Category Archives: Te Araroa

A dose of trail magic

I’m camping at km 174 tonight at a campsite called Apple Dam 500m off the trail. I can tell you now it was not worth the additional 500m to get here, but considering the trail is a 4WD track through the Omahuta Forest, I’m happy not to be out there on the side of the road by myself.

After the horror of the mud this morning and then 6 painful and rather dangerous kilometres along the side of State Highway 1, I ran into some very unexpected trail magic. When I was on the beach on my third day resting in the shade, a car drove over to check if I was okay after I’d waved to it as an acknowledgement. In the car was a Kiwi called Jason, and when I told him I’d been walking since 2:30am he was astounded. I think his actual turn of phrase was “you’ve gotta be shittin’ me”, in a very thick Kiwi accent. He sat and chatted for a few minutes and then drove off, and after I arrived at the Mangamuka Dairy at 1pm today (a takeaway/corner store along the highway), Jason’s truck pulled in just after I arrived.

Now I must admit when I saw him and he said “hey you’re still walking”, it did cross my mind that maybe he’d followed me somehow or timed my arrival, and when he offered to buy me a cold drink I politely declined. But then after ordering a burger and looking around the store for a beverage, my travel Visa card declined, as did my Aussie debit card. I was forced to walk back outside to Jason’s truck with my tail between my legs and ask if I could borrow $10 for lunch. Without blinking an eye he stuffed $20 in my hand and told me to keep the change. I didn’t keep the change, but the $10 allowed me to eat the burger I’d been dreaming about for the last few hours, and drink a cold Gatorade after surviving on less than 500ml of water for 4 hot hours.

Jason and I ate lunch together and chatted about NZ and all the random businesses he’s involved with including Manuka honey, of which he insisted I take some. We had some pretty damn honest conversations, which I promised I would never share and I will hold that promise, but being able to speak to someone like an old friend after 2 days of solitude was just what I needed.

I declined Jason’s offer to drive me the last part of the highway, as I want to stay true to the trail even though the roads are KILLING me!! Once off the highway I thought I was going into forest again, but it was all gravel road for the last 10km getting here, and my toes are so sore they feel itchy and hot like they’re burning up or sunburned.

Where are all the hikers?? If the guys behind me skip the roads they might catch up, but I haven’t caught up to anyone else this whole section which seems really strange. I also thought I was arriving in Kerikeri tomorrow, but after checking my app I realised I still have 50km to go which will take me two days. Thankfully I have a ton of food still, but mentally I was already standing under a hot shower tomorrow afternoon. I reek of sweat and actually forgot how rancid one can smell after four days of sweating through clothing.

Time for bed now. Goodnight from the TA where the birds are still singing me to sleep at 8pm, and for the first time on this trip, it’s raining!

Like a pig in mud

I’m currently camping at km 146 of the TA trail in the Raetea Forest 721m above sea level. I thought yesterday through the Herekino Forest was bad, but that was just a warm up. Today the trail literally kicked my arse, and dropped me in the mud multiple times after so carefully avoiding it yesterday.

I’m glad the Herekino Forest was so horrible, because after 15km of road walking today, when the Raetea Forest section proved worse, I was already prepared for it. For the first four hours I just sucked it up, then I got a little more aggressive in my cursing by the afternoon. I was going to push 31km to get out of the forest, but after so many hours, there’s no way my knees would have stood up to the 8km descent.

This was a video I took towards the end of the Herekino Forest yesterday.

I’m pretty sure I can camp in this forest, but there’s absolutely no water here, and after sweating through my clothing so badly that I even had to ring out my handkerchief from my pocket, I’m rationing the 400ml I have left for tonight and the 500ml I’ve saved to get me 8km to water tomorrow. I walked from 6:30am until nearly 6pm this evening and I only made it 24km. This trail is no joke. I’m not sure I’ve climbed anything this steep except for maybe the Howe Sound Crest Trail between Vancouver and Squamish in Canada. The Kiwis obviously have no desire for switchbacks because the trail literally goes straight up and down.

It hasn’t rained since I arrived in NZ, so I can’t even imagine what these sections must be like when it’s wet. It’s sad really because these forest tracks are only going to continue getting tramped on and the mud situation will only get worse. Yesterday I seriously asked myself what the hell am I doing here, but today my body and feet actually felt better so I didn’t have such dark thoughts, but it’s a pretty morbid start to the TA – the painful beach and then the steep muddy forests. What on earth will be next?

I can’t wait to catch up to more hikers to hear what they think of the trail. I seem to be two days behind the folks ahead and one day ahead of the folks behind so I’ve seen no one for the past two days. I even slept in a weird thru-hiker shack in the middle of a cow paddock alone last night which was fun but creepy when I heard a possum running under my bunk bed. I was too tired to write last night so here is the video I took instead.

I’m actually really glad I camped when I did tonight because I’m feeling pumped about tomorrow and the trail for the first time since day one. I already feel stronger, and apart from the painful road walking I’m feeling psyched about what’s to come! I just hope I run into a few more hikers in my next town stop in Kerikeri. I should be there in 2 days time!

