20% recap (Cape Reinga to Auckland)

Well, since I managed to complete 20% of the trail yesterday, I thought I’d write up a short recap. The first thing I noticed is that it took me 40 days to complete the first 20%. That means it would take me 200 days for the whole thing at this rate. Yikes. At this rate I’ll be finishing mid-April, after starting on 26 September. That’s a real long time, in fact I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone taking that long. 14 of those 40 days were rest days though. I’m really hoping that my body will be used to it by now, and I’ll be able to do the rest of it with no injuries and less than the 14 rest days I’ve taken so far!

Although after my 58km day yesterday – imagine if every day could be like that. It would take less than two months for the whole trail. That would definitely give me some kind of long-term injury though. I definitely don’t want any long term injuries from this. As a runner I know what it’s like to have an injury that is still around years later. It sucks.

Once I go past Hamilton though I’m going through fewer areas where I know people – that should mean I take less time. It’s also kind of scary because up until now I’ve had family and friends around, and I can break up the walk by spending time with them and also staying at my place in Auckland. I’m not going to have that luxury from now on so I guess I’ll be like most other people on the trail!

I’ve been fairly happy with my gear choices. Closer to the end of the trail I will write up proper reviews of each item that I’ve brought. So far, I haven’t used my gloves – it just hasn’t been cold enough. Or my compass – I haven’t strayed far enough from the trail yet to need it. Or my iPod Nano – I’ve been listening to music on my phone. Or my beacon – let’s hope it stays that way.

I’m still undecided about doing the South Island. Back when I was walking between Waipu Cove and Mangawhai, and my left foot suddenly started hurting completely out of the blue, and I couldn’t walk, that was not good, but it would be really not good if I was in the South Island five days from any town. I know that I was able to walk again an hour or so later, but what if I couldn’t? When I get to Wellington I should have a much better idea of what I want to do.

I guess that’s about as likely as an important piece of gear breaking far from any town. People obviously can get through that.

I’ve been thinking about my favourite day so far. It was definitely Apple Dam to Puketi Forest, because of the sheer variety of stuff and the general “epic-ness” of the day. It’s funny, I’ve been asking a lot of people what their best and worst day is and a lot of people say that that section was their worst day, because of all the rain that they happened to experience when they went through. I haven’t hit any big rain yet – I’ve been undercover or resting every time it’s rained. I don’t think I’ll be so lucky for the next 80%.

In fact I think I’ve been lucky, I remember back in July/August, about the time when I wrote this post, how it rained literally every day for two months, and I thought it would never end. Thank God it did.

I also liked 90 Mile Beach. It was quite soul-destroying at the time, but everything was new and exciting back then. Great memories. I watch the Te Araroa 2019/2020 Facebook group and keep seeing other people mentioning that they’re starting out, and it makes me miss the anticipation and excitement of the first few days. But I still look forward to continuing the walk every time I’m having a rest day.

I updated my cost spreadsheet. I’m spending quite a lot – especially on “convenience food”. It’s just too tempting to spend up at the cafes and shops when I’m in towns. I’m okay with it though. It does look like a lot on paper but by far my biggest cost is the money I’m not earning while I’m walking so compared to that these figures are small.

I like my Leki poles a lot, but I find I have to keep tightening the screws on them – one every few days or so. It’s a bit annoying, but also it makes me worry that I’ll lean on them more than I ought to when going down a hill, and then they won’t be tight and I’ll fall forward when the pole retracts. Maybe I should get into the habit of tightening them every couple of days to make sure that doesn’t happen, or at least before going up or down a big mountain.

Writing this blog has given me something to do in the evenings, and I’m enjoying writing it. Without it, I think I would get quite bored once the sun goes down and everyone retires to their tents. Some nights though when I’ve walked a long way and I’m sore then it’s too much effort to type up a blog entry. I do force myself to spend 5 minutes taking notes each night though so that I don’t forget what happened that day. It takes about an hour or an hour and a half to write up each entry – in part because the WordPress app for Android is so bad. It often fails to upload pictures, and doesn’t automatically retry when they fail. And sometimes you get multiple copies of each picture. The app claims to work offline but pictures can’t be uploaded offline, so it doesn’t work very well if you don’t have an Internet connection. That was a problem during the first two days where there was zero phone coverage, but it hasn’t been too bad since then.

