Te Araroa, New Zealand – Oct-Mar, 2018—19

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.
– Mark Twain

I’ll begin walking New Zealand end-to-end this coming November.

Day 81, Top Wairoa Hut to Red Hills Hut, 29 km
I awake with a jolt from nightmares. I’d gone home trying to explain what I’m doing and then had one…Read
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Day 80, Rintoul Hut to Top Wairoa Hut, 22 km
I grab two bars, pack Olive Oyl and head up Purple Top before sunrise. A family of goats meets me…Read
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Day 79, Slaty Hut to Rintoul Hut, 13 km
The hut rattles and shakes in the wind, but when I step outside for the loo, it’s not cold. I…Read
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Day 78, Hacket Track trailhead to Slay Hut, 18 km
Maggie brings me outside when I wake up to show me my good luck charm – a rainbow. Cary joins…Read
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Day 77, sidetrip, Abel Tasman National Park
Today is my second side trip, to beautiful Abel Tasman park. Steve makes a plan and we head out with…Read
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Day 76, zero day, Nelson
“It’s hard to be more perfect than right now,” says Steve as we sit on his beautiful deck overlooking a…Read
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Day 75, Captain Creek Hut to Hacket Track car park, 29 km
I sleep well outside. It’s cooler and the stars come out, diamonds displayed on black velvet. There’s no relief from…Read
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Day 74, Kaiuma Bay Road to Captain Creek Hut, 32 km
Tui and Sam’s loud morning stretch greet the day, overcast, just how I like it. It’s a different world down…Read
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Day 73, Onahua Lookout to Kaiuma Bay Road – 44 km
A couple of kids do arrive last night, just as the sun goes down behind a mountain. They bring good…Read
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Day 72, Camp Madsen to Onahau lookout, 37 km
Q: Why did the weka shriek before the sun came up? A: Because he can. To be fair there were…Read
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Day 71, Ship Cove to Madsen Camp, 17 km
I needed to get up before 5 am to catch the ferry, but what a treat for Raf to take…Read
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Day 70, ‘slackpack’ Wellington, 15 km
Things begin a bit lazy on another unusually sunny, warm day in Wellington with waffles and delicious yogurt, golden kiwis…Read
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Day 69, Wellington
I’m now dreaming constantly of walking, this time pushing through scree, trapped and not getting very far. I’m either a…Read
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Day 68, Camp Elsdon to Wellington, 29 km
I get up early to catch the cool air. It’s steep stairs up and up through bush finally into open…Read
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Day 67, Paekakariki to Camp Elsdon, 28 km
I dreamed last night that I was walking, but would wake up and see the stained glass window in my…Read
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Day 66, zero day
I suppose it’s a bit odd to snag a zero day when I’m just two days from finishing the North…Read
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audio narrative: weather window
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Day 64-65, Side trip! Mt. Taranaki
I hate to become repetitive, but this morning began with rain on the alicoop. I think I’m going to need…Read
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Day 63, Waikanae to Paikakariki, 21 km
The morning opens with rain and wind. Floris and Marjelain leave early, but I am beat. Brent makes me tea…Read
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audio narrative: thru-canoer
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Day 62, Waitewaewae Hut to Waikanae, 34 km
I wake up early, pack and eat tuna for breakfast to avoid any more of that weird heartbeat issue. The…Read
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Day 61, Dracophyllum Hut to Waitewaewae Hut, 13 km
Just after 5, and the nervous Germans are up packing. I like getting up early and hearing a few wind…Read
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Day 60, Makahika Outdoor Pursuits to Dracophyllum Hut, 25 km
When you go up in the Tauraruas, you want a forecast with no wind. The fact that it’s pouring rain…Read
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Day 59, Kahuterawa to Makahika Outdoor Pursuits, 40 km
Robb starts the trail with me for just a few feet before pealing off. Our drive into where I left…Read
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Day 58, ‘slackpack’ Palmerston North to Kahuterawa Park, 21 km
It rained last night and is still raining all morning. I have tea and toast with Robb and Tara hands…Read
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Day 57, Mount Lees Reserve to Palmerston North, 31 km
Well it was bound to happen – I wake up in pouring rain. I pack up anyway and figure, it…Read
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Day 56, Koitiata to Mount Lees Reserve, 37 km
A full moon looked in on my sleep, then a glorious sunrise. I’m back on black sand as my trail…Read
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Day 55, Whanganui to Koitiata, 33 km
