About the Author: “My name is Prune (yes, for real…ha ha), I am French and I started to explore the world 5 years ago. My next adventure will be to attempt to thru hike the AT next year. I hope being able to share my adventures with you, the good and the bad, all along the trail.” You can find her YouTube at Prune Travels (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1Fn9Em-g_GnnXvPMaBiYWg)

Here I am, sitting on my butt in a hot and rainy summer day, dreaming about my AT thru hike to come in March 10th. I think of what is to come, of what I still need to do, of what I’m giving up for it. I’m also thinking of my little experience in tramping, and this is the story I want to share with you today, in what will be my first post here.

My longest tramping trip so far has been a 101km hike (62,7 miles) from Cape Reinga to Ahipara, along the 90 mile beach in Northland, New Zealand.

Last year, I started to buy some gear for the AT. I had my Gregory pack and my Big Agnes tent and wanted to try them. And since I always have great ideas, I thought I could go walking the first stretch of Te Araroa Trail, between Christmas and New Year.

For those who are not familiar with New Zealand, you must know that it is in the South Hemisphere, so when I say December, it means it is the middle of summer, and when I say Cape Reinga, it means the far North which is the hottest part of the country (since it is closer to the equator). And it is a 62 mile hike on a beach… Yeah, you see it coming, right?

Day one was good. I started late, but it was a short day, 12 km (about 7,5 miles). The only difficulty was the tide… I had to climb on a bushy dune so I didn’t have to jump in the waves and get soaked or washed away… But I managed.

Day two got harder. 28 km (17,4m) to walk on the sand. Sunny all day, temperature in the 90s, absolutely no shade anywhere! Not a single tree, bush or plant to sit under. I didn’t dare to jump in the sea to cool down. I was all alone and didn’t know the area, and didn’t want to develop chaffing because of the sand and salt.

I tried to drink a lot, but I couldn’t eat much because of the heat. I just didn’t fancy any of the food supplies I had with me.

So I arrived at the campsite exhausted, hot, thirsty, and weak. My backpack was hurting me so I just threw it on the flattest and closest spot and pitched my tent before lying down on the grass and stretch.

Then someone came to see me. Mary was camping with her family and saw me arriving on my own. We exchanged a few words and she invited me to join them later on.

And so I met my very first Trail Angels <3 They had a fridge, so they offered me a couple of ice cold beers. They then started the barbecue and I was fed with sausage and chops. I felt my body relaxing, but more important, my morale coming back. It was so heartlifting to spend a couple of hours with these people.

I still had 60km to walk though, and I wasn’t sure my body could handle the heat for that long. I needed a day off, but didn’t have time for it. One of them offered me to give me a ride to the next camp, 30km further. He was going to drive along the beach the next day to go to town. So we agreed he would pick me up on the way.

On day three, I went to walk along the beach again before the heat strikes. About an hour later, he stopped beside me to pick me up and drop me at the next campsite where I could have a Zero (or should I say Nearo since I walked a couple of miles?).

I was so grateful I had met this family. I think they saved my hike.

I spent the day with 3 other hikers who were trying to heal their bad blisters. We spent the day doing jigsaws and drinking the excellent smoothie made by the owner.

Day four, I left at 6am to try to achieve the 31km (19,2m) as soon as possible. I knew the guys were leaving soon after me, so I left messages for them in the sand with the promise of a nice cold drink at the end! They caught up with me after an hour or two and I had a blast walking with them for the rest of the day. We arrived in Ahipara at 2pm, me and Peter checked in the same campsite, and as I was paying I felt my body giving up on me. I quickly asked for an ice-cream (for sugar) and sat down, head between the knees to try to avoid passing out. I had eaten only a few nuts for the whole day, walked almost non stop in the sun. My feet literally cooked inside the shoes, they were red and painful to touch.

After a bit of time to recover, I went to pitch my tent, had a shower, and Peter and I went to get wine and cheese because I am French (haha) and it was New Year’s Eve. We went to bed around 8.30pm though and I barely woke up when crackers and fireworks went off at midnight.

I learnt a lot during that trip. I discovered my weakness, so I hope I can deal with it better now. I also found kindness of perfect strangers. This very first experience of Trail Magic will be something I will always remember.

I can’t wait to start the AT in March. I want to challenge myself, see more of the world, and meet more people like Mary who hopefully will leave me with more good memories and faith in Human Kindness.