All done!

All in all, my experience on the Te Araroa was an amazing one. There were all sorts of tracks, all sorts of days, all sorts of weather, all sorts of moods, and all sorts of people.

Highlights

  • Climbing up Breast Hill next to Lake Hawea
  • Conquering the Waiau Pass
  • Putting my navigation and river crossing skills to good use and feeling like a real explorer
  • Eating a packet of Toffee Pops every two days and still getting skinnier
  • Forging an unimaginably close friendship with my shoes
  • Watching and feeling my resilience grow with each day and each new challenge
  • The wonderful people I met at every turn, transforming the walk into an adventure
  • The amazing encouragement and messages of support I received from the friends and family along the way.

Lowlights

  • Long drop splashback, enough said.

Thank you so so much to everyone that contributed to my journey, whether it was telling me that yes, I could in fact do it, or carting my gear around the country for me, or storing my stuff, or having me to stay at their places last minute.

Thank you so so much to everyone who contributed to the Hohepa Boardwalk Project – you were all so generous. It is easy to glance at something like that and think, I’ll do it later, or I’m sure they’ll raise enough, but you all took time out of your day to give something towards it and I’m incredibly grateful, as are the awesome people at Hohepa.

Lastly, thank you to everyone who has been following my progress and reading this blog! You’ve been keeping me going. I hope it’s been somewhat entertaining or informative.

The North Island remains an exciting possibility for another summer… Watch this space!

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Day 76: Schoolhouse Bay to Ship Cove

Despite the late night, the teenagers and I were up at 6am and I was off just before 7. Getting light, but before sunrise, I began the last hard uphill slog of the trail. Just as the saddle came into view, I could see the bright golden sunlight beginning to hit the trees on top. I spotted the lookout platform sitting on the saddle and kept my eyes down on the ground on purpose as I approached it. When I stepped onto the platform and finally let myself look out onto Ship Cove, it was so beautiful and such a happy moment that I burst out laughing.

I spent a while on the platform taking in the view and the fact that I could see my endpoint, and sending off various messages and pictures to friends and family. I desperately wanted to send off a picture to the boyfriend, but I couldn’t because I was surprising him by getting back to Wellington ‘early’, in time for his birthday. He still thought I was back somewhere near the beginning of the Queen Charlotte.

I practically ran down the hill to Ship Cove to find it deserted and beautiful.

I was very early for my water taxi, so I spent some time exploring and taking the perfect finishing photo.

An earlier water taxi arrived at the jetty and I jumped on that one instead. On the way back to Picton, we had some visitors.

I thought I would have been overcome with emotion as I finished the trail, but it was nearly the opposite. It felt like any other day. I was happy to be there, and I definitely felt a sense of achievement, but it wasn’t on the big scale I thought it would have been. I think it was because I had been ready to finish for a couple of weeks, perhaps. The water taxi ride back to civilisation took almost three hours and it was a nice reflection time. I dozed a little, feeling drowsy from the huge dose of sea sickness medication I had taken in anticipation, but mostly enjoyed the cruise.

When I arrived in Picton, the first thing I did was go and order a victory salad. I then checked into a hostel and cleaned out my bag. I have a ferry booked to Wellington in the morning, and then it will be back to normal life! Very strange.

Day 75: Camp Bay to Schoolhouse Bay

This was my last big day of walking, as tomorrow morning I will be waking up early and spending only an hour walking up and over the hill to Ship Cove, the finish line. I got out and on the track early. Today the track began by climbing up to follow the ridge line for a short time, before descending to follow the coast.

Another amazing day.

The trail led me up and around Endeavour Inlet today, where the infamous Furneaux Lodge is situated. The Hope Smart murders took place in the area in the 90s, and I’m not sure if knowing this prior made the lodge feel spooky to me or not. I stopped there for some lunch, and sat in the dining room in front of a huge fireplace, surrounded by animal heads on the walls and floor to ceiling red velvet curtains. It felt like something from Cluedo.

After lunch I continued around the rest of the inlet to Schoolhouse Bay, a small DOC campsite.

Lots of Mānuka along the way today.

