Another update – 10 months later

The trail changes you.

Once the trail is over, you think that you will be able to just stop walking and you’ll be back into your old life and that your old life wasn’t that bad… but no, as I learned, it definitely doesn’t work like that.

It’s been nearly a year since I received that text message from Nick while in Pak’n’Save in Queenstown.  The text that said:

“NZ going to lockdown in 48 hours”

The text that made me drop everything and race back to Auckland on the next available flight. The text that ended my Te Araroa dream for 2020. The text that indicated that life as we know it on this planet was about to change.

Even now I wonder what would have been different if I was somewhere deep in the forest when the lockdown started, rather than walking right beside Queenstown Airport by pure chance. Or if Nick hadn’t sent me that text, and I continued walking oblivious to the lockdown. I probably would have been able to walk a bit further from Queenstown, but I doubt I would have been able to continue to Bluff without being stopped by police. I probably would have spent a month of lockdown in a tent in Te Anau or some other out of the way place. Or I would have turned up at Colac Bay on the south coast, expecting the pub to be open to get some food, but instead finding nothing, and starving.

It took me a while to find a job last year with the pandemic going on, but I did return to work in July after four months, and so life did largely return to normal.

The exciting view from my new workplace

It was winter and so I didn’t think much about hiking.  But then as September arrived, so did the “Te Araroa 2020-2021” Facebook group. and I got to see a surprising number of people commencing their own TA adventure. Given that this country is still not allowing any arrivals from overseas except New Zealand residents, I was surprised just how many people there were. And I got to see all their photos and experiences and I got jealous.

Not to mention every time I hear certain songs, I get a flood of memories rushing back. For example, any time I heard the song High Hopes I would be reminded of the walk into Lake Tekapo, where that song made me feel emotional.  Any time I heard any song by Crowded House (especially Four Seasons in One Day) I would be reminded of the walk out of Te Kuiti and also way back at the start at Cape Reinga when I walked with Rhydian.  Youngblood reminded me of Okiato – Helena Bay.  Numerous other songs reminded me of numerous other sections of the trail.  And any time anything hiking-related popped up on my Instagram feed from Alex and Ethan, I was reminded of the 30 days I spent walking with them.  And there seem to be a larger number than usual of stories about Te Araroa in the local news – I wonder if Mark Wetherall is making more of an effort to promote it than usual?

And every time I read my own blog, I wanted nothing more than to regain the simple life I had for those six or seven months.  So I got researching what other walks I could do one day. The Appalachian trail sounds like a great trail. Maybe I’ll get to walk that one day.  But of course with the world in the state it is, who knows when that’s gonna happen.

Instead I set my sights to the next logical thing to do – finish the remaining 337-ish kilometers from Queenstown Airport to Bluff. That is do-able right now, I decided. We’re in a fairly quiet period at work, so I was able to get two and a half weeks off work.

Here we go again

On February 18 I’ll be flying back to Queenstown and continuing on. Can’t wait.

But I’m a bit rusty now on all sorts of things. I have to remind myself how to even work the blog again. Even simple things, like attaching photos to my blog posts, I can’t remember how to do.

Hello!  Ooh, it looks like my test photo uploaded correctly.

The more important thing is that I need to learn how to hike again. I haven’t done any long walks since the TA, and I haven’t really done much running either. During lockdown I put on a fair bit of weight, more than the total weight I lost during the hike. I did purchase myself an e-bike though, and I use that to get around everywhere. My new car that I bought sits in the garage 6 days out of 7 now.

I did manage to run the Auckland half-marathon in November in less than two hours, so that wasn’t too bad.

The hideous green hat we were given as part of our hefty entrance fee

New Zealand was quite fortunate to even be able to hold a big event like the Auckland Marathon. If there was any COVID-19 community transmission, the event wouldn’t be able to go ahead, but there wasn’t, and it did.

I didn’t die

I’m not sure any of that is going to help with being fit enough to hike long days again.  Ultimately I’ll just have to take things slowly.  It’s only 330-something kilometers.  How hard can that be?

