Thursday 28 November 2013

New Zealand's Te Araroa Hike

It’s amazing how fast time fly’s between expeditions. 12 weeks seems like a long time but I never got even 1/2 of what I planned done. The blogs still bare and I’ve still got many gear projects floating around in my head, but that’s life! Outdoors should come first and the rest when, and if, I get around to it.

New Zealand's Te Araroa Trail

This next hike is a good one for me and very different to my last on the PCT. I fly out to New Zealand on Sunday and start hiking the 3000km Te Araroa on the 7th Dec. I’ve not been to NZ since the second of my 2 cycling trips back in 2006 and I’m looking forward to returning for a long hike. NZ is a special country that has such a variety of landscapes ranging from semi-tropical rain forests in the far north, down to glaciers in the south. Mixed in-between is beautiful, often deserted, coast, active volcano’s, high rugged mountains, dense forests (sometimes more like jungle), hobbits and so much more. No other country packs in so much in such a small space. 

That’s all great but not why I’m excited by the Te Araroa. I like that this hike is new and unestablished. It’s a work-in-progress trail and could not be described as a “spoon-fed" adventure like I sometimes called the PCT. You really have to think, and make decisions, on the move with this trail. Some sections can only be done in the right weather conditions, be unlucky and you can add days of waiting or walking round the obstacle. The trail has a number of un-crossable features that the Te Araroa association describe as “natural breaks”. These can be walked around, but that add's 100's of KM of road walking to cover only a few 100 meters on the ground. The  association recommends you hitch. The trail is the river in places and on one section you need a boat for a number of days. I shall carry the packraft for that. Large areas of the trail still only exist on the map and not on the ground. Tides need to be considered. Even getting to the start is a tough and I’ve had to book a tour bus to get me there. Supplies and camping are harder to find and a lot of it just can’t be planned before starting. There’s no Apps, data-books or water reports, but there are some surprisingly good maps and trail notes available on the website. I like this kind of hiking! Few hikers successfully complete the trail and of those that do most don’t manage a “pure” hike and end up missing large chunks. I intend to hike pure. The downside to a new trail like this is that there is still an awful lot of work to do agreeing access rights with landowners, and until that happens you have to take to the road. And the TA has an awful lot of road walking… I hate road walking but have had to make peace with it for this hike. At the moment it’s just part of the TA experience and probably one reason why it’s still a quiet trail.

As always you will be able to follow my progress live on Social Hiking and I should be back in early April which gives me a few weeks recovery before the TGO Challenge