My wet weather gear. Photo Credit: Marjolein
Day 14: ~25 kms
(Ngunguru to Patau)

The day started well with blueberry topped porridge plus some delicious coffee! Rather than start down 8 kms of road, the campground owner took me directly to the Mackerel Track on his way to work.

The walk was easy enough but it was my wettest day so far. The weather alternated between sunshine and rain basically the entire time. Fortunately my $3 poncho made for the perfect bag cover (thanks for that tip, Maya). I arrived in wet shoes to TideSong where I called it a day. Lovely place and lovely people who have also done the walk!

Day 15 : 25 kms
(Taiharuru to Urquats Bay)

Although a southerlie brought strong, cold winds recently, the day was quite bright and sunny. The Tidesong owners graciously drove me around the estuary so I could start the track without wet feet. It was well formed putting gorgeous views of rolling hills and ocean at my back.

I continued down the coast to beaches way more scenic than 90-mile. The water was clear and reflected beautiful hues of blue in the distance. Next was the most tiring bit--uphill 400 meters--the highest elevation climb so far! 

At the end, in Urquats Bay, a local picked me up with the offer of camping near his house. It was cold, windy and near dark when we arrived so he ended up allowing me to stay indoors instead. As a former Dept of Conservation employee, he shared lots of information about the plants and animals in the area, tools for tramping, and fun anecdotes about other Te Araroa hikers he's met.

Day 16 : 10 kms
(Marsden Point to Uretiti Campground) 

The local who hosted me last night was a life saver again today. He took me in to Whangarei for a resupply, a library visit (to print the more detailed daily walk guide) and even to the local market. Then he dropped me on the other side of the harbor to restart the walk. 

The path continued on the coast with a bit of road walking to avoid yet another boat crossing. During this section I crossed my second TA walker. This one came from Germany just a few weeks ago and decided to start backward, from a city less than 100 kms away. He carried all the things he brought with him to New Zealand and looked quite tired and overloaded. I offered him a few tips and for once thought I was adequately prepared for this journey.

Day 17 : ~31 kms 
(Uretiti Campground to Cove Rd exit)

Beautiful sunny weather and at times hot! The path went from beach to road to bush. All quite well formed. I was tempted to stay in the cute town called Waipu, where I picked up my Asics runners (thanks for dropping them off there, Maya!). However, it felt like walking on clouds with them on so I continued until sunset. Still, I was 3.5hrs away from the nearest town and I stopped in a vacant development site to pitch my tent.

Day 6: ~15 kms (Mangamuka Bridge to Apple Dam Campground)
I slept so well in Kaitia (Main Street Lodge - $30). If only I would have slept longer! I woke at 5:30am naturally, ready to start the day. Once I prepared lunch and dinner (rice), I stopped by the Pak N Save for more food and visited the Te Ahu iSite.

The representative there confirmed I should skip the Herekino and Raetea forest sections. "We don't advise anyone to go there. Especially if they don't have to", she told me.

I hitched a direct ride to Mangamuka within minutes and started to walk around noon. It was mostly uphill along a combination of paved, gravel and dirt roads. Apple Dam felt forever away but it was a clean, simple campsite. No apples though.

Day 7 : 26 kms (Apple Dam to Puketi HQ/Recreation Area)

I woke up cold and wet from the moisture of the dam. Once packed, I set off around 7am for my most challenging day so far. It included a 2km river walk and getting wet couldn't be avoided. I tried without shoes but the rocks were too painful. The water reached mid-thigh in some spots but was generally mid-calf or less (I'm 161cm).

Then it got dangerous. In the forest section I  climbed, slipped, slided, squatted, and descended backward at many points. I felt like I was rock climbing more than hiking.

After 11 hours I arrived to the hut, where a small group was celebrating the end of their "farms skills" course. I learned all about possums (they must die!) and Kauri Die Back disease (they must live!). When I feel asleep, their conversations lingered in the background. Drunk people don't know how to whisper...

Day 8 : 29 km (Puketi HQ/Recreation Centre to KeriKeri - Aranga Backpackers & Holiday Park)

I woke at 4am ready to start but after stepping outside to pee, I realized I still wanted to stay in bed. My feet ached from yesterday and while I slept deeply, it wasn't enough.

The trail started on a gravel road and after a fence hop I was on farmland. I passed many lamb, cows, and eventually a person too. My first Te Araroa cross! The Frenchman started backward, from Bluff six months ago. 

Most of the day alternated between dirt roads and hopping fences through pastures. The markers were a bit more distant than the forest and there wasn't paved through trail. I had to double checked my path often.

