Te Araroa - The Journal.

In the beginning of 2022 I embarked on a adventure walking the length of the South Island of New Zealand on Te Araroa - a thru hike running the length of the country. Along the way I also raised funds for Fair Foods, a food rescue charity rescuing surplus food from growers, manufacturers and retailers and re-distributing to those in need.

Over a span of 3-ish months I made my way down from Ship Cove, the top of the south island to Bluff, the very bottom. Spanning a total length of 1,300km I traversed through beautiful backcountry and met some lovely people along the way.

The entries that follow are in chronological order as I made my way down the country. Encapsulating my experiences on the trail through the use of photos taken along the way and summaries I wrote during my brief stops in town. 

This journal aims to pay tribute to the adventure and those fond memories.


Ship Cove > Madsen Campground > Mistletoe Bay Campsite > Queen Charlotte Tavern > Havelock

What a pleasant start to the southern leg of the TA. Turns out the Queen Charlotte is a well serviced and popular trail among tourists and locals alike. Featuring luxury lodging across most of the route if you were inclined.. for me though, it meant stopping for morning coffees and lunch treats. A welcomed surprise.

The nights were spent fumbling around and spending an embarrassing amount of time trying to pitch my tent (I probably should have practiced before leaving home). The days were spent waking to the curious and overly friendly Weka and stunning weather. Unadulterated sunshine with no clouds in sight. However this is when I learned my first lesson, sounds fantastic for the most part but once you are walking on ridges with no shade in sight it starts to lose some of its appeal. Luckily given the nature of this section I ended up pitching next to some beautiful swimming spots which made it all worth it (as pictured on screen right).

I left Queen Charlotte track with my fair-share of vitamin D and headed towards Havelock, spending the night en route at the Queen Charlotte Tavern. Funnily enough I had come by the day before a local concert, which made for an interesting night of camping as I was pitching in the backyard of the pub, which was a hive of activity as cars were coming and going throughout the night, some within arms reach of me.

Luckily me and my tent awoke unscaved and arrived in the Havelock just before mid day. Planning to take a brief stop in Havelock to resupply before heading into the mighty Richmond Ranges and also give my body, more specifically my ankle a chance to recover. Fun fact: I had actually sprained it on the first day. Nothing major but definitely a bit swollen.

Taken at a swimming spot I stumbled upon on the way from Havelock to the start of the Richmond Ranges. 

Havelock > Captain Creeks Hut > Rocks Hut > Hackett Hut > Slaty Hut > Mt Rintoul Hut > Mid Wairoa Hut > Hunters Hut > Red Hill Hut > St Arnaurd

Back once again after 9 days in the mighty Knee Buster, aka Richmond Ranges. 

One of the major obstacles I had known about before starting this was how difficult the Richmond Ranges would be. For those such as myself who just started the trail it was a pretty big endeavor going from a rather short and easy three day food carry then jumping suddenly to a ten (the extra day was for emergency purposes) day carry while navigating some pretty rugged terrain. It lived up to expectations.

I feel like I could write a short essay about my experience on the Richmond Ranges.. but to keep it short and sweet the past 9 days involved - alot of ups and downs (my body is broken), some draining days both mentally and physically, incredibly swimming spots and most importantly meeting some lovely people along the way which made it all worth it.

One of the many viewpoints in the Richmond Ranges with with newly acquainted trail friends.

Taken at a waterfall we spotted off trail in the Richmond Ranges, cant say no to a swim!

St Arnaud > Lakehead Hut > Upper Traverse Hut > Blue Lake Hut > Waiau Hut > Anne Hut > Hanmer Springs

You know those butterflies you get when you start falling for someone? Well I had that.. with the Nelson Lakes region.

The whole Waiau Pass section is stunning. Heading in from the lake front slowly walking your way past or across numerous rivers (skinny dips were had), crossing both the saddle and Waiau pass then dipping back down into the valley passing through the grassy meadows to the finish line. Hot tip! If you are like me and suffer from hay fever, I highly recommend saving some tablets for the last two days through the meadows.. I did not, definitely would not recommend.

This section turned out to be absolute stunner. Photos don’t do it justice, if you looking for your next adventure highly recommended checking out some of the scenery around there.

It seems like a large weather system is packing in for the next few days, which means ill have to sit tight for abit.. predominantly due to a large river crossing in the next leg of the trail which I'd prefer not to cross when flooded. Here's to hoping I can make it back on trail soon!

One of the many stunning views leading to the pass.

The many cairns that helped guide the way when the trail markers were amiss (the orange triangle pictured in the photo to the left).

