Well, I'm all about the learning so I thought I'd take a break from hiking and share with you some lessons I've learned on this trip:
1) Never underestimate the amount of water required when hiking. At one point, I drank 2 litres of water and didn't pee for 8 (daytime) hours. For those who know me well, it was either a minor miracle or I was somewhat dehydrated. My money's on the latter.
2) When you're in New Zealand, ALWAYS take your jacket when you leave, even if the weather looks sunny and warm. These people weren't kidding when they said you can experience all four seasons in one day. I made the rookie mistake of forgetting my raincoat once, and once only. It isn't just for rain.
3) 2-man tents that you are convinced are truthfully designed for 1.5 persons will actually accomodate 3 people. It will get warm in there, especially when you're seeking shade from the 30-degree sun outside, so leave the end doors open while you chat.
4) Accept the fact that you will get dirty (unless you have special dirt repellant-ness like Louise), sweaty, and stinky. Everyone else will too, and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter.
5) Cutlery is not necessary for eating. It's actually pretty fun without it if you happen to forget the kniforspoons.
6) There are worse things than pesto-flavoured muesli at 6am or insects dying in your Milo. Marshmallows taste better with fire ash on them anyway.
7) Hills eventually stop going up --> keep hiking! You will get there.
8) It's ok to have your own pace. Push yourself to improve, but not beyond your limits. Don't give up too quickly if it starts to hurt.
9) Keep an energy bar in the pocket of your hiking shorts/pants for quick access. Lollies and nuts are good to stash too, but chocolate-covered raisins will melt and make a mess.
10) Spaniards and madagari are not your friends. Avoid whenever possible, and don't accidently bend into them to bush pee.
11) Wet wipes make wonderful sponge baths when your next chance to shower is 2 days of hiking away. It's amazing what a difference a clean face and hands can make for the weary soul.
12) Find your (head) torch BEFORE it gets dark.
13) Be proud of your nationality as well as tolerant (and interested in!) others. Be prepared to answer random questions about your home country as best you can. Take the opportunity to learn about where your new friends live. You never know when you might be in their neighbourhood next!
14) Keep your camera handy. You won't always have time to dig it out of your pack. Carry spare batteries as opportunities to charge stuff may be limited.
15) Minimalizing is the key.
16) Sunscreen, sunscreen, and more sunscreen! Apply before you need it, and before you think it's worn off. Don't forget to cover the areas that might get exposed as your clothing moves while you do. Gaiter burns hurt and itch when they're peeling.
17) Postcards are an inexpensive, fun way to tell friends & family that you are thinking of them while you travel.
18) Don't count on having regular access to phone and email. A detox can be very good for the mind and body.
19) Anyone can be annoying, especially while in close proximity for days. Try to focus on people's good points. Being negative is easy, but make the effort to get away from that mindset whenever possible. Be open-minded.
20) Find the fun whenever you can. Cell phone songs which can't be cancelled, eating pasta and oatmeal without utensils, inadvertedly skiing on grass, wearing rainbow-striped thermals in public, or realizing the wind styled your hair like a spaniard can be quite entertaining.