I don’t know exactly what the terrain is like for this last bit. I understand there are no really high peaks or really steep bits. The Mavora Lakes which is first is apparently really nice. I think the highest elevation from here on is about 1,000m.  Then there’s some farms, some beach, and the infamous Longwood Forest with “Abundance Of Rats Hut” (formally known as Martin’s Hut).

Oh yes, and as you can see I have not cut my hair since getting back to Auckland. It was too hard to cut it during hiking and then too hard to cut it during lockdown and then I just decided to let it grow.  I don’t think it looks too bad.  At least I no longer look like Justin Bieber or any of his entourage.

I’m going to have to work out how to keep this hair out of my face while I’m walking.

I actually had considered walking the trail over New Years when I also had two weeks off. But when my friends asked me if I wanted to spend New Years at the beach, I couldn’t say no. It worked out for the best – the weather in the South Island during January was atrocious. Lots of storms, lots of flooding, and even a fair bit of snow. Remember, it’s supposed to be summer here!

I’m glad I was here over New Years and not hiking, to be honest…

I did find these sunglasses on a walk up One Tree Hill, at the summit.


Thanks to whoever left these sunnies up there!  They’re mine now, and will come in really handy while I’m walking!  I hope I don’t break them like I did 4 or 5 other pairs of sunnies while walking TA last year.  These ones are actually quite nice and fit me quite well and are comfortable.

Getting back into shape

I did a couple of walks with my pack to make sure I could carry a pack with up to 20kg in it. It didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things, although I got exhausted a lot more quickly than I used to when I was full-time on the trail.  One such walk was the Pūweto Loop in the Waitawa Regional Park in East Auckland. It was a 9.2km hike, a nice mix of farmland, gorse and beach.

I set up my tent to make sure it is still structurally sound and it was. But I have to get back into the routine of taking photos of everything. Several times I thought “I wish I took a photo of that” (e.g. the tent setup).  Here’s the maps of that walk, and some photos that I did take.

Brown farmland
Much more colourful markers than the usual orange triangles
Disc Golf – we saw people playing it… again I wished I took a photo of them
Great view of the ocean

The map of the walk is at the end of the post. I even had to re-write the software that displays the maps on the blog posts, because Suunto (the maker of my GPS watch) forced an update on us which completely changed the way they store their map data. Very frustrating.

I also did a practice walk with the pack around Oliver and Sanj’s farm, where I stayed on Day 48 last year. It’s very rugged in places and there are some parts that even they haven’t explored. It also meant that there weren’t the usual groomed tracks to follow, we were just following goat trails. When you’re doing the TA, you are often slightly reassured that other people have walked the trail before you many times. When you’re out here on private land in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have that reassurance.

On the drive back I saw these new signs between Te Rauamoa Road and Kaimango Road. They weren’t here when I walked through last year! The first time I saw these signs while on trail were down by Lake Coleridge in the South Island.

Te Araroa Trail Users

And one other thing… there won’t be any more discussion about my toenail. It grew back and is normal again!

Hut Tickets

Last year I used the Department of Conservation Hut Pass which meant I could stay in any hut for 6 months. That’s expired now of course, so I bought a few of these bad boys.

Hut tickets

These are blue hut tickets, meaning they’re adult hut tickets for standard huts (as opposed to serviced huts). They cost $5 each and each one is good for one adult to spend one night in a hut classed as a “standard hut”. It’s hard to know exactly how many to buy, but if I’ve got too many I can give them away, and if I don’t have enough then I can sleep in my tent. I know that Abundance Of Rats Hut is classed as a “basic hut”, therefore it’s free.

There was a Facebook post by someone saying that apparently only 30% of people pay their hut fees. That’s quite a low number and it’s quite sad.  I don’t know what evidence they have but I would believe it, based on reading the hut books last year. Although when I bought these tickets, I commented to the sales girl at Bivouac in Sylvia Park that she has a lot of them, and I asked her how long it would take to sell all these. Her response was “in summer, not very long at all”. So that’s good.


