A Tiny Taste of Te Araroa

Preparations for my forthcoming 2,660 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail continue in earnest. When time allows I stroll purposefully; when it doesn’t, I go about my day distracted by the relative merits of single wall tarp tents and preoccupied with the weight saving potential of cuben fibre backpacks. I think it would be safe to say that I am deeply immersed in the world of thru-hiking. In the midst of all this obsessive behaviour I have also become aware of a somewhat bizarre phenomena taking place in my life … It would seem that I have begun to manifest.

At this point I am keen to avoid getting bogged down in some New Age mumbo-jumbo, however I do feel the need to at least allude to the Law of Attraction … yes, yes I can hear the collective groan, but try to stick with me for just a moment longer. The basic hypothesis (for anyone who may have spent the last few years living in a cave) is that we attract into our lives that which we focus most intently upon. Whatever we give our full attention to shows up in our reality and experiences with alarming regularity, or so the theory goes. Having been pretty fixated on six-figure bank accounts and first class air travel for most of my adult life, I am understandably sceptical … both have been conspicuous by their absence. However, with thru-hiking I seem to be having far greater success. By either a freaky act of fate, a curious coincidence or a genuine case of manifestation, I currently find myself living less than 100 yards from New Zealand’s one and only long-distance trail … Te Araroa – The Long Pathway!

Cape Reinga
Cape Reinga – The Northern terminus of New Zealand’s stunning Te Araroa long-distance trail

Te Araroa (pronounced tay-ara-roa), or simply TA as it is more colloquially known, is the new kid on the block when it comes to long distance thru-hikes (or tramps as they are called in New Zealand). The trail covers 1,864 miles and connects Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island with Bluff, the most southerly point on the South Island. Not only does The Long Pathway showcase the very best of New Zealand’s stunning landscapes, it also embodies the country’s unique history and culture. Although not as long as America’s Triple Crown trails, Te Araroa is arguably more demanding and considered by many to be the Jewel in the Crown of long-distance hiking. Officially completed in December 2011, TA was the brainchild of Kiwi journalist, adventurer and all-round good egg, Geoff Chapple. The inaugural section of trail, from Kerikeri to Waitangi in the Northland, was opened in February 1995 and it is this very small chunk of The Long Pathway that I currently get to call my backyard.

A plaque commemorates the humble beginnings of the Te Araroa
A simple stone commemorates the humble beginnings of the Te Araroa

Not only have I managed to manifest a trail but I have seemingly brought a whole bunch of thru-hikers into being as well. Everyday, from my bedroom window, I see them traipsing along the waterfront. Around 150 miles from the starting point of the trail, hikers reach the small township of Paihia – my home and the perfect place to take a zero, chill out on a sailboat and maybe even swim with the dolphins. There are a couple of fantastic hiker friendly backpacker hostels in town that offer free laundry, free Internet and a great big dose of genuine Kiwi hospitality. Although the concept of “Trail Magic” has yet to be fully grasped down here in the far reaches of the planet, New Zealanders are by their very nature adventurous, outdoorsy types who seem keen to embrace and welcome the audacious spirit that is personified by thru-hikers. As Te Araroa gains in popularity, I feel certain that “Trail Angels” will begin to appear in biblical numbers. In the meantime, for me at least, the trail is providing its own, very special, brand of magic.

The Long Pathway - My back yard and where the magic happens!
The Long Pathway – My back yard and where the magic happens

As often as possible, I scamper out into the Waitangi Forest, in hope of crossing paths with a southbound hiker. I am seldom disappointed. On a good day I happen upon ten or more, on a bad day at least a couple. With the enthusiasm of an over eager Spaniel, I pounce upon my newfound playmates, bombarding them with TimTams and a zillion questions about million things. I find myself becoming absurdly animated at the sight of a ZPacks backpack, a Chrome Dome umbrella or a pair of Altra Lone Pine trail shoes. Yesterday I spotted my first Mariposa, a pair of 2.5s AND a young lady with a pee-rag … It would appear that my power of manifestation knows no bounds!

Being in the midst of these fellow hikers and alongside the other freaky-folk who actually have some understanding of my crazy obsession fills me with great joy and a peculiar sense of relief. Out on the trail I feel less like a complete crack-pot and more, well, conventional I guess. In fact, the whole situation is somewhat reminiscent of my first AA meeting … that immediate sense of belonging, the understanding, familiarity and genuine feeling of fellowship that only seems to exist as a consequence of shared tough experiences. If this tiny slice of Te Araroa is a taste of things to come for me on the Pacific Crest Trail, then I am confident that I will feel very much at home among the North American Hiker Trash.

The TA offers stunning views across the beautiful Bay of Islands
The TA offers stunning views across the beautiful Bay of Islands

Te Araroa Takeaways

Te Araroa Trust – A great starting point for more information, maps and route planning resources.

Seabeds Backpackers and Cap’n Bob’s Beach House – Hiker friendly accommodation right on the trail. Enjoy some genuine Kiwi hospitality, free laundry and free internet. Closest accommodation to supermarket for re-supply. These guys are happy to help with water taxi bookings to Waikare Landing, buses to Cape Reigna and mail drops and bounce boxes.

Carino Sailing & Dolphin Adventures – Paihia is a great place to take a zero. Spend the day sailing around the beautiful Bay of Islands and maybe even take a dip with the dolphins. This long established and fantastically well-run local family business offers TA thru-hikers a free lunch on board.

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