Te Araroa Trail Stories Days 96-109: “And I must follow, if I can.”

In the past 14 days we hiked from Wanaka to Bluff and covered 423,5 kilometres on the Te Araroa Trail.

Total TA kilometres: 3008 kilometres according to maps

Best moment

Philippe: reaching Bluff

Nadine: reaching Bluff

Worst moment

Philippe: shin splint

Nadine: almost having a mental breakdown

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 96: Wanaka (Zero Day)

0 kilometres

Philippe

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

A perfect Zero Day includes food, doing nothing, doing some chores (shopping, blogging) and cinema. We did exactly that. The Cinema Paradiso is famous on the Te Araroa. The seating is a bunch of old couches and the food like ice cream and giant cookies are self made. We watched Dead Pool, wich was an absurd, brutal and funny X-Men movie. After that we went to the Red Star Burger and ate a delicious veggie burger.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 9/10

Cinema + (veggie) burger + lots of ice cream = Zero Day! 😁
After we’d already delt with our bounce box and laundry yesterday we only had to resupply today. The rest of the day we spent relaxing, eating, showering 😉 and cinema.
Wanaka was a great place for a Zero Day. The lake with the mountains in the background is beautiful and in the village you find everything you need for a rest day. The cabin was neat as well, and I enjoyed having our own bathroom and kitchen again.

Day 97: Wanaka to Highland Creek Hut

30 kilometres, 7h35min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 9/10

Bye Wanaka. You were great. And you’re better than Queenstown. So don’t get like Queenstown, which is very nice but too busy.
First we could enjoy Lake Wanaka in the morning. The path lead along the waterfront. After that it was farmland and beech forest and then we were in tussock country again.
It was more exhausting than expected. Lots of ups and downs. But the views with the mountains and Lake Wanaka were great and the weather was hot and sunny (better than cold and rainy).
At the Highland Creek Hut my knees were happy for the break. Because they know what’s going to wait for them tomorrow.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 6/10

Up and down, up and down… After we left Lake Wanaka behind us the track led us back in the mountains. I felt kind of stiff after the Zero Day, my hips hurt again and my knees were still complaining about the 950m descent in 3,5km to Lake Hawea. We we still made good progress though and arrived at the hut at 5pm. A great time, which leaves us enough time for our routine and to enjoy the gorgeous views.

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Day 98: Highland Creek Hut to Arrowtown

32,5 kilometres, 10hmin

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 6/10

It was frigging cold this morning. The ground was covered with a thin layer of ice, which only melted in midmorning. And my hands only got warm for a short time after climbing up 1’000m.
Up and down was then the main theme for today. 4 times 400-500m uphill and the same downhill. Now I know why they describe this section as “sucker”. At least we had great views again and the path was mainly in good condition.
The last uphill to Big Hill was more than a sucker. I got explosive diarrhoea. Giardia? We feared it. After 2 Immodium and two stops on the way it got better (or got blocked). We’ll see tomorrow how it goes. Because of my digestion or the end result of it we walked further than planned. We stopped shortly before Arrowtown where there was a toilet ;).

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 6/10

Soon we can start our countdown for the last days on the Te Araroa. On the one side I’m looking forward to it being over. Because yes, sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes it isn’t enjoyable. On the other side I don’t want it to be over. Because most of the times it’s a great experience. I go to bed happy and wake up full of energy and anticipation. And for months now we’ve always had a route, a plan, a goal. But when we reach Bluff, what will be next? I feel like I might get catapulted into space, without gravity or orientation.

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Day 99: Arrowtown to Queenstown

30 kilometres, 5h55min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

It was cold again in the morning. Autumn is coming. Becuase it was more or less flat, I walked with a fleece jacket, gloves and leggings. Only around 10am it was warm enough to change to T-shirt and shorts.
After the pretty Arrowtown we walked through diverse suburbs, a hige country club and industrial area. Nothing nice but interesting. There not only mountains but also the ugly civilisation.
After resupplying in Countdown we met James and Mary Kate. Together we walked into busy Queenstown. So many people! Too many. Preferably I would have walked on. But no, we spend the night at the campground. We needed a shower.
BTW No diarrhoea. The Immodium successfully blocks every exit. Hopefully I won’t implode.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

This has been the first night in a while that we didn’t spend with Mary Kate and James. It felt a little weird, but we survived 😉 And shortly after our lunch break and resupply they caught up and joined us for the last kilometres to Queenstown.
Today’s hiking was kind of surreal. We started in a small forest just outside of Arrowtown and shortly walked through this historic place. Then we followed a trail for several kilometres through a country club with a huge gated community. Followed by a trail along a lake, through plain suburbia and along a river. Next came the sewage works, industrial zone, retail centre, lake, park and then: Queenstown.

