Category Archives: Te Araroa

Back in the game

I’m camping in the rain in the backyard of some dingy pub for $8 so I can eat a descent meal in town tonight. I reached the town of Waipu today, km 420 of the trail and feel bloody brilliant. Maybe it’s the sweet lager I’m drinking right at this second at the pizza shack, or maybe it’s because I spent the day with Brian and Julian and realised just how much I’m actually enjoying the trail compared to others. All I needed was to hear someone else complain about the beach walking so I could step in and say, “yeah but isn’t this beautiful, and it’s overcast today so we’re in heaven!”

I didn’t actually hike much with them, because generally I love to hike alone, but we leapfrogged a little and all got stuck at the same river crossing because non of us took notice of the notes and the tide. We reached the Ruakaka River mouth at high tide, and after Brian attempted to float his pack inside its rain cover, we were saved by a paddle boarder who ferried our packs over while we swam.

It was one of my favourite days on trail, and my feet were relatively happy inside my crocs until the last 5km of road walking when they needed to be inside shoes again. My small toe still complains when crammed inside a shoe, so I took my scissors to my sneaker and made a hole for my toe to stick out. I have no idea how this will affect my walking, but desperate times call for desperate measures!

I camped with the boys the last two nights and was kinda relieved when they opted for the hostel over the cheap camping. As much as I love company I really don’t want to form a walking group. They’re nice guys, but since being in their hyper scheduled presence, I’ve found myself going off their plans without looking ahead myself, and the thing I love most about being out here is the complete independence to make my own decisions!

Catching the boat from Whangarei Heads to Marsden Point this morning.

I just ate an entire pizza topped with venison sausage, mushrooms, bacon, roasted garlic, caramelised onion and capsicum, and I ate it so fast I didn’t even manage a photo. I’m literally in the best food coma ever, which will hopefully allow me to sleep despite the loud drunk men hollering about 10 meters from my tent, or at least they were before I escaped to the pizza shack.

Thanks for all your encouraging messages today! They honestly boosted my spirits and put me back in the game. It’s my mission to find joy in every day now, and share it whenever possible!

Goodnight from Waipu! 🙂

Feeling a little ‘ho-hum’

Last night after I’d exploded my pack and taken over a very cute little shack for TA walkers, two other hikers arrived. They’re the first hikers who have caught up to me, and they started on Dec 8, which means they’ve been pushing big miles.

Julian is from Germany and Brian is from the states near Atlanta I think. They’re the most on schedule hikers I’ve met, knowing exactly what’s coming up and calculating exactly how much food they should be carrying for each stretch. I’m taking a very uncharacteristic relaxed approach to this trail. I carry 4-5 days of food, sleep wherever I make it to, and the only real regimented thing I do is hit the trail at 6:30am every day to beat the heat. I’m not sure if it’s all the time I’ve spent in Canada but I hate walking in the sun here. It’s so hot and burns you to a crisp within minutes, and I’m going through so much sunscreen I swear their stocks are about to rise!

Crossing the Taiharuru Estuary yesterday before reaching the walker camp:

Last night I left $20 for the guy who maintains the little hiker shack and tonight I’m at another random campsite in someone’s backyard with running water, a gas stove, outhouse, shower in the main house and some fresh produce. I gave these guys $20 too, and when I checked how much I’ve spent already in NZ I’m up to $1,200 in under 3 weeks!!! Shit! I read this trail is expensive but holy crap. I also broke another hiking pole and probably need a new pair of sandals too so the tally is only going to rise. Oh and it costs $15 to get across the next water crossing tomorrow morning, then there’s another short paddle section soon, a ferry over to Auckland, a four day paddle further south, and then two ferries to get from the North to the South Island. I had thought about paddling between the two, but I’m so overwhelmed by the costs and logistics and plain old hiking I can’t even fathom it now.

I’ve managed to find a state of contentment which is neither happy nor sad while I hike. It feels rather meditative in a way, and is allowing me to grit my teeth through the foot pain. I hiked most of the day in my fake crocs today because my small toe refused to walk inside a shoe, but I hit the most insane forest this afternoon, which forced me to wear my shoes on the 350m descent over 1km. It was horrific on my ankles and knees and was the closest I’ve come to running out of water.