Connections

Today was the first time I really connected with other hikers on this trip, and from what I learned on the PCT, that’s what makes a thru-hike what it is. You can’t appreciate the pain and suffering until you laugh about it with someone else who’s just suffered the exact same mental and physical pain as you. I realise it’s only Day 5 and I’m complaining as if I’ve been out here for months with 1000 miles under my belt, but I tell you, that beach was something else, and I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain upon anyone.

After finishing my post this morning I sat up and inspected my blisters and immediately got out the needle. After yellow goo started oozing out I decided to rest up for the morning and see how I felt by the afternoon, and after tucking into a great book – ‘A life in stitches’ by Rachael Herron with my feet up on the couch, I decided if I’m going to spend a day off trail, this place is not a bad one to be in.

One of the hikers I met today was an amazing German woman named Katrin, who after studying biology and getting 3 years into her PHD decided to quit academia and now does energy healing and bee keeping on the South Island of NZ. Her pack is the size of Pac Man’s on the PCT and must weigh about 80 pounds. She’s got a full size camera tripod strapped to the outside and has a CPR mask in her first aid kit. She also carries Hydrogen Peroxide drops (food grade strength) that she gave me to put on my blisters to stop any infection. It literally bubbled on my foot so we’ll see what my blister looks like tomorrow.

Later in the afternoon the gang I’ve been bumping into along the beach arrived. There’s Alex from Germany, Shannon from the States and Bevan from Bay of Islands in NZ. They’re an awesome crew and all have their unique qualities. Shannon has an ultralight pack but bought a packet of carrots, two full onions and three packets of spinach for the next leg. Alex eats like me, noodles and potato chips, and when asked if he’s hiking the whole trail always says ‘I’m trying to’ instead of yes. And Bevan is a happy go lucky Kiwi that seems to just go with the flow. I think only Alex may leave tomorrow and since I’m off early I wonder when I’ll see the others next. That’s the fun part about thru-hiking, you might see them tomorrow, in a week, or in 3 months time! You just never know!

I need to grab some supplies as I head out of town tomorrow for the next 120km stretch. I’ve been told you can’t camp in the forest, and when I asked where you can camp the answer was nowhere. I’m taking this trail as it comes, not planning too far ahead and going with whatever comes up as it does. We’ll see if this tactic serves me well or not!

Goodnight from the Ahipara Holiday Park!

Heading from sand into the mud

I’m lying in a Holiday Park called the YHA in Ahipara at the end of 90 Mile Beach. I literally hobbled in barely able to walk and have allowed myself a sleep in until 7:30am with a chance to write something down.

At this stage the trail feels like a mix between a thru-hike and a European backpacking excursion because I’ve been forced to sleep at designated campsites along the beach (except for night one), and there’s more backpackers than thru-hikers around (mostly European). I’d read this Trail can be expensive because it runs through a lot of civilisation in the north island making it hard to ‘free camp’ as they call it and because of the temptation to buy additional food. I’ve spent $43 on camping so far over 3 nights so it’s not all that bad, plus I got an entire cabin to myself at the Utea Park.

My cabin at the Utea campground on night 3

My blog may end up being more video than writing given the state of my wrist. I’m glad I bought a brace in Auckland which I only wear while typing, and although it’s making a difference, the pain is still there. I’d use the microphone except for being surrounded by backpackers and feeling self conscious!

Video from the morning of Day 3 after night hiking:

Video from the morning of Day 4 while eating breakfast on the beach:

I know my friends who read my blog at work will not love having to watch these videos to get the full story, but I’ll do what I can.

According to my Guthooks app today I’m heading into the forest where it can be extremely muddy and slippery! There’s also a few stream crossings I’ll need to look out for so expect a few snippets of those accounts. From sand to mud… bring it on trail – I’m looking forward to getting to know the TA a little better. The PCT had its quirks, but I fell in love with that 2-foot pathway! I hope to be able to say the same for this one, even though the pathway isn’t as recognisable walking along beaches and roads.

Okay it’s 8:30am and I better get myself out of bed. Thanks for following along and for all your comments, they’re actually giving me a lot of motivation right now!

Eating sand

I was so exhausted by the end of Day 2 I couldn’t bring myself to write anything… (it’s now the end of Day 4 and I still haven’t managed another post). What I do have however are a couple of videos from Day 2 to give you an insight into what happened – mainly just walking and eating sand! 🙂

Embrace the unknown

Day 1 of the Te Araroa Trail:

So many things happened today I don’t even know where to start. Firstly I’m laying in my tent upon the thinnest white sand of 90 Mile Beach listening to what sounds like the waves crashing through my doorway. It’s 11 PM on Monday 4 December 2017, my day one of the Ta Araroa Trail. I’ve been suffering tendinitis in my wrist so I’m attempting to write this by speaking into the microphone on my notepad app. So far so good, except that my phone doesn’t know how to spell Ta Araroa and seems to misunderstand my Aussie accent.

