TA Day 115 – I just hiked the Te Araroa Trail

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15th February

66.9km (42 miles)

Riverton 2929.7km to Bluff (end of the trail) 2996.6km (1862 miles)

It was cold when my 3am alarm sounded. The Milky way galaxy was a bright streak in the otherwise dark sky. Some familiar constellations like Scorpio were my guiding lights as I hiked out of the town of Riverton onto the long dark beach walk. I needed to start early for two reasons. The beach walk was affected by the tide, if I hiked at high tide I would be walking on the soft dry sand rather than the hard compacted sand. And, I needed enough time to ensure I could hike 67km (42 miles) in a day. I’ve never hiked that far before so I needed as much time as possible.

The darkness bought all the other senses alive. The sounds made the crash of the ocean waves seem dangerously loud. Despite being far enough away from the water I constantly felt like a huge wave was about to wash over me at any time. My headlight was not very bright, only lighting the way directly ahead of me.

I had several wonderful hours of hiking on the beach in darkness till the morning arrived. It took over an hour for the darkness to give way to the morning sun and in the distance I could see my goal of the Bluff, the end of the trail. After 24km (15miles) of beach walking I left the beach to hike on a bike path to the small village of Otatara. It was just before 10am when I walked into the grocery store. I bought a fresh warm bread roll, ham, cheese, humus and 1.5 litres of chocolate milk across the road to enjoy my lunch. Hopefully this would be enough calories to carry my body to the end of the trail.

10am photo below

The trail continued on a bike path past the Invercargill Airport, past the outskirts of Invercargill City and eventually off the trail and onto the busy road that led to Bluff. After 50km of hiking I was facing an problem. Since leaving the town of Otatara there was nowhere to fill up my water bottle and I had almost no water left. The trail was no longer in existence I was forced to follow the busy main road. Trucks, tourists and locals sped down the road that had no safe shoulder to walk on. There were few places to rest. I stopped on a side road to drink the last of my water. With 20km to go and no water source anywhere I would be forced to start knocking on farmers doors for water very soon. The local school bus pulled up and asked if I wanted a lift. Rather than a lift to the end of the trail I was able to fill my 1 lire water. I was so thirsty I drank almost a litre before commencing my hike. As I drank I could feel the energy fill my legs.

Below was a good section of roadwalking

With 10km to the end of the trail a strong wind built up. The gusts would blow me into the oncoming traffic. To compensate for the strong winds I would hike as far as possible onto the grassy verge on the side of the road. It was not comfortable hiking but it was the best I could do. Then the rain came and the temperatures dropped. With the finish line so close I sucked it up and kept on hiking in the terrible conditions. With each passing truck came a blast of cold wet spray. With each gust of wind I was mindful not to get pushed onto oncoming traffic. The harsh reality of long distance hiking is that not everyday or every footstep is filled with amazing scenery or amazing experiences. Sometimes I need to just keep on moving.

I reached the outskirts of the town of Bluff around 5 pm. With 60km (37 miles) of hiking completed the rain stopped and the shoulder was wide enough to make me feel safe. The town of Bluff has been referred to as a drinking town with a fishing problem. Industrial fishing warehouses filled the outskirts as I made my way into town. With 2km till the end of the trail I walked into the hostel to book a bed for the night. I was met by five other TA hikers, four of which I’d met before. I dropped my backpack in my room and set off towards the end of the trail. My energy levels were surprisingly high. It was still cool, despite the rain passing. Wearing my rain jacket and carrying only my phone I set off. I decided to be all ‘Forrest Gump’ and run the last 2km. I haven’t done any running for over 5 years. But my body was fit, strong and eager to get to the end of the trail.

The end of the Te Araroa trail is at the end of a road, a place called Sterling Point. A small yellow signpost points to distant places around New Zealand and the Globe with their distance written on it. I was alone at the end of the trail. I started to cry as I touched the sign that marks the end of the trail. All the physical and emotional energy I gave to this trail started to release itself. I was done physically, mentally and emotionally. My mind and body were still strong but I was ready for a break. For 10 minutes I sat alone at the end of the trail. Contemplating what I had just achieved. The end of a trail bought me a huge sense of achievement. More people have climbed Mt Everest than have hiked all of this trail. I felt very grateful to be able to have the physical and mental strength to take on a trail like this. I was grateful for all the support I achieved. And I remembered all the people I met along the way, both the hikers, friends and random strangers.

