The End

Yup. It’s all over now. Both pleased to have completed such an epic, and disappointed that it’s had to come to an end. Certainly looking forward to whenever I get the chance to do the South Island.

So, I actually finished yesterday around midday, but I’m sure you can forgive that I was more focused on other things, like unpacking and getting stuff aired/cleaned.

Here how the last 2 days went:

Day 80 started at 9am, from Porirua station, where I walked through to the other side of Porirua to head up through bush to Colonial Knob. As I was walking the last bit along the access road (for the repeater station) a car pulled up and offered to boil the kettle at the top. It was misty rain at this point, so I said yes, making my way up to the repeater station where Ray and his team were doing some work and, yes, had boiled the kettle.

After a break and a good chat, it was off, down the hill to Ohariu Valley, along the road, then up the next hill.

To Mt Kaukau, with an even larger radio tower. Along the ridge and down to Ngaio, through to Wadestown to go up another hill, along a ridge then down to the Wellington train station. I had left some food in Waikanae, and the idea of getting to Island Bay before going home sounded novel, so it was back on the train.

Day 81, the start of the end. Just 15kms to finish it off. From the station, down Lambton Quay, out to the waterfront, up to Mt Victoria, then along the Southern walkway to Island Bay, where I was unsurprisingly meet by my parents and my brother, but also one of the other scout leaders from Karori West came to meet me. I guess that means that I am allowed back after my disappearing act.

I was done by midday, so it was a celebratory lunch before heading home to unravel my bag and attempting to return to a ‘normal’ life… We’ll see how that goes…

I will be trying to collate some information over the next couple days, including a breakdown of roughly how far I walked each day, day by day. So look forward to that!

Walk to the Next Train Station

That’s the game for the Kapiti coast, in fact all the way down to Wellington.

Going back to Levin; I walked somewhere in the ball park of 43kms to get to Waikanae. Doing in 1 day what would have taken 4, had I gone through the Tararuas.

Why didn’t I go through the Tararuas?
Good question. Although I had a fine period of settled weather for the next 4 or so days, I decided that going through the Tararuas on my own was too risky. I had planned to go with some fellow walkers, but the Hadfields had outdone themselves, and needed a break; Franziska’s foot had seemed to have gotten worse, meaning she already had to skip some more walking; and I didn’t have any easy way of contacting any other nearby walkers, let alone knowing whether or not I could trust going through with them, having already had experience of walking with some people who just left me behind without a thought.

So, I made the call and walked the road. Thankfully SH1 has a good road shoulder most of the way between Levin and Te Horo, where, once past the Otaki River, I could go out to the beach and walk down to Waikanae.

This is where the station hoping really began.
With the Kapiti line going from Wellington to Waikanae on regular schedule, I could easily get back and forth from where I was staying, to where I was walking that day.

Waikanae to Paekakariki filled the first day, even briefly running into a scout group who was helping run a sailing activity for a school.

The beach disappeared beneath the tide when I got to Raumati, which meant that I had to take the roads, but at least I got to see the miniature railway, as they were getting ready for a trip that morning. Had to resist the temptation to see if I could ride it and feel like a big child though. I had walking to do.

When I got to Paekakariki, I did have enough time to continue through the new Escarpment, but I decided it was best to stick to the original plan, even if it did mean having some shorter days. Perhaps I could have waited round to go on that train… Oh well, I’ll have to do it another time.

Having stopped before the Paekakariki Escarpment meant the next day was when I got to walk it. 2.5 hours, even with having to go slower and take breaks in order to stop overheating in the direct sun. Very little shade along the track, though it was well formed and even had a couple swing bridges.

Featured in the background is the south Island, but only just, as it’s still rather distant. More prominent (and still in the background) is Pukerua Bay, where I left the Escarpment and followed (yet another) shared walkway/cycleway alongside SH1 to Plimmerton.
Break for a coffee then on, through Mana, over the pink overbridge at Paremata, past Aotea Lagoon and under Adrenaline Forest (which is much bigger than I realised).

Short walk to Porirua from there, and again, getting in early. Didn’t have much of a choice of “should I go further”, as it was another 21kms to where I could next use public transport to get back to Waikanae, and I didn’t have that much time.

Instead I headed to the station and ended up having a nice chat with a fellow Wellingtonian who’s walked a significant amount of the coastline of England, and is planning on starting Te Araroa himself in February.

