South Island Magic

At this point in time I Don’t have enough time to write out the remainder of the south island. I will get to it at some point I promise! In the mean time, here is an upload of my entire trek across New Zealand.

If you have any questions feel free to contact, I don’t mind sending you in the right direction for information concerning the trail. All I can say is if you have the inclination to tackle this type of challenge…stop thinking and just do it!

End of the North

Palmy to Wellington
Day 67
1700km

The end of the north island! Incredible to think that over two months ago I began this journey at Cape Reinga, unbeknown to what I would encounter along the way.

To begin I want to reflect on a few things.

One aspect of the trail that I never really considered was encountering other TA hikers. Having researched the trail I knew full well that Seb and I were beginning at the end of the season. Any later and we would run the risk of encountering winter in the South Island and therefore dangerous rivers and snow dumps. With this in mind I expected to run into little or no TA hikers. Boy was I wrong! What started out as a duo has now turned into a family of more than ten. For me hiking to begin with was enjoying the resulting view at the end. Thankfully now I can say that I hike to enjoy the same view but with those who I can rely on for support and encouragement on and off the trail from now on.

Something else worth reflecting upon is the insight tramping has given me regarding a need vs a want. Before beginning the trail I was fixated on material goods and found myself spending what I now consider outrageous amounts of money for items I simply didn’t need. By removing myself from that environment I now have a clearer mindset of what I truly need in life. All by adopting a more simple lifestyle!

Lastly an appreciation for the little things. A hot shower, clean clothing, soft bed and fresh food are all things that I relish now. If you see me after I finish you won’t find me complaining.

Returning to the trail!

With Palmy behind me I headed straight for Levin through the small township of Shannon. Upon entering Shannon at 10:30pm I encountered a young man by the name of Tim. To my surprise he had heard about the TA and had mountain biked sections on the east coast! Before long Tim had offered a place for me to stay and some amazing food to suit. Showing me around the self sustainable farming commune it was refreshing to see a earth house on the property. Having a construction background I got quite excited by the fact that Tim worked on the structure and to that day had never inspected one in person. Upon leaving a traditional Gaelic blessing was spoken by my host and I was on my way towards the Tararuas!

Reaching the beginning of the Tararuas I was ecstatic to encounter my second alpine region on the trail. Having little tramping knowledge prior to the TA new environments where both a learning experience and a exhilarating ride. Upon reaching the first hut I encountered a group of six section hikers that introduced me to an amazing word game called bananas grams. Soon after we had dinner together and I was treated to freshly cooked steak and red wine! Unexpected to say the least. The following day was a 12km adventure of alpine regions within the Tararuas. With incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding alpine area we then made our way towards the summit of Mount Crawford taking rest just short at Nicols Hut. This beautiful hut was nestled in between two ridges, providing an amazing view southward down the Tararua ranges. The following day we summited Mount Crawford at 1462 meters and took in the views! Pushing on we descended the ranges and ended up at Otaki Forks, just shy of Waikanae. We encountered our first beach in over 800km on the Kapiti Coast after venturing west from Waikanae. The following 3 days we went southward towards Wellington, passing through Porirua and climbing Colonial knob to our first view of the capital!

Two days later I completed the North Island with the trail family that once came to being in Whananaki. The North Island has been an eye opening experience full of hardship, thrills, uncertainty and excitement. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

Onward to the South Island!

Without a Paddle

Taumarunui to Palmerston North
Day 56
1475km

With the Tongariro Crossing complete our group of 16 returned to the small town of Taumarunui for our next leg of the adventure… the Whanganui River!

Having 1 day to resupply for a 7 day expedition we found ourselves frantically searching the small rail town for goods.

Endless food possibilities were now available to us thanks to the use of onboard canoe storage. Soon we found ourselves with mounds of fresh food, bakery goods and a unhealthy amount of alcohol.

