Friday, 27 February 2015

My Te Araroa Summary and Statistics

It is now one week after completing Te Araroa and I am busy relaxing and trying to put some weight back on. I am making good progress on this and am probably at the stage where I can resume a normal diet but it will be hard after indulging so much. 

Some serious eating required to increase my weight again. These shorts were a little tight at the start.
Thank you all for your messages of support throughout the journey and when I completed it. It is great to know people have enjoyed the blog and especially great where people are thinking about giving Te Araroa a go, or even just getting out in their own countries and walking.

I was spoilt by my parents for the first few days after finishing before they were shooed away on a well deserved holiday while I look after the animals. My new routine is up at 0730 and do the rounds of the animals feeding, scratching, patting, giving new breaks (moving electric fence to give them more grass). There are Ducks, Chickens, Budgies, Burks (small bird like budgie), Nubian Goats, Boer Goats, Miniature Horses, Welsh Horses, a couple of cows and 3 dogs. Then I have breakfast and settle in for a day of reading or researching my next adventure before evening rounds of the animals, dinner, TV and bed. All up I am walking around 1 km a day. 

I have recently brought some hiking boots as the guides on Mt Kenya (I have now added that to my warm down) and Mt Kilimanjaro will not allow trail shoes and it will be too cold. It feels really constraining wearing them and they are heavy. I miss not being able to feel the ground as much and it is taking a lot of getting used to as I walk around wearing them in when I do the rounds with the animals. I intend to do a few longer walks to wear them in properly before leaving.

My body is free of aches and pains except my feet which feel a little strange. It feels like they are swollen even though they are not.

Below is a summary of my journey down the length of New Zealand. If there is anything I have missed summarizing let me know.


Total Days


Full Walking Days

Number of Zero Days

Number of Half Days (< 5 hrs)
Average km per day - incl zero
Average km per day - without zero days
Average km per day - full days only
Maximum Distance in a day
Average Speed
8 h 42 min
Average Hours Walked per day
13 h 15 min
Maximum Hours Walked per day
Number of Shoes      4 (4th pair still has another 4-500km life left)
Number of Socks      4
Number of Tops        2

My normal walking routine in the North Island was start walking at 0730 and finishing between 1700-1800. In the South Island I was not in as much of a routine due to using Huts rather than just stopping and camping when I felt like it. For the last part of the South Island it was cold in the mornings and I got up later and finished later. Generally I would walk for 10 hours a day.

Best and Worst
-Best Area North Island: Northland due to variety of terrain. I loved the fact that I was next to a beautiful beach, then in the bush, then in farmland and then in pine forest. It kept the days interesting.
-Best Area South Island: Richmond Ranges due to spectacular scenery in the mountains and good grunty hills which I love.
-Worst Area North Island: Hihikiwi Track coming down from Mt Pirongia. Muddy and steep.
-Worst Area South Island: Track next to Mararoa River south of Lake Mavora. Lack of track, very long grass and lots of prickly things.
-Best Moment – too many to narrow down to one. Usually it was the peaceful moments just being surrounded by the bush or by fantastic scenery.
-Worst Moment – being stung by wasp in Richmond Ranges.

I was very lucky with the weather. All up I had 2 full days of rain. The remainder were half day or less. In Northland there were showers about half of the days. I then had a great spell of fine weather until around National Park where it was heavy rain. Thereafter it was fine or occasional showers. I seemed to time my rest days well with many of them being rainy days. I also seemed to time it well that whenever there was heavy rain there was either a café, backpackers or hut waiting to get dry again.

I put my tent up in the rain twice and only took it down in the rain once. It did get rained on during the night, sometimes quite heavily but I don’t mind that, it is only the putting up and down where it matters.

There was a cold snap in northland and the nights stayed quite cool until December. Generally the temperature was warm to hot from then until Tekapo with the exception of Goat Pass Hut which was the coldest night in a hut. From Tekapo the night temperatures varies between ok, cold and absolutely freezing which made me change my routine to getting up later.

When tenting I generally always found public or conservation land. There were a few times I was in shelter belts but on road side of track. My preference was to camp under trees as this reduced chances of a wet tent due to dew or condensation and provided shelter from the wind. I was very lucky and did not have storm conditions when in my tent but it did get heavy rain for periods. There was only once that I had to pack up in the rain and only twice that I had to set up in the rain.

The huts were great but mice were an issue in many. I never got mice in my food or pack as I was careful to hang them out of reach. They did have a chew on my camp slipper and toilet paper zip lock bag. At $96 for a 6 month hut pass the huts are fantastic value and I did love on a wet day knowing I had a hut to dry out in. There was only once that a hut was overfull, usually they were pretty empty. The most people I shared with was 8 (in a 16 bed hut). Several times I had a hut to myself.

Backpackers were generally of a very good standard and I think they are fantastic value for money. Several times I talked to other TA hikers who had stayed at the holiday park and were paying $15-30 for a tent site and having to pay for a shower on top of that. Most of my backpackers were $19-29. YHA were cheaper due to the YHA member discount and the low Carbon Discount.

Holiday Park Cabins were private but I preferred backpackers over them as I did not like the long and sometimes wet walks to get to the bathroom. In the backpackers everything is under one roof.

Summary of where I spent my nights:
No of Nights

I had set an on trail budget of New Zealand Dollars (NZD) 10,000 expecting the trail to take 4 ½ months. This does not include initial gear purchases. I had made a generous allowance for food and made allowances to treat myself to some upgraded accommodation a few times and to nice steak dinners at restaurants occasionally too.
In the end I came under budget. The reduced time it took for completing the journey probably explains this. In the end I spent NZD 7,239 on the trail.  This is broken down to:
Food                          $3995
Accommodation       $1483
Miscellaneous           $1761 – Post, Gas, Equipment replacements, ferry, shuttles, movies e.t.c.

If you are happy with a bland diet and staying in your tent on rest days you can reduce this budget significantly. I like comfort on rest days and love my food.


I was surprised by how much weight I lost (Start 67 kg finish 56 kg) as I was only expecting to lose around 5 kg. 
Before and after photos. Big loss in size around my hips and stomach

Side by side comparison of how I looked at the start and finish.
Starting out I was heavier than I wanted to be due to not much exercise over the last couple of years. In the north island I lost 3 kg and this was where I gained muscle and lost fat so the measurements are the more interesting statistic to look at than weight. As expected I lost more weight in the South Island due to less shops to supplement my food.
From Boyle River I was having stomach issues and lost my appetite which explains the dramatic drop in weight from end of 2nd month to end of 3rd month. From there I did not lose much more though some of the measurements continued to drop. Here is a graph showing the loss in weight or measurements every month (less weight for month 1). 

 Weight is in Kilograms (no measurement for end of first month). Measurements are in Centimeters.

Next blog will be in a few days and will be a detailed gear review.

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.