Updated: Nov 1, 2020
My gut answer is no.
Spontaneity in life is absolutely key. I live for the unplanned - which is surprising really considering I'm such a control freak in most other areas of my life ha. But seriously, being able to live your life in a way that welcomes spontaneity is such an advantage when it comes to traveling and exploring. So much of the beauty stems from the unknown - being able to see somewhere that looks amazing and having the freedom to just stop and set up camp. Or noticing a trail that most wouldn't and deciding to follow it even though there's a pretty well known one a few miles up. Spontaneity really holds the the key to a spicy life. And why wouldn't you want live a life full of flavour?
So no, spontaneity and disasters don't go hand in hand.. exclusively.. but they can. And this post is all about our most recent adventure that seemed to attract disaster after disaster, and was, arguably, the result of our spontaneity.
On Wednesday Sam and I decided to push our luck a little and head an hour north of Wellington to Tararua Forest Park. We were excited for a night under the stars and a good hike up the mountain range to get our hearts beating and our souls sparkling. Having spoken about going on a cheeky camping trip for a few days, we woke up and frustratingly had a conversation about what the fuck we would do for the day.. just like every other damn day in lockdown.
We quickly decided a night away was the answer. Luckily for us, my uncle and aunt live close to the forest park so should we get stopped by the police or for some reason need an escape, they were close by and we had an out.
So we piled the car up - who yesterday we named Tippi! - with our growing traveling equipment, gathered up some grub, packed a bag and hit the road. Tararua here we come.
We realised not long after setting off that we were quite low on fuel. So, we stopped at Johnsonville, just off Highway 1, and headed to BP (we have a cool app that gets us money off so, as a result, we are exclusive BP supporters). Our desirable support was wasted in this instance though as they didn't have the fuel we wanted (we've decided taking care of Tippi is #1 priority, we're only plugging her with 95 petrol and above).
Anyway, this BP didn't have it. So we decided to try our luck for the second time that day and head to the next town over in the hope that they would have what we were after. The 11k route from Johnsonville to Porirua proved to be a risky one, as we learnt for the first time in our new car that unlike lots of others, the fuel light does not indicate we have some time to figure our shit out, it was actually a warning that the car is about to konk out. Having broken down at least twice back home from letting my car run out of fuel, I'm definitely the type to dare the car further when such situations arise, but as the car began to shudder along the highway, even I was a little bit concerned..
Luckily, history didn't repeat itself! We made it in the metal vibrator to the Porirua BP to find that this petrol station, too, did not have 95 petrol. So fuck it, 91 was obviously the way we were going, by which point, we really didn't care what we put in, so long as it was petrol. I ran into the garage to see if we could buy cooking gas, another resource we were very low on, but had no luck, a slight worry considering anywhere else we could've bought it was shut due to level 3 lockdown. On the bright side, I bought us a 4-pack of krispy kremes to keep us smiling - which lasted all of about 2 minutes.
So with a full car and an air of relief circling the perimeter, we continued on with donut-filled bellies almost as wide as our smiles.
Many songs later we made it to Otaki Forks in the Tararua Forest. We ventured down to the gorge and allowed ourselves to still and our eyes to open to the sheer beauty of the natural world we finally found ourselves immersed in. It was so untouched and I immediately felt the power of it all rising up through me.
After a little explore, we made our way back up to the car to realise that we actually hadn't packed any lunch in the rush to leave the house. So we decided to turn around and head 20-minutes back up the one-road into the forest to the closest town to fuel ourselves.
Upon returning we made the decision that we'd go on a short walk that evening, set up camp and then get up early in the morning and go for a proper hike into the mountain range. The amazing thing about Tararua Forest is that it has so many tramping trails, from 1-2 hour loop tracks of pretty easy standard, to 3-4 day hikes up to peaks reaching over 1,600m. I reckon it's the most underrated mountain range in Wellington Region. We'd never heard of it really before having a little explore about where we could possibly get away with going to under Level 3, and we were amazed - but i'll get to that!