As a parting thought, what does this mean for my schedule? Well, obviously I’m ahead again. Day 79 and only 2 more down to Island Bay.
That’s right, now I’ll be finished on Monday 5th, just in time to turn up for the last night of term at Scouts. Hopefully they’ll forgive me for running off as soon as I got my warrant…

Palmerston North to Levin

Having whanau in Palmerston North made things easier there, however I did have to agree to walking the 20kms from where I had stopped at Bledisloe Park through to Black Bridge with my uncle. Him doing ‘training’ for an upcoming Milford Track trip, and me continuing my TA trek.
He managed to keep up alright, making good time and not falling behind, though that might not have been possible if the cafe hadn’t come to us. With my aunty and cousin dropping off coffee and muffins just before we turned off Turitea road into another section of bush.

The weather started out alright, but eventually the forecast came through with heavy rain and high winds. I would have continued through to Scotts Road, but with another heavy shower as we waited at Black Bridge carpark, I decided that the conditions weren’t preferable and I could afford to bail early.
Me having had a short day, and my uncle now having aching legs. He didn’t regret it, but it did make moving round the house difficult that afternoon.

The next day was an improvement, walking through to the previous target of Scotts Rd.

Through Gordon Kear forest, where there was some forestry felling occurring. Along Burttons Track, past some water reservoirs to Blackwood Stream, where I set up my bivvy for the 14th and final time.

The next day brought a morning rain shower, so I got packed quickly and headed off before it got too heavy. Though it didn’t last long, so my 6am start wasn’t necessary.

It did mean I was done for the day at lunch time though, having gone over the lookout and down to the tramline; following that I reach the road; then down Gladstone Road and left to the end of Poads Road. There’s a good carpark there, complete with a toilet, a hill you have to climb to get cellphone coverage, and chickens from the neighbouring property.

As a bonus to make up for late posting, here’s a sign I found on Gladstone Road; a sign which I had never seen before.
(I had a zero day yesterday and have done some walking today, but that’ll be part of a separate post, hence “late posting”).

I’m Unstop-a-bull

OK, in case you hadn’t guessed, I’ve made it to Bulls. In fact, I overshot it!

I started according to plan, walking over 30kms from Wanganui to Koitiata (a small town right by Turakina beach). I did consider continuing on to the end of the beach to cut down the walk to Bulls, but my feet were making it very clear that they had been pounding on a hard surface all day and we’re not happy. So, I stopped at the campsite, where I later met another walker called Shelly.

Achieved a new record the next day by walking 47kms, from Koitiata, through Bulls, to Fielding. It started with beach walking, which is best at low tide, so I had to get either an early start, or a late start. I opted for an early start, setting off at 5:40am to beat the tide.

The sun had actually risen before me, but not by much. So I got a very dramatic sunrise as I started walking along the beach.
The amazing part about Turakina beach is the huge (almost whole trees) bits of driftwood, and you just have to stand there in awe of the forces that being these things down and… now they’re on a beach.

So it was down the beach, turning off a little early as the tide did end becoming a problem.

Gravel road, and forestry road got me to the middle-of-nowhere Onepuke which didn’t even have a sign to tell you you were there. But more significantly, I ran into a fellow TA walker who was just finishing his break, so I joined him for the remaining 9km trek into Bulls.

I glanced down at my watch and saw 11:53 as I passed the 50kph sign at the western edge of Bulls. Lunchtime. A 45 minute break, with fish and chips for lunch, and my feet were ready to continue.

So I called ahead and managed to secure myself a place to stay the night once again thanks to Scouts.

Heading out of Bulls I found a statue which I had never noticed before. There’s a lot of things you see when your walking, instead of just driving past.

Then it was all road walking, passed the Ohakea radar station, Mt Lees Scenic Reserve, and Mt Biggs. Getting me to the end of my 47km day at the edge of Fielding, 11.5 hours after I set off.

Don’t worry, I haven’t outdone myself, being up and walking today too, getting right through to Bledisloe Park in Palmerston North, though this day wasn’t highly eventful in comparison.

Whanganui River

5 days of sitting down and now I’m back in coverage. Well, sitting in a kayak and paddling, so it’s still a continuous line of effort.

It was a quick trip, as the river was running high. Would have gotten to Wanganui sooner, but bookings prescribed the distance/time for each day. And I’m here now, so it all worked out.

Here’s how the trip went, without photos sadly, as my phone was off and I wasn’t going to get it out and turn it on just to take a photo. (sorry, my commitment is to the journey itself, not the visual record of it).

Day 1. Quick trip in almost half the usual time to get to John Coull hut. With plenty of fast water and rapids to make it exciting, or scary of you’re my mum. Sorry, should have said that when my parents found out the TA goes down the Whanganui River, they said “we’ll do that with you”, which made it much easier for getting the kayak.

