Normal service has resumed

I think I’ve delayed my final post as long as I can. I’m settled back in New Zealand now and about to begin the mammoth task of sorting over 4000 photos and video clips I took along the way. The journey home took me via LAX. It wasn’t nearly as confusing as I thought it would be. I had plenty of time there to people watch as they went through the usual airport rituals. Hellos, goodbyes and thinking that somehow they deserve to be at the front of queues more than others. For my part I tried to get upgraded or at least secure a seat with leg room. I played the “I just walked across your country” card with zero success. The grumpy lady in San Francisco had already assigned me a seat despite claiming I didn’t get one until LA, and I was glad to exchange it to one by the aisle.
The plane was packed and the large Samoan next to me was taking more than his share of seats. I settled in for several movies but with the schedule of the last week it wasn’t long until I dozed off, almost dropping a cup of water in my lap in the process. Landing in Auckland I went through the duty free shops and I swear the lady behind the counter was having trouble keeping a straight face as she served me. It didn’t bother me. I did look quite a sight with messy long hair and my terrible beard. Passport control, customs, bio-security (who cleaned my tent for me 🙂 ) and then the walk of fame. I stepped through the gate and into the arms of my awaiting family.
Everything seemed normal. It was normal. Auckland hasn’t changed since I left. My car still steers just as it did before. The house is the same. My little brothers and sister are probably taller but it’s hard to judge. I don’t know what I expected but I was almost let down by everything being the same. Maybe I wanted my view of things to be different. It still could be. Next time I go walking here I’ll be doing the same sums I have been doing along the trail. I met up with friends on Friday night, they all had a good laugh at my mountain man appearance and I got to hear the stories of the last six months.
The highlight of my return, and the reason I really feel at home, was the party on Saturday night. It was the usual crowd, the usual faces, the people I missed. Tania turned up with a surprise. Roast vegetables just as I had dreamed about back in Oregon. Then more people came. Rachel and Dave (who came up with this idea) brought wiener schnitzel and kumara chips, others brought slushies (actually popsicles run through the blender), big bars of chocolate, bananas and chocolate to dip them in, Memphis Meltdowns and more. A few people were disappointed they hadn’t gotten to see the beard, but I’ve put together a time-lapse of my trip as seen below (it’s a large file so you’ll have a bit of a wait before it loads).

Also available on YouTube

We hit the town, and I was careful not to over do it. My lesson from the night out with Christian is too fresh in my memory to make that mistake again. The sky was getting light when I finally curled up on the couch at my old flat. The same as it ever was.

I did what I set out to and I’m not modest enough to say that I’m not super proud of it. I pushed really hard some times to get it done in the only manner I knew how and I’m glad I did. Reading the blogs of people behind me, and even getting an email from one friend I met at the Kick Off as she bailed out in the last few hundred miles because of avalanches, I’m not sure if I could have finished it at a slower pace. Scout and Frodo are probably out now, their journal is coming through slowly and reporting the snow conditions that most feared. Despite that I almost wish I had experienced that with them. Team Snowplow are bound to have great stories and be a very tight group after facing such adversities. I say almost because I did finish with the people I wanted to and I did finish. Right from the beginning I was worried about snow and that I’d have to give up in the last week of the hike.

So that was my summer. What should I do next? Answers on a postcard to

P.S. My brother left for England last night. At the airport I saw the cashier that was smirking at my unkempt appearance when I arrived. I went over to introduce myself and to say that I know I looked silly but I’ve smartened myself up a bit. It didn’t go so well. She denied it was her and then said they “they” (the staff) would never laugh at customers. I think she thought she was being rude but I was trying to laugh along with her. Oh well, you can’t charm them all.


The unreal world

San Francisco has been a blast. I’ve seen a lot of interesting things and had a lot of fun but it’s time to go home. I’ll be starting my journey home less than 12 hours from now, but it will be 36 before I’m there.

I found a hat
I found a hat

I’ve had a few days to adjust to the big city and I’ve really needed it. On Thursday I met up with Christian and he showed me the inside of a few good bars in his district. A great night followed by a terrible day. That’ll teach me a lesson I don’t need repeated. That was a shock to the body and Friday was a shock to the mind. I dropped in on Tyler and Ayumi and it happened to be brother Rowan’s birthday. The traditional American celebration ensued with beer kegs, beer pong, and loud music. I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t going anywhere near the alcohol and the crowd was getting raucous. I ended up sheltering in the kitchen. eating cornflakes and drinking water. I found it much easier to talk to people in that environment, and even if I wasn’t talking being in the mosh pit of the lounge just made me nervous. I think the best moment of the night was Lesley dancing to an imagined song in the kitchen. So carefree and relaxed it made me feel much more at home.

Oh bugger!
“Oh bugger!”

San Francisco is in the middle of a few festivals at the moment. Saturday was Lovefest (some photos) and it was an eye opener for sure. The parade of floats featuring the beautiful people in various revealing costumes all dancing to trance/electro/club/drum-and-bass. I couldn’t have reached of world more separate from the

dancing to her own tune
Dancing to her own tune

cold snowy mountain where I woke up a week before. In the sun of San Francisco, and the weather has been great, the fluffy, glittery, jiggly costumes were a (mostly welcome) shock to the eye. In the square outside the Civic Centre I lay on the grass and closed my eyes. I thought of that snowy mountain and of the woody hills and the sandy desert. I couldn’t quite zone out the rave music coming from the now-parked floats but I was getting close.

Apologies for the poor sound quality. My little camera couldn’t compete with the massive sound systems there

Before the run
Before the run

On Sunday Tyler and his brothers Dylan and Rowan were heading for the Bridge-to-Bridge and invited me along. I suppose if you count five months of walking I should be in pretty good shape and I did manage to knock it out pretty quickly but the pain in my knees and calves during the last few miles was enough to teach me not to do this again for a while. I’d never seen the Golden Gate Bridge like that before, we ran right up to the southern support, and I’ll be forever grateful for the chance.

Ayumi and I try on glasses
Ayumi and I try on glasses

By now you’d probably expect me to have re-entered society pretty well, and I am getting closer to it but there are still things that surprise me. But to be fair The Folsom Street Fair is bound to surprise most people. There was plenty on display there and it was mostly one sided. I was walked around with Ayumi and it was clearly more than she expected so we were both ready to leave before the others that were coming to meet us were even there. “A once in a lifetime experience” she said. That’s for sure. They’re a cool couple and if you’re reading this I want to return the favour so come visit Auckland. Maybe during the Hero parade 🙂

Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge
The sun sets on my adventure

My couch surfing continued and I moved across to Berkeley to visit Rick, a Kiwi studying here. Yet another different slice of American life as we cafe hopped, I think we hit five including dinner and dessert. The campus here is amazing. The big important looking buildings and huge underground library, purportedly the largest on the west coast. We had a Brit, an Israeli, a Peruvian and two Kiwis tonight. I am getting better at dealing with groups and though one of them tried their hardest, I wasn’t phased.
It’s now Monday evening and I’m still limping from that run. I can walk 26+ miles per day, but running 7.5 has torn me up. Hi to Blue Sky’s parents Kathy and Paul. They fed me this evening and even showed me some of her art work in the form of a commemorative Lilhammer plate 🙂