Distance today: 34.5km
Distance total: 3352.7km (TA-km: 3008)
Time hiked: 8h 38min
Time total: 1018h 52min
Last day on Te Araroa!!!
I didn't sleep well. Simply too excited...
The first part of the day is anything but exciting though: 26 kilometers on cycle trails and along a busy State Highway 1. It's raining heavily and in combination with the wind it gets once more unpleasantly cold. You probably think I fell super happy being so close to Bluff, the weather however makes it not easy...
Luckily, the rain stops and there's even some sun by the time I reach the final track of Te Araroa, the Foveaux Walkway. The track initially leads through farmland, with sweeping views of the rugged coast. It's all very exposed and the strong wind makes walking on the rough track tricky. Upon entering a conservation area, the track turns into on a really easy, gravelled track for the last 4 kilometers.
My brain wants to fly along the track towards Stirling Point, make it there before the next rain shower. But somehow, my body doesn't feel like playing along. It seems all the energy has vanished.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been wondering how I'd feel on these last few meters. I assumed they'd emotional - and they certainly are but to be honest my thoughts at this moment mostly revolve around the rain, which is closing in really fast. Will I make it there before the rain?
No... About 1 kilometer from Stirling Point, I have just re-attached my rain cover, it starts pouring down and it is obvious, it wont stop within the next couple of minutes. On the one hand I'm disapponted to finish in the rain, on the other hand, it makes the finish a bit more... how should I say... genuine, typical Te Araroa. I started in drizzle at Cape Reinga, I'll finish in rain at Stirling Point.
All these thoughts however vanish instantly, when the "famous" signpost comes into view. Filled with joy, I walk the final hundred meters of my adventure.
Rain drenched, I touch the pole, with my hands, with my head. I made it, I really made it! All the way from Cape Reinga down to Bluff!
Even though I can't get more soaked, I don't stick around too long and try to find a shelter to wait for the rain to ease. A small canopy in front of a public is the only sheltered place I'm able to find. Well, it might not be a very worthy end of my hike, but I don't care. I'm just happy to be here at Bluff.
Some drunken, funny Kiwis (obviously not the birds ;), who are attending a stag party join me and offer me a beer. I gladly accept and so together we stand here under the way too small roof, celebrating.
Never thought I'd finish my hike this way. Te Araoa - expect the unexpected ;)
A few minutes later, the rain stops and the clouds disappear. Time to head back to the signpost to finally take some descent photos and ring Karyn and Willie. We agreed on the Mavora Walkway to call when we arrive in Bluff to cheer for each other. Really nice to hear their voices, especially as there are no other Te Araroans around. They will stand at this exact time in 5 days. Happy final trail days!
It's actually only on the way into town, when I slowly begin realize what I've just achieved...
3000 kilometers from the northernmost to the southernmost point of New Zealand. Walking basically every step.
Jusy a few kilometers on the water and the hitches around the three hazard zones. 128 days, thereof around 114 days on the track.
So what next?
My flight back to Zurich is in May, which leaves me a bit more than 3 months to further explore this amazing country. During my hike I received heaps of tips from hikers on the trail as well as from people following my blog what I could do after Te Araroa. Beside checking out a few of these places and hikes, I'm planning on visiting friends that I made while hiking Te Araroa. Now without the urge to continue a hike.
For the next few days however, the plan is simply to relax. With the forecast to be good for the upcoming days (now that I finished Te Araroa...hahaha ;), I'll find a nice beach, pitch my tent and do... not much.
Within the next couple of days, when the emotions have settled down, I'll post a résumé as well. So stay tuned!
Distance today: 38.4km
Distance total: 3318.2km
Time hiked: 9h 25min
Time total: 1010h 14min
I'm leaving the hostel with the first light and oh boy, it's totally worth getting up at 5! Not necessarily because of the tide but the sunrise is stunning. One of the best I had on the trail!
A strong tailwind and firm sand on Otira Beach - the kilometers fly and with Waimatuku River that is straightforward to cross, it's only noon when I reach the outskirts of Invercargill.
James, my tonight's Couchsurfing Host won't be home until 17:30, so I slow down a little, eat some Chow Mein for lunch and stroll around Invercargill for a while, before heading south to James' place. This very friendly chap works orthopedic and bought the spacious house recently. As he still has to finish up some stuff for work, he retreats but lets me use the whirlpool. I don't mind at all. A hot tub - exactly what I need after hiking nearly 40 kilometers on firm surfaces in heavy wind.
Distance today: 19.9km
Distance total: 3279.8km
Time hiked: 5h 26min
Time total: 999h 49min
Late start today, as even though I didn't continue to Colac Bay yesterday, it's still a fairly short day to Riverton. After a hearty breakfast including tasty Japanese Quail eggs, I continue along the road towards Colac Bay.
