One trail - A million stories

One trail. A million stories.


"Every journey begins with one single step" (Lao Tzu)


"Home is behind the world ahead


And there are many paths to tread


Through shadow to the edge of night


Until the stars are all alight.”


(Pippin's song, Lord of the Ring)



It took me so long to get to you. I thought too much and did so little. It wasn't the right time. Gillespie Circuit.


Once, I heard it's a beautiful hike. I wanted to do it. I didn't.


A girl, sporty, friendly, kind, beautiful. A girl, I wanted to hear more about her life story, wanted to go. She asked if someone wanted to join in a whats app group. I thought yes. I didn't write back. I met her. We talked and I said yes! I got a phone call to show up tomorrow to fill out a form for my depression, the next day at 11 am in the hospital. So, I couldn't go anymore. I didn't sleep that night. I didn't prepare for a hike. She was anyway way more sporty and faster. I would just destroy her hike. So, I wrote. I can't go. She wrote another friend is going too and just for the first part to the first hut and then I could still decide. A good friend, I could talk too, I know better. I trusted him. I didn't go. The appointment took 5 min. It destroyed the day.


Two other friends, old workmates from the job, I quit, wanted to go the other day. Another chance. I said yes and went to the DOC centre and bought the hut tickets. I wasn't sure about it. I missed my first chance. A better chance. I regret it. I was worried about the weather, it was supposed to rain. They would talk about work and bring back memories.


I got a message from a friend I haven't seen in ages. I met back in Germany at my first job. A good, wise friend and his girlfriend, who were on a world trip, said that he will be in Wanaka the next day. He came in the evening. It was raining. We were sitting in the car, I couldn't show them around. We talked about depression, about life, about alternatives. I told him that I couldn't sleep. He gave me alternative sleeping pills. They said I should go for the hike.


I couldn't sleep that night, not at all. The decision was easy. No sleep, not prepared, leaving good friends. I shouldn't go. I wrote Jen, that I wouldn't go. In the morning, I went straight to DOC to change my reservation, to not lose the money. I met some other people there, who just came from the hike and said. I should go. So, I went back to the Service Hub, still not sure. In the end, Jen made the decision for me. I would enjoy it. I should join it to make me happy and so I did. We went to buy more groceries and wanted to say, I don't want to go let me here, I didn't. We passed the Hub again, my car. I wanted to say No. We passed the campground with my friends just waking up. Just leave me here.


After an hour, we reached the trailhead. Fiona, the other friend, just came back and wanted to drive back. I could go with her but she said. "You're already here. The hike is beautiful. Go."


I did. I felt horrible, every single step. But it got better with every step. In the end it felt good. I took off my shoes, I played music, I sang, and talked. We reached the hut. Only, cool kids inside. Mountaineers, coming back from a sunrise mountain expedition. A long distance cyclist, cycling all over NZ, sharing their stories. I had nothing to tell, so I just sat there and went to bed. Another, horrible, sleepless night.


In the morning, I was frustrated. I made it out of the hut but stopped at the first climb and said I will go back. Laurie and Jen didn't try to stop me.


For over an hour I was sitting on the rock not moving. Some small steps back, passing the hut. A bit further. It was already 10 am. Would I make it back in time, would someone pick me up? I stopped again, trapped on the ground. The cool kids came by. With backpacks two times as heavy as mine. I joined. They were faster, but we made it. Back to the carpark. They gave me a ride and I talked about my depression, because that was my only story that time. They got a phone call. Their friend, a climber, just died.


I was shocked. I was numb.


Back in Wanaka I went to DOC to change the date of my reservation, to save my money. I called the friend of Jen, who was supposed to pick them up by speedboat so that he wouldn't have to worry about me anymore. The boat just has a capacity of four and he normally wanted to have one other person on the way there to help him. Without me it was good. He asked me if I wanted to come. Having fun on a speedboat, picking up my friends. "Hell ya"! I said yes. I thought I felt sick and it would be rainy and cold and I didnt even have a proper rain jacket. I called again and said "NO". Two other people died shortly after during a river crossing close by.


I changed my hut reservation three times due to weather, appointments, friends and fear. I gave up and cancelled it completely.


Time went by and I got stronger. One good day, I decided to go. The day passed by somehow. I said Goodbye to Laurie who left back home.