Day 100: Kinloch to Taipo Hut

33,5 kilometres, 7h20min

Philippe

😄😐😣: /710

💪: 7 /10

We waited one hour in Queenstown until we go a ride from an American. He was so helpful that he drove us to Kinloch although he had to go into the other direction. We politely thanked him with a donation for the gas. Then we walked the 12km on the gravel road to the actual beginning of the Te Araroa.
After a lunch break we firstly continued on an amazing trail to the Greenstone Hut. Couldn’t be all of the Te Araroa be like that? The nice walking was over after some hours when we diverted onto the Te Araroa again. We followed it through beech forest and swampy open parts through a valley. It changed to tussock and even swampier bits. Faster than expected we reached the Taipo Hut where Mary Kate and James already had arrived.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

With hitchhiking and 9,5 kilometres of additional roadwalking we got from Queenstown to the Greenstone trailhead. Fortunately, fhe following track was quite nice and well developed so we didn’t arrive too late at Taipo Hut despite the delay at the beginning.
The surroundings are beautiful yet again. Wide valleys with rivers and tarns, high rugged mountains and tussock that make waves in the wind.

Day 101: Taipo Hut to past South Mavora Lake

38,5 kilometres, 8h25min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

There wasn’t much of motivation present this morning. Maybe it was because of the swampy tussock or because the end of the trail is close. Anyway, I was warm after staying in a “warm” hut. That was an improvement.
The scenery was nice throughout the day. To both sides there were mountains and in the middle of the valley a golden sea of tussock. After the first hut the trail changed to a 4WD track, which made us faster. At South Mavora Lake my mood was getting better. The landscape was just too nice to brood.
We walked along the northern and southern Mavora Lake and finally immersed into beech forest. A nice change to the tussock without trees from the last few days. We eventually camped in the forest close to the river. It had been a long day.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

The days with thousands of metres of ascent and descent lay behind us, it seems. (My knees are thankful…)
Instead we found something long forgotten today: fairy tale forests! Long time no see. Bedded on moss will result in a better sleep too, I’m sure.
Thanks to the well defined trail along two lakes and through the forest I could even lift my eyes off the track at times and marvel at the impressive landscape.
Despite all the beauty though, I caught myself counting down the last days and yearning for the end. 8, 7, 6, …

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Day 102: past South Mavora Lake to SH93 (hitch to Te Anau)

31 kilometres, 5h45min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

Today we speeded a bit. We started at 7am because it would have been too dark earlier. Autumn has started and the days are getting shorter and shorter.
After 2,5km we crossed the Mavora River over a swingbridge. Then the gravel road started. Actually the trail would have lead along the river. But according to some Te Araroa hikers this part is one of the worst of the whole trail. Lots of prickly plants and bush walking at its best. We could do without it easily.
After 6 hours we reached the highway and 15min later we got a ride to Te Anau. Resupply, showering, washing, eating.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

Ouff, that was a bit too much ice cream… but it was the first time that we found Hokey Pokey (kind of crunchy caramel pieces) ice cream without milk (for Philippe). So of course we had to dig in! 😉
Te Anau therefore was the place where we satisfied our caloric requirements, bought food for the next five days, washed our clothes and ourselves. But it’s a short time in civilisation, tomorrow we’ll hitch out of Te Anau again. The last week on the Te Araroa Trail is lying ahead.

Day 103: SH93 (hitch from Te Anau) to 4 km after Aparima Hut

26,5 kilometres, 7h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 4/10

💪: 7/10

Today I was looking forward to the end of the Te Araroa. Maybe it was becuase it took us 1h30min to get 30km out of Te Anau. Or because I twisted my knee twice, when I fell into a hole/stream. Or just because the track was shit. My tolerance limit for bad tracks has definitely reached its end. Swamp, men high tussock, hidden holes and other tripping hazards and mud. I don’t want to rack about that in the last week amymore. But, nope. And there are a few kilometres of beach walking in the last two days. Beach!
Anyway, the last week won’t be a highlight. Therefore I just enjoy the sandflies infested forest and the last 200km.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 3/10

💪: 7/10

😐 Hardly any sleep. Waiting 1,5 hours for a ride out of Te Anau. Overgrown path. Mud. Wet feet. Tussock – stumbling – fields.
Dear Te Araroa, why do you give me such a hard time on the last kilometres?

