Last updated 4 June 2020
I like to think of myself as a bit of a hiker. There’s nothing I enjoy more than going for a wander in Australian bushlands (or in the Scottish Highlands or on an Icelandic glacier – fab hikes from 2018.)
But would I have the stamina, the will, the fitness let alone the desire to hike consistently for five solid months?
Australian outdoor enthusiast and adventurer Laura Waters has done this. And the Melbourne based freelance travel writer has written a book about her journey. Bewildered released on 27 August 2019.
Laura selected New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail. The route begins at Cape Reinga on the top of New Zealand’s North Island then travels all the way down to Bluff, the most southern tip of the South Island. It’s 3000 kilometres across some pretty confronting terrain. No mean feat to trek. Anyone who’s seen firsthand the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand would be aware the two islands has its fair share of rugged, wild and uninhabited landscapes. The Te Araroa Trail crisscrosses through many of them.
So why follow a trail Laura describes as “raw and unpolished made for proper adventurers familiar with forging across new territories. With scores of unbridged rivers to cross, trackless tussock plains and exposed alpine passes.”
She was lured by the adventure and an almighty challenge that would take her way outside of her comfort zone. At age 43 Laura was over the mundaneness of her corporate job and felt compelled to leave an unhealthy relationship.
But these were not the only drivers. Laura was fighting off inner demons that would surface occasionally. Concerned the dark clouds of anxiety and self-doubt might eventually consume her soul, Laura turned to the trail.
“Trying to re-write the program of self-doubt that has always been there.”
In Bewildered Laura openly shares her battle with depression, a human condition many relate to. But this is not the story of a victim. It’s an openly frank account of how Laura, by putting one foot ahead of the other, walked away from a life that was spiraling downwards.
“Like a wildebeest crossing a crocodile-infested river, I follow the others on our southern migration, forging on despite the dangers, simply because there is no other way.”
Laura’s plans were not to walk solo, but as happens in life, not everything goes to plan. Throughout the story, she connects with others walking the same route. And from these fellow hikers she learns more about herself and her inherently human qualities.
“The daydream of finding love in such a landscape is hard to resist.”
This was no easy journey. There are incidents, pain, solitude, and self-doubt but there is also enlightenment.
“Bit by bit nature is cracking me open releasing me like a nut from its shell.”
I know Laura through my writing circles – the Australian Writers Centre and the Australian Society of Travel Writers. I read a pre-release of Bewildered to write a book review for a hiking magazine (out next month.) At night-time I would jump into bed with my laptop eager to read a few more chapters, relishing the next installment in Laura’s journey.
Bewildered is an emotionally honest, beautifully written story about how one woman determines the extent of her capabilities. It will resonate with anyone who questions where they’re currently at in life. Bewildered is about pushing beyond your comfort zone, leaving behind creature comforts and embracing a simplistic life within nature in its wildest forms.
“I feel nature’s drug gliding into my veins.”
For the hiker in me, who has at best endured (only) four days of continuous hiking and stayed in comfortable accommodation each night, Laura’s story is inspiring. But beyond the physical endurance of hiking the Te Araroa Trail, Bewildered shows how believing in yourself and chasing your dreams can lead to life-changing outcomes where the rewards are endless.
Side note – just in case you think this is a sponsored post. I’ve not written this review for payment and I don’t have affiliate links on my site. This was a book I really enjoyed written by a writing colleague and friend. It takes guts to do what Laura did and then to sit down and write a story about her epic journey. I chose to write this review to support someone who is following their dreams.