I was excited to have the campsite to myself, and made tentative plans to wake up early and walk over the hill to arrive at Ship Cove at sunrise. These plans went out the window when a group of thirty teenages arrived on an outward bound course, set up camp all around me, and shouted and giggled until the wee hours. It sounded like they were having a great time, but I struggled not to enter full grumpy old lady mode.

The view from the last campsite of the trail.

Day 74: Mistletoe Bay to Camp Bay

Second to last day, and I’ve got a blister, hilariously. I haven’t had one of these since my first week!

I only meant to walk to a place called Bay of Many Coves today, but I reached the campsite early in the afternoon and decided to carry on another seven kilometres to the next one. This way, I’ll be able to walk the whole way to Schoolhouse Bay tomorrow, only an hour from the end of the walk, and meet the water taxi the following morning, saving one day. I’ve got a surprise planned for my return to Wellington, and the new plan fits in much better!

One of the many stunning views along the Queen Charlotte Track.

Today I saw the North Island for the first time, and it fully sunk in that I’d be finished very soon. Now I’ve begun to miss the trail prematurely!

Getting close now!

This evening at the campsite there was an excited buzz in the kitchen, and I found out that the place was treated to the presence of a celebrity. Brett, or Brent, or something, from Married at First Sight, was cycling the trail with some friends. The only one from the show who had stayed married, apparently. He wasn’t wearing a ring. It was quite the scandal.

Day 73: Havelock to Mistletoe Bay

I jumped on the road bright and early today, eager to begin the last section of my walk, the Queen Charlotte Track. I’ve always loved the Marlborough Sounds, and I was excited to learn that Te Araroa followed them almost to to tip, and actually ended up higher in latitude than Wellington.

A tropical paradise!

The track today was similar to the Abel Tasman – it followed the coast, in and out of numerous bays and coves, and the walking was easy. It’s not sandy here like it was in the Abel Tasman, but the water is the same shade of turquoise blue, and it’s beautiful.

There’s a strange conflict going on in my mind: I’m excited and happy to be on the Queen Charlotte track, doing something I love, surrounded by beauty, but at the same time, I’m longing to be finished and home, able to sleep warm and undisturbed, and cook whatever I want in my own kitchen! It seems like years since I left Bluff, and I’m definitely ready to be done.

Day 72: Pelorus Bridge to Havelock.

I may have cheated today.

Over breakfast I met another camper, Hannes from Austria, who had done some of Te Araroa this season and then stopped and hired a car. He was heading to Havelock, and I gladly accepted the ride. I assured myself that it was OK, since my grumpy foot is still complaining, and today would have been a long uneventful road walk. I’m so close to the finish now and so stubborn that there is no way I’m going to take time off for an injury unless I absolutely have to!

From Havelock, I will begin the final section of the walk, the Queen Charlotte Track. It feels strange to all of a sudden be so close to finishing, but at the same time, when I think back to those first days in Bluff and Invercargill, they seem like years ago.

I spent the afternoon trimming down all my food in preparation for the final week and performing some repair work on my pack. Most of my gear is definitely coming out of this a little worse for wear. I remember thinking at the beginning: It’s ok that I splashed out on some good gear, because I’ll have it forever. Not so.

Damn!

Day 71: Middy Hut to Pelorus Bridge

Today’s hike was typical, easy-ish and uneventful, apart from startling a tahr I hadn’t seen on the path in front of me and it startling me right back. It was pretty big, and had pretty scary looking horns, and I was thankful it was more scared of me than I was of it.

After five pleasant hours strolling through beech forest, around mud and over roots, followed by my pīwakawaka entourage, I arrived at the road end and found, sure enough, the ute described by the woman at the hut last night. The keys were where I expected and I jumped in and took off down the road. It took a full twenty minutes to arrive in Pelorus, and I was glad I cheated. I parked the ute at the address I had been given, re-hid the keys, and walked the remaining kilometre to the DOC campground in time for lunch.

This afternoon I wandered down the various trails and day walks beginning from the campground, and marvelled at the difference in the bus at this latitude compared with the forests down south.

It looks set to be another freezing night tonight, with a clear sky. Here’s hoping my finely tuned clothing system I created on the Abel Tasman track is enough!

