I was paddling with Sam, a 26 year old from Glasgow who is a breath of fresh air in the world of TA trampers. She would no more give herself a trail name than she would spend a day without swearing, drinking or attempting to hook up with various other younger TA people. Apparently there is a Facebook page (closed to us oldies, obviously) specifically for them all to arrange their routes (sic).
I don’t know how to convey how the Whanganui makes my fingers tingle as my mum would say: A palpable dove-tailing of humans and impenetrable bush. The Bridge to Nowhere made me think of all the poor buggers who were being thanked for being Anzacs in a war in a different hemisphere by being gifted plots of land covered in gorse, surrounded by massive cliffs that lead to the only access on the river. Possibly this would have been successful if the returning soldiers were as physically and mentally strong as they had been when they first volunteered. Sadly they were missing limbs, suffering from shell shock and I’m guessing that their moods matched that of the river: Namely, a flow that can change from gentle stream to raging torrent in seconds with no precursor
This trip is not merely a linear journey concerned only with kilometres-covered and distance-travelled. I try very hard to talk with anyone who has a pulse about the MS Society and how MS impacts on families. My parents spent countless years driving over the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District (UK) to visit my brother Ian at ‘Holehird’, the Leonard Cheshire care home. This was not an easy trip in winter and indeed as I have been enjoying the Wanganui this week my parents and my younger brother and his family have been dealing with the flooded rivers that have afflicted NW England.
To reach Wanganui, I used a cunning combination of kayak, bike and walk. To mix things up a little I decided to exchange 40km of highway walk by attempting to run the Wanganui marathon. Here’s the thing, it turns out that tramping is not the most appropriate training for running a marathon! Luckily I met up with my mate Norman, who is chasing 200 marathons along with his posse of yellow-clad beauties. Norman is the most smiley person I have ever met. Among numerous other virtues, he also has a big lolly supply.
I managed to get a few minutes at prize-giving to talk about my trip but during the many hours on the course my bright orange MS shirt had already sparked many comments.
Onwards towards Palmerston North where I have a lunch date with the local MS crew....