Day 2, through to Tieke Kainga, straight past Mangapurua landing, and the bridge to nowhere. We’ve already been there before, so we didn’t do the 2 hour detour up to the bridge, despite having enough time to. So we headed on to the DoC hut right next to the marae (which we got welcomed onto).

Day 3 was much tamer than the first 2,the river was dropping whilst we were on it, and the rapids were easing off. So there wasn’t the fast current and there was still enough water to cover the rapids, taming them all.
Made it down to Pipiriki with no trouble, dropped off the hire kayak and I continued with my dad on the river to Jerusalem whilst my mum went back to get the car from where it was stored in Ohakune.

After a night in the convent, Day 4 was when things started to feel like they were slowing down, still made good pace, but the river was wider and with less rapids. With more farms it on the banks it started to feel all the same. Still, made it down to river time lodge to spend the night comfortably in the shearers quarters.

Day 5 and I’m in cell coverage. Most of it was a long paddle which felt like it kept going on and on. Though the last 4kms required some effort. Constant paddling, battling a headwind, getting to a boat ramp just before the incoming tide started having an effect (thankfully, as otherwise we would be paddling forward and moving backwards).

And now, at the end of day 5, I’m writing this up in the YHA, where I still haven’t shaken off some fellow TA walkers I met on the river (they started the same day).

Alright, I’ll tell you about them… a Kiwi couple from a farm near Lindale, who started it last season but had to stop for winter and have returned to finish the North Island. Tony and Belinda.
And a German girl, Franziska. She’s my age and doing the same thing, come to NZ to walk the trail before heading to university. Though she’s having problems with her foot. Fine when you’re kayaking, but she has had to skip some bits, which she’ll have to go back for.

I’m hoping to be able to walk the Tararua section with them, but they’ve got 2 days on me, which they had walked whilst waiting for conditions to allow them to get onto the river. We’ll just have to see how that pans out, but it looks likely.
For now, I’ve got to get to Palmerston North first.

Concerning Wellington

Don’t worry, I’m already well aware of what’s happened in Wellington and the upper South Island. Thankfully noone I know has been seriously affected by it, just shaken up a bit.

Personally, I was sleeping in my bivvy, straight on the ground when it hit. Didn’t feel a thing. I did wake up in the night, which could have been because of the earthquakes, or it could have been because I woke up in the night (it’s not unusual when I’m in my bivvy).

On a lighter note, since I’m closer to home, getting into more familiar territory, I’ve actually got a good idea of when I’ll be reaching the end of my trail.

So, here’s what it looks like: (again, no guarantees, as delays are still easy)

Today I head out to Whakahoro, so I’ll be out of cellphone coverage until I get to the mouth of the Whanganui River on the 23rd.

4 days from Whanganui get me to Palmerston North, via Bulls and Fielding.

Down along-side the Tararua ranges for  3 days, putting me in position to head into the Tararua ranges from Poads Rd, near Levin, on the 1st. That said, we are dealing with the Tararuas, so it is very weather dependant. If it looks bad, and doesn’t clear up, I am prepared to bringing my continuous line straight down the road to keep some kind of schedule.
With either of those options I plan on being through to Waikanae around the 4th to the 7th.

From Waikanae it’s only 4 days to get me to Island Bay. With days ending Paekakariki, Porirua, Ngaio, and then at the end of my journey. Ending on the 11th at the latest, unless I have an unscheduled break.

Meanwhile I have actually been doing some walking, filling in the space between the 42 Traverse to Whakahoro, where I get on the water.  (without the Tongariro crossing)

The weather’s been bad, so there’s not been much scenery, but instead, here’s a photo of a horse I found (it was part of Kaitieke and their memorial of the 2nd world war).

Going Bush

Oh no! I’ve left you guys back in Waitomo, whilst I’ve been enjoying Pureora Forest.
In fact, I’ve even gone across the 42 Traverse without telling you anything!

Alright then, time for a quick catch-up.

Going through to Te Kuiti was very hilly (in typical King Country stye), with some serious slippery mud at the start. I did make it through in one piece thankfully, managing to get in before the cafe closed.
Resupplied, then met up with the local group leader (despite the group being in recess) for dinner, and a nights accommodation in the Scout hall.

Next day was very rough… Some serious rain had passed in the night, and it was still going in showers the next day. Which made an already (infamously) treacherous track even more dangerous.
Lots of traversing along steep slopes, with barely enough room for even one foot at some points. Not going to lie, I did concern for my safety at points.
Thankfully I made it through alive, just as the last shower had passed and the sun was breaking out.

