At the start of today, I knew I did not have a lot of time to fit a walk in.
However, from my past experience – read: yesterday – I also knew that I didn’t want break what little momentum I had going, and miss a day, albeit for a very valid and understandable reason.
I decided to try to tackle Arataki Nature Trail, not surprisingly (given the name) starting at Arataki Visitor Centre. Despite the closeness, and the fact I’d literally walked right past it a few times when visiting the centre, and the fact it’s designed as someone of an introduction to walking in the Waitakeres… I hadn’t done this trail. Possibly because it seemed so… deliberate, almost to the point of being artificial. The plant ID markers along the way certainly help to remind you that you’re not in the middle of nowhere, and although the track quality is excellent, it’s also wide and noticeably man-made.
The other reason, which I find harder to admit to myself but yet is no less valid, is the people.
I don’t really like walking a well-travelled path, particularly a “touristy” path.
Now, I have nothing against tourists. Indeed, tourism is a large and needed industry for New Zealand, and my wee corner of New Zealand is not exempt from that. But a lot of the time I go on my walks to get away. From people, from society, from modern life, from myself. Obviously I’m not going and getting lost in the wilderness for days on end, so there are some limits to how ‘away’ I can truly be. But walking a path and passing lots of different groups of people also walking the path almost puts me off. Particularly when the people on the path don’t seem to have the same reverent, quiet, introspective attitude that I usually have – and of course, most people don’t. One way or another, I find it hard to settle into a meditative and peaceful frame of mind if jarred by a group of backpackers chattering back and forth, or the echoes of voices bouncing around the mountains / woods, or trying to figure out exactly what European language the group in front of me is conversing in. All the people, tourists or not, are very valid users of the parks and tracks. And in fact, the ones flouting the rules (most commonly with dogs) are almost always the locals, not the tourists. But large numbers of people in general on the tracks that I’m on at any given time is something I don’t particularly seek out, as I find it harder to get into the zone so to speak. It’s also perhaps why I will choose bush walks or out of the way tracks in the mountains somewhere, that require forward planning and driving to get to, rather than just wandering around our (admittedly walking-unfriendly) neighborhood, or going to the nearest place with proper footpaths for a walk – which is still closer than the nearest bush walk.
This being summer, and school holidays…. people are everywhere. Particularly at visitor centres designed to show off everything the Waitakere Ranges have to offer.
As it was, I was short enough of time that I only did the Lower Loop section of the Arataki Nature Trail – quite a short walk for me, only 1.2km in total length and a leisurely 30 minutes (including photo stops etc). (And yet, I still met three different groups on the trail in that time). On the upside… I have a reason to come back and revisit the trail, if only to do the whole thing. Further, I got out there – I did a walk, on a day I was fairly convinced I didn’t have any time to go for a walk. It wasn’t long, and my daily step count is still pretty abysmal, but I made an effort. Effort, in this case, is everything, especially for the mentality of building up the habit.