TE ARAROA: SOUTH ISLAND

TE ARAROA

The Te Araroa is New Zealand’s newest and longest footpath. It spans a distance of 3,000 km, or 1,900 miles. The trail encompasses the country’s two main islands. It connects the dots between the northern tip of New Zealand (Camp Reinga) and the southern apex (Invercargill). It passes through mesmerizing vistas, from oceanside to alpine meadows to high mountain passes. It navigates a plethora of National Parks including the Tongariro, Nelson Lakes and Arthur’s Pass. In the South Island, the TA traverses along the slopes of the Southern Alps—which are a worldwide rave—in addition to passing alongside the beautiful shores of Lake Tekapo, Pukaki, Ohau, Hawea and Wanaka. I spent four months in NZ, meandering my way along all such aforementioned sights, as well submersing myself into the culture-shock of Auckland, Queenstown, Wellington and Nelson.

While thru-hiking the Te Araroa was my focus, I eventually needed to come to terms that this was a trail very much in it’s infancy. As a result, there was many, many a mile spent on roads on the North Island. Once on the South Island, I decided to forgo any additional pavement for a route more conducive to what I deemed worthy. So, after a huge punch to my ego, I abandoned a purist route for one more scenically ideal.

THE SOUTH ISLAND

Things made more sense in the South Island. With a quarter of the population living on the southern island, it lends itself to a more remote land, more wilderness, more lush environment. And less road. It’s a beautiful landscape that traverses the Southern Alps, wandering though extravagant ranges like the Richmond Range and Nelson Lakes. It continues south, at which point my route veered from the literal definition of “thru-hike” to take on more of NZ’s scenic wonders. I hiked these worldly places with another hiker, a young man from Texas looking for adventure and on a quest to hike 1,000 miles of New Zealand. Tacking on miles, we visited Mount Cook National Park, Cascade Saddle, Reese-Dart, Caples, Routeburn and Movora Lakes. And then, after a pit-stop in Fjordland, we touched the souther tier: Bluff.

After that, I hitch-hiked up the southern coastline and the Catlins to meet a friend whom I met while hiking the Northern Circuit in Tongariro NP. From there, us gals took off in a car, on the “wrong” side of the road, enjoying sunsets, cigars, wineries and the much shorter day-hike.

 

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