The final 200km

Ahhh what to say… it’s all over, done and dusted. 3000km later and the Te Araroa is complete. It’s only been two days since the end, but I’m already sitting at Queenstown airport ready to transition into my next chapter of life.

I slept on the side of Princhester Rd the evening I arrived at Highway 94 where I hitched into Te Anau two weeks ago, (one of my last resupply towns 200km from the end of the trail). I’d been expecting wind and rain that night as per the weather forecast, and it delivered just after midnight, keeping me awake for much of the night. The three days I spent alone after Queenstown were typical TA okay, but they simply reiterated what I’d already learned on this trail:

1. The Te Araroa is no fun alone.

2. The best moments of my experience were those that were shared (namely with Tom & Will).

3. I no longer wanted any more alone time.

When I got into Te Anau after hitching with a couple of Danish boys I was feeling a little naff, happy that I’d navigated the previous section all by myself, but also not particularly looking forward to getting back to the trail. I wondered if it was just the ‘one week to go’ blues, but in all honesty, I didn’t want to face the trail alone, not again. The trail and I had had our time, and as much as I wanted to continue proving I could be a strong, solo warrior, what I was really craving was company.

When the sun came out late that morning I sat in the park to dry out my tent, and when Tom appeared moments later, I was overcome with relief. He was half a day ahead of Will and also Kess, who had joined the boys when they left Queenstown just a day behind me. It took them a couple of days to catch Tom and I, but once reunited we spent the final few days on trail as a family of four.

I was well and truly done with hiking by the end of this trail. I’d contracted some kind of stomach bug and my body was slowing down, while we still had to battle the incredibly muddy Longwood Forest Track, some steep farm hills, wet sinking beach pebbles, gale force winds, and long stretches of road and highway. On the final day Will and Kess steamrolled to the finish line, but Tom and I walked at a leisurely pace, which was all I could muster for the final 33km from Invercargill to Bluff.

Surprisingly, I was not that excited about actually arriving at the finish line. It had been pouring with rain, we were wet and cold, and the final farm track around the coast had been closed. Tom and I wandered through town after sitting out the major downpour under the entrance of a rugby club, and casually arrived at Stirling Point in the late afternoon to take photos under the iconic sign.

In my first miserable 700km of the TA I really questioned if I would make it to the end. I’d been so spoiled by the well groomed PCT that the rough tracks of the TA threw me. I wasn’t expecting them to be so incredibly steep, covered in roots and mud and requiring constant care and attention. I thought I would lose myself in thought while floating through miles of stunning NZ scenery. I imagined sleeping under the stars, wrapping myself in nature and losing contact with the civilised world. But the TA is nothing like the PCT, and it’s taken me ~3000km to finally appreciate that.

Hiking the Te Araroa is walking the length of New Zealand on every type of terrain you can possibly imagine. Many parts are overgrown, many parts are roads, and the actual tracks bar a few are technical and steep. It’s not a continuous trail, it’s a ~3000km route that utilises existing tracks, private farmland, beaches, 4WD tracks, highways, backstreets, footpaths, bike tracks, rivers, estuaries, stop banks, boardwalks, you name it, and it’s constantly changing. Those who’d hiked long distance trails before seemed to struggle to appreciate the TA the most (me included), but the first timers seemed to take everything in their stride, and because of their unbiased perspective, I was able to gradually shift mine.

I wasn’t overcome with emotion at the end, I was simply glad to be finishing with three wonderful people who will forever be my TA family. I learned more from these people than a ~3000km walk alone could have taught me, and without them I really wonder how I would have made it. Though I didn’t fall in love with the Te Araroa and would never choose to hike it again, I will always be grateful for its introduction to Tom, Will and Kess, who made this 4-month and 4-day experience truly unforgettable.

27 thoughts on “The final 200km”

  1. You have shared so much with us all. It is alot to absorb and process, all in due time.

    Carry on,my friend.

    Enjoy the choices you make tomorrow and smile as you remember those you made today !.

    As always, yours

    1. You are an inspiration to all of us and glad you finished. I think I will appreciate the PCT even more, its often gentle trails and beautiful vistas. another Tramper Lady !!

  2. Congrats on finishing! Not all experiences are perfect in life but you’ve made the best of it and finished it! I look forward to seeing what you do next…. Grand himalaya trail perhaps? 😜

  3. Very proud of you Muk. This was no walk in the park as you have so eloquently described in this your final post from the TA. The book we’ve used to follow you (Geoff Chapple’s walking guide to the Te Araroa) has a disconnected romanticism in many of the sections which bear little resemblance to the difficult and piecemeal trail. All that aside now, we’ve been privileged to have made the journey with you in this vicarious way through the blog and the characteristic videos. We will await with interest how your further assessments and thoughts begin to shape whatever you choose to do next. Congratulations again to you and your new-found tramping pals. Go well, go far, go in peace.

  4. Awesome accomplishment! I feel privileged to have seen the trail through your eyes, and adventures. I’m not sure I will ever get there, or if it will be a huge priority to do so, but nevertheless I did get a solid feel for the trail from your descriptions of how it made you feel….gromit

  5. Way to go, Rozanne! It seems as though this trail was challenging in a
    different way, but you found a way through and we all got to meet some new friends along the way. Well done

  6. Congratulations Muk, on hiking what sounds like a pretty brutal piecemeal trail. Makes you appreciate the PCT. You have articulated your experiences so well, it gives your blog readers a good sense of the many nuances to be encountered.
    Do TA hikers have trail names? You referred to your TA hiker family by their first names. Did they call you Muk? Just curious. Seems like such a different experience than the PCT.
    Enjoy the reflection and the accomplishment!

    1. Thanks so much Tim. There were no real trail names on the TA except for people who had one from a previous thru-hike. The only person who called me Muk was a hiker I met who had completed the PCT in 2013 too.

  7. Hello Muk Muk!!
    I loved reading the blog and look at the pictures! Amazing effort both fysically and mentally. So glad you made it.
    Well done!!

  8. Well done, great achievement. The posts were really informative. Can’t believe you managed to hike those road and suburban sections, serious perseverance. I’d have taken a bus or hitched a lift.

  9. Congrats buddy, well done! Next Trans Canada Trail BC to PEI! You’ve got 2 weeks to get back here for Candace’s wedding!

  10. Hi darling
    Congratulations and well done, I am very proud of you because you got through your ups and downs and stuck it out to the end, horay!!!. I enjoyed your stories, photos and videos on the blog but the best thing is now that I hear it straight from you. Welcome home, love mutti xx

  11. Congratulations, Muk Muk! Having followed you on all of your adventures, I could tell how difficult this one was for you. But, you persevered and you now can add completing the Te Araroa to your amazing life’s experiences. Hope you are pampering yourself a little now that it is over!

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