This is now the fourth long distance thru hike that I have completed. All the previous trails have taught me lessons, both life lesson and lessons about the outdoors and hiking. The sometimes tough weather and mountain conditions of New Zealand taught me that I am stronger than I ever could have imagined and it taught me that I am good at decision making. It taught me that my body can be pushed further and harder than I could have ever imagined. And most of all it taught me that the world really is a good place filled with good people. I am blessed to live this life.

I sat alone when a car pulled up. The two occupants got out and took the obligatory photo. Despite my rugged look they gave me a lift back to the my hostel. In celebration of our hike we ate at the local Chinese Takeaway and drank beer until the early hours of the morning.

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Life is simple on a thru hike. Wake, eat, hike, sleep, repeat. It gave me time to contemplate what is next. Where will this journey of life take me next. I feel a calling to finish that book I started, finish the project I started to assist other hikers gain the knowledge and confidence to take on a trail like this. It is time to take a short break and return home to visit friends and family.

But I cannot rest. I have dreamed up even bigger plans for the future. The plans seem so big, so impossible that I feel I will be pushed way beyond my comfort zone. Stay tuned.

All the tips you need to hike the Te Araroa Trail : 
Complete Guide to the Te Araroa Trail
Te Araroa Trail Resupply Guide
Te Araroa Trail Gear List
Te Araroa Trail Gear Review

The Best Thru Hiking Trails in the World?
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the Appalchian Trail
Hiking the Continental Divide Trail
Te Araroa Trail

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  1. Just finish reading the blog !
    I smiled when I realised you were able to walk the last 67km in one day !!!

    Good job. Was fun to read you. Made me feel like I was walking the trail

  2. Great accomplishment!(s)

    I really enjoyed following along in your footsteps, I am currently hiking the Colorado Trail but have bigger ambitions in the near future. The current Covid world we are living in especially in the U.S. has put a damper on travel (my travel specifically). I am hoping to start the Israel National Trail (INT) this Feb. and also have my sites set on this trail, safe travels to you and keep on living the dream!

  3. Congratulations! Once again you’ve managed to walk quicker than I can read! Amazing what you have done and experienced. Well done

    1. Cheers, thanks for the kind words. I’ll be taking a break for a while and living in Sydney. My body needs a rest.

  4. Congratulations! I do look forward to some “tips and tricks”-pages from you in the near future, especially since we are two middle aged friends who are finally (after three years of, mostly mental, planning) embarking on this journey in early/middle of October! It has been nice following your walk here and on Instagram – not too long but still on the point. All the best!

    I have enjoyed following along. What an amazing accomplishment and exciting finale. I’ve said it to you before and I’ll say it again, well done!

    Congratulations Brad, have rest now mate!

    Kindest wishes, Moonshadow.

  6. Congratulation! I do look forward to your pages with tips and tricks for future hikers since I am to tackle the TA starting this coming October. I cannot wait. We will be two “middle aged” friends finally embarking on this adventure (that has been three years in the, mental, planning)! I have enjoyed reading your blog (and Instragram) – short but informative, never tedious or too long. All the best for the future!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I’ll be writing some informative stuff about the trail real soon. Stay tuned.

  7. Thanks so much for taking us on your journey! Your a legend. What was your best shoe decision and what size above your normal runner do you go?? Take care Azza PCT 2020…

    1. Not a legend, just an ordinary dude trying to live an extraordinary life. When I hiked the PCT I bought shoes one size bigger than normal and got heaps of blisters (Merrel Moab) but I liked the shoes. On the CDT I went another 1/2 size bigger again and got only 1-2 blisters early on (Vasque Inhaler Low). On the AT I had no blisters using Vasque Breeze 3, loved those shoes.
      On the TA I used 3 pair of shoes from Altra, the Lone Peak, Timp and Olympus. The best was Lone Peak 4.0 by a long way from Olympus which was nice and comfortable and the Timp which was utter crap. A full review coming the in the next month or so stay tuned. So after several years of hiking I use shoes 1 1/2 sizes bigger than my normal shoe size. Having said that, my feet have grown, if that is even possible. Good luck on the PCT, it is still my favourite trail, I will hike it again one day.