At the end of the day my shoes and socks were wet from the muddy cow printed land. My feet began to ache as I approached KeriKeri. I called it a night at the Aranga Holiday Park. The fee was $18 --too much for tenting, so I snuck in the lounge area to sleep.
Photo credit : Maya Yasur
Day 1: 20 kms 
(Cape Reinga to Te Paki Stream)

I arrived to Cape Reinga just after sunrise. The wind was intense but it was beautiful to watch the powers of the ocean and sea collide.

During the day I crossed several small streams and puddles (it rained at least three days before in this area). Sometimes I took off my socks and shoes to cross. When I didn't, I regretted it. 
First breakfast--cold oats 5km after the Cape

Once I tried going slightly off-tack to avoid a stream and got caught in dense bush. I basically had to fight my way out for about fifteen minutes. Not a small feat 15km in to my trek with a 20lb backpack.

The rest of the day showed me beautiful landscapes from pink sand dunes and empty beaches to manuka forest. It finished on the infamous 90-mile beach.

I freely set up camp near Te Paki Stream, seeing my first two people as I veered off to scout a place for the tent. They were far in the distance so I ended my day without human interaction since Cape Reinga.

Day 2 : 20 kms
(Te Paki Stream to The Bluff campground)

The rumors are true. The beach makes an uninteresting walk. Only cars passed me by.

Other highlights include seeing a miniature "Hole in the Rock", a pack of wild horses and collecting seashells to occupy my time.

Besides the book, my only other company on the beach were dead animals. Fish, bird, and seal carcasses were eerily scattered throughout the walk.
Can you see the rainbow?

Day 3: 29 kms 
(The Bluff to Utea Park Campground "Hukatere")

Long section but it ended well--in a real bed. After The Bluff I was pleasantly surprised to see the hostel-like camp ground with full kitchen facilities, hot showers and beds! 

They advertise that it's run on koha (donation) but that is really to say: $10 for camping, $15 for a bed.

I finished my book during the walk, so I was happy to find a small book exchange area at the campsite too.

I camped out at The Bluff site just opposite a bird reserve. The toilet was disgusting and the cisterns were dry. However, there was plenty of open space on the grass for my tent.

My body is OK but tight calves and slight shoulder pain from my backpack straps.

Day 4 : 0 km 
(rained out at Utea Park)

It rained through the night and into the morning. I was so glad I splurged on a bed! By 10am there was no change in the weather, so I decided to stay put.

I was disappointed at first but decided it would be good rest for my body. Plus, I could utilize the kitchen to make a hot lunch with the plentiful shellfish, tuatua.

Then a friend of the owner invited me along for a leisurely day out. We stopped at the dairy (a small town store), where I stocked up on food for the next week. Next we went on to visit a few of his friends for "a cuppa".  We also did some fishing (we only caught a star fish and sea weed) and we wrapped up the day at a harbor for sunset.

Back at camp I feel asleep easily, with a beautiful starry view through the window.

Day 5 : 29 kms
(Utea Park to Ahipara)

Feeling recharged from the uplifting day before, I set out early and ready to conquer the world!

The walk was long but smooth. I continued collectting shells, reading a bit, and simply doing nothing. Parts of the day showed a sparkle in the sand.

The last kilometer into Ahipara was the hardest on my feet. Fortunately, a nice local man offered me a ride to the shop (2kms from the beach) and helped me decide my next steps.

After much contemplation and advice from locals, I decided to skip the beginning forest sections. Apparently the trail can be quite over grown, muddy, slippery, and steep. A dangerous combination with a heavy backpack and off-season timing (less people for help and track maintenance).

Instead, I hitched a ride to Kaitia for the bigger supermarket, a visit to the Te Ahu Centre and a key hub for hitching to my next start-- Mangamuka Bridge.

Big thanks to Maya for all the love and support!!

Day 9 : 25 kms
(KeriKeri to Paihia - Seabeds Backpacker)

The guide distances were lies! They don't account for getting in and out of cities and one section was based on the pace of 5km/hr... Carrying a heavy pack can slow me to just half that sometimes. I was so frustrated my estimated 4-hour walk took 7! The track was mostly flat dirt road but I was exhausted at the end.
Photo Credit: Marie of Seabeds
Needless to say, I was overjoyed to arrive at SeaBeds in Paihia. It's a bit more pricey than the other hostels ($28 vs $25) but totally worth it!! Seabeds is closer to the track end point, has great sea views, and a super stylish interior. As a bonus, the owner is lovely! She offered me "jandals" to get out of my walking shoes, a towel and lots of great information about the track! I can't recommend Seabeds enough !!