Today I tried to find out why Guthook and The Trail App have started reporting different km markers (which I noticed yesterday when trying to work out where 600km was), and I can’t quite work out why. I think it’s just because the line in each app follows very similar paths but not exactly the same path, and over time the errors accumulate and now after 20% the two apps are about 1km apart. I don’t think that’s a big deal though. You often see people referring to specific km numbers, like “there’s a campsite at km 297.5”, however km297.5 depends on what app you’re using, and also they’re different each year, because when detours are in place, especially at the beginning of the trail, it shifts all the km markers for the entire rest of the trail so they change all the time. That’s frustrating when you’re trying to work out exactly where something is, but I don’t really know what could be done about it.

And while I was at home for 4 rest days, I weighed myself on the first rest day and the scales said I’d lost 4.5kg since day 1. But then four days later I weighed myself again and I had apparently put 1.5kg back on. Obviously it fluctuates a lot with walking and water retention so that doesn’t tell me a lot. I don’t want to lose too much weight. I really ought to start eating more fruit and vegetables where possible, and good food.

I’m nervous but also excited to see what the next 35% brings on the way to Wellington.

Shoes, reunited

Final Thoughts

Every time I think back to the things that happened while I was walking Te Araroa, I still struggle to believe that some of them even were possible. Leaving the trail five times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and yet still not completing the whole thing, my car being stolen, meeting the Prime Minister, walking with the same group of awesome guys for a month, flipping kayaks and crashing canoes, and the crazy COVID-19 pandemic – I still can’t get over the sorts of things that happened that I never expected to. So much for just a walk from one end of the country to the other – it was much more eventful than that.

Of course none of those crazy events are even related to any of the wonderful places I ended up visiting. It’s really hard to pick the best parts of the whole trail, but I’m going to give it a go. These are the parts of the trail I’d recommend to people wanting to do a short section of the trail.

These were the five best walking tracks in my opinion, but there were of course other days which were really great, not because of the view or the wonderful path, but for other reasons. I would have to say that my most favourite day on the whole trail was actually the very first day for no other reason than it was so exciting and scary – I was finally on the trail after spending almost the whole year thinking about it and the emotions I was feeling that day I’ll remember forever.

There were a few times on the trail where I thought to myself that I would be prepared to wipe my entire memory of the whole trail just so that I could experience the thrill and excitement of that first day a second time. The start of the trail was so new and exciting because it was the first time I’d ever done any kind of multi-day hike before. I especially started to think this in the second half of the South Island because once I passed somewhere around Lake Coleridge in the South Island, a lot of the trail became a bit “ho-hum” by then and I was just looking forward to finishing it so I could return to normal life.

Lots of foreigners come to New Zealand and only walk the South Island, either because they have heard the North Island isn’t worth it, or they only have limited time, or for other reasons. So which island did I prefer? Perhaps controversially, I preferred the North Island.

The North Island was a huge variety of landscapes and experiences, it was thrilling because it was first (and therefore new and exciting), having lived most of my life in the North Island it allowed me to see all the places I have known and loved all my life from different angles, and I was able to walk with a couple of groups of people for a long distance.

The South Island was merely an epic hiking expedition. Which is great, but it’s not the main reason that I originally sought to do this.

I know I’m writing this as if it’s all over, despite the fact that I only completed 89% of the trail. I’m aware that I could do the final 11% in two weeks, in a break from work (once I start working again), however the truth is I probably won’t. There were no sections of the trail past Queenstown I was particularly looking forward to, except perhaps the beach walks along the south coast. Realistically there’s no chance it’s going to happen this season now and arriving at Bluff with a gap of a year or two since starting feels like it would be pointless and would achieve nothing. Of course, if it ever does happen I will document it here!