An absolutely beautiful rest in a beautiful room awakened by the smell of toast, eggs, bacon – a full English…Read
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Day 54, Hipango Park to Whanganui, (30 km) + 7 km
I wake up to a five-note song, a slight variation on Gershwin’s first prelude. I answer with the second line,…Read
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audio narrative: best birthday present ever
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Day 53, Flying Fox to Hipango Park, (34 km)
The moon comes out accompanied by wild night sounds and a few stray splats of raindrops shaking off the trees.…Read
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Day 52, Tieke Kainga to Flying Fox, (52 km)
You know it’s a thru-hike – or at this point a thru-paddle – when you wake up in the middle…Read
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Day 51, John Coull to Tieke Kainga, (32 km)
Our tents are damp in this foggy morning, set on a staircase of carved terraces, Inca-style. Yesterday, Andrew and I…Read
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Day 50, Whakahoro to John Coull, (38 km)
Waking up was with complaining sheep and the thwap-thwap of techno pop meaning only one thing – sheep sheering. It’s…Read
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Day 49, Katieke War Memorial to Whakahora – 24 km
The day opens with low hanging mist. I have to put on rain gear to pack the tent, studying the…Read
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Day 48, National Park to Katieke War Monument – 27 km
I’m having trouble sleeping as my birthday winds down. So many gifts of good weather, astonishing scenery, strong legs and…Read
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Day 47, Mangatepopo track to National Park – 30 km
I often wondered where I’d end up on December 14th while walking the TA. So happy to wake up in…Read
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Day 46, Te Porere Redoubt to Mangatepopo track – 27 km
I’m up and packing at 3 am. Friends, there are stars out. Glory Hallelujah. Fingers crossed we make the crossing…Read
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Day 45, Whakapapa River to Te Porere Redoubt – 35 km
Gray and ominous this morning; foggy, but no rain. Obviously I’d like ideal weather for the crossing – and my…Read
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Day 44, Taumaruni to Whakapapa River – 25 km
To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. – Søren Kierkegaard The day starts…Read
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audio narrative: into each life…
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Day 43, Ongarue to Taumarunui – 27 km
Up early just as the sun is coming up, my favorite time of day. I’m happy to have found a…Read
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Day 42, Timber Trail to Ongarue campsite – 26 km
Good decision to sleep in the tent, so cozy and much less dew this morning. Tuis call each other over…Read
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Day 41, Timber Trail – 33 km
All my gear is neatly laid out as I wait for the sun to peak out over the trees. He’s…Read
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Day 40, Ngaherenga campsite to Timber Trail – 27 km
I wake up to an absolute cacophony of bird song, the wildest yet. We’re at about 500 meters and it…Read
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Day 39, Mangaokewa Road to Ngaherenga campsite – 33 km
More rain, but finally the sun is up and the sky is pink. I am starting to doubt my capacity…Read
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Day 38, Mangaokewa Reserve to Mangaokewa Road – 17 km
What an extraordinary place to wake up to. I have a virgin forest, thick and impenetrable, across the river. Rapids…Read
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Day 37, Waitomo to Mangaokewa Reserve – 31 km
It rains at night, a constant, loud volley of water bullets on the alicoop. I’m dry and snug as the…Read
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audio narrative: a ‘walking holiday’
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Day 36, ‘zero day’ Waitomo
I think I felt so good yesterday because it was the first time I started to really feel my rhythm…Read
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Day 35, Kaimango Road to Waitomo – 29 km
The weather forecast is for more rain – and thunderstorms – but not until later today. The mist is down…Read
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Day 34, Pahautea hut to Kaimango Road – 18 km
Rain and mist all night, but snuggled warm in a bunk at the hut. Sadly, no view from this spectacular…Read
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Day 33, Whatawhata to Pahautea hut – 33 km
What a fantastic place to sleep, dead quiet until about 4 when the trucks revved up again, but a safe,…Read
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audio narrative: gratitude
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Day 32, Hamilton to Whatawhata – 10 km
The cows have moved this morning and are grazing literally in Irene and Bindie’s backyard. I strip down and take…Read
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Day 31, Hakamarita to Hamilton – 28 km