Looking at the sky, it was obvious I won't get to Riverton dry.
Sure enough, five minutes after leaving the house I get soaked by a short, heavy shower. With the gale force winds that currently rock the Southland, the weather changes incredibly fast and a few minutes later it's all over and the sky blue - right in time for my first beach walk since the Kapiti Coast. Feels great, although going on the pebble beach is a bit hard going and with the stones sticking between the feet and sandals slightly annoying.
The wind is causing an impressive surf. An amazing sight, especially with dark clouds behind. Unfortunately these threatening clouds are closing in fast from behind
A strong gust, which nearly blows me off my feet is followed by a painful hail shower. I luckily find cover behind scrubs and wait for the hail to pass. Rain, grail, snow and now hail. TA got it all ;)
The track climbs away to avoid bluffs. While the views are spectacular, I don't enjoy the overgrown track very much.
Once entering a scenic reserve, the track improves drastically though and an hour later, I'm already checked in at the Monkey Backpackers in Riverton, a pleasantly quiet costal town. Somehow, I prefer these relaxed seaside towns much more than the busy Alpine Villages I walked through lately.
After spending most of the day talking to a NOBO, who is fighting against some painful blisters (not too much advice I can give) I call it a day. Early start tomorrow to make use of the low tide.
Distance today: 24.3km
Distance total: 3259.9km
Time hiked: 9h 53min
Time total: 994h 23min
Today starts with a challenge: getting out of the hut. With my pack in my hands I climb over two trampers and squeeze through the door, which only opens partially, as the third sleeping on the floor is blocking it.
Eventually make it out and continue yesterday's begun descent on a slightly muddy track, which after about half an hour joins a gravel road for a short while. From the gravel road I turn right onto the water race track. Since it follows the race, there aren't any major climbs. Just some short scrambling sections down to and out of streams that cross the derelict race (some of them are "bridged" - the bridge a log laid across the gully - sometimes very sketchy!). In combination with about a dozen fallen trees, going is a bit slow.
About 2 hours into the hike, I pass a tent. The girl camping there seems to be in low spirits. For her, the track is very challenging - way more than expected. Sounds vaguely familiar...
I try to cheer her up but struggle finding the right words. My advice: take it slow and enjoy the beautiful bush. Don't focus too much on the track itself It makes the hike much more pleasant.
For once, it's surprisingly warm, not windy with an amazingly sweet smell is in the air.
A few kilometers in the race track, going gets easier. As the track is following the race, it's extremely winding though - seemingly endless.
After 8 hours, I finally pop out of forest onto a parking lot, where I meet Scott, living across the road at Mahuru Cottage.
He invites me to stay at the cabin and I gladly agree. Don't feel like walking another 6 kilometers to Colac Bay. He and his lovely family own a small farm and live mostly organic. Really cool!
Time there flies and after playing a card game with Scott and his to kids (guess who lost ;) and a healthy dinner it's soon sleeping time for me.
Distance today: 20.5km
Distance total: 3235.6km
Time hiked: 7h 28min
Time total: 984h 30min
Again a wet, windy and cold night.
Again I have a hard to get out of my comfy sleeping bag, packing my gear and stowing my soaked tent. 5 more days to go...
After a short walk to the road end, it's straight into a muddy but gradual climb up Bald Hill.
The beechforest is amazing - so mystic. Nearly surreal with the fog.
Reminds me of Pureora Forest. Just a bit more spectacular but a bit muddier as well.
I'm plow right through the mud - there's really no sense in avoiding the mud pools. There are just to many. I try to dodge the deepest sections though. Unfortunately I missed a super deep one. With my right leg up to my gentlemen's area in the mud, it's actually quite tricky to get out of awkward situation.
Above the tree line it's a walk through shrubs and tussock - muddy as well. Much more unpleasant is the cold wind though. In order to get out of the wind, I'm pushing up to the antenna and right down on the other side, now on gravel road.
Then it's back into the mud, eh forest for the climb up to Longwood Peak. Two NOBO's, one of them in Bedrock Sandals, seem to be a bit bewildered by the track conditions. Understandable. I felt the same in Raetea.
This was four months ago. Now it's only five more days to Bluff. Accordingly, I take it easy. Step by step. Enjoying the still stunning forest.
The smoke of a burning fire can be smelled from far away.
It's 2:30 and I'm in another boggy descent to Martin's Hut.
Great that someone lit a fire. But hopefully there's still space. No hiking poles outside this time - a good sign. The door is locked. I knock and the door opens. Only one guy in there. Perfect. Would have been a real bummer to camp outside. Especially as Martin's Hut is the last hut on Te Araroa.
While settling in, more and more trampers show up. All of them NOBO's. The first two get the remaining two bunks, the following three make themselves comfortable on the floor. Three others need to camp outside.
