Sunday, 22 February 2015

Day 114. Invercargill to Stirling Point – FINISH!!

Today 34 km. Total 3021 km. 6hours 45 minutes (0700-1345)

I woke to my watch alarm and was dressed and out of the room quickly. As I exited the backpackers I saw it had rained heavily in the night and was still spitting occasionally. It was still dark. I walked through Invercargill back to the trail eating Hot Cross Buns in one hand and drinking 1 l of Chocolate Milk from the other.

Central Invercargill as I start my last day

I reached the trail just after 0700 and began walking along the Estuary Walkway which was a gravel vehicle track for a while and then after crossing a bridge a wide gravel walking/cycling path along the water and then farmland and industrial areas. It continued raining lightly but then occasionally it would get heavier.

Gateway to the Estuary Walkway

Estuary Walkway

Estuary Walkway

Great bench

By the time I reached the main road it had stopped raining but I needed to keep my raincoat on to protect from the road spray as the trucks and buses went past. The traffic was heavy until 0900and then reduced significantly and it was mainly just trucks after that.

I had been dreading this final road walk but it was not as bad as I expected and I made much better progress than I had been planning. I didnt seem to be walking faster than normal but the kilometers seemed to be dissolving at a rapid rate.

The long road section

The end is in sight just on the other side of this hill

Part of the time I was watching the drivers coming towards me. Though the road actually had a good shoulder most of the way (1/2 meter) I was still vigilant of the oncoming traffic. The best drivers surprisingly were younger drivers, older men and truck drivers (less Mack Trucks and Tankers). Many of the trucks would pull all the way over to the other side of the road and I made a point to wave at all the considerate drivers. The worst drivers were Mothers, Middle Aged Men and Old Ladies who had an unnerving habit of swerving towards me as they peered over their steering wheels at me.

The remainder of the time I was running a Te Araroa trail greatest moments montage. It was a nice time to reflect back on the trail in its entirely including the best and worst moments and the huge variety of landscapes and experiences I have had.

As I realized I was so far ahead of schedule I pulled into a park for a break and took my time. I texted my parents who were coming to meet me. I had told them I would be arriving somewhere between 1430 and 1630 and had thought 1430 was a very optimistic time but at my current rate I would be finished by 1330. Luckily they were arriving early, no doubt having realized that I am consistently underestimating the timings I would make. I still needed to slow down and take more breaks but I decided to keep my speed up until I was off the road and then slow down.

As I arrived at the turnoff to the track I saw another tramper there and as I got closer I was surprised that it was Chelsea. This was great luck as now we could take our time over the track and walk slowly. I didnt really trust myself to slow down enough that I wasnt waiting at the end for my parents to arrive. I had enjoyed walking with Chelsea last time and we picked up where we left off with constant conversation all the way to the end.

I was pleasantly surprised that the track was a nice basic path following faint tracks in the grass and orange poles. I was expecting a manicured trail. It was a lovely track to the coast and then along the coast looking out at Stewart Island and grassy hills covered in rocks. This continued for nearly 3 km before the track climbed a large stile and now it was on a Walking Track of smooth gravel through coastal flax and scrub along the ocean.

Crossing to the track

Chelsea finding it is not so easy with a big pack

The Foveaux Track

The biggest orange triangle of the trail

Great scenery to finish with

The final 'why take the easy gentle track up the hill when you can go straight up the steepest bit'

Chelsea climbing up the steep bit

The last of the grass. The walking track is just visible in the scrub

Walking track to Stirling Point

On this smooth path there were several people out for day walks and then I spied two people walking towards me that looked familiar and it was my Parents coming to walk the last bit of the trail with me which was great as they have been so supportive of the adventure, and all my other crazy adventures and challenges I set myself. For Te Araroa they have also been in charge of my resupply packages which have all been waiting for me as I arrive at different places around the country, despite often short notice of what was needed and where.

We walked to the famous Bluff signpost and spent nearly 30 minutes there taking photos. Chelsea and I had discussed the poses we wanted to do and played around with our different poses to get the perfect shot that summed up our feelings at finishing. 


Amazing how great it is to get to this signpost

Tools of the walk

Chelsea and I

3021 km completed

My biggest supporters - my wonderful parents

Mission Accomplished

It was great to have my parents there to meet me as they know the scope of the achievement of completing Te Araroa. I feel sad for our overseas trampers who arrive with no one to congratulate them on their achievements apart from bewildered looking tourists who are wondering why these smelly trampers are so emotional about a signpost.

My feelings towards having reached the end were mixed. I was very satisfied with having completed the Te Araroa pure with no hitchhiking or shortcuts. I was relieved to have completed it with no injuries as this was my biggest fear at the start. I was also sad to have finished as I had loved the experience so much and wasnt really ready for it to end. There is something comforting in knowing that all I had to do each day was walk, drink, eat, find a campsite and sleep. It is very peaceful without the pressure and stress placed upon us, often by ourselves, in our normal daily lives. No decisions to make, no one else to have to consider and no need to compromise what we want to keep within societies norms. I loved the constant little challenges of hills and rough tracks. I loved the constant reward of fantastic views, I loved the anticipation of finding out what was over the saddle, hill or around the corner.

Te Araroa was a fantastic showcase of the exceptional diversity of New Zealand. I will not claim we have the best mountains in the world, or the best beaches, or mountains but what we have is fantastic and so close together and taking everything into account I do think New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world. Te Araroa has taken me along beaches, through jungle, through native forests, through pine and eucalyptus forests, through farmland, through desert, through alpine meadows and into the mountains. We have walked on roads, sand, dirt, mud (lots of mud), swamps, tussock, rock, snow, through rivers and oceans. We have been isolated for long periods and we have walked through cities and even through a city mall on the official trail. I have kayaked for 4 days on a river and crossed over active volcanoes. I do not think there are many trails in the world that can offer all of that in trail through one country.