Day 104: 4 km after Aparima Hut to Ohai Clifden Highway

36 kilometres, 9h35min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

The track was clearly better today. Or our energy level was higher. The first dozen kilometres to the highest point on +1000m was in the forest and on a visible track. The higher we got, the more mystical, crooked and overgrown the trees became. It somehow reminded me of the Pureroa Forest on the North Island. At the top we would have had a view to the coast and the route ahead of us. Unfortunately rain showers and clouds blocked the view down to a few dozen kilometres.
Afterwards we followed the track down to the DOC campsite (most basic ever) and then further on 4WD tracks, gravel roads  and farmland until we reached camp in a small pine forest close to a stream.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 7/10

Camping alone in a forest next to a stream is so much more relaxing than in a holiday park. Furthermore, Philippe was pitiful and offered to sleep on my defect pad for a night. So in the morning I felt well recovered and was in a better mood. Also, the track got better and better and didn’t leave me on the edge of despair.
In the afternoon we walked about 20 kilometres through the land of a single (!) farm/station. I haven’t seen so many paddocks and pastures since the North Island.

Day 105: Ohai Clifden Highway to Merrivale Rd end

35 kilometres, 7h5min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

The trail was a lot like many sections on the North Island. Roads, farmland, forestry, normal forest, gravel roads and all in a mix. Additionally the weather behaved like it was April. Rain and sunshine in annoying rythm and always around 12C° (6C° in the night). A day to sit inside and drink tea. But wait, we can’t do that (yet). Only 4 days to go until Bluff.

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 8/10

The end is near, today we sped towards it. 5 km/h we walked on average, on gravel roads, forestry roads, tramping tracks. There also wasn’t much interesting to see, so I was engrossed in thoughts mostly.
It’s slowly becoming autumnal. Cold, windy and rainy it was today. I wished for a warm snuggery, hot roasted chestnuts and a steaming cup of tea. I hope the weather will play nicer in the next days.

Day 106: Merrivale Rd end to 8km before SH99

37,5 kilometres, 9h50min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

Are we on the North Island again? I hadn’t seen so much mud for months. The first +6h to Martins Hut were a mud inferno. At the same time there would have been a great but little hazy view all the way to Bluff. But I was mostly occupied with the mud in the goblin forest (mossy, crooked, magical) and the swamp on the bald hills.
My energy level wasn’t high too. Nadine lead the way, what she hadn’t done in a while. Less sleep, long days and the end of the trail in sight. It is time for a break and a complete sleeping cycle.
On the Water Race Track (former water canal of miners) the track got substantially better. It lead with thousands of windings and turns for hours and hours through the forest. Until we couldn’t or wouldn’t walk further and camped in the forest (tricky). 90km to go!

Nadine

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 9/10

Can someone explain to me again, how it feels to walk in dry shoes? I forgot…
The Longwood Forest can mud-wise compete with Raetea, Herekino and co. on the North Island.
The mud fight lasted until the middle of the afternoon, then a track along a water race (from the time of the goldmines) began. That one was much better than expected. Better = quicker travel, (almost) no mud.
At about 7.30pm we luckily found a campspot for our presumably last night in the tent on the Te Araroa. Good night!

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Day 107: 8km before SH99 to Riverton

25 kilometres, 4h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 6/10

💪: 8/10

Hui, bad weather was forecasted. Rain showers and gale winds. Shortly after we had started walking, it began. The last part of the Water Race Track was a blur of rain, darkness and anger. And 1h30m later, when left the forest, it cleared up and only the wind blew.
With back wind we walked to Colac Bay and after a stop we continued along the coast. Soon there was the moment to decide: beach or road? The tide was already high and the wind gained speed. Because the road was almost the same distance we decided to walk the road.
The clothes were almost dry. Even the sun was shining. But a look back revealed a wall of rain and clouds coming our way. We pushed on (thanks to the back wind) and tried to outrun the rain. Surprisingly we managed to do it! After some search we found accommodation in Riverton. Half day off to recover (and wash) from the past few days. 66km to go!

