Well, welcome to 2005. Here we go again. Starting another year. Some are saying “another day same old happenings” What if that was to change a little? What if you achieved something out of the ordinary for you? … and what if you did it with someone you could reminisce with…

Sometimes a friend is the best person around. I spent a number of days tramping through the top end of the South Island of New Zealand. We spent 4 days tramping through the <a href=”http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/nelson-tasman/golden-bay/heaphy-track/”>Heaphy Track. A well known 85 km (80 mile) jaunt and although ranked as an easy tramp, the weather can play a great part in all this…

Our trip started some 3 hours by car away from the start of the track in Nelson, the main town at the top of the South Island. My best mate, Ray and his 18 year old son, Isaac and I caught up with the local transport service to deliver us to the start of the track. It was a beautiful sunny day and the mood was pretty relaxed.

Now it should be explained that both Ray and I were near the bottom end of the fitness scale and although we could be considered experienced trampers, our recent experience rated a big fat zero.

Still, the tramp was well within our capabilities and we had Isaac to carry us if we failed.

The nearer we approached the start of the track, the more the clouds rolled in until drizzle turned to rain and the driver was questioning the access. By the time we had forded the third stream, the driver was seriously doubting his ability to get out again, so upon reaching the start he dumped us out and headed back. We had a five minute run down the track to the shelter where we could get organized into our gear.

It was 2pm when we started out. We were approx 150m above sea level and we had a 5 hour tramp upwards to 950m above sea level. It was a downpour and we had started. I was already questioning my sanity. 20 years ago I would have been relishing the challenge, now I was dreaming of a beer and a pool rather than the bucket loads of water God was throwing at me… and there was no beer. At the three hour mark we reached the first shelter. The downpour had increased to a river of water falling from the sky. If you think I am exaggerating well think again. This was the best rain New Zealand had to throw at us. No drizzle patches here, this was torrential.

Isaac commented about the view and he was right… it was like looking out at a great big A4/foolscap page of white paper. The clouds were so thick. By now we had been heading up for 4 hours and every muscle I had was aching. I could feel both heels had developed blisters and I wasn’t only wet right through, I had turned into a prune. The other two were feeling it as well but this is one of the great things about this friendship, everyone keeps quiet about it unless the other squeals first and there was no way I was going to say anything.

At the five hour mark we caught site of our destination. The Perry Saddle hut. Although it was a mere 15 minutes away we were having a rest, no matter what. When we reached the hut, it was sheer exhilaration. No one could compare the relief and we were doing this for fun?

The next morning dawned to a rather bright day. There was a strange yellow object in the sky and I heard someone say it was the sun… I didn’t believe them. Our clothes were half by dry, having hung over the fire in the hut all night. The rule is, you wear the clothes you tramp in and you change into dry clothes at night. We set out in semi dry and within half and hour the day had turned to drizzle. Our tramp today was 5 and a half hours along the top of the saddle. This was above the forest line and a brisk wind was driving into our faces. By the hour mark we were again in heavy rain. Well what’s new. We reached the next hut for lunch and I patched up my blisters.

Isaac had developed one on a toe and despite getting info to the contrary he removed the skin and it flared up. This was going to be a watershed time for him. After lunch he tested his ability to walk. No good. He limped and hobbled around trying to find some way to walk normally or some sympathy. He found neither. I kept my head down, I had my own worries and Ray was obviously hurting as well. Then a funny thing happened, Isaac picked up his pack and stormed off along the track. The anger at the lack of sympathy overcame any pain he was feeling. Ray and I grabbed our packs and took off after him. The rain was turning into the inevitable torrent. Isaac learnt some great lessons. We just got wet.

By the time we reached the next hut, we were all cursing the rain rather than each other and the jokes were flowing again. After a good meal the heavens opened the faucet full bore as if to bash the roof down to stop us resting.

Day Three and we had a drop down to sea level. Another 6 hour tramp confronted us and the rain had at least reduced to rain. With every step down the track the weather cleared a little until we slipped below the cloud and into fine weather. Isaac’s lesson had given him the strength to steam on ahead and we reminded him that on reaching the Heaphy Hut where we were to stay the night, he was to at least make an attempt to grab some bunks. We had been forewarned that a party of 21 was ahead of us and the Heaphy Hut only slept 20 (although at a push 30 would fit) He disappeared in front of us.

Ray and I found a pace where the pain of continuing was less than the pain of going slower and along with another solo tramper, Gary, we trudged onwards. We all knew the game. You kept quiet about your pain and everyone else did the same. It may not be a healthy situation but no one was going to let on that they hurt more than the others. In this way friends can be a great help. You reach towards your destination in the full knowledge that everyone was doing their best but you weren’t sure who was doing better.

As we approached the Heaphy Hut we could see the great crowd milling around. As we got inside the hut there was a huge amount of interest at something happening around the main table in the hut. There was plenty of laughter and as we mingled with the other trampers we spotted Isaac. Here he was, playing cards with 5 beautiful young women, totally oblivious of anything else in his vicinity. When we asked him about the bunks and the sleeping arrangements he, of course, gave us a pretty good excuse… Cards are far more important than where his old man and his mate were going to sleep. I couldn’t disagree. At 18, I would have done exactly the same thing.

The place was abuzz with trampers of all shapes and descriptions. A lot decided to camp out in tents. We were at the mouth of the Heaphy River and the sea was crashing in creating a roar that challenged the sound of the rain the night previous. We were on a bit of a high, only five more hours and we would be in civilization again. The next morning we set out early… 6.30am and we were on the track. Apart from a patch of drizzle for half an hour, it was fine and we were sprightly (well actually we lumbered along but if we could have been sprightly, we would have been) When we reached the end of the track, we shook hands, not so much at the sense of accomplishment but more to say well done on keeping the mouth shut. It was a great accomplishment never the less.

As we discussed the week over a quiet ale, the stories ran thick and fast. No one was going to be outdone and the laughter was hearty and genuine. This tramp was more a learning rather than a tour. The appreciation of the beauty of the surroundings weren’t lost in the pain of the journey and we gained a greater comradeship and some new friends along the way.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the mundane things going on in our life but it’s not hard to find something that tests us, whatever our fitness or abilities… something outside the square that we live in and outside our comfort zone. It’s this stepping out that allows us to come to believe in ourselves, if just a little more, and the buzz from the achievement will outweigh any pain you endure. If you can do it with a friend, the returns double, and the jousting to outdo each other will give you something to laugh about for ages.

I learnt a lot about myself in those four days, things I had forgotten about. Most of all, though, I enjoyed the company of great friends, the achievement of doing something outside my comfort zone, and the chance to reminisce after the achievement.

The photos I have only tell half the story. The rest is a part of my experience. Make sure you find an experience you too can reminisce about… and then do it with a friend who can reminisce with you. Remember, the older you get, the better you were! but, you have to have done something to reminisce about how good you were.

Until next week

Cheers… Bill

Bill Gray

Bill is a Business Coach. Working with Individuals, Businesses and Organisations to create better environments and to develop and enhance business ”potential”, into successful business practices.

Sydney, Australia

Ph +61 413 949 521

Copyright ©Bill Gray billgray.biz All Rights Reserved 2004.