Having never canoed before the very thought seemed daunting at first. Encountering rapids, potential eel attacks and obviously taniwha are all on my mind. Yet there I was signing my life away on the legal waiver that put my health and safety in my own hands. Looking back I have the Te Araroa Trail to blame for these kind of decisions. Undertaking the trail gives you a sense you can do anything. It really does. While canoeing may seem like a no biggie, you overthink the possibility of situations going wrong. And why wouldn’t you? You are hiking the length of a country through terrible and sometimes dangerous terrain, unpredictable weather and half the time no clue where you will camp each night.

Enter Blazing Paddles.. aka Broken Paddles aka Busted Paddles. A canoe company based in Taumaranui for what seems countless decades providing adventurers with canoes that would leave your grandparents ornaments looking brand new. Having called around the area we found them to be the best (cheapest) provider of canoe hire. 7 days of canoeing for $150 seemed too good to be true right? Regardless of the answer, we promptly paid and ended up with canoes that would otherwise resemble a paddock bashing 1994 Toyota Corolla without WoF or rego…except on a moving water source with rapids.

For the next 3 days we floated rather than paddled down the stream relishing in the fact that we didn’t have to hike. The first two nights we stayed at DoC campsites enjoying our newfound way of making mileage. Upon waking up on the third day our trip seemed jeopardised. The water rose over 2 meters during the night and with the canoes half submerged, our group of 16 feared the loss of lifejackets, paddles and more importantly our canoes. After taking count, we mourned the loss of 1 paddle and made our way to the following DoC sites. On the 5th night we were fortunate to participate in a powhiri from the Chief of the Ngati Hau. A quite literal link with the river was explained as he told us of his tribes origins, existence and continuation. It was amazing to hear a point of view that is rarely seen and the way he mocked ministers and other supposed honourable members of parliament made my night. Following our stay at the Marae, we were then forced into a tough paddle towards Whanganui for the last 3 days of our trip due to tidal flow and headstrong wind. This intern brought severe moral decline as we were unfortunately put in a situation where we had to work for our final campsites.

Once docked we set off on foot to Palmy from Whanganui. A section that I had been dreading since the beginning of the river. The bain of the Te Araroa…road walking. While the Te Araroa predominately takes you through DoC tracks, road walking is a necessary truth given how new the trail really is. Access through farmland takes time to organise and DoC trails simply don’t exist in certain areas. Approximately 110 kilometres later after some thrilling road walking and some trail magic on the side we arrived in Palmy!

Here is a count of interesting stats concerning our 7 day adventure!

Paddles broken: 1
Seats broken: 1
Capsizes: 3
Total scrumpys consumed: 14
Possums potentially killed: 1
Phones water damaged: 28
Total litres of spirits taken: 8.7 litres
Total kilometres accomplished without paddling: 83 kilometres

Onto the Mountains

Hamilton to National Park
Day 45
1156km

What a time to be alive! Te Araroa has now taken me into the mighty Waikato passing through Mount Pirongia, Purorua Forest and the Tongariro National Park!

Upon leaving Hamilton I was initiated into the popular Electric Fencing Club comprised primarily by Te Araroa walkers by walking into a live fence meant for livestock at the arboretum just on the outskirts of Dinsdale, Hamilton.

Before I knew it I was summiting Pirongia for the third time and experienced my first hut experience of the TA. The new hut which is located 30 minutes from the summit is a 16 bunk shelter with amazing facilities after a hard climb. Upon descending the mountain the following day our group encountered knee deep mud again! Having had such bad experiences before in the Ratea Forest within the Northland region, I was surprised to not only come out injury free but enjoy the overall absurdity concerning the state of the trail. Needless to say I am not afraid to get dirty on the trail anymore.

Following Pirongia we descended into the Purorua Forest to reach our 1000km mark of the trail. Costumes were bought in Te Kuiti for the occasion with photos to boast that can be found somewhere on Facebook!