I thought about quitting a lot today. A lot of this trail feels pointless, and when the roads actually bring you to a track, it’s so god damn steep and hot it’s just awful. There’s so much trail magic surrounding the trail, but it just doesn’t really feel like a trail. At the moment it feels like a suburban walk from town to town that detours up any steep hill or mountain in its path, then you either sleep on the side of the road or pay $20 to sleep in your tent in someone’s backyard. It’s all quite random really.

I’ve heard the South Island is steeper, which I can totally imagine and it turns me off hiking it completely. I keep wondering if I’m just in a shit mood and if these feelings will pass, but it’s really hard to say. The further I walk the more invested I become I guess, although today when I thought about needing to race the weather in the South Island I legitimately thought, ‘ah well, I’ll just go as far as I can.’ This is the exact opposite to the PCT. I needed to finish that trail as though my life depended on it, whereas this trail I just don’t have the same drive. I came out here to be in nature for 4 months, but I just feel like I’m on a treadmill going through the motions. What the hell is wrong with me?

I know what you’re all thinking, and trust me I’m as disappointed in the way I feel as you are, but I’m just being 100% honest in this moment, because I can’t bring myself to write anything else, and sometimes just by writing it down I can move on and feel better. In fact I already do feel slightly better just getting that off my chest. Tomorrow is a new day!

Goodnight from ‘The Green Bus Stop’ at km 394.

So many surprises

Today was full of magic, and I attribute it to the amount I was suffering that brought it on. Last night I arrived at a picnic spot by the beach that allows free camping for one night. My feet were in agony from the roads and on arrival I came across a group of surfers who offered me dinner and a beer. I was served curry and homemade naan bread and could barely even finish my bowl there was so much. The guys and gal were from the UK and Ireland and brought out guitars as the sun went down for a sing along. I was given the egg shaker to play so I didn’t feel left out!

Despite my good sleep, or maybe because I got a taste of life that wasn’t sore feet and hiking, I woke up in a foul mood and was about ready to collapse after the first 3km. I left at 6:15am without making breakfast because I didn’t want to wake the campers around me, so when a woman called out from her home as I walked past at about 7:30am and asked if I wanted a shower, I threw my hands in the air with relief.

Janie gave me a towel and hooked me up with soap to scrub myself down in her outdoor shower. She then made me coffee and breakfast which we ate in the early morning sunshine outside on her patio. Luxury! She told me I HAD to do the coastal walk to Whale Beach and Matapouri Beach, and even though an extra 45 minutes on my feet didn’t appeal, leaving my pack on her patio to collect afterwards did. The walk did me a world of good, reminding me that I do in fact love walking, I just hate all these bloody roads.

I was riding high for a while after that and even met a section hiker named Susan on the trail, but the last 6kms of road walking into Ngunguru basically killed me. It was about 28 degrees, no shade, and my feet were broken. I’d spoken to a man named James earlier who was going to ferry me over the Whangaumu Bay estuary, and he was going to check if the town of Tutukaka close by sold runners. I’ve been dreaming of wearing sneakers for two days now and had my hopes up about this town, but 1.5kms out from Ngunguru James texted me to say he’d called the store and they had nothing. When I received his message I collapsed on the side of the road and balled my eyes out. I can not describe my foot pain, other than to say it’s all encompassing!

When I arrived at the corner store in Ngunguru 20 minutes later a woman said to me, “it’s a hot day to be walking.” At that point I just shook my head and burst into tears again much to her horror. When I finally pulled myself together and explained my foot pain, the woman named Erika told me she lived about 1km south down the trail, and gave me her sandals off her feet to wear. She told me to come to her place to try on shoes and relax with a glass of wine. I did both, and walked away with a pair of new kicks and a host of stories from such a generous and intriguing woman.

A day has passed since I started writing this and so much has happened since then. Susan, the section hiker, and I caught the boat over the bay with James and stayed in one of his cabins that night. His daughter was having her 19th birthday party so there was a large group of young people and tables full of food. I ate myself sick, and the next morning when I left to hit the trail quite early, I found Susan on the floor in the toilet having a major migraine attack. She was trying to give herself an injection, and after running to find help, James and I drove her to the hospital in Whangarei about 30 minutes away. It was all quite frightening, and after Susan was admitted we contacted her son who left immediately from Auckland to collect her. I’m happy to report she’s doing okay, and will hopefully take some time off the trail to recover.

I ended up going to a shoe store in Whangarei as Erika’s sneakers were already hurting my feet (they were the old style rocker sort that are designed to give your calf muscles a work out). I ended up buying a cheap pair of $60 sneakers and a pair of advanced memory foam insoles. They seem to be working well so far!

