Te Araroa North Island (abandoned after 300km)

The TA has probably the most amazing northern terminus of any long distance hike that I know of.
Cape Reinga is an truly unique place, no doubt about that. Lets start at the beginning.
After arriving in Auckland I had two days in the city to sort things out. My plan was going to Kaitaia via Bus and hitchhike to the Cape.
So this is what I did. With 6 days worth of food to get me to Kerikeri, my first resupply point, I stood at the roadside towards a sign which says „Cape Reinga 110km“ with my thumb out. No luck there so I decided to walk a little further along the highway. All in all it took me six hours and five rides to make it to the Cape just before dawn. An amazing light setting awaited me. The people who gave me a lift wished me good luck and off I was. I took some obligatory starting pictures and soon I found myself on the Cape Reinga Coastal walkway, which is part of the Route called Te Araroa.
The TA is in fact not a trail, it is far from finished, and I think in most parts it never will be a connective trail system which thruhikers know for example such as the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail in the US.
The coastal walkway took me down to the empty beach, Cape Maria von Diemen in the distance. Quite enthusiastic about being here after all, I did not investigate to look at my maps and made an wrong turn early. There was a clear Route marked with orange triangles pointing me to the left which made sense because one have to get around the Cape Maria von Diemen somehow. So I just took that one without looking If that’s the right way. I realized my mistake when I first saw the highway which I just came from per car. Map out, soon it was clear that I was on a loop trail which should connect to Twilight Beach later. So what I did was reconnecting the TA at Twilight Beach the next morning. I camped out on some farmland, pitching my tarp in the dark.

I decided to get up early because the loop trail added some extra km to my trip. The sand dunes before Twilight beach just looked amazing in the rising sun. Soon I found the entry to the beach and on the right way down south.
The fun started on so called 90 mile beach at the top of a staircase named Scotts Point. I underestimated the sun a bit and got quite sunburned soon. It did not take long and I found myself wearing my long sleeve and a silk sleeping bag liner around my legs. The water came from streams entering the Tasman Sea which was roaring constantly to my right side.
After 70 Kilometers walked I made a stop at Hukatere Lodge which is located just behind the Dunes on 90 Mile Beach. Gabi the owner was very kind and invited me for lunch and handed my a beer without asking for it. She recognized my sunburn and got me some Aloe Vera from the plant outside the lodge. This was exactly what I needed. Gabi asked me for some pictures of the lodge for her new website which I took for a free night. My first photo assignment in NZ.
I left Hukatere early, my plan was to walk the remaining 30k on the beach and make it deep into Herekino Forest. The first section of rainforest on my trip. I was happy to get off the beach in Ahipara, a small settlement at the end. I took off my shoes which where full of sand and emptied them . Some refreshment from the convenient store and off I was to the first section of paved road which took my to the Forest. On the way two cars where stopping and offering me a ride which of course I have not taken, because of my plan to thruhike. I did not like the roadwalking from the first minute but I tried to accept it as a part of the journey. Happy I was when I saw my first green and yellow DOC (Department of Conservation) sign saying „Herekino Forest“. I was so happy to be away from the road and ready to take the climb on the first hill. The forest was very dense, quiet, green and not so muddy at all. It has been dry I have heared. The Track was well defined and clearly marked. I just looked at my GPS occasionally to make sure I was right. Another wrong turn was not an option. I called it a day on the highest point of the forest where a small spot was cleared out  for camping. There was no water to be found. My first 50k day on the TA. Another to follow.
The next day I walked all the way out of Herekino Forest to the  second rain forest, Raetea. Between the Herekino and Raetea more road walking awaited me. First on gravel than pavement. The gravel road was used by logging trucks heavily. Those big trucks where going very fast with there load so every time a truck went past me all was covered in dust. I had my bandana handy to cover my mouth and nose and held my hands in front of my eyes to avoid getting hit by flying gravel. Think I do not have to mention that I was happy to get off that gravel road.
Raetea Forstest was kind of the same as Herekino, just markers where not so well along the route and water was not to be found. I entered farmland at the end of the forest where I called it a day again after another 50k of walking. I found water there and pitched my tarp in the dark again in a spot where I hoped the cows (or someone else) are not going to visit me during the night.
Another morning, another road walk,another 50k day. This was leading me to a nice section of river walking. The trail literally follows a river for hours, occasionally there was a trail up in the forest which sidled along the hillside on a very narrow thread. So walking in the river was much easier than taking the trail. Swimming holes along the route made it even more pleasant. So long I have not seen another hiker. Most people start way earlier than January. On that day I made it to a DOC campsite where I knew there was water and camping not a crime.
The next days went over farmland and more roads leading me into Pahia. At that point I crossed the Island from the west- to the east coast. After Pahia there was the first natural break in the continuum of the route. An Inlet which you can Kajak, hire a water taxi, or road walk. Some people do neither of those and hitchhike those natural breaks.
I took a car ferry for one dollar which brought me to the road where I started the walk around the inlet. A 30k stretch of paved road. This one was leading into another pleasant river walk and to a further stretch of road walking. On that day, having walked another 50k I decided to stop doing that. I kicked an empty beer can from the road into the ditch. I was dissapointed. This can not be it. This is not what I was looking for. I have seen enough private property signs, fences and letterboxes along the way. I stopped somewhere along the road and looked into the maps to figure out where I can bail out. I found an campground about 3km from the main road which I decided to take for the night. The owner asked me what I was doing and I told them about my plans and that I just decided to quit the hike here. However they gave me a couple of beers for free and offered me a ride into Waipu the next day. From Waipu it was easy to catch the Bus back to Auckland.
Soon I forgot about the Te Araroa North Island and instead of hitching around the the better parts, like the Tongariro Crossing or the Tararua Range I decided to go all the way by bus and straight forward to the South Island. I did never regret my decision. That gave me more time to see the other great things far away from the TA which this country has to offer. Later I found out that there are not many thruhikers on that route doing it the purists way. Almost everybody I talked to hitched, flipped, skipped, or whatever. Just one or two claimed to have walked it all. In my opinion the route on the north island is unacceptable.

Continue reading part II here



Preparing supplies for the first stretch to Kerikeri (km220)


The signpost at Cape Reinga

Signpost and lighthouse at Cape Reinga, the official start of the Te Araroa North Island

A look back

Down the coastal walkway

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Cape Maria von Diemen

A part of the wrong turn I took

Scott Point staircase, start of the 90 Mile Beach

90 Mile Beach

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Stranded whale on 90 Mile Beach

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Hiding from the sun on 90 Mile Beach

Getting away from the sun, hydrating and relaxing at Hukatere Lodge, 90 Mile Beach

Finally off the sand

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Into the jungle

Just one of many road walks

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This should be a trail, walking in the river was much easier and faster

Out of Kerikeri


Just before Pahia, after crossing the Island from west to east

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Cook Strait, double exposure from the ferry


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