I got a note from a follower named Tom who says, “You and your hiking odysseys personify today’s word.” The…Read
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Day 30, Rangiriri to below Hakamarita summit – 29 km
Rained all night. Maybe it got it out of its system. I slept well behind Cathy’s pie shop even though…Read
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Day 29, Mercer to Rangariri – 27 km
About to set off. The sun is out but I’m nervous getting back on the trail. Bought way too much…Read
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Day 28, ‘slackpack’ Mangere Bridge to Totara Park – 36 km
It’s raining. A lot. And expected all day – with lightning on the side. But I have good rain gear…Read
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Day 27, ‘slackpack’ Auckland – 18 km
I’m up and out before the house stirs in full rain gear. Just drizzle – and not cold – but…Read
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Day 26, ‘slackpack’* Auckland – 9 km
*slackpacking is section backpacking while sleeping in the same place each night I’m a tourist today, loosely walking the trail…Read
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Day 25, zero day, Auckland
I am laying in a bed letting the body recover until all hours of the morning, make that the afternoon.…Read
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Day 24, Stillwater to Auckland, 33 km + 4 km
A lazy morning awaiting the tide to get to its lowest at 12:36 so we can cross the Okura River.…Read
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Day 23, Wenderholm to Stillwater, 30 km
Cold, damp, sandflies – oh my! It rained through the night and I was warm nestled in the alicoop, but…Read
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audio narrative: the trail will provide
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Day 22, Puhoi to Wenderholm – 7 km + 1 km
The barkeep Sean has just asked if I met the ghost in room 7, he carries his head in his…Read
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Day 21, Dome forest to Puhoi – 34 km
I’m up and out early. Exotic birds becoming friends wake me, but I slept fitfully. It would be a big…Read
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Day 20 – Pakiri beach to Dome Forest – 26 km
A sunrise over the South Pacific. Not a bad way to wake up. Though I faff about in the warmth…Read
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Day 19, Dragon’s Spell to beach near Pakiri – 39 km
A grand sleep with my kiwi hoot-whistling softly and waves rumbling far below. I dream about a person who hasn’t…Read
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Day 18, Ruakaka to Dragon’s Spell – 26 km
Note to self: no more setting up on a slope. It was relatively wonderful at Betty’s but I couldn’t find…Read
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Day 17, Peach Cove to Ruakaka – 17 km + 11 km
I am a total dope. I followed a beach sign down to a rocky shore. But there is another beach…Read
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Day 16, Taiharuru River to Peach Cove – 25 km
The tree house faces east looking out over the estuary, pink streaks reflected in the receding water that I’ll walk…Read
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audio narrative: hiking as conversation
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Day 15, Nikau Bay to Taiharuru Estuary – 13 km
It’s been two weeks. I’ve gotten conjunctivitis and a minor sprain. Here’s hoping – hobbling? – the new week is…Read
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Day 14, Whananaki to Nikau Bay Camp – 28 km + 2 km
Quiet and cool this morning by the estuary. The wind died and the party heated up until the wee hours.…Read
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Day 13, Helena Bay to Whananaki – 25 km
Walking straight uphill this early morning onto a flower-covered hillside above the ocean. I can hear the waves crashing below.…Read
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Day 12, Waikare to Helena Bay – 28 km
I get an early start. It’s overcast just as I like it. Someone else is up with a weed wacker.…Read
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Day 11, Paihia to Waikare – 13 km + 3 km
The day dawned damp and a bit chilly. Our tent city at the Pickled Parrot spreading out on the couches…Read
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Day 10, Kerikeri to Paihai – 24 km
Another lovely night’s rest and now Vern drives me on the windy rollercoaster of a road back to Stone House…Read
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audio narrative: the start
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Day 9 – zero day, Kaeo
I’ve been invited to stay the night at one of the most extraordinary homes I’ve ever been to, in the…Read
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Day 8, Puketi Forest to Kerikeri – 27 km
The morning came full of birdsong. The first few nights – especially going this hard – are tough. My legs…Read
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Day 7, Apple Dam to Puketi Forest camp – 36 km
Well this <expletive> sucks. It’s been pouring rain for the last few hours. Nothing is nastier than packing in rain.…Read
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Day 6, Umaumokaroo to Apple Dam – 26 km
Just putting my things up to face a few more hours of mud til a road walk and – you…Read
