The point of this is to be helpful to people who attempt the Te Araroa after me. There is a little bit of a footnote and a couple of thank you's at the end so if you aren't interested you can skip that bit. I will try in the coming months to go back through my posts and add some hindsight to them. Hopefully it will be helpful.
Also, if people have any questions send me a message and I will endeavour to find the answer.
If you're a driven person give yourself four months. People do it faster (Hell, one guy turned up at camp having done 60kms and then kept walking.). Normally five months will suffice. If you can then give yourself six months. You can always do other walks afterwards and believe me, afterwards you'll be wondering what the hell to do you do now?
I think you will need roughly $15,000 plus your gear. I spent more than this but then I'm a smoker who likes a decent bottle of wine and some cheese at a resupply. New Zealand is expensive and Te Araroa funnels you through many tourist towns which makes it worse.
Also, give a good donation to the Te Araroa Trust. They do a good job.
Once I had my gear sorted I made sure I could walk at least 20kms with it without falling apart. Basically the first month of Te Araroa consisted of getting to camp, eating, and then sleeping in a pool of sweat as my body rebuilt itself. A lot of people take protein powder to stop your muscles eating themselves. It's probably a good idea. Especially at the start.
Interestingly, the difference between smoking and not smoking is about 1/3 of a day of easier walking. Which is to say, if you do 30kms in a day then the last 10kms will be a lot harder.
A good piece of advice I was given was to try and stay under the sweat line. If you are doing a long climb, go slow, keep going. You will get to the top sooner than it looks from the bottom. Also, have some lollies ten minutes beforehand. It really does make a difference.
Gear: Original and What Worked
Te Araroa Gear List: Several pairs of trail socks
I bought: 3 x Merino trail socks
Result: They worked but they got very stinky. Sock wash might have been a good idea.
Te Araroa Gear List: Decent trail shoes (light-weight ones that drain well) or boots – personal preference
I bought: Boots – Lowa Ranger 3
Result: Extremely comfortable. I think the first blister was at the 1000km mark and I looked after them. However, they didn't handle water well. They took to long to dry out.
By Lake Coleridge they were starting to give out and by Mavora Lakes they were giving way and the tread was fairly thin. In the end (If I had of bought another pair to reach there) I would have been better served wearing shoes for the price. They definitely dry out quicker and wearing 4kgs on your feet isn't fun. Still, boots were the go at points. You can crash through bush with boots. You can stride.
It should be pointed out that my feet were magnificent right until my boots started giving way. The cracks in my heels and weird skin are only just clearing up months after and they were all caused in the last quarter of my walk due to being constantly wet. Taking your footwear off at breaks is a good idea. Just a little bit of breathing and drying out goes a long way.
A pair of crocks are good for camp shoes. Cheap, light, and effective.
Many, many peoples feet were buggered by the time they reached the end of Ninety Mile Beach. Some carried on, some did not. You are better to go slow and look after your feet.
Te Araroa Gear List: Leggings/shorts/thermals
I bought: Gaiters – Lowa Alpine Gaiters
2 x Nylon Shorts
1 x Thermals (top and leggings)
Result: I don't know if the gaiters were fine because I never ended up wearing them. In the South Island the spear grass can be a bit of a bastard but only if you walk straight onto the leaf. Sitting on it (or falling) is far worse. In the North there was some cutty grass and gorse but it wasn't to bad.
The shorts were fantastic and I am still using them. I think I used the thermals once trying to warm up after nearly getting hypothermia going up Pirongia. But hey, now I have a very thin sweater.
Te Araroa Gear List: 2 x shirts
I bought: 2 x Merino Shirts
Result: I think I brought three. One wore out by Kerikeri. I think it was the sweat at the beginning as my body reshaped itself. My pack wore holes in a back of it.
Te Araroa Gear List: Merino long sleeve/thermal top
I bought: Jersey
Result: Maybe my best buy? It has a hole in the armpit but I wore it most of the way through and I still wear it now.
Te Araroa Gear List: Decent waterproof coat (can be a life-saver!)
I bought: Stony Creek Stow it Jacket
Result: It worked well for keeping the water and wind out but it also kept the sweat in, meaning you got just warmly wet. Other people had the Arcteryx rain gear which they swore by. I was especially jealous of the leggings as they had a zip to let heat out. Bloody expensive though.
Te Araroa Gear List: Waterproof trousers
I bought: Waterproof trousers
Result: See above.
Te Araroa Gear List: Primaloft jacket
I bought: Nothing.
Result: I bought one when in Kerikeri when I found my other jacket to be to bulky. Unfortunately I only used it once or twice.
Te Araroa Gear List: Windproof shell
I bought: Fleece Jacket
Result: See above.
Te Araroa Gear List: Gloves
I bought: Merino gloves
Result: No idea, I never used them. From what other people used finger less and waterproof seemed to be the way to go but nobody seemed to be happy with theirs.