Day 10 : 0km (R&R in Paihia)

I spent most of the day indoors and I don't even feel bad about it. The weather was cloudy with light rain and I had a lot of planning, blog updating, and emailing to do. I felt like I was on vacation at Seabeds. My feet were thankful too! In the morning they were tender but by noon I could walk without pain. 

Day 11 : 20 kms
(Waikare Rd to Oakura Camper/Caravan Park)

It felt like I today was my first day. Better yet, it felt like I leveled up! My body was back to normal, the pack was no longer a burden and I was eager to get back to walking. Besides another river walk (4km and slippery), it was a light day. I anticipated stopping after 10 km but kept going because that felt too short. 

The caravan looked way nicer outside than inside.
Around sunset I made it to Oakura where I decided to pitch my tent. A campervan park offered me $10 for tenting or $15 to stay in a caravan with electricity + wifi. I chose the latter but honestly wouldn't recommend the place. The couple was nice but some severe hoarders. The property was unkept, moldy and it felt unsanitary to be there (and this is coming from someone tenting with an irregular laundry and shower schedule...).

Day 12 : 20 kms
(Oakura to Whananaki)

The day was lovely. I started a few kilometers on the main road when the couple from last night stopped to give me a lift (again, lovely people but I still wouldn't recommend their place). I didn't want to take the ride but in retrospect, I'm glad I did. They saved me 8 kms of walking along uninteresting highway.

The rest of day went through forest. While markers are plentiful, I managed to get lost briefly. New rule of thumb: one minute without markers = GPS consultation. I caught the error thanks to the offline "Map Me" app!

When I arrived to Whananaki the holiday park owner was away. I waited for a while at the town shop where a friendly cashier convinced the principal to let me free camp at the school. Then he offered me the spare room in his home instead. His family was great and they made me feel at home. I am so thankful!

Day 13: 23 kms
(Whananki to Ngunguru)

Another wonderful day! Though rain was in the forecast the weather remained sunny and beautiful. It was the perfect complement to lovely beach scenery. The toughest part was going through more steep up then steep down hills. A part of me started to question why I want to do this... Then I arrived to Ngunguru.

I was reluctant to pay a camp site just to pitch my tent but quickly started running out of options. Eventually I chose the "Nikau Bay Eco Camp"-- a total gem! It wasn't yet open for the season but the owner took me across the estuary (saving me 13km of road walking) and welcomed me in to his beautiful home. He treated me to a fabulous dinner, great conversation and let me sleep inside!! Hope is restored. :D
Something has compelled me to dip out of life once again. Maybe the trigger was my gap between jobs, the timing between countries... or that insatiable desire to go for another long walk.

What's true is the hunger has lingered since my 1000km walk from France to Spain, El Camino de Santiago. Many people treat the journey as a once in a lifetime activity but the finish wasn't enough for me.

After reaching the final Cathedral and receiving my Compostela, I continued walking. I went on to two beaches including finistere, the end of the Earth.

Still, it wasn't enough. I left Spain with ideas for my next path to take as well as other long walks to do (I'm looking at you, Via Francigena).

A few months later I came to New Zealand and discovered Te Araroa, The Long Pathway. I was fascinated when a German couple told me they completed all 3000kms of it; walking from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island in about four months.

"You're crazy" is all I could think. I would have to dedicate a future summer or carefully plan a trip to come back if I ever wanted to do that.

Spoiler alert--I'm doing it now. My next gig starts in October and until then I'm a free bird.

Te Araroa wasn't the first time filler to come to mind--that spot was taken by Tonga--but eventually I decided, if not now, when?

Today I'm 100kms in and unlike the Camino, it's been a lonely route for me. Human interactions are rare and the first one happened when a man driving his pickup down 90-mile beach stopped to offer me a lift.

"I'm alright" I said, "I'll be walking at least another 40 days down the North Island".

"Are you crazy?" He asked.

The question caught me off guard though it was my exact reaction to the Germans.

Unlike them, I won't have enough time to complete the entire Te Araroa. I do hope to log about 1,000kms though.

This will be a more challenging and more remote walk than the Camino. Definitely my hardest to date.

To anyone concerned or future Te Araroa walkers, I will post daily accounts from the trek (retroactively by about a week).

Now that I have spent a few days on the walk I can confirm that yes, I might be crazy. Fortunately, I've had enough time to find peace in that too.