Start: Birchwood
Finish: Birchwood
Distance: 12km

I know what you’re thinking, how can I finish in the same place I started?

Well, spoiler alert, I ended up turning around. But back to the start of the day.

I woke up with sore muscles, even after another rest day yesterday, so knew it was going to be a tough day.

We headed off along the road, cutting through head high grass to get to the start of the track before a short walk led us to the start of the farmland we would be walking through all day.

As we got to the top of the first Hilo Jacqui pointed back “Can you see the black cat?”

I turned but couldn’t see anything. An omen. The only thought going through my head was that that was definitely not a good sign.

But still I pushed on.

My aching body momentarily forgotten as we walked past a beautiful black horse that I named Midnight.

He was something out of a movie, he almost didn’t seem real.

We stopped for a quick chat to Midnight then continued down through the sheep paddocks until we reached a lake.

The mountains reflecting beautifully in the water, surrounded by trees, it was absolutely magical.

And then on we went. Through paddock after paddock we passed sheep and cows and came to the bottom of a steep climb.

Looking up I knew the climb would be tough but I knew I could just take it 100 steps at a time.

Eventually we got to the top and stopped for a breather.

And this was when my body made itself known.

My hips started throbbing, my calves tightened and as I went to undo my pack my shoulders and back seized.

I knew what this meant. My mind had held strong against my body for the first 6km but with 21km still to go and a tough 2 days after that, my body was saying ‘enough’.

So I made the tough call to turn around, telling Jacqui (who decided to go on without me) and my parents.

There’s something about admitting failure to your parents, because that’s what I felt like, a failure.

As I headed back down the hill these thoughts plagued me.

The words of the elderly women we met last night echoing; ‘cheating’.

How could I say I’ve walked the TA when I’ve skipped 2 1/2 days of it?

I was a failure, a quitter. I don’t have what it takes to do this. But then I remembered we’d had to detour around Island Bush due to logging, and we’d hitch-hiked.

This wasn’t me giving up, this was simply another detour. I knew I’d made the right decision.

Stopping at the lake again for some lunch I headed back past the sheep, past the majestic horse, through the grass and along the road back to the warm fire at Birchwood, wishing the universe would bless my hitch-hiking again tomorrow.