Hanmer Springs > Hitch to Christchurch (to wait out the passing weather system)

Its been a week waiting out this weather system which has lead to some curious thoughts, when on trail I start to crave the comforts of the city as the charm of wilderness begin to fade. The weight of the pack, the aches, those pesky sand flies, weighing up the odds of getting stung in a wasp infested long-drop, the views becoming a-bit less magical as time goes by. In contrast, as the zero days grow, the charm of the city begin to fade and the desire to be on trail start to bubble. The feeling of slowly chipping away at the KMs, slogging out those big days to be rewarded with picturesque views, the taste of chocolate (or any food really) which for some reason tastes vastly better after afew days hiking, and the cozy intimate hut chats after a long days walking.

I suspect this flip flopping of desires is not only limited to the trail, but in all aspects of life. It’s finding the balance which is paramount but like most things, it’s easier said than done.

Abit of mindless rambling for those who made it this far. Hoping to be out dealing with those pesky sand flies later this week as the weather clears.. 

One of the many huts I called home - featuring basic bunk beds and wood stoves for warmth.

Christchurch > Hitch to - Hammer Springs > Hope Kiwi Lodge > Hurunui Hut > Hurunui No 3 Hut x2 (to wait out forecasted rain) > Lock stream Hut > Arthur’s Pass.

I’m having a hard time summarizing my experience of Arthur’s pass into a short concise entry, why you may ask? Well simply put, it didn’t live up to my expectations.. I had expected a extremely bleak and unpleasant experience given the recent rainfall, which had caused flooding in the region. However it turned out being rather varied and surprisingly relaxing.. oddly enough.

The days included sections of flooded track, giving up on both dry socks and avoiding mud (I don’t think my shoes or socks were ever dry after the first day). Enjoying rather short days between huts as we anticipated a rainy day ahead. One of the best hot pools I’ve ever been too (coming from a hot pool fiend, trust me it’s good). Enjoying said rainy day in with newly acquainted friends at a lovely hut. Awakening to snowy peaks and clear blue skies as we crossed Harpers pass, and the climax of the section which I had dreaded from the start, crossing the the Taramakau river which was still flooded into Arthur’s Pass. Unfortunately I don’t have any notable pictures crossing the Taramakau River as I was too busy trying not to get swept away, one of the scarier days for sure.

All in all, I’m glad I had left when I did. I must admit I was apprehensive at first, but itchy feet got the best of me, as it always does it seems..

Taken while crossing one of the smaller branches that fed into the flooded Taramakau river.

Arthur’s Pass > Hamilton Hut > Harper Campsite > Methven x2 (rainy day) > Comyns Hut > Manuka Hut > Geraldine > Royal Hut > Camp Stream Hut > Lake Tekapo

Today marks a somewhat monumental moment. Crossing the high point (Stag Saddle) and also crossing the half way point on the southern leg of Te Araroa (and also arriving in Lake Tekapo), walking a total of 650KM thus far, and what an adventure it has been!

From meeting like minded travellers and experiencing the generosity of the TA community and locals. Traversing through various landscapes, ranging from boggy forests to tussock filled valleys lined with pristine rivers. Exploring numerous little towns along the way (aka eating and drinking my way through all the restaurants and cafes). All the while continuously pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

This journey thus far has allowed me to soak in the South Island and all I can say is I’m seriously considering making the jump over.. permanently. Cant wait to see what else is in store for me as I head towards Queenstown, eventually ending up at Bluff (probably stopping by a-few other spots along the way too).

Currently in Lake Tekapo enjoying the views before heading off once again, but this time on bike along the Alps to Ocean. Mixing up the walking with a two bike day ride to Lake Ohau before carrying on by foot to Queenstown.

Evenings at the huts were spent lazing about enjoying each others company till the urge to sleep won over.. some of my fondest memories.

Lake Tekapo > Twizel (bike) > Lake Ohau (bike) > East Ahuri River Bank > Top Wairu Hut > Stody Hut > Lake Hawea to Wanaka (hitch)

A change of pace with a side of misfortune. That sentence, as strange as it may sound best described my experience on this section. So where does the slight misfortunes come in you may wonder?

Taking the alternative river route and at some point dropping my phone into the river without realizing.. only noticing it was missing after 30 minutes and franticly backtracking to find it submerged.. to my surprise it somehow works. For how long though? I’m not too sure. Deciding to pitch in a rather scenic but exposed spot and hoping the wind doesn’t pick up in the evening.. it did. Staying at a hut notorious for mice, which wasn’t too bad, until you turn off your headlamp and all you hear is the pitter patter as they scurry around. Usually a-bit to close for comfort - even less sleep was had that night.

Oh, did I also forget to mention a rather impromptu photo shoot at breast hill (a stunning view I might note). With two locals one of whom who paraglided off the top.. so that was also a thing.

This rather short section turned out to be far more eventful than I had originally imagined. You never really know what you might experience on the trail. 