When I sit down and read back through all the previous posts, especially near the beginning, I am reminded of how happy I was to be out there. It was always more about the journey than the destination. Getting to Stirling Point at Bluff would have been nice but it always felt like just a formality. This was more and more the case each time I had to leave the trail for whatever reason. If I had’ve walked from Cape Reinga to Bluff without stopping so many times like most tourists would do then reaching the finish line would have been much more important.

I remember on the morning of my last day on the trail when I was deciding whether to continue on or not, I was chatting with Henry who was one day ahead of me and who had just left Queenstown, and we were discussing whether we should go on – by that time the lockdown had not been announced. Henry was worried about going on from Queenstown and I said I agreed, I don’t want to be stuck in Invercargill after the trail was over. But then I said “surely they won’t cancel all domestic flights. I just really can’t picture that happening”. The idea just seemed so incomprehensible. And then, less than 6 hours later, that’s exactly what they did. We really are in crazy times right now.

I also know that Henry was originally unable to get a flight out of Queenstown but then he did make it home safely before the lockdown.

If the announcement had’ve been a day later, when I would have passed Queenstown, I wonder what would have happened to me. Would I have finished the trail, but be stuck in Invercargill or Bluff for the duration of the lockdown? Would I have found the two big farms that we walk through closed, and be stuck in the middle of nowhere? Would I have arrived at the Colac Bay tavern with no remaining food, expecting to go in and get a huge big meal, only to find the tavern (and everything else around) closed?

It would be great to walk Te Araroa northbound one day (in the very distant future!), and if by chance I ever did that then I would like to do it without stopping. No break for Christmas, no injuries (hopefully), no social engagements, just walking. But again I think it’s unlikely that I’ll do that – it’s hard to take such a long time out of normal life, and also to experience the excitement of a brand new experience again maybe the next long hike will be something overseas. But with the pandemic ravaging the world any kind of overseas travel might be years away now, so who really knows.

Since I’ve been back home I’ve been pretty bored, especially since I’m not working. As I write this we’re on Day 6 of the Alert Level 4 lockdown. The lockdown has been forecast to last four weeks, and if it does last exactly four weeks, then it will be lifted on the exact day of my 40th birthday. I’m interested to see if I’m allowed to go and have a drink with my friends on my 40th birthday or not.

I’ve been getting back into running – being about the only outdoor activity we’re still allowed to do. On the first day I was only able to run 4km, but now I’m consistently running 10km on two days out of three, so that’s good. It seems that despite walking big distances most days in the last six months, this hasn’t carried over to being able to run long distances each day. But that’s okay, at least I can run which gives me something to do and means I might not put on a ton of weight during this lockdown. I put today’s 11km run on the map below – just one last map for old time’s sake!

It was really fun writing the blog, I don’t know what I would have done in many of the evenings otherwise, and it will always be a reminder of this six month period of my life. Walking Te Araroa was a great experience and I never regretted it at any time. I really liked all the positive comments I got from you readers and especially when people said that they were inspired to walk some of the sections of the trail that I walked. I’d love it if this blog ever inspires anybody out there to do the entire TA – if that’s you, please let me know in the comments below!

Gillies Ave, Epsom, Auckland during the lockdown – completely empty. Any Aucklander who has ever driven this road (or tried to turn right onto this road) will tell you that this is completely unheard of – this is one of the main routes to the airport from the city centre and was the most used route until they opened the Waterview Tunnel a couple of years ago.
At least the view from the top of Mt Eden is still the same. This point is km586.2 on Te Araroa.
Another view from the top of Mt Eden.

Click here to see today's run on the map.

Welcome to my blog!

Te Araroa Day 104 – Goat Pass

I walked Te Araroa – the 3,000km trail that runs the length of New Zealand – between September 2019 and March 2020, and documented it all here on this blog.  Writing the blog post for each day of the walk was one of the highlights of each day. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

The posts are in chronological order, starting below with my first post from July 2019 when I was preparing for the trail.

If you want to head straight to the first day on the trail – click here.  Otherwise the rest of the posts start below!  And please, if you like what you read, leave a comment!