The man who walked too fast

A small part of A short walk beneath a long white cloud

Today, six months post-trail, I was talking to Louis, an American here at the hostel. It turns out he is friends with Max, the very fast French Te Araroa walker who overtook Rose and I near the start of the Two Thumb Track. In our brief exchange, Max had told us he was aiming to complete the trail in 67 days. Though we didn’t mention it to him Rose and I both felt that he was missing much of the joy the trail had to offer by never pausing for an afternoon in the company of other walkers, never walking alongside others, committing himself to a flying pace with no room for compromise.

Initially I couldn’t help feeling a little vindicated when Louis told me that Max is intending to re-walk Te Araroa this summer as he feels like he missed out by moving so fast. But meeting Max also showed me the impact of my own ego on Rose and I’s walk. I know that there were times when I got caught up in the excitement of ‘big days’ and urged Rose on, pushed her to walk further than was reasonable.

Crossing paths with Max, even that brief encounter, helped me to see that speed was so far down the list of the things that mattered. We stopped early that day, spent an afternoon at Crooked Spur hut in the company of Sally, John, and Claudia. We did a big day the following day, but only because it thrilled us both to do it, and as we continued south we gave more of our time to the interstitial experience, those moments in between, the beautiful idleness that enhances the joy of such sustained motion. Days of ease, measured not by the number of steps trod but by sites seen, sounds heard, souls met, and if nothing else then by the number of pages written and read.

I have a lot of respect for Max, for having the humility to realise his folly and retread that many steps in order to give this experience its due appreciation, and I remain grateful to him for helping me see what matters most.

Kudos Max, and go well.