Sunday, 8 March 2020

Te Araroa - Walk the South Island

For those interested, I have made a movie using the breadcrumb trace from my GPS watch of my route up through the South Island, mixing in photos/videos.  Could be useful if you want to get a feel for the terrain etc...

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Hiatus 8 - St Arnaud for 1 day

Staying up the hill a bit at my friend's place has been pretty idyllic.  The rain was in today, so largely an inside day.  Not that I minded.  I had a brief outing to resupply for the Richmond Ranges - the last big push - 8 or so days in the bush.
A bit of a spanner tonight, with the only restaurant in town closed for the night.  I couldn't bring myself to eat dehydrated while I was in town.  Just as well is bought a bag of corn chips, aye.  More quality quisine!

The forecast is good for tomorrow, so on the trail again.  Should be beautiful.  Should be hard going.  Looking forward to it.... Kinda. 

Friday, 20 July 2018

Come fly with me, come fly, let's fly away!

Some of you will know that I used a GPS watch to track every step of my Bluff to Marlborough Sounds walk.
I've posted some pretty cool videos up on Youtube that use to allow you to fly along my whole route.

It's available in a playlist here:

Friday, 4 May 2018


It's been 2 weeks since I finished walking. I'm melding back into normal life, so I figure it's time for a bit of a wash-up.
I'd like to begin by thanking all those who helped me along the way, starting with all who read and posted on my blog or Facebook along the way. I kept the blog mainly for myself, so I'd have something to look back on my adventure in years to come. However it certainly helped with the motivation at the end of a long, tiring day knowing there were so many people enjoying the posts. Having started reading back over them, I apologize for the readability of many of them. I can only blame my phone, which likes to butcher nearly anything I write... and perhaps occasionally an end of day, frazzled brain.
To Geoff Chapple for having the vision and the drive to get his baby off the ground and turned from a dream into a real life thing. One of the greatest living New Zealanders.
To the Te Araroa Trust and all the hard work you do maintaining access ways and maintaining the trail infrastructure. You guys are awesome.
To Barry and Jeanette for hooking me up with a satellite phone. It was a burden off my mind to send that text at the end of each day so Karen knew I was OK. Equally the occasional call home when I was really missing home, and the odd call to get weather/river updates before exposed sections or large river crossings made my walk much, much easier. Thankyou!
To Jakob for faithfully updating my position from the sat phone to Facebook every day. You never missed a day! Great job!
Thanks to Stephen and Eli for walking the 'Caleb' section between Te Anau and Queenstown with me. Walk on with hope in your heart, and you'll never walk alone.
To Hamish, Janine, Saskia and Tarras for the wonderful surprise along the Greenstone Track, then putting up with us/me in your home, the pickup in Arrowtown, then the walk into Macetown. True trail angels! I hope your car is back to its former glory.
My Aunty Colleen came grabbed me from Lake Middleton, giving me a night with luxury, pizza and beer in Twizel rather than a tent and a dehydrated meal, then delivered me back to the lake next day, before a ride home to surprise Jakob for his birthday. I don't have a favourite kid, but am I allowed to have a favourite aunty?
Mum and dad were amazing, dropping me off to trail heads during the week after time off track when I was close to Canterbury, and walking parts of those first day's back on trail with me. While planning out the walk the logistics through Canterbury were rather daunting; you made them easy!
To Andrew for letting me stay in your stunning holiday home in St Arnaud. I'm almost disappointed the weather didn't pack in for longer - I could have enjoyed those views for weeks.
To the Pelorous Bridge Cafe/campground for putting me up in that cool little room so I didn't have to use my tent when the weather was so miserable. See you next summer... and probably every summer!
To all the TA walkers I met along the way. Almost to a fault you couldn't hope to meet a more interesting, jovial, alive cross section of humanity. Especially to the Kiwozzi super(skinny)man Neil. I went into this fully expecting to walk the island on my own, but I have to say I really enjoyed walking more than half of it with you, almost certainly more than if I'd been solo for weeks on end. Look me up if you're ever looking for more adventures in this part of the world.
And of course to Jakob and Elijah and especially Karen. Apart from the pickups/dropoffs, not only did you allow me to go do this hugely disruptive thing for our family, you actively encouraged and enabled me to do it. Without the buy-in from all three of you to do it I just couldn't have gone. Husbands and wives shouldn't ever owe each other anything - that's not the way to build a foundation for a stable, life long marriage. I realize that sounds a bit self serving given I've just spent the best part of 3 months away from home doing my own thing, but it's true for all that. Nevertheless at some level I will always be indebted to Karen for the way she has supported and encouraged me through this adventure.

I've fielded lots of questions about what my walking plans are for the future. In my mind this was the adventure of a life time, not to be repeated, at least not on the same scale. I will continue with my normal tramping of course. I was up Mt Thomas today, and this weekend Karen, Jakob and I are heading into Magdalen Hut on the St James Walkaway. We are also in the process of booking the Milford Track for later this year. It will be the first time I'll have been on the track with Karen, which is hard to believe given how much we both love Fiordland.  <edit, it was fully booked out within a day, the Milford will have to wait until 2019>.  In terms of longer walks, I have no immediate plans. I may do a longer one every year or two. The Dusky Track perhaps, walking on Stewart Island down to see Gog and Magog. Neil's got me interested in the Overland track across Tasmania. Doing the North Island, Te Araroa doesn't hold all that much appeal. It has a lot of road and farm walking. If I end up doing it, it won't be walking every step of the island like with the South Island. Instead I'd do with Karen riding shotgun in a support vehicle, using this to skip the sections I'm not interested in. Interestingly the idea has started germinating in my mind to do the South Island again, but to do it SOBO. Certainly a track always looks a lot different doing it the other way around. I guess this would hold true for an island as well. Nevertheless, as I say again I have no immediate plans to do anything quite like this again. Certainly I wouldn't feel the same sense of regret if I never accomplished any of these nascent plans that I would have had if I had never walked Te Araroa.