I’ve pulled out all my gear from the corners of my room where it spent the last year, and made sure it is still present and working. My sleeping mat got a bit mouldy, even though I’m positive I dried it out as much as I could at the time before packing it away. I found a small Swiss Army Knife lying around that will replace the one that got taken off me at Queenstown Airport last year.  I would want something better if I was going to be doing another through-hike, but this will do. It has a little knife and a tiny pair of scissors which were the only two things I ever used, as well as a file, so it will be fine.

Something I found lying around

Packing was very nostalgic. I remember that I always used to pack my stuff in a certain way each day and of course now I have absolutely no idea what that was. Although I’m very glad that I posted my gear list here. It meant that I could just refer to that and I know that I haven’t forgotten anything.

Gear list referencing

There’s a few things that I crossed out, which I’m not going to bring this time. They are…

  • Rain pants – I hardly ever wore them except when I was doing laundry
  • Cheap op-shop shirt – This was the one I bought in Taumarunui when I got desperate
  • S8 Smartphone (backup phone) – I almost decided not to take it but after some thinking, I will. Never hurts to have a backup phone.
  • Tent repair kit – The one I bought on Day 5 which I never needed because the duct tape on the back of the tent is still holding.
  • Wool for blisters – Only because I can’t find it
  • Spare tent stakes – The ones that came with the tent were fine and none ever broke
  • Razor and wet wipes – I’ll survive for two weeks without these

I also crossed out “shorts” – I went through a lot of pairs of shorts but the ones I had at the end of the walk were my light blue togs that I bought from Wanaka and so I need to find some new ones.


The interesting thing about the last section is that from Queenstown (km 2681) to Colac Bay (km 2918) there are no towns or shops. That’s 237 kilometers without any place to resupply. There are three places where it’s possible to hitchhike to a town and resupply… but do I really want to do that?  I have ummed and ahhed about it many times and my current thinking is that I’ll just pack as much food as I can and walk.  I estimate that section will take between 8 and 12 days, but it’s hard to say exactly how long since I’m out of practice.  I survived carrying 9 days worth of food through the Richmond Ranges.  If I end up packing my pack too heavy, then I’ll just give some food away.  On the other hand, if I end up running out of food, then I’ll hitchhike and get more.  I have to remind myself that you don’t need to plan these things too much.  It’s a nice feeling – just going with the flow.

I’m a bit worried about having such a long stretch without a chance to recharge my devices, I never used my big battery pack again after the trail and so I hope it still retains its charge. At the end of the Richmond Ranges I had the tiniest amount of battery left although I was blogging as I went.  This time to save battery I probably won’t publish any blog posts until I hit the towns on the south coast. Besides I don’t think there’s much phone coverage after Queenstown anyway.

COVID-19 Coronavirus

Ah, that which I’d prefer not to speak about, but unfortunately it’s a necessity.  Here in New Zealand we have been nowhere near as badly as hit as a lot of countries around the world due to COVID-19. We had the four week lockdown in March last year, followed by a less strict three week lockdown in August. Then, there were no more cases detected in New Zealand outside of quarantine for quite some time.

Fast forward to last month, and literally the day after I decided I wanted to do this, and booked my flights for this trip, a new case of COVID-19 was detected in the community, in Northland. Lockdown threatened for several days, but fortunately never eventuated. Then there was another community case in Orewa, and then another one in Hamilton just the other day. So depending on how many more cases they find, it really is going to be touch and go whether I actually get to go or not.  I won’t know until literally the morning of the flight on Feb 18 whether I’m going or not.

Despite new Coronavirus variants emerging in the world which are many times more easily transmissible than the original variants, I’m feeling good that I won’t get stuck in the South Island in some kind of lockdown.  They’re calling these variants the “UK” and “South African” variants. When the August outbreak happened last year, it was localised to Auckland, and so only those of us in Auckland got locked down.  Those who lived in Auckland were allowed to return to Auckland, people just weren’t allowed to leave Auckland without a good reason.  It is generally acknowledged that there won’t be another nationwide lockdown unless things suddenly get really really really bad. As long as I have access to any kind of computer, I can do my work remotely anyway.