The hut is packed and it's certainly no fun. I'm actually glad that I started early in the hiking season and was able to enjoy empty or nearly empty huts most of the time.
I shudder to think how crowded it gets on the trail, when all these NOBO's come upon the SOBO's that are currently being held up further up north due to the bad weather.
I've been asked by two followers, what I feel when thinking about the fact that my 'journey' is going to end shortly: predominantly joy. My hikoi, my journey has been great. So many fantastic impressions. Lovely people, wonderful landscapes. Reducing life to the basics. As much as I enjoy Te Araroa however: it has often been a challenge. Both, mentally and physically. And right now, lying here in this ridiculously crowded hut, after spending the last 7 hours in ankle to knee deep mud, I'm actually looking forward for the end.
Distance today: 36km
Distance total: 3215.1km
Time hiked: 10h 10min
Time total: 976h 52min
The forecast unfortunately was correct and rain is hammering on the roof all night long.
Accordingly, I'm not in a hurry to leave and check the TA Facebook group to see what's going on on the trail. Quite a lot actually: The weather-bomb caused a mess up in the Nelson-Lakes, Arthurs Pass region.
Hair-raising stories about slips and flooded rivers, a broken leg and hikers being stuck and forced to return all the way from Blue Lake Hut to St. Arnaud, as they ran out of food...
I count myself lucky not to have many more river crossings. Especially not on today's straightforward section towards Longwood Forest.
Once past an eucalyptus forest, the tracks climbs fairly steep through grassland up to Twinlaw Peak and then enters Woodlaw pine forest on a forestry road. I eventually leave the road and descend through beechforest on an okay tramping track. A bit boggy in places, some fallen trees. Nothing serious. Still, I manage to hit a piece of wood with my little toe. Happens every once in awhile, this one is particularly bad though. Very painful.
A quick road walk connects Woodlaw Forest with Island Bush, which is quite similar to Woodlaw. Before entering the bush, I need the permission from the landowner to proceed. A quick phone call. No big deal. Still a bit odd.
After exiting Island Bush, it's another road walk. I decide to hike as close to the trailhead of the Longwood Forest as possible. It rained the whole day, especially heavy on this last road section. At one point I have enough and pitch my tent beside the road. Chances are close to zero that a car will pass by on this road.
It's actually the first time to pitch my tent in heavy rain. Not really pleasant to be honest.
Not very pleasant was actually the whole day. Mainly due to this crappy weather. But at least the day did serve it's purpose and I'm a few steps closer to Bluff.
Distance today: 29.8km
Distance total: 3179.1km
Time hiked: 9h 52min
Time total: 966h 42min
As expected: on my downsloping camping spot I had a pretty awful night and can't wait to leave the hut with the first light.
100 meters into the hike, I walk past this great, wide and flat camp spot. Bummer. Someone could have told me yesterday, while they where observing me looking for a suitable spot. But I guess they didn't notice the spot, with their thoughts already at the hut. Can't blame them.
Climbing up through beechforest is hard work. My legs are tired. Yesterday's massive hike and not having eaten a proper dinner I guess.
Anyway, I eventually climb the unnamed hill. 1024 meter above sea level. The last time above the 1000 meter mark!
I'm stunned by the view. Not the snowy mountains to my right (I've seen enough of them) but the view to my left: The sea. Even Bluff! So cool! Far away, but yet... So close!
Surprisingly steep is the initial descent. To be honest I wasn't expecting any more rock scrambling. After the rocky part it's back onto grassland to Telford Creek, which is easy cross.
The afternoon is mostly easy going and rather uninteresting along shit covered farmroads and an undulating gravel road through massive Mt Linton Station. Another short hike through paddocks takes me to Birchwood Station Hut. A pimped hut with a hot shower and power outlets. 20 Dollars a night. Money well invested as heavy rain is predicted for tonight.
Surprisingly I have the ten bunk hut for my self. I will sleep well tonight.
On a side note: the times stated on the trailheads are way off.
Today, I hiked slightly less than 10 hours, breaks included. According to the sign it should have taken me 17 hours. 7 hours faster and I took it rather easy. No idea how they came up with this time.
Distance today: 37.8km
Distance total: 3149.3km
Time hiked: 13h 16min
Time total: 956h 50min
Hitch-hiking back to Princhester Road is not as easy as I hoped. Many tourists pass me at the intersection of the two State Highways - none of them stops. After 45 unsuccessful minutes, I walk a few hundred meters further out of town to Sandy Brown road, which leads into Te Anau's industrial zone. My target: locals.
E voilà - after 10 minutes I get a ride from a local worker, heading to Invercargill for a job. 2 hours for him to get there, a week for me...