After a well deserved rest day in Taumarunui we headed to the Tongariro National Park to experience the hordes of Mordor: day hikers. Full length jeans, Nike attire, Adidas accessories were standard issue for the majority. Our group took the initiative to show that you don’t need a brand to be active and proceeded to wear revealing costumes that you would commonly see at a seedy Halloween party.

Today we are a group of 16 TA hikers heading down the Whanganui River for 7 days. What’s in store for us? Trail wedding? Capsizing canoes? Guess you will find out in the following blog!

Beach Hopper

Kerikeri to Hamilton
Day 29
800km

By sending this post I am indicating that I am alive and doing well! Who knew hiking for 8 – 10 hours a day could be so exhausting?

My travels down the Northland have been incredible with some amazing beach sections, arduous bush trails and unbelievable trail magic.

Trail magic refers to a situation you can find yourself in or an act of kindness from individual(s) while on the trail. People who support trampers are therefore considered trail angels.

I do have one qualm about the beach sections though. Not anywhere did the guidebook mention we would walk through full fledged nudist beaches down the trail. Upon arriving at Ruakaka just 15 minutes out from Whangarei, our group was flung into solid 10 minutes walk down a nudist beach (primarily men). Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against people who take the expression ‘feeling free’ literally, but you would think the Te Araroa Trust would mention it. Perhaps they should…sex sells right? Maybe that would entice more people to jump on the trail.

Some of the trail magic we’ve encountered includes free homebrew and roast at a farmers shack north of Mangawhai Heads. Our group even scored an entire bottle of rum for New Years celebrations! On top of that we’ve stayed and boozed at a previous TA hikers flat in Takapuna after being approached via car walking along he street. Furthermore we’ve received a lot of encouraging support from a majority of people about the hike itself. It may seem like all fun but it is definitely the most difficult experience I’ve undertaken.

We now head further south towards Pirongia, Tongariro Crossing, Whanganui River and the Tararuas. If anyone is keen to join for particular sections let me know and I can give you the best estimate for when we are starting!

The Te Araroa trail can definitely be a joyride or a nightmare. It’s a matter of adapting to the situation and sticking it through each day that determines whether you can finish it or not.

TLDR: The Northland has some of the most amazing yet desolate beaches I’ve seen in New Zealand, Ruakaka shall hereby by named Ruacockout, and half cut farmers who offer you free homebrew are genuinely nice people.

Tough Mudder

Ahipara to Kerikeri
Day 11
224km

Arrived in Kerikeri today after 6 days of hard hiking. Went through some of the most difficult forest sections I’ve ever encountered. Insane mud sections (ankle/knee deep) barbed fencing, unmaintained.

Herokino Forest was a 330 meter climb with a insane decline at the end that we had to attempt un the dark due to overestimating the size of the campsite.

Ratea was a 744 meter climb and one of the worst sections I’ve ever hiked. 70% of the trail was root/mud, 20% insane mud puddle sections and 10% moderate track.

Following Ratea we forded a river and camped adjacent to the Waipapa river. Definitely one of my favorite sections so far.

The remaining areas included a large amount of road and farm walking.

We are heading to Paihia tomorrow and expecting a moderately easy journey towards Auckland.

Keep you guys updated more often from now on!

Beginning

Cape Reinga to Ahipara
Day 4
102km

Bitter sweet moment saying goodbye to friends and family since beginning Te Araroa from Cape Reinga. Some of the most exciting yet debilitating days I’ve experienced. Aching of muscles and blisters have made things difficult but moral is high. We have made it to Ahipara and will have a zero day tomorrow before heading into the bush! More photos to come when I can upload them!

Planning Whats Ahead

Want to watch the entire 3000km journey in 20 minutes? Go ahead and get inspired.

Que soothing background music.

Introduction

How does one plan for a 4 month journey on foot? Where do you sleep? What do you eat? What skills are involved?