My goals

  • Finish Te Araroa
  • Don’t die
  • No more conversations about COVID-19
  • My car doesn’t get stolen this time

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


Like I thought might happen, another COVID-19 lockdown has forced me to postpone my trip.  People in Auckland are not currently allowed to leave the city.

It’s not the end of the world though – once the current lockdown is over I should still be able to go. I didn’t lose any money as these days I only book transport and accommodation that is fully refundable. The little bit extra that this costs turns out to be worth it time and time again.

The current lockdown is confined to Auckland only (where three new community cases were discovered) and as happened last time, people outside of Auckland who live in Auckland are allowed to return home, so if I had’ve been in Invercargill when lockdown was announced, I wouldn’t have been stuck there. There is some concern that because these cases are the new and highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant (the UK variant), lockdowns in future might have to be more severe, but all I can do is see what happens.

I did console myself with this

I’m sad I won’t get to see Oliver and Sanj who just happen to be in Queenstown right now. Oli sent me this picture from Tekapo a couple of days before. I recognise exactly where it was taken from.

Hopefully I’ll be there soon. But I’m not going to predict or even guess at a possible future departure date. Getting your hopes up and having them come crashing down gets old after a while.

Let’s try this again

Fingers crossed… no more lockdowns… and I’ll be able to leave in 12 hours from now! My flight is booked and my bag is packed!

I stayed at work this week because stuff happened that meant work was busy this week. In a way delaying my walk until tomorrow was almost a blessing in disguise because now that that’s out of the way I can walk and not have to worry about leaving behind unfinished business at my job.

I’m all set to go… here is 9 days worth of food, to last me from Queenstown to Colac Bay (although it doesn’t look like that much).

It weighs 6kg, plus I will add a 500g block of cheese once I get to Queenstown.  I’m still apprehensive about carrying this much food, because it’s heavy and it’s hard to fit that much food in the pack, and also I don’t know if it will be enough – I’m going to have to ration it! But like I decided last time that doesn’t really matter.  I can hitchhike out and get more food if I have to.

The pasta, one of the packets of rice and one of the Back Country Cuisine meals are the exact same ones that were in my pack when I flew back from Queenstown a year ago. They have been in my pantry all this time! And also, the cash that I am taking with me has also been in my wallet for the same length of time.

I put feelers out there to see if any other hikers are in Queenstown and who might be getting a shuttle around Lake Wakatipu this weekend… but got no responses. So right now I’m the only one booked Sunday morning on an Info & Track shuttle between Queenstown and Greenstone on the other side of the lake. There’s a very real possibility I’m going to see very few people for the next 2 weeks. Other Te Araroa walkers I’m following on Instagram who I hoped I might get to meet in person aren’t yet at Queenstown.

It’s going to be nice to be away from civilisation for a while. Away from the little irritations of everyday city life, and away from the constant notifications from my phone. I don’t know what the cellphone reception is like down there, but I’m guessing there is not much. It’s going to be great.

Day 156 – Queenstown Airport to Queenstown

Date: 27 February 2021
Trail covered: 7.8km (kms 2673.7 to 2681.5) plus at least that much again exploring Queenstown
Weather: fantastic

After waking up at 7am and milling around the house a bit, I thought to myself “oh wow this is actually happening now”. It’s all become real, and a little bit scary. When you’re on the trail full time you have the routine and it all becomes quite easy, but when you’ve been off it for a year, not so much.

Even within the first 10 minutes of being awake I had already encountered the concept that I have to pull apart my entire pack to find any one thing I might need, as I can’t remember for the life of me where I packed any particular thing. Hopefully while walking I’ll get back into my routine.

Here comes the bus

I took the bus to the airport, it passed the Jet Park facility where all New Zealand’s known positive cases of COVID-19 get transferred to to spend their time in quarantine. It reminded me how lucky I am to be able to live in a country where by and large we are free of the virus but also that we still need to be careful because it is still here and around us.

I arrived at the airport at 8:30am and it was surprisingly busy. I had it in my head it would be some kind of ghost town. I guess the International Terminal probably is.

