I think I’ve delayed my final post as long as I can. I’m settled back in New Zealand now and about to begin the mammoth task of sorting over 4000 photos and video clips I took along the way. The journey home took me via LAX. It wasn’t nearly as confusing as I thought it would be. I had plenty of time there to people watch as they went through the usual airport rituals. Hellos, goodbyes and thinking that somehow they deserve to be at the front of queues more than others. For my part I tried to get upgraded or at least secure a seat with leg room. I played the “I just walked across your country” card with zero success. The grumpy lady in San Francisco had already assigned me a seat despite claiming I didn’t get one until LA, and I was glad to exchange it to one by the aisle.
The plane was packed and the large Samoan next to me was taking more than his share of seats. I settled in for several movies but with the schedule of the last week it wasn’t long until I dozed off, almost dropping a cup of water in my lap in the process. Landing in Auckland I went through the duty free shops and I swear the lady behind the counter was having trouble keeping a straight face as she served me. It didn’t bother me. I did look quite a sight with messy long hair and my terrible beard. Passport control, customs, bio-security (who cleaned my tent for me ) and then the walk of fame. I stepped through the gate and into the arms of my awaiting family.
Everything seemed normal. It was normal. Auckland hasn’t changed since I left. My car still steers just as it did before. The house is the same. My little brothers and sister are probably taller but it’s hard to judge. I don’t know what I expected but I was almost let down by everything being the same. Maybe I wanted my view of things to be different. It still could be. Next time I go walking here I’ll be doing the same sums I have been doing along the trail. I met up with friends on Friday night, they all had a good laugh at my mountain man appearance and I got to hear the stories of the last six months.
The highlight of my return, and the reason I really feel at home, was the party on Saturday night. It was the usual crowd, the usual faces, the people I missed. Tania turned up with a surprise. Roast vegetables just as I had dreamed about back in Oregon. Then more people came. Rachel and Dave (who came up with this idea) brought wiener schnitzel and kumara chips, others brought slushies (actually popsicles run through the blender), big bars of chocolate, bananas and chocolate to dip them in, Memphis Meltdowns and more. A few people were disappointed they hadn’t gotten to see the beard, but I’ve put together a time-lapse of my trip as seen below (it’s a large file so you’ll have a bit of a wait before it loads).
We hit the town, and I was careful not to over do it. My lesson from the night out with Christian is too fresh in my memory to make that mistake again. The sky was getting light when I finally curled up on the couch at my old flat. The same as it ever was.
I did what I set out to and I’m not modest enough to say that I’m not super proud of it. I pushed really hard some times to get it done in the only manner I knew how and I’m glad I did. Reading the blogs of people behind me, and even getting an email from one friend I met at the Kick Off as she bailed out in the last few hundred miles because of avalanches, I’m not sure if I could have finished it at a slower pace. Scout and Frodo are probably out now, their journal is coming through slowly and reporting the snow conditions that most feared. Despite that I almost wish I had experienced that with them. Team Snowplow are bound to have great stories and be a very tight group after facing such adversities. I say almost because I did finish with the people I wanted to and I did finish. Right from the beginning I was worried about snow and that I’d have to give up in the last week of the hike.
So that was my summer. What should I do next? Answers on a postcard to AfterIveHadABurger@stanton.co.nz
P.S. My brother left for England last night. At the airport I saw the cashier that was smirking at my unkempt appearance when I arrived. I went over to introduce myself and to say that I know I looked silly but I’ve smartened myself up a bit. It didn’t go so well. She denied it was her and then said they “they” (the staff) would never laugh at customers. I think she thought she was being rude but I was trying to laugh along with her. Oh well, you can’t charm them all.