Quick Adventure Facts:
Who - Joe (see gear list)
What - Te Araroa Trail Thru-hike
When - Nov 14th 2012 to March 13th 2013 | 120 Days
"Te Araroa" is Maori for "The Long Pathway" and the trail is just that. Following the length of both of the two large islands the make up the majority of New Zealand. Officially opened in 2011, the Te Araroa is a relatively new trail.
The North island is sub-tropical and the native plant life resembles jungle with ferns, vines, and oversized trees. Much of the landscape has been cleared to make way for rich green sheep pastureland. It rarely goes below freezing in the far north. The north island is more populated than the south. Since the country is narrow you are never that far from the ocean.
The south island has bigger mountains, and is much more remote and less populated. It snows in the winter. It has a lot more national parks and a better trail system.
The North Island has predominately four types of "trail". Some of it follows the coastline on the beach. These sections are sometimes multiple days long walking on packed beach sand. Walking on the beach probably sounds nice but it can wear you down and can get tedious.
Some parts of the trail go through native jungle. The jungle sections have dense ferns, vines, and huge kauri trees. It rains a lot and the jungle trails can be extremely muddy, and wet. Some parts are steep and slippery, and a bit overgrown. Your pace slows to a crawl at times.
Te Araroa's route is technically all linked together but it involves miles of road walking to join the trails. The roads are often very windy with no shoulder, and dangerous.
The last type of "trail" is farmland. A farm track often means somebody threw some marker posts up across farmland a decade ago and then forgot about them. The farmland is often overgrown with a prickly plant called Gorse. There are probably millions of fences in New Zealand and you get to climb over all of them.
The south island is awesome! The trails are much better maintained, the jungle is gone, and there isn't much road walking. Even the weather is much better, we had a very warm dry summer. The south island is more physically challenging. The mountains are bigger, and there are more "off trail" routes that follow river beds or simply go cross country through the open mountainsides. The scenery on the south island is fantastic with really beautiful lakes and mountain ranges.
The south island has an excellent hut system. You pay for a season pass and get to stay in huts which are like cabins with doors, windows, bunks, and sometimes a fireplace and kitchen area w/ a sink. You can't always stop at one, but many nights are spent under a roof.
The TA runs approximately 1,897 miles (3,054 km) from the north end of New Zealand to the south end.Terrain
The Te Araroa is somewhat challenging. It has slippery mud, plants that want to ruin your day, and off trail bits that can be steep and rugged. There are difficult fords and sections where you are following a river bed on unstable rocks. Or sections with spiky plants hidden under grassy tufts like a minefield. Some people say Te Araroa is more difficult than the Continental Divide Trail, but it may just be more irritating.
The TA has water sections, which is something that was not present on any of my other thru-hikes. Sometimes the official route is to take a ferry boat, rent a canoe, or even hitch a ride on a boat. Yes the official route is stick your thumb out (so to speak) and try to get a ride across a large river on someone's boat (or hitch around in a car) because otherwise some of the rivers are impassible.
Some of the rivers are tidal, and can be forded at low tide or you can usually walk a long way around to the nearest bridge. There are usually ways that you can take a longer route and walk around, or find a boat across the large water bodies.
There are also mountainous rivers which need to be forded. If there is heavy rain you may be stuck for a day or more until the water level goes down.
The north island is pretty warm, but it rains a lot. It is not uncommon to get all day drizzle. The south island can also be pretty hot in the summer, but you can get snow up in the mountains. We saw fresh snow on the mountain tops, but never hiked in any, and it never went below freezing during the four months that we were there. New Zealander's like to talk about the "New Zealand Conditions" whatever that means. You can get crazy wind and rain storms, just like in the mountains elsewhere. The highest elevation on Te Araroa is about 1,925 meters (6,315 feet) at Stag saddle.
Since New Zealand is in the Southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed to those in the US. New Zealand is relatively warm and has a long hiking season. The trail can be done in either direction. The seasons work a little more in your favor with a southbound hike and the track notes are written north to south.
It it recommended that you budget 4.5 to 5 months for a thru-hike as you'll want some spare time for sight seeing beyond the trail.
The biggest logistical hurdle of the TA is simply getting to New Zealand. Once you are there is it easy to access both termini.
The trail itself consists of some sections that are poorly marked, logged out (non-existent), overgrown, and even miss-signed. This will probably all get better over time.Resupply
The trail is routed right through many of the towns, so you just walk into town without needing to hitch. Towns are often only 2-3 days apart, especially on the north island. The south island does have some more remote sections. The longest section is through the Richmond Range which is a 7 to 9 days carry. Water is pretty abundant so you never have to carry much.Gear
A standard 3 season set up like Joe used is a good fit for the Te Araroa. You can check out his gear list here.
By: Joe Valesko
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