Nadine

😄😐😣: 7/10

💪: 10/10

At 4.30am I laid wide awake in the tent and counted the seconds between the lighting and the thunder. The thunder-storm seemed to be quite a distance away, but the rolls of thunder were so loud and long-lasting that I expected severe weather coming our way. Though apart from some light rain showers nothing happened. Only when we started walking (of course), heavy rain pattered down on us.
When we emerged from the forest 1,5 hours later we saw blue sky above us and soon later the sun reached us. Soaked to the skin I was thankful for the warmth.
The rest of the day it stayed dry, but the wind grew fiercer and fiercer. How nice was it then to reach Riverton at midday and checking in at the hostel. This hot shower and bed we had earned! The Te Araroa truly challenges my (will-)power during its last week.

Day 108: Riverton to Invercargill

33,5 kilometres, 6h30min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 8/10

💪: 8/10

22km on the beach. I wasn’t looking forward to this. But it wasn’t too bad in the end. The sand was wet, not much wind (only cold) and the three stream crossing were thanks to the low tide and our timing very easy. Therefore we progressed quickly. The oncoming end and the cold/rain propelled us.
Unfortunately I developed a shin splint because of the many passed kms on flat terrain over the last two days. I managed to walk to Invercargill without the help of Ibuprofen, though.
We booked three nights in Invercargill. Together with Mary Kate and James and Moonkid we would start and end the last day tomorrow. 1 day to go!

Nadine

😄😐😣: 9/10

💪: 9/10

The beach section of more than 20 kilometres wasn’t as bad as expected. Because we were there at low tide we could walk on the hard sand, which is much easier and faster to walk on. And along the road to Invercargill there were even bike-/footpaths! That makes a hiker happy 😉
In Invercargill (that probably wins the price for the ugliest city of New Zealand) we checked in at the hostel for three nights. Tomorrow we walk to Bluff and then have a well earned rest day. 1 day to go!

Day 109: Invercargill to Bluff (END OF THE TE ARAROA)

34,5 kilometres, 6h40min

Philippe

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 7/10

My shin splint got worse over night. No walking without Ibuprofen today. But anyway, it was just one day to walk. Biting through.
First few kilometres on gravel paths along the coast through reserves, industrial zone and our third sewage works. 16km on the main road and finally the last 7,5km on a nice path around Bluff Hill with views to Stewart Island. Safe for the last part nothing special.
But today it wasn’t about the trail anymore. Today we finished our hike through New Zealand! As a vague idea developed in Vietnam, planned in Australia/Tasmania and now realised during 4,5 months in New Zealand. Our first (and not last) long-distance hike.
Of course I simmerd with excitement towards the end. My body and mind were tired. It was high time for a break, for however long it would be. But at the end I didn’t experience the great parade of emotions or had the feeling of having achieved something big. It was more like a Kiwi would say: Good on ya!
Nevertheless it was great. My sister made an extra detour to Bluff and was waiting with sparkling wine. And we could finish together with with Mary Kate and James and Moonkid and celebrate it. A special end. It was awesome to finish with the American couple with whom we walked 80% of the South Island.
It will probably take some time to digest the whole thing and to realise what we had achieved. Only then I will draw a conclusion.

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Nadine

😄😐😣: 10/10

💪: 10/10

Our last day on the Te Araroa! In the light of the streetlamp we walked to the trail and began the last section on our way from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Because of storm damage some parts of the track along an estuary were closed. We weren’t deterred by these hurdles though, we had walked on much worse tracks.
After that we walked 16 kilometres on the highway (without footpath). Not nice. But we also walked through that part at pace in three hours.
Philippe increasingly suffered from his shin splint and I also started feeling the tenderness in my left shin. No wonder, we had been walking flatly for almost 100 kilometres. But hey, just 7,5 kilometres to go!
These were the best of today. Not only because the end was so near. It was a lovely track again that led us around the peninsula with great views to Stewart Island, of the sea and the coastline.
And then we arrived at Stirling Point. The official end of the Te Araroa. We made it. 3008 kilometres from Cape Reinga to Bluff. No, we didn’t walk all kilometres. We also canoed, biked, and yes, hitched. But like the saying goes: “Hike your own hike.”
I did smile, swear, laugh and cry along the way. I had good days and bad days. But in the end it was an unique and awesome experience that I want to miss in no case.
The Te Araroa taught me lots about myself, my body, my abilities and limits. I got insight into the Kiwi culture in a way that would have been impossible in any other way. I saw corners and valleys of New Zealand that would have been hidden from my view. Towards all our Trail Angels I feel deep gratitude. Of all other Te Araroa hikers I stand in awe and also thank you for making my hike to the unforgettable experience it became.

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And to finish it: an apposite song from Lord of the Rings

Roads Go Ever On

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet

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