Post-Trip Report: Te Araroa

The Long Pathway

Crossing Aotearoa has been a dream of mine since at least 2020 when I learned about the Tour Aotearoa, a cycling race that went from Te Rerenga Wairua to Bluff. I already knew how beautiful the country was from my last visit and from numerous rewatchings of the The Lord of the Rings movies. The person who I was back then would never imagine that'd I'd end up walking the whole distance instead of being on a bike but here I am. The simple act of walking has taken over my life and compels me to leave home in search of these month long challenges.

Waiau Pass

The Te Araroa was the hardest trail I have completed. They call it tramping here, not hiking and it fits. Track is cut and barely maintained against the elements. Roots, mud and vegetation are quick to reclaim back the trail. On the other hand the plentiful huts along the way speak of a great love of the outdoors by the locals. No matter how rough it gets, refuge is not far away and more time can be spent out in the remote places that we all love so much. Only a misplaced stubbornness will help you push through and the reward is quiet ancient forests, wind swept peaks and golden tussock covered hills.

My list of things I'd like to get to in Aotearoa is ever growing. The country has so much to explore and lure you out into the interior. Here are just a few of the things that could have been linked into the Te Araroa hike that I missed due to unfavourable circumstances.

Barker Hut: The remoteness of this hut is the goal in of itself. Having climbed the nearby Avalanche Peak in 2020 I wanted to connect together a fun loop into the mountains of Arthur's Pass National Park. A climb over Avalanche Peak to Crow Hut, down Crow River, crossing the Waimakariri River to Anti Crow Hut, route finding to Carrington Hut and then finally to Barker Hut. Nestled under Marmaduke Glacier in the eastern Shaler Range at the entrance of the Southern Alps it would be a stunning spot. One could even join into the Three Passes Route and cross the Alps themselves! Your imagination is the limit here. More info here.

Lewis Pass Route: The reason to take this path would be to spend more time in the mountains. Along the TA you just stare in awe at these beasts while you plod along grassy 4WD track in the flat lowlands. Instead of descending into the valley from Waiu Pass you instead route find over Thompson Pass and then D'Urville Pass to walk down the Matakitaki River. Then crossing over Three Tarn Pass you join the north half of the St James Walkway to the highway at Lewis Pass. A quick resupply and then back into the real backcountry up the Lewis Tops Track ridge and cross country either down Lucretia Stream or Duchess Stream. If you hunger for one more climb you can get over Devilskin Saddle before connecting back to the TA. More info here and here.

Rakiura Loop: This was originally something I was planning on doing since hearing about it on the North Island but it was not meant to be. My slight trail injury, lowering average daily temperature and my growing homesick had me miss the opportunity for the time being. Rakiura is an isolated and sparsely populated island that has a network of huts and trails around it's edges. A week or two week long trip would have you mostly alone in huts and with high chances to see a kiwi bird! It seems like a great way to end a TA thruhike rather than the lacklustre finish at Bluff. More info here.

Details about the above and more alternate suggestions can be found here.

Here was the gear I brought and in general everything worked fine. I didn't feel like I was ever lacking anything even though on this trip I did not bring any warm layers! Despite hiking for four months the amount of times I actually set up my shelter would probably be less than forty times if I had to guess. On the North Island there are plenty of cheap accommodations or locals that'll give you a dry spot to lay down. On the South Island you can exclusively stay in the huts the whole way.

The only piece of gear that may not be obvious to some ultralight hikers to bring is a towel! I brought a small cut-out of a microfibre towel for this trip and it ended up being critical as towels are rarely provided with accommodations in Aotearoa.

I also am glad to have brought some thread and a needle for repair. Despite breaking all my needles early on trying to fix my pack, nevertheless the ability to patch holes in any gear is critical to being self-sufficient and at least getting yourself to the next town where gear can be properly repaired or replaced. Thanks to all the hikers who lent me their sewing kits along the way, I will be bringing my own again on all future trips.

Lastly, sunscreen is a necessity. I have hiked across Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California without using sunscreen but Aotearoa hits different. I was constantly get sun rash and extreme sun burn with minimal exposure. I'd wait until you arrive in the country and buy the local non-greasy sunscreen. Save your skin and protect from skin cancer!

There are too many to list so I'll severely limit myself here:

My friends North Island crew
Lost of love for this rag-tag group. The North Island would not have been possible without you ♥

North Island - Tararua Range + Steel Ladder Alternate Maungahuka Hut

South Island - Cascade Saddle + Rees Track Alternate Cascade Saddle

Do you want to read a day by day journal of the journey?
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