Walking Regrets

by Danielle Nohra

A leap into the unknown New Zealand


It's the middle month of summer - January. I came here with a green 50 dollar tent and a tropical sleeping bag (also green). They weren't chosen for the colour, they were chosen for the price. A sacrifice I was willing to make in order to be away from the normalities of life back home. A sacrifice that went hand in hand with tinned fish and cheap crackers. And hanging a towel over the bottom bunk of a 20 dollar mixed hostel room for a bit of privacy. But hey, I was overseas. It was worth it. Until tonight. Up to this point I regretted nothing. I wasn't even sick of eating enough tuna to cause its extinction. What I did regret though, was that god-damn tropical sleeping bag and that useless 50 dollar tent. I regretted it all last night in between shaking, and layering, and shivering. All the while thinking, how did I get here? In the early morning I decided to brave the cold. Zip down that tent and get my legs moving. Sleep wasn't coming but 22 kilometres of hiking was. That was up to eleven and a half hours to Lake Howden Hut. Eight and a half at least. So, when I finally peaked my head out of the tent and saw the top of the mountains being hugged by snow I couldn't help but feel underprepared but at the same time delighted. Snow in the summer! I imagined snow falling back home, on the dry grounds of Canberra and I began to laugh. This wasn't Canberra though. This was the Routeburn track, this was Fiordland National Park, this was South New Zealand, and in the summer it definitely snowed. Just yesterday I was in shorts, a singlet and no shoes, dragging my bare feet through the pebble-floored, clear lake that ran in front of the mountains. I ate my powered feast of roast and vegetables, in between applying spray onto my vulnerable legs in an attempt to repel the sand flies. This morning my legs were no longer bare. They were smothered in two pairs of pants, my upper body in three tops, and also a jumper. I slept in it all. Rolling up the tent I cursed myself for the second mistake I had made on this hike. Four hours of mistakes to be precise. That was the amount of time I had added on to my second day by booking the wrong hut. It was a disaster, but then it wasn't, because when I looked back at the mountains, stuck there like an image on a post card I knew last night was worth it, and I knew today would be too. Just like the tuna and the shared dorms. At the time they can be painful, but after just one glimpse of something spectacular, it can all fade away.