Te Araroa Gear List: Buff/wooly hat/sunhat.
I bought: GBI Fire beanie. Well, actually, I have one.
Result: No idea, I never used it.
Te Araroa Gear List: Sunglasses
I bought: Sunglasses
Result: I never used them. Lots of other people did though and they would be extremely useful if you ran into snow. There were rumours of a couple of people getting snow blindness in the 2016/17 season. I have no idea whether that was true though.
Te Araroa Gear List: High SPF Suncream
I bought: Sun cream, but only SPF 30
Result: At first I never used this but by the time I got to the South Island people had started commenting on my neck so much that I used to use it every day. I have a fairly high tolerance to sunlight though. Use it. The last thing you want is to be sunburnt.
Te Araroa Gear List: Decent backpack
I bought: Aarn backpack
Result: At first I used it with the front packs as it was designed but the visual interference annoyed me. After that it broke a buckle (two buckles maybe?), lost the pole holder, the curved aluminium tensioner fell out repeatedly, and the other C shaped aluminium broke. I think, in hindsight, I would buy an Osprey backpack. After the C shaped brace broke I got a sore back constantly but maybe that wasn't the cause.
It wasn't quite as waterproof as I would have liked either. Everything was in waterproof compression sacks so it was OK but a wet bag is heavy and takes a long time to dry out.
Te Araroa Gear List: Light-weight tent/bivy
I bought: MSR Hubba Hubba
Result: I love my Hubba Hubba. It's big enough to be comfortable with your pack inside and that was a major plus in the wet. On the down side the floor started leaking when it rained. Especially under my blow up mattress but in heavy rain everywhere else as well (Even on high points weirdly).
A good idea is to dry your tent out at lunch. It's generally wet in the morning either from rain or dew and wet tents are heavy and not that much fun.
Te Araroa Gear List: Blow-up sleeping mat
I bought: Therm-a-Rest – Evolite Regular
Result: It delaminated at Ngunguru and I replaced it with Sea to Summit Ultra lite large which was brilliant. Especially with the ultra lite hand pump. No more blowing. Fantastic.
Te Araroa Gear List: Down sleeping bag/waterproof bag
I bought: One Planet – Bungle -4 Regular DWR
Result: Good sleeping bag. I never got cold. Would have been better if it fully unzipped. I did have a silk liner but it was annoying to sleep in. Another good thing to dry out during lunch.
Te Araroa Gear List: Cooking stove/fuel/cooking pot/spork
I bought: MSR – WindBurner Stove System, Primus Titanium Cup, Light My Fire – Titanium Spork
Result: The MSR stove was fantastic. Occasionally I would heat water for other people just to show it off. You can't really cook in it though. It boils or it doesn't boil. There is no simmer. Fuel was easy to get and I generally carried two canisters with me to make sure I didn't run out. The cup worked well. The spork was to short. You need a long handled spoon for dehydrated food or food from the MSR.
At the start I also had a Primus pot and frying pan but I gave it away at Ahipara as there was really no use for it.
Te Araroa Gear List: Laminated maps
I bought: Nothing
Result: I didn't laminate the maps but I did carry them with me in case my cell phone crapped out. After the first 1000km I stopped looking at them though. Well...at least until Wellington where we sat down and did some serious planning.
Te Araroa Gear List: GPS with trail downloaded
I bought: Phone and backup battery.
Result: Galaxy S7, fantastic. I used Back Country Navigator but others used Guthooks Te Araroa app.
Te Araroa Gear List: Compass
I bought: Silva Ranger
Result: Didn't use it.
Te Araroa Gear List: PLB (Personal Location Beacon)
I bought: Ocean Signal – Rescueme PLB1 (Beacon)
Result: Never used it....thank god.
Te Araroa Gear List: SOS Survival Tin
I bought: Aide Void R1 1st aid kit
Result: Never used it.
Te Araroa Gear List: Light-weight walking poles – personal preference
I bought: No
Result: I was given some poles and I found them to be annoying.....unless you are crossing rivers in which case they are fantastic and wonderful. Maybe just carrying one is worth it for that. Really. Having three points of contact saved my ass so many times.
Te Araroa Gear List: A stool tool/loo roll
I bought: Fiskars Nyglass Transplanter
Result: I tried to go cheap and light with this but it didn't work although I had used it only once by the time I got to Wellington. The time it broke. In the end I bought a stainless trowel off Bivouac.
Te Araroa Gear List: Headtorch/spare batteries
I bought: Tikka +
Result: Good head torch. Still on the first trio of batteries.
Te Araroa Gear List: Food/snacks/water/electrolyte
I bought: 10x dehydrated dinners, 10x OSM bars, 10x gruel (instant porridge), Tea Bags/water.
Result: OK. I ate basically noodles and OSM bars until Orewa.....I hate gruel. After that I spread out my diet a lot more and stopped eating OSM bars altogether as I was sick of them.
