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Begins: Dec 6, 2012
Date: Thu, May 31st, 2012
Trip Distance: 1,915.0
Entry Visits: 3,505
Journal Visits: 75,220
Guestbook Views: 2,701
Guestbook Entrys: 61
(2015 Update: I don't really know how relevant these are nowadays, it's 3 years after I hiked. Things must be changing).
NOTE: These are my trail notes on sections that had a confusing issue. Also, I’ve noted where the maps and track notes differed. This is primarily due to the maps we are using are the latest (v29) but the track notes had not been updated I believe. I’ve also noted a couple alternates we have had to take because of water that are probably fairly common.
As a general note I have found the trail to be exceptionally and surprisingly well marked. It is still easy to get off trail if you do not pay attention but navigation has been much easier than I expected. However, the trail itself csan be rather difficult, especially the “tramping tracks”. Many timeS I had orange markers the whole way but no actual trail!
NORTH ISLAND NOTES:
Takahue Route: After about 1k on Diggers Valley road it splits. Follow the orange triangles to the left split off Diggers. The track notes talk about forest tracks that we don't think exist anymore as we followed orange triangles on logging roads all the way. Very well marked.
Raetea Forest Track: It was very well marked except for one confusing spot for us. At a knoll you will see a second sign for Macane road (the first Macane rd sign was at hill 727 i think which you don't take). You take the trail for Macane road the second time you see it (this is on the knoll). This has orange markers. We started down the pink flagging and it was wrong.
Jackson wet weather bypass: Due to massive rains we took the Jackson wet weather bypass. Gravel logging roads were easy to follow. Near the end of this, before the DOC center is a really cool little kauri tree walkway/exhibit.
Puketotara: We found the start of the new track about 2k from the DOC center. Track was brand new and well marked all the way to the Waimokaikai stream and then it was a work in progress. Should be completed by the time anyone reads this. New route was really cool farmland/river walking.
Kerikeri Connection: Finding the pedestrian bridge to Pa Road was a challenge. From behind the stone house, take one of the trails up the hill and when on top look for the green post with yellow on top back by the forest line. There is a trail there that drops down to the bridge. Ignore all the other tourist trails taking you around the grounds.
Russell Connection: Ferry from Opua to here is only $ 1. Russell roadwalk is 15k paved and then remaining gravel.
Russell Forest: At the shelter after you exit the stream it was confusing which way to go. Facing the shelter you want to go to the right on the grassy track steeply up the mountain. If you go the other way you will quickly cross a stream and know you have gone wrong.
Morepork-Onrkainga - There is now a TA marker on a street sign at the beginning of this track pointing to the track. There is also one pointing the opposite way you just came (assuming you took the Helena bypass) which I assume is where the new, unmapped trail is. Overall, the section was extremely well marked although you have to be careful not to follow some spraypainted dots/arrows (although sometimes this is also the trail).
Mackeral Forest track bypass: On the paved road there is a sign for the dirt road track. When I went through this had been recently logged and the forest was completely destroyed. The dirt road was clear of debris but in rough shape and no markers. Assuming you follow the correct roads (generally east) you will get to the Waitaingi river which was left with trees. In the left corner the markers start up again and take you across the river and to the connecting road. I'm assuming at some point they will come back in and clean up the road more and put up some markers on the road. Waitangi was a little oasis with decent camping nearby.
Once across the river it is a free for all. There are markers lining the river but there is no track. Just a bush whacking nightmare. Eventually, if you survived, you cross the river at a very large orange marker and head up a steep logging road which winds you back down to Patua rd north.
Bream Bay Walk: The inland DOC trail mentioned was super sandy and slow to walk on. We went over to the beach and then back to the road just past the power plant.
Bream Trail Mangawhai Walkway: I had some notes from other hikers and a local told us there were land issues with this trail and it hadn't been cleared in years. I think this must have been worked out as the trail was recently cleared and while still overgrown, in pretty good shape.
Te Arai Beach Walk: Did this at high tide and it was annoying to be walking on sand up at the high tide line but otherwise the river crossings were ok until the very end at Pikiri stream. This slowly got deeper as I went across and I swam the last 20 feet. This was at the highest tide but no rain in a while. Annie had a slightly better spot chest high.
Hibiscus Coast Route: Did this at low tide and was surprised how close the water was. Would not want to try certain parts at high tide.
Whangaparaoa Crossing: Road walked around this as getting a boat hitch is a pain and the next section had to road walk around and this was easier/shorter.
Okara-Long bay route: Road walked around this. Wasn't there even close to low tide and even at low tide hip deep minimum sounds deep (per the track notes), plus it had been raining for days. This road walk was pretty crappy on a busy road most of the way until we turned east to the ocean.
