Nature is a remedy of many things. It is said that nothing beats the fresh country air — but that is just not enough. For the retired adventure athlete working a desk job in the city, a long weekend is the chance to find the antidote to city life, the epitome of wilderness. Trading the 9–5 grind with needing to fight the bush to co-exist. You’ll find this city dweller searching out places you’ll never see on a travel blog. No guarantees of golden beaches and a good time, just wilderness.
The goal, to find the most remote place in New Zealand’s most populous Island; but not methodically, that would defeat the purpose. Going to the largest patch of green on the map seemed like a logical place to look for wilderness. A few tracks, routes and near-derelict huts, that looks something like a plan. But plans are meant to be broken.
Lost in thought, the first hut came and went, as did the track to the second and many more kilometers of riverbed — leaving a lone adventurer facing up two waterfalls and an amphitheatre of bush-covered bluffs. No time to waste admiring the beauty, the evening was approaching, so the most direct route to the second hut was orchestrated. There was no shortage of foliage to hang onto; the fight was real. The jubilation of making the ridge was short-lived when the track was nowhere to be seen.
Two hours hunting up and down the ridge yielded nothing but crisscrossing deer tracks. With the lengthening shadows went the occasional views of surrounding ridges through the trees, the one saving grace in the otherwise claustrophobic forest. With night went any chance of finding the hut.
It was a lovely warm evening, not a cloud in the sky; camping conditions could not have been better. Another time, another place, this would be the dream. Camping under the stars is peaceful; making bivvys in the forest, exciting. But this situation was different; off the plan, off the map, and a solid two days from anything. Excitement was replaced by survival instinct. Peacefulness was losing out to that little voice repeating those two fateful words “you’re lost”.
Morning brought new motivation, fresh socks, and a slightly different shade of green to ‘Goblin forest’. The ridge came with the slight comfort that someone has most likely explored this patch of wilderness, but then again, they probably had an adequately sized map and a GPS.
Thickets encompassed narrow sections, falling away into trees defying gravity on the slopes that fell away on both sides. But it is the broad high points that lull unsuspecting victims into a false sense of progress — only to catapult them onto a ridge to nowhere. Deer tracks were an occasional relief to the usual bush battling for hot ridgeline real estate. But the most welcome novelties were the small peeks through the canopy at the surrounding hills and ridges. At those few places the one foot in front of the other gives way to the magnitude of the wilderness around. The individual battles with thickets and supplejack become both less significant and daunting, knowing there is many more yet to come.
It was then, after another battle a thicket, and with that little voice still on repeat, that the ridge opened out to a view so spectacular that I knew I had found it. While trying to find my way back to my planned route, I discovered a place more amazing than I could have possibly sought out. I found what I was looking for, it just wasn’t where I thought it was.
The ridge would continue for many more hours and it would eventually lead me out. No one else that day would experience that ridge or that view. Nor will I ever again. Back to the city grind where my bullet points battle for powerpoint real estate and the little voice instead says “you’re wrong”. Maybe I was lost, and maybe sometimes I am wrong; regardless, I will hold the course North leading through thick-of-it and onto the next challenge.