I had my backpack, a bag of nuts, a bit of chocolate, a thin sleeping bag, a bivy bag, a jacket, a headlamp and desire.


I started to hitchhike there around 4/5 pm. A guy stopped and asked me how long I have been in NZ for because of the Corona virus situation. I said, 5 month in Wanaka, I'm safe. I jumped in. Would he have picked me up, if I would have been the same person but here for a shorter time? I don't know. Fear or Love?


He drove me even a bit further than he needed to do to the Lake Hawea corner, which gave me a better chance to get picked up.


After a while an Israelian couple, who wanted to do the hike the next day, picked me up. They had a self contained van, pure freedom. They didn't know about the rules that they basically could park and sleep for free in a lot of spots. Even at the start of the track, like I told them. They let me out at the campground.


I got picked up by a french couple. They were worried about going home, so they looked for a place with Wifi. The first place they wanted to stop wasn't open and didn't have Wifi. Good for me, We kept driving. The next stop was 1 or 2 km before the trailhead. I walked the last mile on the road. I started the trail at dawn around 6 pm. With my headlamp, I went through the dark. Four hours of me and the trail, so quilt, so peaceful. I reached the hut at 11 pm. There were people here but they were already sleeping. There was a thin mattress laying in the front/living room and I decided to sleep here to wake no one up.


I woke up at 5 am, packed my stuff, before someone else. I just met one person in the morning going to the toilet and I wrote into the DOC hut diary. For the others, I will be a ghost. I was never here, we haven't met.


I started the hike and went wrong, up an old riverbed. A hard way uphill. I lost an hour on my way to reach the ridge for sunrise. Did I lose that hour? No, I just missed the trail to find it again. Not more, not less. I reached the ridge a bit after sunrise.


A kea was sitting on a rock. He looked at me and I looked at him. We observed each other. I took a break and so he did too!


Then he spread his wings, showing all his colours and started to fly into the sky into freedom, into the emptiness and started to play like crazy into the sky. Other Kea's came by and they all started to play.


I got stucked on the ground, so I continued on my way and went down the trail.


I passed the hut, I paid a month before around 11 am. It didn't make sense to stay there this time. I had the full day in front of me.


A rainfront behind me but the sun ahead I kept going. I didn't look back. The last part I walked barefoot, slower not running anymore. Enjoying the little things more.


I stopped for a little tree and a mushroom in the moss on a rock.


I stopped for a little, purple, super colourful mushroom.


I stopped for a little bird, singing or maybe grumbling at me, who knows. He joined me for a while and then he left again.


I crossed a field with cows. They looked interested but didn't care too much, so I went through them without getting bothered.


Finishing, the trail opened into a beautiful open valley. A rainbow showed up for a short moment. I was in heaven and purely happy that moment. An open field, so open. So much space, so many ideas, possibilities, ways. It was the right moment and the right time to do it like that, here and now.


I heard some music, crossing the field in shuffled order.

The first song I heard was

"Numb", from Linkin Park. A sad but energizing song.

The second song was

"Man lebt nur einmal - You only live ones" from Ohrbooten. A song, I danced once back in Germany with some good friends in a tiny kitchen. Pure energy and confidence in life.

"Just breath" from Pearl Jam was the third song. A calm song to breath and be.

"Das ist dein Leben - This is your life" by Philipp Dittberner was the last song, crossing the valley.


The wind picked up. I got cold. I crossed the river. The water was freezing, the wind harsh in my face. Black clouds were coming. I hurried up, to get to the road.


Colourful, hat on, looking a bit crazy and thumb into the wind.

A guy stopped. A crawl fisher, who lost his job. He just came back from holidays in Abel Tasman and Milford Sound - Kayaking, MTB'ing and hiking with friends and family. Back into an uncertain future. We talked. He seemed to be happy and not too worried.


We listened to a rap song, I've never heard before but I liked it.


"I'm different" (Potluck).


He brought me all the way back to the campground, where my friends waited for me to hear my story and have fun again.


Kia ora trail!


"There is no glimpse of the light without walking the path. You can't get it from anyone else, nor can you give it to anyone. Just take whatever steps seem easiest for you, and as you take a few steps it will be easier for you to take a few more.” (Peace Pilgrim)


Film to watch, because it's beautiful and for free and about Mother Earth!


HOME (Yann Arthus-Bertrand)

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