Davenport route: Don't worry about timing this long route for low tide. The high tide walkway route is really cool and mixing it in with some beach/bay walking was lots of fun.
Mangere Bridge walk: At the end is Ambury Park. Nice place to camp for 10 dollars. I would suggest camping here as stealth camping in the Auckland area is kind of sketchy.
Puhinui Stream track - This was basically done. The section is mostly roadwalk and very little actual track. The whole area is poorer with lots of grafitti and would not recommend trying to freedom camp in this section.
Bridle Track Bypass - Track notes don't match the maps but once you get out of Totare park onto Waihare rd the track markers/maps are the same.
Redoubt rd - Maps are also different from track notes. No idea where Redoubt rd is and markers don't take you there. Markers same as map. Green line trail at 629.5 has not yet been built so needed to do short roadwalk around.
Kimptons Track - Short but terrible climb up a hill with no track and head high grasses and then 150 meters through over head high gorse. Finishes with excellent track out to Clevedon.
Hunua - Massey track has been improved and is excellent. Wairoa-Cosseys track is not as improved but better than the tramping tracks normally encountered. Lower Mangatawhiri track is definitely longer by a couple/few K's than 6.5k noted. First and last couple K's are on good track. Middle section is tough, especially when wet. There is only 1 confusing point. After about 2k at top of climb you hit a fence and turn left. Markers on left in bush but no trail and hard to get through. Instead go over fence where down at corner, walk dirt road short bit and go over style at end of fence and trail is right there.
Koheroa Bypass: Track notes were old. Map looked correct. Followed markers and when we were walking south next to SH 1 the trail was more like a lake and we walked the decent shoulder of SH 1 to McDonalds.
Meremere-rangiriri track - River was flooded and we had to walk SH1 for 7k and then cut west back to river. Smaller road follows track whole way at this point so no issues for small parts that were flooded. Could just jump on rd.
Waipa walk: Track behind church was a mess of blackberry thickets so we road walked a bit, jumped back on track only to find it put us back on rd. Hmmm.
Hamilton to Te Kuiti note: Much of the tramping tracks are not mapped/gps track perfectly (especially Mahoe forest and Pehitawa track). They are close but definitely off a bit making it hard to navigate if you can't find the elusive orange marker which seems to be much fewer in this section compared to the past when needed.
Kapamahunga Walkway: There was no marker off of old mountain road pointing to a track. Basically at the top of old mountain rd where you leave a section of pine forest on the right, curve right on the road and shortly after is a gate on the left with a grassy farmroad. This is the track and a few hundred feet later are markers (white posts are markers for this track it seems with occasional orange markers as well). Gorgeous farm walk but once you enter the cattle paddocks farm road is unwalkable in mud making it a pain to get through.
Pirongia Traverse - The up and down of this mountain are slow. Up is decent until the last couple K's and then real slow. Down, on new track, is already a muddy disaster.
Mahoe forest track: Bush track with style 500 meters after airstrip is on left and stangly there are no markers through the insane overgrown ferns. Eventually you get a marker on a big tree and the trail gets less overgrown. From Mahoe rd we roadwalked to Waitamo as it had been raining a ton and the stream mentioned in the track notes was probably flooded. The first 14 k's were on gravel road high up in farmland and native bush and really beautiful. The last 6 were on paved road and ok.
Pehitawa - Map/gps tracks are off a bit. The walk from the first style until you reach the bush on that big ridge in front of you is confusing. Very few orange markers. One took me right to a tree with a marker and an electric fence with no way over. One tree had a straight and right marker and the trail ended up being way left. Last marker until bush line was on the ground but when you get that far go up the little grassy hill and there is bush with lots of markers. The rest of this section is cool but slow going.
Mngaokewa river track: Closed for logging. Walked hwy 30 out of Te Kuiti for like 20+k to go around this.
Toitoi and Hauhungaroa tracks: Pureora forest tracks. These are better than the tramping tracks normally encountered. Overgrown, muddy and sometimes steep but at some point a good trail was built so good footing with no rocks or roots.
Tauumarunui roads: These were unmapped but the track notes were fine except for the reference to 27k from Ngakonui to Taringamotu. This is a typo and probably meant 7k.
Kakahi Connector: Track notes differed from map. We followed map which simply walked SH 4 out of Taumarunui 21k to Owango.
Traverse 42: We took the map route which branches off from the 42 after around 22k. Not sure if this is the Waione/Cokers track mentioned in the track notes. Once you branch off from 42 traverse you are on an old jeep road that is overgrown a bit but ok to walk. You need to turn off this at 1051.5, Boggy track on the right which is unsigned. Map/GPS are correct and helpful.
