In the past 4 days we hiked through the Tararua Forest Park and covered another 75 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.
Philippe: having huts to ourselves
Nadine: Birthday on the trail
Philippe: smelly feet
Nadine: realising that we walked a 2,5 hours detour
Please note: The stated kilometres are approximate. The hiking times are pure walking times, without breaks. On average we take 1,5 – 2 hours breaks during the day. The smiley’s describe our mental, the muscle arm our physical state. 10/10 is the best.
Day 110: Poads Rd End to Te Matawai Hut (via Gable End Ridge Track), Tararua Forest Park
~20 kilometres, 7h25min (incl. 6km / 2h30min detour)
Yep, we’re not done yet. Stress fracture. Remember? Right. We couldn’t do the Tararuas and now we’re catching up. 4 days after the finish in Bluff we are on the Te Araroa again.
The timing was perfect. Our hosts in Wellington – Debby and Rob – drove us to the trail head because they went hiking with their tramping club at the same day close by. Unfortunately, it was raining and the hills were covered in fog. Well, on the trail you can’t chose the weather.
We started still a bit stiff and walked on an alternative route, which was recommended by several people. The problem: no markers, no track on the gps and no info. But it would have been faster and less exhausting. It was okay until the Othau River. But in the river there were any hints of a track missing. After half an hour walking in the river we gave up. It probably wasn’t that far anymore until we could have left the river. But we had enough. We tracked back. Summary: 2,5h detour.
We returned to the Te Araroa via the Gable End Ridge Track and continued to Te Matawai Hut. Time saving – zero. Still 1600m up and 870m down. Plus extra kilometres. And that was only the warming up. Tomorrow it’s gonna be harder. The Tararuas are a very tough bit for our last section on the Te Araroa.
We decided to hike the Tararua Range on the North Island. Due to Philippe’s stress fracture we didn’t do it in December.
However, I’m not sure yet if it was a good idea to hike that tough section now. By now it’s autumn. Which means wet days and cold nights. And I’m exhausted, physically and mentally. But in Bluff I had the feeling that there was “unfinished business” waiting for us in the North Island. Thus we tackled it so that we can complete the Te Araroa on our terms. After that I’ll definitely need a break from hiking 😉
There are advantages of being in the Tararuas off-season, though: We have the hut to ourselves and chances are high that we might not see a single soul in four days.
Day 111: Te Matawai Hut to Waitewaewae Hut
21 kilometres, 9h20min
We are definitely further North in New Zealand now. It was warmer and bright earlier in the morning. Still in the South Island mode I was prepared for a wet and cold day. Instead it was just wet.
The Tararuas were hidden in the clouds. Except for some brief moments we only could see a few metres ahead of us. Typically North Island I would say. You sweat blood and as a reward you get no views. It would have been amazing in good weather. Instead we could concentrate on the goblin forest with its crooked and moss-grown trees.
And exhausting it was! Up and down, up and down. A ridge walk with numerous hills. 1950m uphill and 2520m downhill. Spread on 21km a real challenge. And a good preparation for the South Island. We already did that. Why do we do that then?
My mood and physical state had improved since yesterday. It seems that the trailmood has won over again. I enjoyed today’s tramping, even though there were a few things that could have damped my spirits: It rained in the morning. Instead of the reportedly awesome views we just saw white. I slipped four times and banged my head twice. Furthermore it was an arduous and long day. 1950 metres ascent and 2520 metres descent. In the end we had to descend over 1000 metres in 3 kilometres. My knees were accordingly glad when we reached Waitewaewae Hut. Again we’ll have the whole hut to ourselves. Oh nope, just as I write this a guy with a headlamp comes trudging in. But he sleeps in the tent. Too warm in the hut.
Day 112: Waitewaewae Hut to South Mangaone Rd. End
23,5 kilometres, 8h45min
During the morning hours I felt like being in a tropical rainforest. It was surprisingly warm. And the fog covered the skin like a wet towel. The clothes stuck to the body and the sweat ran over my face. Shouldn’t it be autumn?
After lots of ups and downs we reached the Otaki car park at noon, where we had lunch in the sunshine. The weather had finally cleared up. Only that we already had the spectacular views behind us. The clouds were still hanging at around 900m.
In the end we had some nice panoramas from Mt. Pukaetua. The track improved tremendously, so that the +700m uphill were only half that bad. At the end of the forest we camped besides the car park. The last night on the trail.
112 days and I run out of words. Today was not very spectacular. Nice yes, but not reportable. Except for the fact that after two days in low hanging clouds we finally got some good views of the Tararuas.
By the way, we also met other people. Three Te Araroa hikers (northbound) and one daywalker. The latter offered us a ride to Waikanae, our destination for tomorrow. But we reclined with thanks, these 11 kilometres we will walk as our final section. Our Te Araroa comes to its (second) end. Tomorrow will definitely be our last Te Araroa hiking day.
Day 113: South Mangaone Rd end to Waikanae
10,5 kilometres, 2h
Well, it wasn’t a real hiking day anymore. 2 hours on the road to Waikanae. At least we were consequent and denied two offered rides. In Waikanae we hitched to Upper Hutt and then to Petone. Seldomly I had been looking forward to a shower that much. We practically had had damp clothes for 3 days and had reached a new level of smelliness.
Was it worth it to the Tararuas now? Yes and no. We should have stuck to our plan to only walk in good weather. We missed all the nice views. We had only been aware of the impressive surrounding hill chain around us for a few moments. Nevertheless, it was great to immerse ourselves into the goblin forest and walk on the Te Araroa again.
So what’s next? After Wellington we go to Auckland and in a week we travel via Sydney to Bali where we’re going to meet my family. There we recover from hiking with surfing, diving and swimming. And in the second half of April we’ll return to Switzerland. After two years of travelling it’s time to settle down for a while. But not for too long. The next long-distance hike or travelling is already in our minds ;).
It’s my birthday! This has been the first time in my life that I woke up in a tent on my birthday. A tent dripping with dew. But the sky was almost clear and soon the sun came out and gave us another nice late summer day.
Our definitely (!) last hiking day on the Te Araroa was very short. For only two hours we followed the road to Waikanae. On the road we declined two offered rides and had a chat with a cyclist, who shortly before finished the race from Cape Reinga to Bluff in 18 days.
From Waikanae we got to Lower Hutt by hitchhiking and train. A shower and a bed were waiting for us in our friends’ house. For my birthday we then had homemade pizza, perfect also to end the Te Araroa in style. For another week we’re going to be in New Zealand, then we go to the tropics for further recovery. 😉
Okay, that was it with trail stories from the Te Araroa. Blog posts about other aspects of the trail will follow, though.
If you have any questions regarding the Te Araroa, life on the trail or the two of us, please send them to us via a comment, an email (contact [at] gustofrenzy.com) or social media. We’ll include them in the planned FAQ.