Sidling is a Kiwi tramping term that means “to negotiate a steep slope by moving transversely.” Whenever I saw the word sidle in my map notes, my arm pits leaked with fear inducing sweat, my eye’d twitch, and a long blank stare crossed my pale face. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but sidling is one aspect of the Te Araroa that intimidated me.
One might sidle across a steep trackless scree slope or across a thin track with marble sized rocks that slide out from under you before you have the chance to place the next step. Sidling happens on slippery grasses and tussock above creeks, rivers, and lakes. In the bush you sidle along drop offs that’ll leave you mangled if you miscalculate. Often times a sidle is not a gentle traverse, but a manic thing that twists and turns and climbs to tree line then shoots back down to sea level, and you come out of it feeling accosted.
But once my body adapted to the slope angles and tread, sidling wasn’t so bad after all. Wobbly ankles turn to stone, legs bulk up, balance improves. The Te Araroa South Island will turn you into a hardy mountain goat so you’ll feel confident walking just about anywhere.