The first thing I had to do while I was at the airport was take the 11am picture that I forgot to take on day 87 which has been the only day I have forgotten so far. Here it is!

A photo representing my 11am photo from day 87

That’s the exact spot where I was sitting on that day at 11am waiting for my flight and I dropped my credit card (one of two places on the trail where I dropped my credit card and nearly lost it – the other being Kerikeri). Let’s hope for no more accidents like that. The new shorts I’m wearing have zip up pockets… which hopefully will prevent that kind of thing from now on.

Cardboard cutout of a security guy at the airport. Much cheaper than a real security guy.

On the plane everyone was required to wear a mask, but despite that people seemed relaxed. It makes a change from the last flight I took, which was the flight back home from Queenstown this time last year on the day lockdown was announced where I didn’t want to touch absolutely anything and it was the scariest most turbulent flight of my entire life.

People on the flight today were generally well behaved, although at one point somebody got something out of the overhead locker in front of me and somebody’s walking crutches fell out and hit the person in front of me in the aisle seat. Coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally) this same person and the people he was travelling with were told off by the cabin crew multiple times during the flight for removing their masks.

I wish I picked a window seat instead of an aisle seat, and not just because I don’t want to get hit by falling debris from above. It didn’t even occur to me when checking in that I might want to see the view once the flight nears the South Island.

There was no drink service due to Covid-19 (despite the AirNZ app saying there would be), so the only thing to keep me occupied was my iPod, and the Air New Zealand quiz. Here’s the question that was at 11am:

11am picture and quiz question – “Which bear created in 1920 by Mary Tourtel, lives in Nutwood?”

I didn’t know the answer to that question, but I did know the answers to “what is the main ingredient of sambal” and “which 1993 movie’s main character had the first name Euphegenia”. Answers on a postcard please*.

Yum, now I’m hungry. I wonder if I can find sambal for dinner in Queenstown. I’ll probably skip Fergburger, the place in Queenstown that everyone in the world seems to have heard of and apparently has a queue each day out the door from the second it opens until the second it closes.

When I arrived at Queenstown Airport I didn’t recognise it at first without the huge security and police presence that was there last time, and the chaos from the looming lockdown. This time there were no panicked people… although there were lots of screaming kids. Also there were lots of hiking bags.

There’s mine on the right

I went and re-packed my stuff in the check-in area. Everything fits in my bag with just my crocs hanging on the outside. That’s pretty good.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the stunning scenery of the South Island. Right from the minute you step outside, you are treated to great views.

Great views

No snow in sight anywhere
This A-frame house must have a great view

As I stepped out of the airport I realised that the point where I’ve rejoined the trail is km2673.7 this year, whereas last year it was km2667.8. I guess the trail must have changed a bit this season – I have been given just under 6km for free! I guess I feel okay about that… but I might have to go for a walk around Queenstown once I get there to explore and make up for it. You would remember if you were reading last year about how strict I was about following the actual trail and not deviating from it unless there was no other option. I think last year the trail was roughly 3,006km and this year it is exactly 3,000km. So I have 326.3km to walk to reach Bluff.

Also as I left the boundary of the airport I saw this sign. I remembered this sign very specifically from last year as the first time I saw any sign pointing to Invercargill, and knowing this was as close as I would get to Invercargill was quite heartbreaking at the time.

All smiles this time

Just being here brings all the memories of last year and the sudden lockdown flooding back.

Today there is no rush to get to Queenstown as the shuttle to Greenstone doesn’t leave until the morning. So that gives me a chance to look around and reminisce about last year, and to see if I’m comfortable with the weight of my bag. I could get some more snacks if I feel like my bag isn’t too heavy. That was part of the reason for buying my food in Auckland in case you were wondering – to test out the weight of my bag before heading into the wilderness. That and I’d rather spend my time in Queenstown sightseeing instead of shopping.

Starting to walk by the lake
There wasn’t an obvious sign saying what this was

As I started walking today, my pack felt lighter than expected. I remember thinking the same thing after stopping for Christmas and restarting at the Richmond Ranges. I also feel like I must have forgotten something… I had that feeling back then too. At least I don’t feel like I’m struggling to carry it and I feel like it won’t be a problem.

