Hiker’s journey to reconnect with NZ after harrowing survival tale

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Claire Nelson loves to hike.

The Auckland-born writer has recently completed Te Araroa, which translates to the Long Pathway, a 3000km trail that stretches from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

“Part of doing the Te Araroa was to reconnect and build a relationship with New Zealand,” she told Seven Sharp.

“Te Araroa was always on my radar, one of those big adventures to do one day and I wanted to grasp the opportunity to walk across New Zealand.”

From her parents’ Otaki home in the Kapiti Coast district, Nelson’s not only exploring the best of the outdoors, but also penning her second book based on her own experiences having returned home after living most of her adult life overseas.

“For those of us who are kind of restless people and we move overseas and create a life somewhere else, it’s very hard to come back home. I am home but I’m struggling to belong.”

Three years ago in the midst of the Covid pandemic she released her first book documenting her courage and survival from her near death experience hiking alone in Joshua Tree National Park in California.

The writer fell six metres while hiking in the desert in 2018, breaking her pelvis and ankle. She was immobilised for days and forced to drink her own urine to survive. Stranded with no cell phone coverage, she recorded selfies on what she believed were her last moments.

“If I go through one more hot day like this I’m a goner,” she documented in agony and tears. “This is the colour of what I’m drinking. It says it all really.

“My friends and my family, I’d do anything to see you guys. I really don’t want to be here.”

After four days, she was located by search and rescue.

Her survival from the harrowing experience offered her the opportunity to reflect on life and regrets which she detailed in her book, Things I Learned from Falling.

“I didn’t really understand the magnitude of just how many people go through life refusing to ask for help or accept help,” she said.

“I wasn’t good with connecting with people. I wasn’t good with asking for help and then I realised just how common those things are.”

Asked if she would go back and walk the path again, she laughed and replied no.

“The fact that I was unable to move from the waist down and I’m now able to go about my life as normal I don’t take that for granted.

“I still feel a lot of tension on my hip and I still have a lot of issues with my ankle, but I let it be my little reminder that your body went through this, so go easy with it and as long as it doesn’t stop me doing what I want to do, then I can’t complain.”





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