A 6 kilometer road bash along Princhester Back takes me back into the bush and the Takitimu Forest. The tramping track starts very pleasant, even small streams are easily crossed via bridges. But that's only for the first 100 meters. What follows is like a kick in the teeth: A boggy, overgrown track with many roots scrambling parts. Very slow progress. Not as bad as the typical Northland track though. I guess I'm just not used to them anymore.
Luckily, the track improves after 2 hours and gets a mix of beechforest and tussock covered swamp. The tussock is full of hidden streams beneath and as it's extremely dense, it's rather a stumbling than walking. At least it's a soft landing when I eventually fall.
By 4, Aparima Hut is insight. From here, it's another 6 hours to Lower Wairaki Hut. Tight but I'll try to make it there. My legs feel good and it makes planning the next few days easier, if I carry on.
According to the trail notes, the trail is light - hard to see and thus difficult to navigate. However, this is not the case. On the obvious, flat track I make steady progress and only get slowed down by the numerous gully-crossings on the second part.
Two NOBO's warn me that the hut is already full. What a bummer. I somehow feared this might eventually happen. But maybe there's enough floor space to sleep on my mattress.
A tricky river crossing of Wairaki Stream (and probably no fun when river in flood) marks the end of todays hike. It's already 8:30. A long day.
12 hiking sticks and a tent in front of the 4 bunk hut: Not a good sign.
In fact: the hut is packed. 7 NOBO's in there, 2 already on the floor, one sleeping in his tent. Well, no other choice than to pitch my tent as well, which, due to the lack of flat spots, is a bit of a challenge. I finally pitch it on a reasonably flat spot behind the woodshed - hurrying before the sandflies eat me alive.
The long day was tiring and I neither feel like cooking outside with the sandflies nor inside the crowded hut. So I content myself with some nuts and dried fruits.
Distance today: 31.6km
Distance total: 3111.5km
Time hiked: 6h 32min
Time total: 943h 34min
The predicted weather-bomb was rather like a possum fart: unpleasant but nothing serious. Wind and continuous rain during the night and while packing. No other choice than to stow a soaked and thus heavy tent.
I leave the camp together with Karyn and Willie and we hike on the gravel road to SH94 (the weather makes us choose the road over the the hike along Mararoa River). The strong, bitterly cold southerly wind is blowing directly in our faces - the mighty tree-walls, which normally should break the wind are fairly useless today. My hands and feet get numb within minutes - I'm freezing nearly as bad as during the Tongariro Crossing. Where the heck is summer?
To fight the cold we walk fast - really fast and I'm quite sure my average speed today will be the highest one so far. Moreover, Karyn is teaching me an easy Maori song for children. A very welcome distraction.
Upon reaching the State Highway, I say goodbye to Karyn (Willie is already out of sight and on his way to Te Anau), who is headed for her father's 80th birthday in Auckland. I really enjoyed hiking with these two lovely guys the last two days and we will definitely stay in touch.
For me it's another 2.5 kilometer hike along the Highway to Princhester Road (just for the sake of completeness), from where I will resume my hime tomorrow, after resupplying in Te Anau. Basically while arriving at Princhester Road, I hear a car behind me. I turn around, lift my thumb and two charming ladies from Sweden, respectively the Netherlands give me a ride all the way to the driveway of my Backpackers. Sweet as! They obviously felt pity with me standing there in the rain in the middle of nowhere.
I will be a happy man if it's only as nearly as easy to hitch a ride back tomorrow morning.
The wind was literally rocking the hut tiny hut tonight. By the time I leave, it calmed down and I enjoy a fairly pleasant hike along a 4WD track to Careys Hut. There I meet Karyn and finally her husband Willie, who is hiking the whole trail in sandals as well. Glad to finally catch up. I've been following them in the hutbooks for weeks!
We hike the remaining day together: Initially along North Mavora Lake, past a campground, then along South Mavora Lake on a fantastic track through Beech forest and finally on the true left of Mararoa River. Around noon, the first raindrops fall. Being in the forest however, doesn't make it as bad as in the open country yesterday. Two NOBO's cross our way. One of them a Swiss girl. It's amazing how many Swiss people I currently meet! They both seems to be a little exhausted and not too motivated. With this weather... I can't blame them.
Around four, we reach an informal freedom camp close to the third and last swingbridge across Mararoa River. We quickly pitch our tents as it's still raining, even though Kiwi Burn Hut would only be another 3 kilometers away, across Kiwi Burn.
With the expected "weather-bomb" about to hit the South Island tonight, I'm a bit worried about being unable to cross back Kiwi Burn tomorrow. For me, that's the main reason to camp out here in the rain instead staying in the sheltered hut (beside the fact that going to the hut would add another 2 to 6 kilometer to the hike anyway, depending on if Mararoa River can be forded or if a backtrack to this swingbridge is necessary).
The rain forces us to retreat into our tents. A shame, as it would have been a lovely, sandflies-free place to sit and chat outside.