Why I Didn’t Quit the Te Araroa
Though I’ve ranted about the things wrong with the Te Araroa, the trail has some truly amazing assets as well.
In my last blog, I listed all the things about the Te Araroa that frustrated me. It really is a new trail that has some growing pains. Though I was tempted to quit my thru-hike, I persevered and stuck with it. When I began my hike, I had high expectations and it was easy to compare the trail to the Appalachian Trail. However, as I’ve hiked, my perceptions have changed. I had to accept the fact that the TA is a trail unlike the American trails and stands out in its own way. So here are the reasons I’ve stayed on trail.
1. Kiwi Hospitality
One of the things that frustrated me most about the North Island was the lack of places to camp or obtain clean water. The trail has some growing pains but the New Zealand people (Kiwis) are some of the kindest and most generous. Many times Kiwis offered me a place to stay, or to pitch my tent on their lawn. If you go up to a farmer’s house in the middle of nowhere, they’re likely to offer you water or more. There is even a dedicated trail angels Facebook group to help find accommodation, rides, or mail drops. Though the trail doesn’t always provide what hikers need, the Kiwis step up and the resources are there if you ask.
While the TA is notorious for its road walking, the rest of the trail tries to make up for it. The TA starts off with a bang on Ninety Mile Beach with four days of beach walk. Then, just as I was getting sick of roads and farms, the TA starts crossing tidal estuaries and I was either wading in waist-deep water or kayaking! Yes, part of the trail is on water! Better yet, there is a canoe section where I dodged rapids and floated down the Whanganui River for four days. The TA passes right through New Zealand’s biggest cities of Auckland and Wellington, past free museums, through cemeteries, etc. And then, of course, the wilderness has rivers, mountains, deserts, rainforests, beaches, volcanoes, and lakes!
Unlike the American trails where so many hikers are seasoned and ultralight or always talking gear and base weight, the TA seems to be hikers from all walks. Most trampers are from overseas and I’m always learning about other countries and cultures, in addition to New Zealand’s. I’ve found that this is the first thru-hike for most. Many walkers are doing sections, just one island, only a few days, etc. Some hitch the roads, others do work-for-stay along the route. There are few purists and everyone accepts one another without that passive judgment feeling that can sometimes be felt on other trail.
4. The South Island
By far, the best part of New Zealand is the South Island! The trail starts right off through the Marlborough Sounds before following the most beautiful river and then ascending into the mountains. Every view is stunning! I’ve still got a long way to go but the South Island has made up for all the frustrations on the North Island!
With one island down and one to go, I’m excited for the rest of my journey on the Te Araroa. If you’d like to follow along, check out my blog with daily journal entries and photos and videos!
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