In Wellington I bought enough Backcountry Cuisine to see me past Lake Coleridge but I ate so many takeaways that it lasted me until Bluff. My basic meal was Trident Thai Chilli noodles with Tuna in it and lots of dried peas. My snacks were mostly jerky. Eventually I added Snickers and Jetplanes. You start looking at hills and working out what food you should eat now to get you over it. A well placed Snickers bar can make a steep hill a lot easier. The whole Backcountry Cuisine thing worked out, but was a mistake in the end. I was so sick of Backcountry Cuisine.
Jeds coffee bags were the go. Probably the most environmentally unfriendly coffee in existence but the best way to wake up.
Whatever you do. Have a decent breakfast. Your day will go a lot easier if you eat right in the morning. Often the difference between an easy day and a hard one is what you eat and when you time it. Breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snacks, snacks, dinner would generally get me through.
When in town I would eat everything in sight including, but not exclusively, hamburgers, steak, baked beans, cheese, wine....more cheese....salami.....errr...
The moral of this story is that I don't do good diets.
Te Araroa Gear List: Water purification tablets/UV steripen
I bought: Sawyer – Mini Water Filtration System
Result: Worked well although Ken pointed out to me that it didn't take out bacteria under such and such size so in the end I used purification tablets as well. Basically filter and purify your water in the North and in the South you will be fine. You can generally tell by looking at it.
Te Araroa Gear List: Hi-viz vest and/or pack cover – essential for road walking and forestry sections
I bought: Tuffviz Hiviz Vest
Result: Light, useful. I think I wore it twice but I should have worn it many times more.
There was of course other stuff I took. Duct tape was never used, fishing line and hooks, but basically that was it. You'll note some of the gear was never used but I was still glad I carried it. All of the survival stuff you hope you never ever to have to use and I would rather carry a couple of extra kg than find myself without it when it was needed.
Which brings me to the matter of underwear. It would seem to me that boxers are better for stopping chafing but briefs are better on a hot day. Personal choice though. I went Merino the whole way. I fact go all Merino if you can. One pair of underwear buggered out by Kerikeri and I bought another in Geraldine (Yes, I did have others) but other than that all went well.
Oh god, sometimes your life revolves around water. OK, I carried more water than anyone else I met (3kgs consistently until Lake Coleridge). It is probably worth it to buy Guthooks app to save yourself having to carry so much water as it has water sources listed in it. At the same time I could stop for a meal whenever I wanted where others would have to go on until the next water source. A good rule is always to fill yourself up on water before starting. It makes for a much easier day.
Weather is a big part of Te Araroa. I was shocked at some of the risks people took and at the same time so surprised at at the times they (we) got away with it that I figure myself to be somewhat conservative. Basically the New Zealand Metservice seemed to have little idea what was happening in the 2016-2017 period. It's a percentage game and when the weather comes from an odd direction they can't really tell.
That being said, if it is light rain go out and walk in it but if it is sunny and Metservice says it is all going to go to hell stay put or get out. When we got south of Hamner Springs there were people walking back out who had been trapped for days and were worried about running out of food.
The worst experience I had was on Pirongia on the North Island when I didn't put on my wet weather gear until I was already wet. It appears my body temperature doesn't drop quickly but at the same time doesn't come back up very quickly either. If there hadn't been a hut I might have been in serious trouble.
It's now been 9 months since I started Te Araroa and roughly 3 months since I hit Bluff. Did I complete it? No. There were parts that I was forced to miss due to weather or track closure and parts that I just skipped. Was it worth it? Yes, but not entirely for the reasons I started with.
In the beginning I just wanted some time to think. To let the little thoughts run around while the big ones could simmer and churn beneath the surface and work themselves out. In a lot of ways this worked.
What ended up making Te Araroa great though was the people I met along the way. That's the part that will stay with me after the fitness has gone. Some of those people I walked over 1000kms with. Ken (Coach) taught me a lot over the first part of the journey. Things like drying your sleeping bags and tent out at lunch. Angelynn made the last part incredible. In between, the person I walked the longest time with was Mr Frodo. A king among men.
They helped me cross rivers, climb mountains, swear, laugh and find my way. I might have been able to do it without them, but it wouldn't have been nearly as good.
That being said, there was almost as much horrible terrain as there was spectacular. The major difference between the two major Islands of New Zealand is that the North Island terrain is largely the result of volcanism whilst the South Island is tectonic. This meant the North Island was a muddy pit of despair when it rained. It isn't that the South doesn't have mud. It just has a better class of mud. Added to this, there is a huge amount more pollution in the North Island.
When you hear people say, "Just do the South Island". They are right. If you are after incredible scenery then the South is the place to go. I don't regret doing the North Island, but then I live there. I can understand why others found it so disappointing.
That isn't Te Araroa though, only half of it.
Finally, thank you so very much to Te Araroa Trust. Your hard work made my life so much easier and when things got rough I just blamed it all on Geoff Chapple anyway.