Worst tramp ever…

A couple of days ago I set off on a three day tramp, going through the Hunua Ranges in the Auckland region; part of Te Araroa. I meant to start in Mangatawhiri and walk to Manukau, but things didn’t turn out that way.

I have had the Worst Tramp Ever. It started when the bus to the starting point was late – and then it dropped me off not quite where I thought it would, so I had an extra 5km to walk to Lyons Road – along a busy state highway, no less. So I got to the Hunua track proper about 5pm instead of 3.30. From there it was only 6km to the campsite, but over steep hills on very rough tracks – 4 hours, say. Starting at 3.30 would have got me there by 7pm, with an hour, hour and a half grace before it gets dark. That grace was gone, but I figured if I didn’t get there in time I could camp by the track and do the extra hour early the next morning.

What I didn’t expect was that an hour and a half in, I’d suddenly get sick. I knew I was moving more slowly than usual, but then there was vomiting, cramps, extreme dizziness (at one stage I thought it was an actual earthquake, the ground seemed to be moving so much beneath me). Also general hotness and sweating. I stopped for a bit, it didn’t get better. So I put up the tent on the side of the track, and then – oh joy – to all my other woes came hallucinations.

First hallucination was the two trees in front of me, which grew arms and heads like the Ents from The Lord of the Rings. They waved their creepy arms above their heads, then put those heads together and whispered, and stared at me, pointing. Exactly as if they were saying “Come and see what we’ve found! Isn’t it strange?”

Hallucination the second came after dark: an animal in the tent, crouching by my ear and growling directly into it. Cue shrieking on my part; the animal disappeared… but it came back, over and over. Needless to say, not a lot of sleep. A lot of screaming, though.

Morning eventually arrived, and I wasn’t entirely with it. (If I were, I’d have turned round and gone back to the nearest farmhouse to ask for assistance.) But no – somehow I thought it was a good idea to carry on. Still nauseated and dizzy.

After a while it became clear the walk should be over. Rang my sister, asked her to fetch me from campground, in hour or two. She agreed. Two hours later, it’s clear that I’m unlikely to reach campground – at this point I think I’ve done 3 km in 5 hours. Staggering. Texted sister relative location and asked her to call park rangers. She does, and then some.

To cut a long story short, a couple of hours later I’m shivering on the track, suddenly freezing, and wrapped in a survival blanket (making sure there’s one in the pack has finally paid off). My brain has cooled a little and suddenly the hallucinations seem like hallucinations – they seemed normal during the event, and even in the morning not so strange. And along come three of the dozen plus people that have been drafted into saving my arse – including park rangers, cops, a forestry worker, a school teacher and (my humiliation is complete) a rescue chopper complete with doctor and medic. “Just be bloody grateful it’s all free,” my sister tells me later. I am, but there’s a donation to Westpac Rescue heading its way regardless and yearly contributions to come.

After being helped out of the bush I’m more compos mentis, but that didn’t stop me being poked and stabbed by chopper paramedic and doctor.

Barely escaped hospital trip. Was sent home to recuperate, with strict instructions to go anyway if I had another turn. Paramedic thought it might have been food poisoning. Mum (who along with my stepdad had left work to come and be frightened out of their wits on my behalf) thought it was a sudden virus. I felt too awful to think much of anything, except for simultaneous sickness and gratitude.

Went home, crawled into bed, and stayed there for days – which is where I am now – eating very small amounts of dry toast. I’ve tramped for 20 odd years, in NZ, the UK, and Germany, and nothing has ever gone wrong like this before.

Worst tramp ever.

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