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Day 5, Takahue Saddle Road to below Umaumakaroo – 16 km
What a delight to spend the evening at Peter’s overlooking Ahipara Bay. Wine under the olive trees, alicoop drying in…Read
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Day 4, Utea Park to Ahipara, 32 km
Definitely a better night at Utea Park and I do feel a bit sheepish that I was so maudlin last…Read
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audio narrative: suddenly D-day
“Make one friend to last the rest of your life.”
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Day 3, Maunganui Bluff to Utea Park – 30 km
The alicoop crashed in the middle of the night. First came torrential rain, then the wind. Then rain and wind.…Read
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Day 2, Twilight to Maunganui Bluff – 28 km
I woke up early. Really early. To be expected after not feeling any effects of jet lag on yesterday’s mission.…Read
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Day 1, Cape Reinga to Twilight – 12 km
It’s pitch dark, the waves are crashing and the other six at Twilight are asleep, nestled in their tents. This…Read
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audio narrative: and away she goes!
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin. – Tony Robbins I’m leaving Saint Paul for Kerikeri, New Zealand…Read
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video: ready or not…
click for downloadable gear list for the Te Araroa – plus weights!
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audio narrative: no outcomes backpacking
If you arrive at a final destination, it’s a sign that you’ve set your sights too low. – Friedrich Nietzsche…Read
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walking hand-in-hand with Beethoven
How happy I am to be able to wander among bushes and herbs, under trees and over rocks; no one…Read
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audio narrative: Does orange make my butt look fat?
It's said that people fear public speaking - and looking ridiculous - more than death.
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Hammock Gear Burrow quilt review
I am afraid of heights. At least according to Ohio-based Hammock Gear, who – despite the name and mission –…Read
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video: alison’s big adventure
On Saturday, October 27th, I will begin a journey… Thank you Eduardo at TLG Photo and Video for making the…Read
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Soto Amicus review
Amicus means friend in Latin, and I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Soto Amicus…Read
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gear list for the Te Araroa
Backpacking: An extended form of hiking in which people carry double the amount of gear they need for half the…Read
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audio narrative: who is this “blissful hiker” you speak of?
MPR host swept into the inevitability of a five-month hike in New Zealand. I’m a classical music DJ and long-distance…Read
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ten reasons to add hot yoga to your thru-hike prep
The very heart of yoga practice is ‘abyhasa’ – steady effort in the direction you want to go. – Sally…Read
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training is life; life, training
Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. –…Read
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video: Thru-hike prep with visual aids
Tenting tonight on the old camp ground. – Micki Simms
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The little light that could
Many years ago, my mom, who was a Forensics coach, took me with her to the All-State Finals to cheer…Read
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Balega socks review
If you want to hike with the ease, agility and the fleet-footedness of a seasoned ultra trail runner, and keep…Read
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Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-tec review
The Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec is a foldable bomb-proof aluminum trekking pole with an awesome cork handled grip and outstanding adjustability.…Read
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Tarptent Notch Li partial solid w/silnylon floor review
The Tarptent Notch Li is a fantastic ultra light shelter for the solo thru-hiker looking for simplicity and durability, while…Read
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La Sportiva Akyra Trail Runners review
What do you get when you cross the speed, flexibility, the ability to stop on a dime and the wicking…Read
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Granite Gear Crown2 60 backpack review
The Granite Gear Crown2 60 is a superbly designed ultra light backpack ideal for multi-day backpacking and long distance thru-hiking.…Read
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Te Araroa, New Zealand – Oct-Mar, 2018—19
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you…Read
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Today, my boss gave me the green light to take a personal leave of five months to take care of a little something that has been on my mind for the past several years: to walk one of the biggies.