So going back to the point we were at in our series of unfortunate events, we'll skip forwards to setting up camp. Our amble along Arcus Loop took just under an hour, and there was no bad news to report there. It was beautiful, and an easy walk full of beautiful flowers and mini waterfalls - perfect for an early evening stroll. The sun was well into its descend when it came to us setting up camp. We put the tent up - all fine. Then it came to blowing up the airbed and getting it into the tent - always a fun activity when the airbed is at least 1.5x the size of the teeeny hole into the tent. We struggled in our attempt, and in the process also ripped the edge of the tent - the part that holds the peg and the tent pole. Oh well, it wasn't essential for the nights sleep so we made our peace with that. Then while Sam got dinner on the go - with the almost-empty gas canister, I made the tent all snuggly and warm. The temperature was dropping quickly, not only are we mid-Autumn in NZ but we were in a valley surrounded by pretty tall peaks. We clambered into the back of Tippi and ate our dinner, grateful for the adventure.
With dinner done, we changed into sleep clothes, woolly hats included, and after one round of cards the cold beat us and we accepted our fate of a child's bedtime - 8.30pm to be precise. The disasters then began to pick up swiftly from that moment onwards..
The airbed went down within the hour.. so any part of our body that was in contact with the ground felt like a literal ice cube. I'm pretty sure I saw every hour of the night as we tossed and turned, desperately hoping to find new warmth and comfort as we switched up the cuddle positions and wrapped the duvet tighter. It was a hideous night, and by the time 6am rolled around, we were well and truly over it.
Sam headed to the car and we got the heating going. It was still dark, with hints that the sun was on its ascent, we quickly dissembled the tent and got our 'chores' over with. A few moments later, as I was packing up the boot, Sam noticed the hot air had stopped, so slightly confused he turned the key in the ignition he went to turn the car on and re-start it. Can you guess what happened next?
The car wouldn't start. We were stuck in the middle of a forest, with no signal for a good 10mile radius, oh and to top it off, we weren't exactly supposed to be out camping given Coronavirus, so.. it was looking a bit bleak.
We decided we'd try and make a cup of coffee to warm some life back into our hands and figure out what to do next - keeping everything crossed that the cooking gas lasted long enough to give us that little luxury. I think the world was feeling sorry for us, because the sunrise was incredible, and definitely injected some positivity and wonder back into our minds.
We had planned to do a 6-hour hike up to Field Hut that morning and made the decision to continue with our original plan int he hope that we would find signal. We figured that as we increased our altitude we were bound to find signal as the chance of the mountain ranges blocking it would lessen with each step, and my uncle and aunty live just 20 minutes from the Tararua Range, thank fuck, so our game plan was to ring them as soon as we could and ask for a bail out.
By 8am we were on the move.
The hike was absolutely incredible - consistently uphill, it was definitely more challenging than we expected when we were running off minimal sleep. But it was good, it got our legs fired up and our hearts beating, we were on our way to find the adventure we had been waiting for.
About 45 minutes in, I was feeling a bit fed up with the lack of views - the trail was sheltered preventing us from seeing anything except the path ahead, and we had no luck on the signal side of things either. We kept going, hoping that round the next bend we would be rewarded with a view of the stunning sunrise or some kind of natural beauty to keep us inspired. Luckily we were rewarded! The next step took us into what I can only describe as a rainforest. The terrain was absolutely beautiful; the trees were wild and disfigured, the air was pure and it was SILENT. Honestly silent. It was like going back to the prehistoric ages, it was so untouched and so connective. We could hear our breath and the beautiful birdsong of native Kākā, but beyond that, the wind was our only companion. It truly was a snapshot moment. We sat down and enjoyed the stillness of the world and we soaked up the energy of the earth.
I would highly highly highly recommend visiting the Tararua Forest Park. It is unexpected, and so far removed from the types of places we know to be forests, and holds more magic and inspiration than lots of other places I've been to.
We also found the signal we were looking for right in the heart of the rainforest-type environment! Unbelievable, but amazing. So I quickly called my aunty and we planned to meet back down at the base a few hours later so we had time to make our way back down. It was all working out.
So in conclusion, no - spontaneity and disasters don't go hand in hand. BUT, you have to make sure that you look after yourself when you head out spontaneously. You will find some of the most beautiful places as a result of stepping out of your comfort zone and choosing to welcome in the chance to explore. Soo, if you're in Wellington, or travelling New Zealand, I would encourage you to check out the Tararuas. There are so many options for hikes and adventuring, regardless of your age and experience for you to go out and experience the magic for yourself!
But remember that there is no signal for a good 20 minutes in so take what you need and make sure you can look after yourself properly!
Enjoy your adventures!