I’m not sure if I’ll be doing any geocaching this time, I fell out of love with geocaching once covid-19 became a thing and touching things went out of fashion. There is something similar called Munzee which I started doing. You don’t find hidden boxes, instead you find QR codes and scan them with the Munzee app.

Like this one, for instance

It’s not quite as satisfying as geocaching but it’s something I can do as I’m walking that doesn’t slow me down too much.

The path from the airport to Queenstown was the Frankton Path. It went alongside the lake for the whole time.

Steep steps up to private residences
Lots of apartments here
Unimaginatively-named Street

People were generally nice, a lot of people just ignored me like they would in Auckland, but one guy stopped and asked me all sorts of questions specifically about my walking poles. I think he was considering getting some for an upcoming hike.

After a short section through the Queenstown gardens…

There’s Queenstown!

The trail on this side of the lake ends at the “Queenstown Fallen Soldiers Memorial”.

From here it was a walk up quite a hill to get to Melbourne Lodge, where I stayed tonight.

Up there, to the left

But that meant there was a nice view from the deck.

It also meant I arrived very hot and sweaty. The weather was great today. I was going to have a rest but I ended up going straight back out for food and a look around as I was really hungry.

The queues around town were quite big and there were a lot of people around, and everything was quite loud. I can only imagine how busy this place used to be before we closed our borders to tourists.

If you’re going to feed the ducks, be prepared to bring enough for everyone
View from the Town Centre

I found my sambal!

And this… I had no idea when I asked for two scoops that I would get such a monstrosity.

I took the photo from the wrong angle clearly – it doesn’t even look big here, but it was.

In the evening… I went out again and got pizza. I saw from Instagram that a friend of mine was in Queenstown so I went and got dessert with him. We watched a drummer who was really good busking for money. Sadly I didn’t have any coins with me. I wish now I’d given him $5.

Drummer on the waterfront

While I was out I debated buying some more food to take but ultimately decided not to, my pack was not too heavy today but that was in part due to walking with no water and I earlier bought 700g of cheese so I decided what I have is enough.

Before I left him, my friend mentioned he is due to go back to Auckland tomorrow. It was shortly after I left him and went back to Melbourne Lodge that my phone started buzzing with people saying that Jacinda Ardern is due to speak on the TV soon… and we all here know what that means.

Sure enough, lockdown was shortly after announced for tomorrow at 6am for a week, for Auckland only. Luckily I escaped in time, and I didn’t go anywhere near any of the “places of interest”, although I dont know what my friend is going to do – in theory Aucklanders are still allowed to travel home, but will there be any flights I wonder? This lockdown was apparently caused by people who were supposed to be self-isolating but weren’t, and instead decided to go to supermarkets and gyms.

Jacinda announcing the lockdown. Her face says it all.

We here in NZ are used to seeing Jacinda in this setting, in front of these flags speaking about Covid-19. I first saw it on the news when I was back in Wanaka and they closed the borders.

So the lockdown doesn’t affect me, at least right now anyway. And so that’s it for my first blog post back on the walk!

Previously on the blog I used to have a page that tracked my live location. I won’t enable that because I need to conserve battery and also I doubt there is much phone coverage between here and Colac Bay. For the same reason, you might not get another blog post for a while, possibly not until I reach Bluff. Don’t worry, I’ll still be writing them, I just can’t publish them right away! I even brought pen and paper just in case. Also, if you’re a new commenter and you leave a comment, I can’t approve it straight away either.

I wish I printed out the trail notes in case I do run out of battery. Instead I drew up this quick map just now of the last section, using the Guthook app for guidance. It makes sense to me! Now I won’t get lost should my battery go flat.

I’ll never get lost now

And I definitely made up that 6km walking around Queenstown getting lunch and dinner.

*Did anybody else watch the TV show Takeshi’s Castle back in the day? I loved that show and especially the narrator.

*The answers to the questions were Rupert Bear, chilli peppers and Mrs. Doubtfire.

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