Camped just off the side of the road for the night. Little had I known, just a couple kms down the road a German man named Tim (who I had met briefly before) had been camping. So I caught up to him in the morning and we teamed up to take on the road section from Mangaokewa Valley to the campsite at Pureora (township).

He set of early the next morning, whilst I hung around until 9 o’clock, letting things dry from the dew overnight, so I didn’t see him again through the forest.

Climbed to the top of Mt Pureora, where I enjoyed panoramic views including Lake Taupo (which didn’t come out well in photo) and Mt Ruapehu (which was hiding behind the only cloud in the sky…).

Down the hill from there on a very gradual slope to get to Bog Inn Hut. Whilst it did have a bog, sadly it was missing the Inn. Though it was a lovely little hut, and it did well for the night.

The next day saw me walking through some beautiful bush, with huge Rimu, Totara, Matai, and other native Podocarps, which thankfully remain untouched by logging.

The track itself taking me from Bog Inn to Waihaha, where I shared the hut with an American man who’s came to New Zealand to do his PhD and isn’t thinking of heading back any time soon.

In fact, just a couple of Kilometres before the hut there was an arrangement of silver fern fronds which seemed to be spelling some kind of message… 1000? Oh, that’s right. This was the 1000km mark for the whole trail, meaning I am now over 1 third of the way to Bluff… Very tempting, just keep going, complete it all in one hit. But alas, life gets in the way and I must stop in Wellington.

Regardless, I pushed on to Hauhungaroa hut the next day, making it there by lunchtime. I even managed to find a spot of signal where I could look at the weather forecast and decide that… I’d rather be under a solid roof for the night.

So I busied myself for the afternoon; had a good fire going for the evening and set off early the next morning to get to Taumarunui.

Now, I know the sign says “26kms”, but I had to get out of the bush, including wading through near knee-deep water, and down a road (where I had to climb over an iron gate that was taller than me). That all up was about 11kms, meaning I did 37kms in one day. No wonder I was too exhausted to bother with dinner, let alone write a blog post to update you guys on my not-so-rambly Ramble (honestly thought I’d be off topic more than I am when I started this).

Now I did say that I had already traversed the 42 Traverse, which is south of Taumarunui, so how did I manage that?

Well I started with a short day of road walking from my Taumarunui accommodation, through Owhango to the Dominion Road carpark just at the start of the 42 Traverse. With a quick pace I managed to get through to SH47 and down the road towards the northern end of the Tongariro crossing the next day. That said though I’m not sure that I’ll be able to actually do the crossing due to severe weather for the next few days. So I may have to bring my continuous line down the side, past the mountain and come do the crossing in a separate trip. I was looking forward to it too!

Woah-oh, We’re Halfway There

“I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles and fell down at your door.” -The Proclaimers

That’s right! I’ve walked 850kms, or about 500 miles! Only 500 more to go. Nominations for doors are now open, leave a comment or contact me otherwise, just note, they do have to be on the beach at Island Bay in Wellington for me to seriously consider it.
(Yes, it also does happen to be just over 1000 miles from Cape Rienga to Wellington)

Oh, and I’m not the only one to recognise how significant this is. That’s right, my only sponsor, Gipps Street Butchery, shouted me a leg of lamb to roast in celebration. Now, they’re all the way down in Karori, whilst I’m in Waikato, so it had to be delivered via my family. Who happened to also volunteer to cook it and made sure I had a soft bed for the night.

Now, for those who can’t remember, haven’t been paying attention, or only just joined us on this adventure; here’s what the route so far has done:

  • Down the monotonous 90 mile beach to Ahipara.
  • Across the gruelling Northland forests to Kerikeri.
  • Free breakfast to fuel me through Waitangi forest to Paihia.
  • Ferry to Russell followed by a dose of road walking to Waikare; up the river before the rain and over the Russell forest to come out and along road to Helena Bay.
  • The infamous steep slopes of the Morepork track; coastal walkway; rest day; and Matapouri forest to find me staying in the house at Nikau Bay for the cost of a tent site 3 days later.
  • Road and a little bit of bush so I could stay in Tide Song’s Koha Cabin.
  • Wet and wild as I went over Kauri mountain and along Ocean beach to Whangarei heads, to stay in Dougie Chown’s Cottage.
  • Peter kindly provided the solution to getting across the harbour, then a wander down the beach to Ruakaka for the night.
  • Another beach after that found me to Waipu Cove, via Waipu.
  • Over and round to Mangawhai to stay the night with Jenny.
  • Another beach to get over Te Arai to Pakiri.
  • Over Tamahunga, conical peak and dome so I could meet the Warkworth Group leader and join Warvonhoi for their pre-jamboree camp.
  • Round to Puhoi to stay with the Puhoi group leader. A kayak down to Wenderholm and coast to Orewa to meet Orewa Sea Scouts.
  • Road to Browns Bay, coast to Mairangi and Paul put me up/put up with me for the night, so I could comfortably make it round to Devonport the next day.
  • Morning coffee with the maker, Geoff Chapple; lunch with a school friend; accommodation with family friends.
  • Touristing at Tiritiri Matangi Island, then shopping in the CBD so I could continue en route, starting with the coast to coast and an extra bit of road to Manurewa via Mangere.
  • Popeye gave me a place to stay and got me introduced to Marlin, along with the local Scout troop.
  • Leaving Manurewa behind I headed out to Clevedon to meet their local Scouts (or lack thereof).
  • Camp Sladdin for the night and 11.5 hours into/through the Hunuas to a campsite.
  • Out the other side, finding myself a patch of land behind Podge’s Place in Mercer.
  • Rangiriri, then past Huntly to the Southern lookout.
  • Over Hakarimata in record time so I could stay in Hamilton.
  • Lay day to get new shoes and meet St Peter’s Sea Scouts.

And now, I’ve made it out to the base and over Pirongia, meaning I’m halfway. In fact, I’m actually enjoying coffee in Waitomo, but I took a while to decide how to (relevantly) bulk out this post.

Also, apologies it’s a wall of text, I couldn’t find any photos I felt were relevant. Maybe if I wasn’t too hungry and held back before tucking in to the lamb roast you could have seen something.

Waikato River

That’s actually looking downstream/North, but it still shows what I was walking alongside.

Last we left off, I was in Mercer. Stop banks, mud and the occasion small hill or stretch of road found me my way to Rangiriri, where the hotel/pub kindly let me camp in a paddock behind the building.

More stop banks, not quite as much mud, and yes, more roads got me through to Huntly by lunchtime the next day. An hour or so later, fueled on caffeine and muffin, I headed on down the road to one of the only ridges in the Waikato. Hakarimata.

1500 steps (according to the sign) up to the ridge line and the Southern lookout where I camped the night, complete with stunning views of central plateau and Hamilton.

Had a great spot for sunset, or in this photo, sunrise (sorry for the funny angle , it was a southerly wind and I was still hiding in my bivvy!)
However, zoom in and look closely at the 2 bumps on the right along the horizon, you might be able to recognise the left one as the distinctive shape of Ruapehu.

3 hours along the ridge, then half an hour to get down 1300 steps; much faster than the 5.5 hours the sign predicted, which meant I had time to get into Hamilton a day earlier than originally planned, so I did.
Picked up by relatives and fed, showered and rested. With good food for dinner and a soft bed for sleeping, I stayed 2 nights! Well, that and the fact that I had told St Peter’s Sea Scout Group that I’d meet them on Tuesday night (which I did).

Warning – Te Araroa

OK, getting a bit ahead of myself. That was today, and my story hasn’t even left Clevedon yet! You’ll just have to read on to find out what this is about.

So, from Clevedon is was an early start of 6:30 to be off down the road.

(Said in bad pirate accent:) for all those that travel the route of McNicol road, beware the Black Rose. She’s moored outside 282.

Anyway, I made it past alive and got up the Wairoa river track in 1 hour. Then the massey track treated me well, but as soon as I turned right onto Wairoa Cossey Track… It was well and truly tramping track.

At least I made it to Wairoa dam for a late (2pm) lunch. Before continuing on to the appropriately named Repeater Road.

Complete with an actual radio repeater. More road walking got me to lower Mangatawhiri camp, which I had all to myself for the night.

This morning started at 7, with a warm-up of about 400m up a spur to the ridge.

Left after the track marker saying “Te Araroa only”, to the sign pictured at the start of this post. Don’t worry, it was just saying that the track was very difficult and that you needed to be sufficiently prepared.
And it was difficult! Marked but unformed track, pushing through brush and ducking under supplejack; it was like a jungle!

4.5 hours later and I was finally at the road end. Following that found me going under SH2 and along stop banks to Mercer.

The last bit alongside SH1 felt weird, being on the other side of the barrier with things which weigh tons, zooming along at about 100km/hr just next to you.

As I finish writing this after having enjoyed a feed at Podge’s Place, just note how lucky you are to get 2 posts in one day! Meanwhile I’m lucky to get some amazing pizza, a hot shower and a free campsite. “Proper Kiwi Hospitality” as everyone in the guest book says.