After my walk yesterday, I was a little surprised how sore, tired, and generally achy I was. The walk I did really was quite easy after all. Sure, it wasn’t completely flat, but little around here is. But the grades were gentle, the track tame and well maintained, and I didn’t even clock 10,000 steps yesterday – maxing out just a smidgen over 8,000 steps. Compared to what I was doing just a couple weeks ago, that’s child’s play.
Following on from that, I found it hard to drag myself out for a walk today. Conditions were perfect – sunny with a light breeze, some humidity but not enough to feel like you’re drowning with every breath. In general, today was a glorious sunny summer Auckland day.
I did, however, push myself out the door to fulfill a nagging (but desired!) task. I wanted to pop by the Arataki Visitor centre and get a proper map, as to date I’ve been primarily working off of the free, but somewhat incomplete, brochures with key tracks given a brief description, others merely noted on the map, and still others either on an adjoining map / brochure, or not at all. New as I am to outdoor pursuits, I hadn’t actually realised there’d be a wider, comprehensive maps with all the tracks on it – but of course there is! It’s not available for free, but it’s not expensive either and it’s well worth the money. I knew it’d be available at Arataki Visitor Centre. Although I’ve visited Arataki several times, I’ve never stopped to talk to the rangers there (I’m shy, I don’t like approaching people, even people there for that specific purpose) nor had I ever really looked at the items for sale. Maybe simply because I’m not a tourist, I’d written off that part of the visitor centre as “tourist fodder”. (For anyone wanting tourist fodder, there certainly is some – though what they do have is kept appropriate to the location, mostly locally made, and quite nice really. Which I found out today, when I bothered to look.) Arataki Visitor Centre closes at 5pm, however, and that’s often about the same time I’m only just heading out the door to contemplate a walk, as the weather starts getting slightly more bearable after the heat of the day. (I’m not just a wimp on hills, I also don’t cope too well in the heat.)
I did make it there in time today – and found the “Recreational Area Map” right away, and it is indeed exactly what I’ve been after. (So much so, that I’m tempted to go and get another one, so I have one in my car and/or bag, and one at home for route contemplating when not actively on the go.) Right next to the maps, they had a proper book – Walking the Waitakere Ranges – which, being as that’s exactly what I’m doing, I also bought without hesitation. I’m always interested in other people’s experience of the tracks, both to get a feel of what I might be getting into beforehand, but also to compare my experiences to theirs once I’ve finished.
Having got out the door (which is usually the hardest part), I figured I may as well go for an actual walk now – I’m even armed with map and book! Inspired by yesterday’s walk and the tease of meeting up with Auckland City Walk, I decided to head directly to Auckland City Walk today, and possibly take the Fence Line track as far as the Dam (but not tackle the entire Montana Trail). About halfway through my drive from the Visitor Centre to the start of the walk, I realised – I’d taken the car I haven’t been using much for these, and it no longer had my spare bottles of water in it. Neither, for that matter, did my bag, as I’d drunk the one in there during yesterday’s walk. So much for my motto of always being prepared with water and a snack. Maybe I wouldn’t do the Fence Line track offshoot, after all.
Now I was faced with doing a walk I’ve already done (and been a touch ambivalent about at the time), ill prepared to make it a long journey with offshoots, when I was feeling more obligated than eager to walk in the first place. Not the best frame of mind to start a walk in. But, I was mostly there – might as well just do it. Even a shortish walk is more than I would have done if I’d just stayed home.
Auckland City Walk, take 2, actually ended up being quite a bit different than my first experience. This is now the second time I’ve repeated a track, and during my walk today I had a realisation. To borrow a phrase from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, I’m calling it my First Splendid Truth of Walking. The experience of the walk is only half due to the track itself – the other half is what I bring, mentally and physically, on any given day. This time, I started from the other end of the loop (not quite a contradiction – the loop technically both starts and ends on Falls Road, but 100m or so apart) and thus went the other way around. The way I went this time I think is the more common way – the main parking lot is at the very end of the road, whilst last time I parked in a parking bay near the other entrance to the track. Although it’s not much of a difference, the 100m or so is on a hill, so ending at the “bottom” means a brief uphill walk at the very end, and I hate ending on a steady uphill section. Starting at the bottom entrance to the track means that although the route is still pretty much the same, I’d finish on a downhill instead of an uphill, which sounds ever so much more appealing.
My experience of the track this time was nearly entirely different than previously. For one thing, due to the direction I was traveling in, I completely missed the off-shoot to the Cascade Falls last time.
I was more than keen to do a small off-shoot, and I always like seeing waterfalls, so there was little question about whether I’d take the detour.
What I hadn’t realised when I went in search of the falls, however, is that the Cascade Falls are also known as the “Hidden Falls”. I dutifully followed the track all the way to the end, and met pile of large and imposing boulders, next to the stream. I could hear the roar of the falls, and what I assumed was people swimming in the pool at the bottom, but I could see nothing of the sort – just the giant cliffs on either side, one of which the falls tumble down. When I got home and looked up the Cascade Falls, I found out what I suspected at the time – to actually get a glimpse of the waterfall, one has to climb the rocks, which are permanently slippery. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I’m not terribly surefooted, and I’m also not very confident. Today, I contented myself with hearing the falls, if not seeing. However, for the views of the cliffs and rocks alone, the brief detour was well worth it.
Throughout the whole walk, and especially the end – by which time my feet hurt, and I was glistening with sweat, despite it being an “easy” track – I found myself marveling at how much harder the walk was this time, compared to my memories of last time. I’d only stopped my daily walks for about two weeks, maybe three if you factor in the hit-and-miss period shortly before my ‘holiday’. Now, though, I’m left feeling more unfit that when I first started walking regularly. Both yesterday, and today, I’ve only just barely walked 8,000 steps – which is shy of my 10,000 step goal, and also well under what I had been in the habit of walking, before my break. Now though, even 8,000 steps feels like a marathon. I’m amazed at how quickly the fitness went away. My husband, who used to regularly cycle commute, assures me that after the first week or so I’ll be right back into it. I certainly hope so – at this point, it’d be all to easy to give up, and put the whole project into the ‘too hard basket’. Mind you, I have no intention of actually doing so – but I can feel the temptation, and it’s strong.