      1. I noticed you occasionally mentioned orthopedic inserts. When did you get them, did you get them after going to a doctor, have they been helpful on the thru hikes?

        Sorry for all the questions. Have just recently become obsessed in hiking after moving to Georgia nearish the AT. I have been trying out shoes. First Vasque breeze 3 gtx hiking boot, and then later the Altra lone peak 4. Bought both before reading your blogs as they fit the best at rei. The boot is definitely heavier and more sturdy especially for the ankle support. I fly in the Altra but feel the road especially on the heel when I am on a gravel surface . I like both of them. May use them situationally .Just wondering on your thoughts.

        I am planning an at thru hike sometime in the next 10 years. Currently finishing out my other passions and working.

        Thanks in advance.

        Just finished reading your pct hike after reading your at hike. I definitely noticed your difference in hiking styles over that time period.

      2. Good luck with all the upcoming hiking. You are correct, I have slowly changed my hiking style over time. I guess most people do the same thing, constantly improving.
        As for the feet and the insert: I went to a Podiatrist, they specialise in all things feet. I have flat feet with no arch, as a result my ankles and knees have a tendency to roll inwards causing extra stress. While this is not an issue in most situations, months of long distance hiking would almost certainly cause ankle or knee issues. The orthotic inserts help fix this problem. They are expense but last a very long time. For example I have used the same orthotic insert for about 5000 plus miles. I just slip it under the innersole of the shoes when I buy them. Best talk with a Podiatrist and see what they have to say. Expect to pay around $1000 but expect theme to last many years, even with lots of hiking.
        As for the shoes/boots. I loved my Vasque Breeze 3, I used the show version as my ankles are strong, partly because of the orthotic inserts. I recently Started using the Lone Peak 4 on the 2000 mile long Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand. I loved them. I also used the Altra Timp and Olympus to see the difference. Maybe you might like the Olympus. It is similar to the Lone Peak but with about 1/4 inch more padding which should get rid of any feeling or rocks etc when hiking. Having tried all three of the ALtra models I prefer the Lone Peak, closely followed by the Olympus. Good luck with the hikes.

    1. Thank you for the beer tokens. I’ll be off to buy couple of cold ones very soon. Thanks Faceplant.

  8. Congratulations Brad! Thank you for sharing another awesome adventure. Beautiful photos and great writing as ever

    1. Hi Effie, glad you enjoyed tagging along with me on this hike. Many more to come after I take a well earned break to concentrate on writing for a while.

  9. Congratulations, I’ve been following your adventures since near the beginning of the PCT. I probably passed you on the highway when you were bicycling in Belize. Good Luck with your future endeavors.

    1. Thank you. It has been a long road of adventures since the PCT and even before that. I’ll take a short break to concentrate on some writing projects then back into it again.

  10. Awesome stuff Brad – the intrinsic rewards of reaching Sterling Point must have been huge. Great finish. Trust that the beer was excellent. All the best for the next adventure.

    1. Thank you Alan. It was an emotional moment reaching the end of the epic trail. The beer was excellent but the next morning was not so excellent, haha. I will return to NZ in the very near future.

  11. Although we know you have long since finished the trail Shepard, it was good to read the final chapter! Again, huge congrats on your epic journey – hope you have been enjoying some r & r across the ditch. Cheers, Mrs Zigzag

    1. Yes been finished for a while and back in Oz catching up with family. Great to finally meet you and thank you for your hospitality during my stay with and Mr ZigZag. Hopefully we will catch up again soon. I will return to NZ.

  12. How inspirational! Can’t wait to follow in your footsteps one day. I loved all the photos and the vivid descriptions of everything. And I look forward to the instructions on how to cross a river safely.

  13. Congrats on finishing yet another amazing adventure!

    I just came across a research project you might be interested in helping, it is related to thru-hiking and transitioning back to the “real world”. I know you’re life is a little different than most people, but I still thought you might want to help them out and answer a few questions, or share it with your thru-hiker friends.


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