After a very unsettling week due to family matters, we headed off to begin stage 5 which began at Oparau near Kawhia.
Its amazing how familiar the whole set up is to us now. It actually felt like we had just moved camp the day before almost.
Great to catch up with friends and trek buddies but much sadness followed our early high.
We met up with Trish and asked where Smithie was? Is he late or what? She just looked strange and I thought for one moment she hadn't understood.
"He's gone" she says. "We tried to find you to let you know Charlie. Even asked at his funeral if you could come forward but you obviously didn't know".
You can imagine our confusion at this.
Dear Kevin Smith, tragically died on Feb 8, all of a week after we were at his place (twice actually in about 10 days). He had a massive heart attack and died as a result.
We were in shock. Smithie was so full of life and only 61 yrs old. Thats a real tragedy and we, especially Charlie who knew him since, 'way back when' will miss him terribly.
"Where the heck are you Smithie". Even after all this time its hard to take in.
Day 1, and Summer was super excited to go. As soon as my butt hit the saddle her back was up and she was full that electric tension that much excitement seems to create in her. We pranced and danced out to the gate to call our number, crossed the rode, rode down a hill and half way up the other side she put in a huge buck that threw me forward, as she came up in front she smacked me fair in the face and I saw stars.
I don't remember quite what happened but she obviously decided that standing still then was a good option and some friends came across us and we were apparently facing the wrong direction which for them meant something was wrong.
So lucky to have good mates who then rode with me or not far from me for quite some time.
By the time I made it to the lunch stop I had a sore neck, really bad head ache, a decent sized lump on my forehead and a bit of a split in my nose.
The medic offered me a ride home! but I decided on some pain killers and keeping on riding, of course!!!!
The ride lead us through a beautiful river and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Summer had thought better of her early actions it seems and gave me a really nice ride for the rest of the day from memory.
That night however, a person opposite me shook their head and I saw lots more heads than there should have been. I had a blinding headache again so saw the medic, had some more drugs and headed for an early sleep.
Feeling much better the next day, still a bit of a thud in my head and a slightly sore neck but nothing serious. The headache continued for a few more days and the bump took about 4 days to go down, Still a bit tender to touch but thankfully heads a pretty tough. I really felt like someone had shaken my brain.
Really nice riding over the next couple of days. Skirting around the locked forestry gate (the key wouldn't unlock it) we left a hind foot behind on the narrow piece of bank making my hear jump!
Later up the forestry we had to skirt around a deep hole that was being carefully marshaled be Jed and The Colonel (mule) and again she dropped a leg off the bank. Thankfully we had plenty of going forward impulsion and pulled out of it.
The further we went down the island the more the landscape changed. Piopio was rest day. We had the domain to spread out on and had a nice relaxing day. A few of us headed to to Piopio Cossy club and had a really enjoyable night. Some more than others and one 'dark horse' scored the barmans shirt!
I don't think any of us were prepared for the frost that night. Camping in tents and floats etc, well prepared for summer, it took us all by surprise. Heck it was cold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The day of course was stunning and heading towards Aria we had brilliant views of Mount Ngaruhoe and Ruapehu.
Trekkers, generally like to party hard and the Aria club opened up specially during the day for a quiet lemonade or two. Some trekkers still hadn't made it into camp by quite late in the afternoon and were actually preparing to let their horses loose in the paddock beside the club apparently.
The next few days the riding became steeper, the hills higher and the horses fitter. Brilliant stuff. Summer really found her walk again and was marching along like a wee trooper. She can match it with a lot of horses but those big amblers always leave her for dust. She does really well though and I am super proud of her.
Being out on this trek seems to do something to people. I think at some stage, pretty much all of us hit a 'brick wall'. Is it all the time to think, lack of distractions or just the whole, pushing yourself thing? I don't know but it seems to happen.
This year, peoples relationships seemed to take a focus for me. One person who has become a friend through this trek was having a really tough time with a decision she was facing. Another who appears very bitter after a very long and not enjoyable marriage talked a lot as well.
Another was fascinated with the relationship Charlie & I have. One more poured her heart out over her divorce and anger towards what had happened.
Some really tough stuff.
And then a special event was to be held on the last day of the trek. A wedding between one of the crew and a horse rider who had met on another stage of this ride.
It was very lovely and the bride arrived on horseback (of course), had all their dogs and family there as well and a really neat preacher doing the ceremony.
Well something he said set me right off. There I was, pouring tears and thoughts of my own relationship running through my head.
I won't bore anyone reading this with details but an emotional journey it was again. I had a bit of a walk on my own and came back with a lot more thoughts in my mind.
Time of course will tell...................
But of course we have to remember what this ride is all about. To raise funds to find a cure for MS. It was great to hear that $29,000 had been given to specific research, all from money raised on the trek. Great stuff.
And guess what! While Summer has a few minor rubs, she is actually still rideable. I achieved a goal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!