Taken during the impromptu photoshoot from the peak of Breast Hill looking down into Lake Hawea.

Wanaka > Glendu Bay (hitch) > Highland Creek Hut x 2 (rainy day in) > Roses Hut > Arrowtown (via Big hill) > Queenstown

The last of the big hills! or at least from what I've checked, which for reference is very little - hooray to winging it! Not sure if those infamous trail legs have become a thing or I’m just unfazed by it all.

The days were rather pleasant and surprisingly short, with a unexpected rest day which meant uncontrollable eating. What else are you going to do right? I feel like I ate more calories than I burned this section.. A rather enjoyable river stroll, my phone was firmly tucked away this time. And of course, as it seems to be the running occurrence adding another small wound to my collection. This time on my hand, which is seriously taking the brunt of it all. On the bright side I’ve become a rather good trail medic with all the “maintenance”.

Speaking of the trail. As I’ve slowly gotten further south I’ve started noticing the phrase “you’re almost done” come up more often in conversations. Which I must admit has made me somewhat apprehensive of completing this journey, I’ve had a blast so far and realizing it will come to an end is a-bit unsettling. Post trail depression here I come.. I kid of course, at least I hope so.

One of the days we decided to wait out the rain - which meant finding ways to pass the time. In this case painting in a journal which most of us carried.

Queenstown > Taipo Hut > Carey’s Hut > Te Anu > Aparima Hut > Lower Wairaki Hut > Birchwood Station

I must admit the last few days have been a blur of walking as I speed towards Bluff. The downtime has been non existent which has made it a-bit tricky to sneak in a update post.

Apart from the blur of walking the days included scenic sections strolling along lakes. Experiencing some new terrain in this case skipping across rather bouncy ground (which felt like I was walking on trampolines). Reuniting with old friends to complete the last few days with. Realizing there was still some hills to be climbed and opting to do a rather gnarly day to avoid camping. Me and camping have a complicated relationship, we’re working on it - on the bright side I got a lovely sunrise view of bluff.

Speaking of which, If all goes well I should arrive at the Bluff terminus next week Friday. How the time has flown by…

But first, the long woods await, aka mud central - at least from what I’ve been told.

Birchwood Station > Merrivale Hut > Martins Hut > Colac Bay > Riverton

If you’re wondering if this section lives up to expectations, it did. It is definitely mud central, which turned out to be rather fun. 

This section also marks the last Hut of Te Araroa, Martins Hut (technically Turnbulls hut, would be the last but alas I didn’t stay there). I must say I have grown fond of the communal aspect of the hut. Being in such close proximity cuts through a lot of the fluff you may encounter in day to day life. You get to know each other relatively quickly. There’s is no hiding when you cram six or so people into a small space (sometimes more). Not even the sound of the stomach grumbling goes unnoticed - It will be missed.

Arriving in Colac Bay also marks the return of the ocean. Having left the Queen Charlotte a-few months prior the ocean becomes a distant memory, only to return now. For which I’m grateful. 

Often was the routine of writing down the days events in personal trail journals

Martins hut, the last hut I stayed in. A derelict looking hut which was surprisingly comfortable to sleep in given its derelict state.

Riverton > Invercargill > End (Bluff).

It’s interesting to see how a trail outline and a terminus can consume my existence. Often I wondered what it would feel like coming around the corner and seeing the finish line for the first time - I can tell you now what I imagined differed vastly from what I experienced. It was rather surreal, the terminus a literal pole became my one priority and goal for the last 3 months. A rather amusing observation.

I often hear the saying “it’s not the destination but the journey that matters” which perfectly described this experience. The close connection to the outdoors while being surrounded with like minded souls made journey rather blissful. The trail also offered a glimpse into a more simple lifestyle which comes with living out of a backpack for a extended period of time. A lifestyle far removed from the complexities of modern day living. I found that I'm just as content living out of my backpack as I was with all my creature comforts of home. This insight has been rather eye opening and reaffirming. I imagine as I return back to a more normal life I will learn to re-adjust. But now with the added insights of how simple life truly can be if one desires..

This also marks the closure of my fundraiser for Fair Foods. Raising a total of $740 which equates to 2,200 meals to those in need. I must admit at first I was a-bit apprehensive with starting a fundraiser, as I wasn’t sure it would gain any traction. However it worked out great, the fundraiser acted as a form of accountability for myself and the funds will go to a cause which I trust will put it to use supporting those in need.

In closing, thank you to all who donated and supported me during this journey and a big shout out to the souls I met along the way. Whether that be in passing on trail, in town or the trail family whom I spent most of my time with.. I'm forever grateful.

Taken at the terminus of the Te Araroa surrounded by the trail family, bonded over the shared adventure we all experienced.

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