Tramping many of Te Araroa’s tracks requires the bush craft skills of an experienced back country tramper. These skills include trip planning, navigation, and river crossing skills, all of which are prerequisites to good  decision making capability in the field. You also need to know what survival equipment to carry and how to avoid getting hypothermia.

A through tramp normally takes somewhere between 50-80 days per island. The variables depend on fitness, tenacity, weather, and the availability of time. 50 days is quick and would require a high degree of fitness and some luck with the weather. Conversely 80 days is relatively leisurely. There would be lee-way within this time frame to walk slower and for shorter distances most days, to build fitness levels en route, to extend town stays, and to allow greater margins for weather related variables.

Diving into planning

Over the previous 3 weeks I’ve been compiling information and planning out my route of Te Araroa. At this point in time, I believe that there are four elements that need to be considered:

  • Information – Boy was I wrong about the amount of information that is required for this hike. Because the trail itself is not interconnected and therefore disjointed, one must have the knowledge beforehand to ensure that you are on the correct path, type of hiking expected, and any special considerations/excursions to be made. However! Lucky for all the hikers that undertake Te Araroa, the Official Te Araroa Trust provides trail notes to all those willing to take the challenge. And to my amazement, a person has formatted the notes for kindle use, meaning I get 250 pages worth of trail notes on a kindle that weighs only 238 grams! Better yet, kindles don’t require charging for 4 weeks which is extremely comforting knowing I can worry less about track information.
  • Navigation – The thought of becoming lost in the jungle isn’t one that I’m wanting to experience… at least not yet. Thankfully amazing people via the Te Araroa Facebook group have been posting up converted JPGS of each section of the hike for it’s corresponding region. The maps can be found here for both islands. Not only will I have these maps, but I will aslo be incorporating an application via my S4 called New Zealand Maps Topo50. Not only can I access both islands in 1:50000 scale for $13, but I can even utilize it offline with location in airplane mode. With the addition of a solar charger and an extra battery, this puts my heart a little at ease in terms of navigation and finding the next trail to begin on.
  • Resupply – A element that is often overthought is resupplying between trails. Whether it be a trail that extends 8 hours or 5 days, it’s important to know when your next resupply will occur. This is because the more weight you carry, the harder you have to travel which ultimatum effects your overall fatigue. Considering Te Araroa has been established for multiple years, the TAwiki provides resupply information which can be found here. Now it’s just a matter of determining my resupplies and how much food ill need for each section.More importantly lets talk about food. Food out on the trail is quite a bit more limited as you can imagine. It’s been a bit of a challenge to find a somewhat varied diet that isn’t too heavy and fits my cooking strategy. Simmering is impossible with an alcoholic stove as the only two options available is on and off.Having trawled the internet,. I’ve found http://trampingnewzealand.blogspot.co.nz/ invaluable. I will most likely be basing my food off these guys with the addition of a few luxury items. IF anyone has any suggestions, let me know!
  • Special considerations
    DoC Hut Pass –  The Department of conservation provixdes backcountry hut passes for 6 or 12 month periods which gives unlimited use of Serviced and Standard huts for the period you bought for. at $92, this is AMAZING as a single booking to a hut can range between 6 – 20 dollars! I will be utilizing huts most throughout the South Island, as they have an amazing hut system.
    YHA Low carbon Traveler – YHA provides a Low Carbon Traveler pass that equates to 32.5% discount on standard overnight rates at there hostels! In order to be entitled to the service, you must be travelling without use of a support vehicle, shuttles, transfers or bus connections from their start to check-in of each day.
    Queen Charlotte Permit – The Queen Charlotte Track requires a permit and a boat ride! However the views will be well worth it and a good start to my South Island Adventure.
    Whanganui River Canoe – Perhaps one of the unsure sides of the hike will be a 2 day venture down the Whanganui River. Having just finished the famous Tongariro crossing, I will be put in a Kayak and head off down to Whaganui. I wouldn’t say I have a huge amount of experience when it comes to kayaking, but how hard can it be?

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