You might have gathered from our website that we are finished! It took us 150 days in total with 28 rest days and a fair few half days, but we are finished with New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail!
The last time you heard from us we were in Wanaka heading to Queenstown. That seems like forever ago. I’ll condense the best bits for you – we faced some of our most boring bits in the trail in the final section.
From Wanaka we headed for the Motatapu Track. A new foot-track connecting Wanaka and Arrowtown. The trail is said to be very demanding and consequently we were fairly nervous since we haven’t climbed anything since the Two Thumb Range where we were all ill. We were planning on walking the track in 3 days including the connections on either end as well as the walk from Arrowtown to Queenstown along the banks of Lake Wakatipu. It all went downhill on Day 1. We walked a popular day walk along the banks of Lake Wanaka. Its popularity is justified though with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains, now covered with fresh snow. As we started climbing up into the mountains though we started feeling the strain. Man I felt lazy and DM and Anders shared my lethargy. Taking it slow, we made it to Fern Burn hut without enough light to get to the second. It’s getting hard to cover ground with so few hours of light. So we stopped and made ourselves at home with our hut routine – cooking, writing in journals, checking the hut book for
Day 2 and we were still feeling lazy. It was freezing. A short walk to the first hut and a long walk to the second. That was the new plan. The two and a half hour walk to Highland Creek Hut was pretty tough. We stopped for a short while to have a break but we made a classic mistake and made ourselves too comfortable. Not wanting to carry on up and down mountains we opted for a half day, well, a quarter day. Instead of walking we foraged around to see if we could find some extra food in the form of bush tucker. Nothing in the river so we opted for grasshoppers which were everywhere! With the 20 or so grasshoppers that we collected in peanut jars we chucked them into the ti-tri inferno with some oil, salt and chili. Bush popcorn. So good, kind of nutty. As we were cooking up our feast Nicky and Cookie walked up. Nicky and Cookie are two trampers that we have been following for 4 months! We recently passed them in Wanaka but they caught us again by taking the bus to the start of the track. Awesome though! we were pleased to see them again and we ended up taking it slow and walking the whole of the Motatapus with them. That, combined with our increasing laziness, is pretty much the reason we took so long. Its a nice change of pace having the same company for a couple days. It helps that they are awesome people from London and therefore love drinking as much as us! (more than us?!). So yeah over the next days we saw some impressive mountains go by and did our hardest final section.
We had a friends friend hooking us up in Queenstown with a place to stay and upon arrival we instantly felt like we were home. An awesome group of people, a comfy floor and a kitchen. Perfect. We ended up staying for 5 days. Queenstown had received alot of bad press from other trampers and travelers that we have met, but honestly, there is a reason that Queenstown is a mecca for young travelers. It is awesome. Expensive though. We also heard about things we MUST do in Queenstown: Ferg Burger, bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boating. Everyone has their own experiences but we found the best place to eat was Flame Bar and Grill and there is frizbee golf in the park! and its free (as long as you have a frizbee). Anyway we loved the people and the place so much that we came back after reaching Bluff and spent our remaining time in NZ in Queenstown.
From Queenstown we caught a lift to the start of the next track – The Greenstone Track going into the Mavora walkway. The only problem is that by the time we got up to the walkway it was 5pm. That gave us 1 hour to walk 8 miles before the sun goes down. We tried our best walking through a great forest on an awesome track. Thankfully the track is so well worn that even after the sun had gone down we could find our way and in fact we saw some things that you wouldn’t normally see. Glow worms for one. It was fun walking in the dark but we were ready to be in the comfort of the hut. The only problem is that when we got there it was full! Full of self absorbed people. We tried talking to a few people but were greated with cold shoulders so we grabbed our tents and set up outside. It was a shame but it was warm so didnt mind too much plus we can use all the facilities this hut had to offer. Flushing toilets! Its a weird feeling walking into the bush and getting away from civilisation to find 20+ people having a candle lit dinner in a warm house and flushing toilets. Not too shabby.
The Greenstone track was amazing but from there we crossed into the Mavora Lakes which was less exciting. The forest opened up and we had some great views of the surrounding mountains. The vegetation was pretty much just tussock and long grass. The track was muddy and fairly slow until opening onto a 4×4 track which we raced along to stay in our final hut of the Te Araroa. Careys Hut. We didn’t have anything to celebrate our final hut but we would be in Bluff in a week or so, so we can save it for that. From the lakes the track turned to an unsealed road (dirt) which punishes the feet and gives you savage blisters even with my Darn Tough Full Cushion Socks, and then eventually into civilization and a solid tarmac road. Now we can pull out 20+ mile days without a problem and we started racing towards Bluff. Before long we were on the South Coast and then finally we walked the final day from Invercargill to Bluff. All day Bluff was in sight which made the final 15 miles pretty darn challenging. Still we made it and celebrated with cheap champagne and some rum. Plenty of fun.
I’m happy to report that our socks worked perfectly and survived the punishment they took – I wore a hole through my insole and the sole of my shoe is paper thin but my Darn Tough socks are in good condition (minus the whole I burnt into them in Nelson Lakes). Actually that surprised me the most. I thought that that would be the end of them but the whole hasn’t ripped through the rest of the sock and the pair is still wearable!
Onwards from Bluff we took a quick tour of Stewart Island walking up the East Coast to Christmas Village Hut in the hope of seeing some rare bird life such as the Kiwi. Stewart Island has received awesome reviews from other travelers and they are so right. Probably the best place we went in New Zealand if not ever. I ended up seeing a kiwi, some kereru, tui, fantail, and some dolphins. We pried some paua (a shellfish related to abalone) off some rocks and cooked them up for dinner (pretty amazing) and the most exciting of all we saw some yellow-eyed penguins. We got a tip from some hunters to go to Golden Beach and hangout in the trees until late afternoon. We beat our way through the bush and got to the beach and a couple hours later as the sun was getting low in the sky some rare and hilarious penguins started waddling up the beach into the forest. Amazingly though they walked right up to where we were standing and checked us out before walking into the ferns and crashing out. I think there are only 5000 left in the wild now. They have incredibly keen eyesight and if they see you on the beach they wont come in and risk drowning so I think it was quite lucky and a privilege to see them. It was one of the best experiences from our trip and we are sad to be done now.
Thank you so much for your support it was a pleasure living in Darn Tough Socks for 6 months and I am planning on wearing them for years to come.
On behalf of the Tasty Trekkers