Jumping back to the beginning of the day, I boarded a bus to Kaitaia at 7:30 AM this morning close to where I stayed last night at the Attic Hostel in Auckland. Kaitaia is approximately 100 kilometres south of Cape Reinga at the start of the trail, and when the bus dropped me off outside the library, I borrowed a piece of paper and pen and created a sign that said Cape Reinga or North.

Once on the road I was picked up by a woman named Rebecca within seconds who drove me approximately 10 minutes back towards the main highway leading north. From there a lovely gentleman named Eric picked me up in his truck and drove me another 20 minutes north before he turned off to head east. A girl named Jody was my third ride, and she backed up down the highway after passing me, admitting that she hadn’t intended to pick me up until she realised that I looked friendly and felt guilty that I was hitching alone. Jody drove me about half an hour north, and on the way we stopped off for homemade ice cream made from local blueberries and raspberries at Tomo Orchard!

After Jody dropped me off at her local shops a woman named Rachel picked me up. Rachel was a local Maori woman who lived in a small village about 40km south of Cape Reinga. She told me she’d be terrified if any of her daughters ever did what I was doing, but that she understood all the reasons I told her about wanting to (simple living, escape from civilisation, opportunity to see the real NZ and meet its people)!

Rachel drop me off just outside her driveway and from there it took almost 2 hours to catch my final ride to the Cape. While I was waiting, I was joined by four local kids who were fascinated about what I was doing and where I was from. It was like a scene out of the movie ‘Boy’, and if you haven’t watched it I highly recommend it along with ‘Search for the Wilderpeople’ – both made in NZ. One of the boy’s parents drove past with about eight children in the back of her car and yelled out the window at the kids to get off the road and called them an ‘egg’. It was like a scene out of the movie, and the insult sounds so good in an authentic Kiwi accent!

The kids were on their way to swim in the river nearby but stayed with me for almost an hour chatting and trying to lift my pack off the ground. One of the kids was talking about how bad life must be in North Korea, and when I asked if he learned about that in school (he was in year 7), he told me he does most of his learning from YouTube. Go figure!

Though adorable, every car that drove past while I was talking to the kids assumed all five of us wanted a ride, which is probably why I only got one after they finally decided to head to the river. Maybe it was also because I waved at the car like I knew the driver, so he probably felt obliged to stop.

Start of the trail

I arrived at the Cape at around 6:30 PM, and after re-packing my bag and walking down to the lighthouse to take photos I finally hit 90 Mile Beach at 7:30 PM. The trail deviated from the beach into the dunes as the sun went down, but thankfully the moon was almost as bright as the sun and rose looking orange and giant. My photo can’t do it justice, but it was a beautiful reintroduction to a sight I’m going to become very familiar with. I think my pack weighs about 20kg and by 10 PM all the familiar muscles that used to hurt during the PCT began to complain. I had considered walking for longer but I’ve decided to set up my tent, write my blog and get some sleep so that I can wake up at sunrise and start early before the heat sets in. I’ll be posting photos to Instagram @serial_nomad too and will do my best to write as much as I can along this journey – though likely not as much as the PCT, I still don’t know how I did that!Good night from 90 Mile Beach!

Life begins again at 35

I used to think my life truly began when I turned 30, but since then I’ve discovered how blind I was to the world around me. I certainly don’t have all the answers now and most definitely never will, but if there’s ever been a time in my life where I’ve harnessed clarity it’s now. Who I want to be and the direction I choose to head in are both in my control. It’s time to leap across the gaps, fill in the blanks, and choose the path I want to follow.

After I turned 30 I decided to hike from Mexico to Canada. I’m still not 100% sure what I was searching for… but I found a lot more than I bargained for on that trail. I’ve spent the last few years reflecting, processing and writing about the experience, and now I’m at a point where I can leave the past behind and move onto a new chapter in my life.

For my 35th birthday I’ve decided to hike the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand. Not because I’m searching for answers or feel like I have something to prove, but because I crave the simplicity and the connection with nature I found while thru-hiking the PCT.

Sure I could pick a shorter trail, but that true connection didn’t strike me until I’d spent at least 2 months living outside. I became in sync with the sun and the moon, began to wonder why we ever need more than what fits in a backpack, and made connections with people along the way that would normally take years to build.

People laugh when I say I don’t like hiking that much, but thru-hiking isn’t just about hiking… it’s about throwing yourself into the complete unknown without your regular comforts to protect you. It’s about pushing your mind and body further than you ever thought possible, and discovering that you’re far more capable than you ever expected to be.

Thru-hiking is like taking a detox from modern society, the 9-5, the noise. Sure you can’t escape life even in the wilderness, but something magical happens when your world slows down to a walking pace. Time slows down, simple pleasures are magnified, and despite the constant pain your body, there’s something organic about having nothing else to do than hike, eat, shit and sleep.

On Saturday I fly to New Zealand, and on Monday I’ll start walking the trail from north to south. I don’t know too much more than that, other than it’s the next path I’ve chosen to follow.