After leaving James’ late last night I found myself road walking after sunset with nowhere to sleep other than the side of the road for the next 15km. Thankfully I came across a couple leaving their farm and asked if I could sleep in their driveway. They invited me to sleep in their old caravan instead, and despite the 30+ mosquitos I killed, the unit was luxury compared to sleeping in a ditch.

This trail forces you out of your physical, mental and social comfort zones on a daily basis. I’m really learning to take each day as it comes, because something unexpected always seems to be waiting around the next corner.

300kms down

Today I completed 1/10 of the trail, which actually feels like a big achievement despite having so much still ahead of me. I remember hitting the same milestone on the PCT in Big Bear I think it was. I do a lot of mileage comparisons with the PCT, in fact, I think about the PCT A LOT on this trail, which I’m trying not to do. It’s like thinking about your ex when you’re getting into a new relationship. Not good! 😊

300km mark (I tried to write the number with sticks in the foreground).

My new hiking/tramping strategy is to be on trail by 6:30am, have a short foot rub break at 10/10:30am, and then stop for a long lunch at 12:30/1:00pm to wait out the heat and let my feet rest before pushing my last 10km. I’m averaging between 25-30kms a day, which is pretty good given the grade and surface of the trail, especially when I’m doing long stretches along the road like yesterday.

It was great to get off my feet and paddle across the inlet, and one thing I do love about this trail is that it’s constantly changing. The day before last I went from paddling to road to river to forest and then back to road. I make a point of knowing what’s ahead only enough that I won’t run out of water or go off track, but the surprise of what’s next is part of the adventure of this crazy trail. Loved seeing trail markers on the water!

River section at the beginning of yesterday.

Yesterday when I thought I had another 10km of road there was actually a forest track that absolutely destroyed me! I could only laugh, the steepness of the hills beat the hard ground of the road I guess.

The trail was as steep as the line on this chart I guarantee you!

Despite my excitement about my camping location, I had the worst sleep on trail so far. Instead of waking up to gunshots, I woke up twice to what I think was a possum charging my tent. It literally hit me in the feet and then later straight in the head. I woke up screaming and heard the animal racing into the bushes. I dragged my pack and even my shoes inside with me and just heard the critter racing around me all night. Never during my 6 months of sleeping in the desert, mountains or forest on the PCT did I actually get rammed by an animal in the night!

My dinner last night – I was too tired to cook!

I’m planning to camp at a picnic ground by the beach tonight that apparently allows one night free camping. It might be crowded, but after possums and gunshots and wild horses I’m prepared for a bit of tourist noise… (well we’ll see what the trail brings!)

From the west to the east coast

Yesterday felt like I was part of a moving community again (which is by far one of the best things about the sport/torture/adventure of thru-hiking). I bumped into Sacha from France on the Main Street of Kerikeri and immediately inundated him with questions and incessant babbling as if I hadn’t spoken to another living person for about 6 years. Sacha is kind of doing his own thing, hiking obscenely long days of 40+ kms and then not hiking at all. He was on his way to Paihia to work for a family for a few days and then who knows, but he did provide me with Alex and Bevan’s numbers who arrived later that afternoon.

Cool, random swing bridge before Kerikeri.

Shannon from the States went off the grid, and the boys haven’t heard from or seen her since Ahipara. She might be walking with Katrin from Germany or they also suggested she may have hitched ahead. The boys received the same output of words as Sacha did when they arrived at the holiday park in Kerikeri. I literally recognised their footsteps from inside my tent and shot my head out like a meerkat on alert. I was hoping they’d want to paddle the Waikare Inlet with me, as going alone will cost me double, but Bevan has a friend with a boat that can take them over the water, which has left me stranded in Paihia today hoping another hiker may want to paddle tomorrow.

Paddling route down the Waikare Inlet except I’ll be starting a little further north from Paihia.

Nick and Dan at Bay Beach Hire who rent the kayaks know me as ‘Miss Te Araroa’ after I’ve called them multiples times over the last two days checking to see if anyone else has contacted them. They posted a note on Facebook for me but still no luck. My plan is to wait until tomorrow afternoon and then go on alone unless someone books in for the following day which would be Sunday. Where is everyone??? We need a big group to paddle the 119km section down the Whanganui River further south to cut down on costs, so I need to catch some other hikers soon!

