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.
Blue Lake, the cleanest. clearest water on earth!
Waiau Pass, highest point on the trail.
Some of these huts are bigger than a house! This one in particular we thought was haunted.
The humor in being 6-ft-7.
An afternoon soak at the Huranui Hot Spring, right on-trail.
Start of the Deception-Mingha Track.
Deceptiona-Mingha Track. That creek may or may not have been the official trail.
Deception-Mingha and same brave ladies!
Did someone say kale?
Another glamorous hut.
Forget grad school.Dylan might be going into mustering after this hike.
Ready-hitch, a newly embraced way of traveling the Te Araroa.
New shoes and a slightly umpa-loompa Mary.
Amy, Jeb and Dylan at Clent Hills Saddle
This was a shot from below Clent Hills Saddle. It reminds me of Bend and Mount Shasta, two places I will always love.
Soaking up an afternoon at Manuka Hut, below Mt Taylor (I think that is the name of the mountain).
Fording the braided Rangiatata
Along the divide.
Hooker Lake from way up high.
Right up in the armpit of Mt Cook National Park’s glacier.
Sefton bivy. Exceptional real estate, hey?
Our little Buddhist retreat!
4-degree Celsius at ol’ Hooker Lake.
A well-cooked lobster I am.
Mustering the sheep.
Evening yoga above Lake Hawea.
Rainbow diving out of the mountains.
Cascade Saddle: It’s a long way down.
Kea fluffing his feathers.
Harris Lake, Routeburn.
Mavora Lakes Walkway.
I am very excited here…and slightly cross-eyed.
Stirling Falls, Milford Sound.
Well done socks. Well done.
It feels good to celebrate.
Dylan, me and the crazy-cool group JARB.
I got my rainbow Dylan!
Dude, seriously. This took some serious effort to get up there.
Castle Hill. Can you find me in this shot?
Let the road trip begin!
“Rouge et or”. Red and Gold in Arthur’s Pass.
Avalanche Peak before the weather forecast proved wrong.
Puffin on the ol’ cigar…
I make this look good.
Frenchman’s Bay at Hightide.
Bark’s Bay at lunchtime.
Still blue ocean waters.
I thought about you every day Candi! Note the inscription: Ocean, River.
My hair is looking way curly after all that salt-water!
Shags. Awesome birds to watch.
Awaroa Estuary at sunset…5pm.
Sunset at Warariki Beach, near Cape Farewell.
Mountain Beech Forest, Harwood’s Hole.
Karst rock… Looks like the spine of a dinosaur.
Viewpoint at Harwood’s Hole.
Overlooking one of the bays near French Pass.
It’s not as hard as you may think…
Annelie, the kind soul she is, was flippin’ crazy for these sheep!
NZ wouldn’t be NZ without sheep.