In summary my journey on Te Araroa has far exceeded the expectations I had of it when I made the decision to do it. Despite being a New Zealander and familiar with much of the terrain it was fantastic to be absorbed fully into the varied environments and I learnt new things and saw things I never have before in New Zealand. I discovered that Through Hiking (Long Distance Hiking) is a completely different experience from normal Tramping (hiking) and I loved it.

Thank you to the Te Araroa Trust for making this possible. The volunteers in each region and the central trust do a fantastic job in managing and improving the trail.

Thanks to DOC for the fantastic tracks, huts and conservation work.

Thanks to my wonderful parents for supporting yet another of my crazy adventures and looking after my resupply parcels.

Thanks to the Trail Angels who are so generous with their time, houses and kitchens.

Finally thanks to my fellow Te Araroa Trampers for your companionship, support and advice. I wish you all luck in keeping what you learnt and achieved on the trail in focus as you transition back to real life.
I have been asked "what now" frequently leading up to the finish and more so now I have finished. I would love to do another Through Hike in the future but not for a few years as I do need to do a little work. Pacific Crest Trail in America appeals but I will leave that one until I am older and find some less developed ones to do while I am still young.  In the short term I have decided to warm down from Te Araroa by climbing Mt Kilimanjaro on my way back to work in DR Congo.

For this blog I have three more entries; summary of my journey,  gear review and a hints & information page for those doing TA in the future. 


  1. I've felt every step of your trail since meeting you briefly at Lakehead Hut, Nelson. If only I was 20 years younger and without a dodgy hip... I did feel inspired enough from your effort to walk into Nina Hut and back one day last week. Good luck with the transition back in the big bad world. Thanks for sharing the TA experience.

  2. I too have loved the walk with you. I have not done any tramping myself but do feel more inspired to do so. Thanks for sharing your journey and for all the photos, details, inspiration that you have so diligently given.
    I hope all your other adventures go as great, injury free and as pleasurable as this one.

  3. Congratulations! What a fantastic adventure. It's been great following you from start to end and you're a legend in our household. Thank you so much for sharing with us all. I can't wait to start in Nov. Mick

  4. Well done...we have also been following your blog ..loved seeing all the pictures too as we have done approx 80% of the South Island..done in between working......

  5. Brilliant....I have followed you the whole way and have been totally absorbed. My wife and I (both in our 60's) plan to do TAT this year or next (yep, better make up our minds pretty quick!) and you have generous with your comments and photos. All great stuff. Congratulations. I think that way back you said you are from Dunedin. We are, too, and it would be great to meet you, but I am unsure how to arrange that......

  6. We have also been following your blog and just loved all the photos and details. You have done amazingly well and you are an inspiration! All the very best for the future. And if I ever bump into you I'll recognise you from the photos!

  7. I've also keenly followed your blog from start to finish. I went remote-camping in January and as soon as I got back to where there was reception I couldn't wait to see where you'd been and where you'd got up to. I've enjoyed your clear descriptions of the trail, your sense of humour and have loved your photos. All the best for your future endeavours. PS Please do a blog when you climb Kilimanjaro!

  8. Congratulations! I have loved reading your blog as you walked along, and it has inspired me to get out and walk more. I am eagerly awaiting Canadian summer so I can get some real tramping in. I wish you all the best going forward.
    ps. I laughed at the phrase 'winding down by climbing Mt Kilimanjaro'. I find walking 10km a challenge, but you're winding down by climbing a mountain. :)

  9. Hi Kirsten
    Thank you so much for your amazing blog, we loved every day of your comments and photos. My husband and I, NZers and in our fifties, are planning to walk the TA later this year and found your generous sharing of all your information about gear, tracks, general ‘kiwi’ sense and ‘sense of humour’ really helpful as well as inspirational - thank you. We look forward to reading your wrap up entries as we prepare for our own adventure. Congratulations on completing the TA and all the best for your future adventures, I hope you keep up the blogs.....:)

  10. Phatmandu
    Hi Kirsten CONGRATULATIONS Great effort T`is the best way to see youre backyard THANK YOU for a great
    blog Enjoy youre reentry ( TA TA TA i can hear it from across the paddock ) Happy trails Phats

  11. Hi Kirsten, Congratulations on completing Te Araroa. I monitoried your progress down the South Island from when Paula and I met you at Misletoe Bay via the various hut books up to when I left TA at Arrowtown on 14 Feb. I have had a brows of your blog; a great record. All the very best for your other adventures and the bits between. Cheers Joe

  12. This blog is awesome, thanks so much. Congratulations on finishing the Trail and climbing Kilimanjaro in the same year. I'm section hiking the TaT myself and the information, comments and asides you have provided will be very helpful as I work my way along the trail.

  13. Well done! A fantastic achievement with both the blog and the tramping!
    If you're still looking for new through hikes to do that are less developed I can give you a tip from my country, Sweden. There is something called the Green Ribbon ( that takes you across the Swedish mountain range. The terrain, plants and wildlife is very different from NZ (no dangerous animals just like NZ though). According to the "rules" you can pick your own route between the two points and even cross over to Norway for some sections. This means you have the possibility to skip the more developed trails and even go off trail if you want.

    Good luck in the future no matter what you decide to do!