrying?” Instead of “what are you carrying?”.
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I have no pain at the end of the day and know exactly how I need to eat to feel satisfied though I did run out of pemmican sadly. And at a glance of a map I know exactly how much ground I can cover in a day.
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I don’t think these are skills you will loose either (well maybe the fitness). I think I’m really going to appreciate a weekend in the bush a lot more knowing how much harder it is to be on the trail for five months.
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So when people ask what I am going to do once I finish this walk the answer will probably be more of the same. Walking, making and writing cos it’s pretty amazing….Probably to a lesser extent though.
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