Day 70: Nelson to Middy Hut

As has been the case for the last few times I’ve reached a city, I got into Nelson to find that a storm was on its way and I’d be stuck for a while. This time though, it was only three nights, and I was delighted to find that I could doably walk to the Te Araroa trail from Nelson city centre in one day. As soon as the weather allowed me, that’s what I did. I spent an hour getting out to the suburbs, then took a walking and cycling trail called the Dun Mountain Track up to the Coppermine Saddle, taking about five hours. The trail is an old railway route, so the incline was very gradual and the walking was easy.

The Dun Mountain Track.

On my map, I couldn’t see a trail between Coppermine Saddle and Dun Saddle, about 800m apart and the vital link in my plan to rejoin Te Araroa. From the map though, I could tell that it wasn’t steep country and it was above the bushline, so I’d be able to see where I was going. Or so I’d hoped, until the clouds rolled in a couple of hours into the day and suddenly I couldn’t see 100m in front of me!

Officially back on track!

Luckily, it had cleared by the time I got to the saddle, and it turned out that there was in fact a trail linking the two, so there were no dramas. I approached Rocks Hut, officially back on the trail, had a twenty minute lie down and then got back out to walk the five kilometers down to Middy Hut, my home for the night.

The swingbridges sure are getting long.

It’s a full hut tonight, with five other women already there when I arrived. Usually with such a full hut I would camp outside, but it’s freezing and they had the fire going when I arrived, making it hard to leave! One of the women lives close to my destination tomorrow night, a campground in Pelorus, so she’s asked me to take her ute home from the road end if it’s still there when I get out (if it hasn’t been picked up by her partner yet). Good old kiwi trust!

Day 67: Anchorage to Nelson

I zoomed round the final leg of the Abel Tasman track today, passing my planned campsite at 10.30am and deciding to keep walking and get into Nelson a day earlier than expected.

A misty Anchorage morning.

It rained overnight and was still a little gloomy this morning, but an hour after leaving camp the weather had cleared and it was hot. I passed by a spectacularly beautiful bay and decided to stop for a swim, but I had only taken my socks off when the saddles found me and chased me away. I had been halfway through heating up water for a coffee, and so I packed up and left, drinking my coffee as I walked, earning lots of funny looks from the people coming the other way.

I couldn’t figure out what had made the strange groove in the sand, until the water taxi came along and put its footbridge down onto the shore.

At one point I arrived at a swingbridge where the weight limit was one person. Halfway along the bridge stood a middle-aged man turning this way and that, trying to get the perfect photograph of him. After about a minute of watching and waiting, I started to feel a bit frustrated. There were a young family on the other side of the bridge who had been waiting to cross since before I had arrived. After trying to convey impatience with my annoyed stares, he eventually walked to the opposite side of the bridge, and I let the family across. As soon as the mum had stepped onto my side, Selfie Man walked onto the bridge again, walked to the middle, and reinstated the photo shoot.

“Are you serious?”, I muttered to the couple who had arrived behind me during the first shoot. They laughed, and we resumed eyeing the man with frustration. Eventually, he began walking to our side, and we sighed with relief.

“Excuse me,” he said to me as he approached the bank, “Can you please take a photo of me on the bridge?”. The couple behind me snorted and I stared at him in disbelief.

“Sure.” I made no attempt to hide my contempt, and he suddenly looked hesitant about handing me his phone twenty metres above a fast flowing river.

At the end of the track, I easily hitched a ride to the state highway turn off with a woman who had his finish a shift at a kayak tour company. From there, I was picked up by a man who worked for the circus, and I had one of the more interesting hitches of my life into Nelson, stopping now and then to let the air out of giant inflatable clowns on the side of the road.

Day 66: Onetahuti to Anchorage

It was another short walk today, especially since I arrived at an optional tidal estuary crossing just on low tide. I sludged and squished my way across in bare feet, loving it. I finished the last few kilometers without putting my shoes back on, and felt like some kind of wild adventurer on a desert island.

Crossing the estuary.

Anchorage is a popular destination in Abel Tasman National Park, and the weka know it. I’ve never met such confident and cheeky ones!

It wasn’t as chilly last night as it was at Totaranui, because the clouds have arrived. Rain is forecast overnight tonight, which is probably a blessing in disguise.

The campsite is busy tonight and I’ve just spotted some campers lighting a fire in the fire ring, so I think I’ll join them before bed.