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 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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