The date was November 6th, 2016.
It was becoming clear that as much as Kayla and I were enjoying each others company, we were on two different paths. I would get into more detail, but nothing else needs to be said. We were two different people on two different journeys. Myself, determined to get to the finish line of Te Araroa - regardless of how. And her, a woman on an adventure who needed to find herself - alone.
By the time we reached Matamata the hike was being skipped much more than I was happy to admit. Don't get me wrong - the adventure was still amazing. I'd met some incredible people, made some amazing memories, and laughed harder than I'd ever laughed before. From hiking into Ruakaka with pure bliss, gardening for a free night stay in Waipu, being trapped in Auckland for six days, witnessing an insane car crash where everyone was fine and a shameful night of youth, the memories were endless and I was thankful for each of them and the lessons that I had gained.
After arriving in Matamata, we met a man named Simon through couchsurfing. Simon is a farmer, through and through. He owns cattle, a beautiful home, and an incredible car - one of which he prides himself. He welcomed us into his home with open arms and we were more than happy to accept. With a heated bathroom floor and New Zealand cable, it was a small paradise for the two nights we spent there.
He took us for a beautiful nature walk that led to Wairere Falls, a waterfall on the outskirts of Matamata. The trail was beautiful. Green moss on giant boulders, trees as tall as the eye could see, and fresh raindrops that rolled off of long fern leaves.
I felt myself getting tired faster than usual. A sign that I'd spent too long not hiking. My breathing was scattered and my head was foggy as a fell behind Kayla and Simon. I decided to let them go ahead and take my time. I knew I needed to get back on the trail as soon as possible, but this was ridiculous. How I could be so tired on a simple uphill tramp had me beating myself up.
We reached a wooden bridge that crossed a busy stream and I watched as the water rushed passed the mossy rocks. It was tranquil. Regardless where I was in this country, the nature would always surprise me.
"We follow this trail right to my future icecream shop!" Simon cheered, walking fast paced with excitement.
Simon had been raving about his plans to open an icecream shop in one of his paddocks, using fresh milk from his farm. The shop would be named "Paddock 66", and it would be a popular spot for hikers - included those on the TA.
We reached the top of a hill and walked towards a fence. Simon opened the gate and welcomed us into his paddock. Rain had moved passed us and could be seen still falling off in the hills.
"Turn around." Simon smiled.
We turned our heads only to see a beautiful waterfall. Wairere. Standing tall through the trees on a large cliff. Lush grass surrounded it, along with trees of all different shapes and sizes.
"Whoa." I exclaimed.
Kayla was smiling at the beauty as Simon led us through the paddock, showing us exactly where the shop would be placed and painting pictures in our mind for how the busy season would look.
As we hiked back down the trail I sang with the Fantails and Tuis, both incredible birds. Their songs echoed through the trees, and I knew then and there that I needed to get back on the trail. No matter what.
Maybe I was spending too much time judging myself and not enough time focusing on my accomplishments. Why was I so obsessed with getting back on this trail? Why was I so destroyed - still - after the Breamhead incident?
I was at war with myself and who I wanted to be. I had to remind myself that I was here for this exact reason. To figure out who I was and where I needed to go. At this point, however, I was so uninspired to continue.
The trail, however, continued to pull me.