Lots of people have asked me since I got back what epiphanies I had along the way. I have to be honest, I haven't had much to tell them.
However, for what value it is:
God has blessed us with a beautiful country, and it's important not to take it for granted. It's not perfect, and it's incumbent on all of us to try to make it better - to at the very least do what we can to leave those parts we are passionate about in better nick than they are now. For me, I am passionate about our mountains and forests. The difference in bird life between a trapped, managed forest in this country and one that is not cannot be overstated. An unmanaged forest is uniformly near devoid of bird life. A managed forest, if not teeming, is usually at the least filled with bird song. The Predator Free 2050 initiative is a bold and visionary goal. Before I kick the bucket I would love to walk in forests filled with abundant bird life that is the rule, rather than the exception that it is now. Certainly I'll be looking at what I can do to support trapping programs close to home.

On a more personal level, the only real epiphany I had was in the first week, and was more a profound realization than anything particularly revolutionary.
While I was away I didn't miss where I lived, or my house, or Rangiora, or my garden, or any of that. I missed my family, most especially Karen, Jakob and Elijah. I've always been a bit of a stick in the mud, a true believer of "home is where the heart is". I've always equated that home with where I live. For that reason I hate moving, and to watch the family home and neighbourhood where I grew up get pulled down after the earthquakes was a real gut punch. It felt as if a not insignificant part of my identity had been ripped away.  Normally when I'm tramping I get a real hankering for food, to the point where on the last day I can hardly wait to get off trail so I can get a decent feed. I had a similar hankering on this trail, but it was for cellphone coverage so I could call Karen and just have a chat with her and hear her voice. Often on those days you could find me walking along with my phone in my hand, waiting for it to finally go to 0 bars, then (oh glory!), 1 bar where I might be able to connect a call or at the least send a text.
You see, I'm still an absolute proponent of that saying. I still believe that home is indeed where the heart is. It's just that I now realise that my home is wherever my family is - not necessarily the house I happen to live in.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Day 64 - Furneaux Lodge to Ship Cove, 13km, 3 hours

With my boat not due at Ship Cove until 2:30 and a showery, cold day in prospect, I was in no rush to head away this morning, and enjoyed a lie in.
Then it was on track for the final 1% of distance, and unfortunately 1% of climbing also. The first climb was a doddle, but the second, 240 steep meters up out of Resolution Bay was a different story. Nevertheless there were good views from the top out over Cook Strait with Kapiti and the North Island directly in front of me, as close as I've ever seen them from the South Island.
Kapiti Island can be seen low on the horizon, along with the Rimutakas further to the right
A quick drop down the other side of the hill saw me at Ship Cove, 1300km and the finish!

It's a freezing cold day, but I still jumped off the jetty to finish my walk, and I'm now sitting around with 2 layers of merino and a puffer jacket on, trying to stay warm while waiting for the launch to arrive and take me back to Picton. Mission accomplished!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Week 9 summary

Well, I'm almost there. A couple of hours walking tomorrow and I'm finished.
6 days walking this week, with a zero day at Pelorous Bridge. 166km covered.
I've finished off the Richmond's, traversed over to the Queen Charlotte Track, and polished off the Queen Charlotte in 2 days over this week.
I'm ready to finish the trail and looking forward to spending time with Karen and the kids. To be honest I don't think I could go too much further without starting to break down. Perhaps the end of trail fever, and big kilometers that go with it, that has gripped me in the last week has something to do with this, but I've developed a fair few niggles that I suspect only rest will see right.
This time tomorrow I'll be in Picton!

Day 63 - Portage to Furneaux Lodge, 30.2km, 7 hours 20 minutes

Another big day took me to within just 13km of the finish tomorrow.
After my posh room last night, I was too Scottish/Dutch to lay down another $25 for a continental breakfast, so used my balcony to cook up some porridge.

Hitting the trail it was perfect walking weather for this time of year, sunny with no wind to cool things down, a welcome change now there is snow on the Richmond Ranges just to my south.
There was a fair amount of up and down today, on a clay trail that was often extremely slippery.  With my boots now pretty trashed - to say the least, there are numerous large holes in the stitching and very little tread remaining - I must have often looked more like an ice skater than a tramper.
After some time I passed the head to Kenepuru Sound.

Working my way along Queen Charlotte Sound towards Endeavour Inlet I was treated to a fantastic view of the outer sound, with the North Island hazy on the horizon...

...with the inner sound also looking pretty good.

After a long day walking I made it to the head of Endeavour Inlet, famous as the place where Captain Cook stopped numerous times to rest up and replenish water.
I finished the day with a swim in Endeavour Inlet.  It wasn't too cold which I was surprised about given the time of year.  Who knows, I might get in more than a perfunctory swim at trail end tomorrow at Ship Cove. I'm now now safely ensconced at the bar at Furneaux Lodge for my last evening on trail.  It's Mexican night.  Queue canned mariachi music and bad booze.  It kind of reminds me of fantastic nights out in Chihuahua and Juarez listening to the real thing.