The thought of traversing across the South Island on foot might not be everybody’s idea of a holiday in the wilds, but for EIT te reo Māori tutor Nadine McKinnon it was nirvana.
Last year she decided to enter this year’s Alps2Ocean adventure race thinking it would give her a goal to keep up her spirits while overcoming an injury.
Despite the fact that her injuries limited the amount of training she could do Nadine managed to run, walk and shuffle, from the base of Mount Cook to Oamaru, a 323 kilometre journey past lakes, over hills and alongside rivers to the Pacific Ocean.
Along the way she learned a new meaning for team work, as she and her running companions encouraged each other through tough times to the finish line.
Day one was a relatively cruisy 50km to warm into the event, with not many climbs. This was almost disappointing for Nadine, who thrives on climbing steep hill country, but the scenery was spectacular. Nadine’s hip started hurting on the flat parts, which at that stage followed rough gravel roads. That afternoon she found her partner’s compression pants in her 16kg pack which helped her to continue the following day.
Each night when they reached their destination, the volunteers had their tents up and their packs waiting. All they had to do for dinner was add hot water to their meals, in Nadine’s case, dehydrated vegetarian ones which was all she could find in Gisborne.
“Some of the others had bought theirs online and they looked delicious.”
Packing her bag had been one of the greatest challenges. Enough food for eight days, plus two sets of clothes and bedding which all had to weigh under 16 kgs.
The second day was 50km from Lake Pukaki to Lake Middleton. They traversed spectacular scenery around Twizel with some local salmon tasting thrown in. The waters of Lake Middleton were inviting for a swim on arrival to camp.
The next stage, from Lake Middleton to Loch Laird was the longest one, covering 86 km and two mountains, one 836 metres high. But they had two days to do this and Nadine did it in 16 hours, which meant she had a day off.
“We got in around midnight but that gave us the next day to rest, swim and wash our clothes.”
The fifth day was Nadine’s favourite and included some more substantial hill climbs.
“It was amazing,” said Nadine, whose favourite activity is scrambling up hills.
“It’s my happy place, “ she says, grinning.
Having grown up near the Blue Mountains in Australia, and Mt Hikurangi being her home maunga, she always feels more comfortable in the hills and mountains, she says.
The following day Nadine’s Achilles tendon had started to play up and one of her other travelling mates had serious blisters, while two others were also starting to show signs of wear.
“We just cruised along together,” she said.
With another 52 kms under their belts, they only had the final day to cover, which was only 28kms, mostly downhill.
“It was a sprint – everyone just took off.”
On finishing, everyone in her group was exhausted but feeling elated.
For Nadine, the whole event was more about finishing than winning and it was also about team work, supporting and encouraging each other.
“It was really cool watching everybody coming in. The last person was so exhausted we all formed a guard of honour.
“I formed so many bonds with so many people – it was incredible.
“And the race director and volunteers were always there, cheering us on – they were there before we got up and after we finished – they were just amazing,” she said.
“It was the best holiday I have ever had!”
The main thing she got from it was learning how to live in the moment to overcome pain and fear of what lay ahead.
“It’s all about staying in the moment and is a great form of meditation.”
Included in the race were activities such as abseiling, jet boating and a helicopter ride.
On returning home, her partner Porter competed in the Maunga to Moana Challenge in the Waiapu, which is another event that Nadine would like to have a crack at next year, especially as Hikurangi is her maunga.
Her whole mission is to one day become a mountain guide for her people on Mount Hikurangi.
“I enjoyed studying the kōrero from our maunga whilst training for the event and I want to continue this study to share with others.”