View of the Bay of Islands from Mount Bledisloe.

On the last section I lost my sunglasses two days in, which made for a lot of squinting and dust in the eyes on some of the road sections. But yesterday when Alex arrived he had them in his pack. I had bought a cheap $10 pair to replace them a few hours earlier, but I was SO happy to have my original pair back, and I donated the new pair to a backpacker working on fruit farms for 8 months called Cloe instead.

I was tempted to paddle the crossing today after hiking 25kms to get here, but Dan told me to chill and enjoy Paihia instead. This is my biggest struggle when I have my mind set on a task at hand. I don’t know how to switch out of hiker mode into holiday/relax mode. Some people do it easily, but for me enjoyment comes from being on the trail and making progress. Maybe it’s something the trail is trying to teach me, but when I get momentum I hate to slow down.

Typical lunch break with my feet up.

While I was writing this another thru-hiker arrived at the Pickled Parrot backpackers where I’m staying. Her name is Kess from Vermont who came to NZ to WWOOF (work on organic farms) and hike, and when she learned about the trail she decided to give up the WWOOFing and just hike. I was shocked to discover she’s only 18, which made the fact she’s out here alone that much more impressive! Unfortunately she’s sprained her feet and has been advised by the doctor to take a few days off, so still no paddling buddy, but we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

I ate fish and chips by the beach tonight to celebrate crossing from the west to the east coast of the country. I’ve hiked almost 250km in 11 days so I’m a little off the 25km average I need to sustain, but my feet will hopefully toughen up soon. I bought some new ‘shock absorbing’ insoles for my shoes but they haven’t seemed to do much. I still haven’t got my hiker hunger yet either, but I expect that to kick in next week some time too!

I feel SO much better with those first two sections behind me. Never once on the PCT did I consider quitting. It wasn’t even an option. But during the forest section I thought about quitting everyday, not in a ‘I’m actually going to quit’ kind of way, but more of an ‘imagine not having to do this anymore’ kind of way. I wonder if maybe in my older age I’m getting soft, or that perhaps I don’t have that naive trail innocence anymore. Either way there’s no way I would allow myself to quit, even if I really wanted to, I don’t think my conscious would ever allow it. The pain of quitting would be worse than anything this trail can throw at me… I think?!?!

Happy Trails from Paihia! Muk 🙂

Two tough days into Kerikeri

Yesterday was literally one of the most painful days on my feet I’ve ever experienced. I thought I’d walked at least 30km, but my app sadly told me I only went 25 while it felt like 40! Leaving camp I travelled a few kms along a 4WD track until I descended into the Mangapukahukahu Gorge and found myself walking for 3km down the river. It was absolutely delightful after I was sure I was on the right path!

Best lunch spot on the trail at km 183.

Following the river section there was a very sketchy track along the Waipapa River, which was heavily eroded and downright dangerous at times. The comments on my Guthooks app said taking the river would perhaps be safer, but also that it could be waist deep so I stuck to the trail instead.

It was then up, up and up out of the gorge on one of the steepest tracks imaginable, then once at the top I had the chance to dry out my feet before another 9kms of rock-hard 4WD track.

I was in agony when I went to bed, and when I woke up this morning I had another 24km left to make it to town. If you watched the video from my last post about the farmland you know how my day kicked off, and sadly after a good giggle at myself my right ankle started giving me grief and I started limping through the next paddock. I ended up wrapping my wrist brace around it for a bit of additional support, but I’m zeroing in Kerikeri to give my whole body and mind time to recover.

My wet feet after the horrific farmland.

I cried a lot today, like a child really. I’d convinced myself I would be able make it to town if I swam in the Kerikeri River, and then when I expected to be able to access the river it was too steep to get down. At that point I lost it and burst into hysterics, stamping my feet and yelling, “but I wanted to swim!” I also cursed the incredibly overgrown section along the river that gave me all kinds of allergies, but then right at the end before town, the trail showed it’s charm and seduced me into appreciating it again!

It actually got worse after I took this pic.

Rainbow Falls

It’s amazing what a boost arriving in town and meeting some nice friendly locals can do! Thanks to Peter for the ride into town, the lovely woman at the holiday park reception whose name starts with a ‘B’ for the encouraging chat, and to Andy and his kids Frank and Lucile for keeping me company on the neighbouring tent space! 🙂

My hiking pole broke already!

Kerikeri Holiday Park

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!