While it would seem to make more sense to start with something close to home like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest, my chunk of time away will be in the winter, and it’s only logical to track down summer – and prime backpacking season – where it happens during our cold months, on the other side of the earth.

I must have been playing a long song on Classical MPR when I stumbled upon this long trail. I was surfing the web looking up top hikes of the world and this newish hike – or tramp, as the Kiwis call it – popped up, piquing my curiosity.

Te Araroa means “the long pathway” in Maori. Completed in 2011, it’s a 3000 kilometer trail extending from Cape Reinga in the North to Bluff in the south. It traverses the entire country; beaches, forests, mountains, volcanoes and cities and should likely take all the time I have planned to finish it.


Part of the Te Araroa is by boat.

Thus far the furthest I’ve walked all at one time was the GR5, 450 miles over the spine of the Alps. While taking on that challenge I wondered if I was made of the right stuff to sustain a thru-hike of not just weeks, but months. Aside from the logistical nightmare and the risk that I might not be missed at my place of employment, I hadn’t the faintest idea if I possessed the grit, the fortitude and determination, and the sheer pig-headedness to stick with a walk of 1,864 miles.

Over the ensuing years, I decided there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to go and do it. Keeping in mind the fact that I’m not getting any younger and my arthritic toes are continuing to protest, I made the decision to request a leave of absence, and put myself directly on the path of enormous change. Sure, it will be a change in scenery and routine, but also in how my life looks and feels because I am going alone. Don’t worry. Richard will be following my every step through the magic of GPS tracking – and I’ll stay connected by blog. I certainly hope you’ll follow me. I might need emotional support along the way.

So right now I’m absolutely tingling with excitement for this rare opportunity even as I make lists of all that has to get done, including applying for a visitors visa on an extremely thorough application which requires proof I not only have the financial means to return home, but plan to do so!

Reader Comments

  1. How exciting! I have a friend, a world class marathoner who is native NZ. I expect she would be willing to give you any advice, etc. you might need. Let me know if you would like me to introduce you to her.

    Also, is the Camino de Santiago on your bucket list? Or have you already done it? I’m seriously considering finding 5 weeks to do it.

    1. You should do it! At the moment, I am focused on backpacking, but one day I will walk it too.

      And yes, I would very much like to meet your NZ friend! I am in the thick of planning now. all best and happy trails, alison

      1. Hello Alison, my name is Susie Woolley and my family grew up with the Rasch’s and Ann told my mother Laverne Dawson about you travelling to New Zealand. I was supposed to contact you much earlier than now, so apologies for leaving it so long. I have lived in NZ since 1989 and we live in Auckland. If we can help with transport, accommodation, etc… please let us know. We would love to meet you and assist in any way. I have only skimmed over your blog at the moment, but will take more time when off work tonight. You have done a lot of walking to some amazing places! Hope to hear from you soon. Best Regards, Susie.

        1. Hello Susie! And thanks so much for your lovely note! Ann and Hans were here just this past weekend. It was cold but all the leaves are in their brilliant fall colors now. I hope to arrive in Auckland by Nov 20? We’ll see how I manage 🙂 My email is alison@blissfulhiker.com See you and your beautiful country very soon!!

          1. YES! I feel SO lucky to have friends of family and friends of friends looking out for me to ensure I stay “blissful!”

  2. Holy crow… you leave on Saturday. Your last radio program for 5 months is tomorrow… We (the faithful listeners in “vacuumland”*** as one veteran CBC announcer used to refer to the radio audience) will miss you, but we’ll be with you in spirit, along with whatever musical companions you’re able to take on your iPhone. (The first three verses of “Ging heut’ Morgen übers Feld…” from Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer come to mind.)

    Wishing you all the best from just north of the 49th for an exhilharating and safe “journey of a lifetime” 🙂

    (*** no doubt a reference to the vacuum tubes in the transmitter)

    1. Sang this one – well more whistled – nearly all of the Alps traverse! Thanks for the good wishes! I’ll still be “on air” with SymphonyCast we recorded ahead of time! And you’ll hear lots of Lynn. Even my mom confuses us on air. must be the snarkiness – hahaha.

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