Fishers Track: This was only about 15k, not 21k and was not a "backcountry adventure tramp". It was a very pleasant downhill walk on good gravel roads and grassy paths. Easy as can be. Not sure what the issue with the track notes was but the map was correct.
Fishers Track to Whakahoro, and beyond: The maps from the Fishers track to Whakahoro and beyond to Manapurna landing are a disaster. Mostly unmapped and KM markers in random places that only make sense to the mapmaker. Regardless, it's just a big roadwalk and the track notes are spot on for the roadwalk to Whakahoro. The track notes can be superconfusing after this as they give multiple options for hiking/paddling and a section repeats itself, etc.
Whanganui: My recommendation for the Whanganui river is this. From National Park Village hitch down to Okahune (35k). Book a canoe trip with Yeti Tours to paddle from Whakahoro to Whanganui (city). This is about 5 days and $ 260. Buy heavy/fresh food for the canoe trip at the New World in Okahune and drop off with Yeti tours. Hitch back to NP Village, walk 2 days to Whakahoro where Yeti will then drop off a canoe and your food. Paddle 5 days to Whanganui where Yeti will pick up canoe.
If you take the trail from Whakahoro to Manapurna landing (like the track notes say) then you will have to have a jetboat deliver you a canoe to paddle to Pipiriki which will be very expensive. Much better and cheaper to paddle from Whakahoro where a canoe can be delivered by van. Also much better to paddle past Pipiriki to Whanganui in order to not walk the 2 days of sealed road from Pipiriki to Whanganui.
Whanganui to Palmerston North: This section is almost 100% roads and they suck. Mostly busy and sometimes scary.
Burtons Track: This tramping track was in pretty rough shape. The next one (Mangahao-Makahika) was better.
Arapaepae Lookout track: Super confusing. This is actually just a side trail to Levin and not part of the TA. No idea why it is here.
Tararuas: Do not underestimate these mountains! The amount of elevation gain and loss is astounding. Think 6,000'+ up and down for only 20k's, sometimes 15k. Also, the weather can be and usually is rough. The alpine sections of 5k can take 2-3 hours and if it is windy/rainy it can be very dangerous. Lots of huts though and incredible scenery. If you run out of food like I did you can roadwalk from the end to Otaki (18k) and then walk the beach south from Otaki to hook back up with the TA at the beach in Waikanae (approx 22k from Otaki back to TA).
To Wellington: The last few days into Wellington are quite nice and interesting as you wind your way through every little park and peak on you way.
SOUTH ISLAND NOTES:
Queen Charlotte Track: Need to take a 1 way boat ride from Picton to Ship Cove for the start of the South Island. About sixty dollars and lots of operators at the wharf. The track has some good climbs but is very good built track and easy. We did it in 2 solid days.
Richmond Ranges: Combined with the Pelorus river track this is a long stretch from Havelock to St. Arnaud. We did it in 6 tough days and then a short walk in on day 7. Many will take a couple/several days longer depending on pack weight/weather. The weather mostly cooperated for us but we had some extra food in case it didn't. Don't underestimate this section. It's possibly the hardest on the entire trail. Incredibly scenic and awesome but very tough hiking. Lots of huts and they are all really nice and there is almost no one else hiking these mountains. The hut log book is mostly TA hikers!
Nelson Lakes National Park (St. Arnaud to Boyle Village) - This section was easier than the Richmond ranges. Over Travers saddle wasn't too hard but over Waiau pass was a tough one. Definitely a good weather only pass. The walk down the valley after Caroline Bivy was a trip highlight. Lots of people in the first few days of this section on the Travers-Sabine circuit.
Arthurs Pass (Boyle Village to Arthurs Pass) - This section kind of sucked. It looked easy with low elevations and low passes but the river valley walking was very tough. Scenic, but always looking at my feet. Instead of river valley grassy flats from previous sections it was mostly boulders and rocks and only bits and pieces of trail. The Taramakau valley was tough and up Deception valley was the hardest. The trail up Harpers Pass was also pretty crappy. The Tui track leaving Boyle village was terrible. You are better off walking the road to Windy Point. The Flood track before Morrison footbridge was also terrible and I walked the river valley and found it more enjoyable.
Arthur's Pass-Lake Colebridge - This section was short and easy. Long easy stretch down the Harper river valley and very scenic. Don't ford the Rakia. You will die. Follow the advice of the track notes and hitch around. Lake Colebridge lodge was closed for the week we walked through so that wasn't an option for us but may be for you. We hitched to Methvan, a nice ski town. The hitch can be tough since Lake Colebridge is a dead end road but their is a small community there and power plant and you will get a ride (but be prepared for it to take a few hours possibly). Methven is the closest town (about 40k total) and is a nice ski town with a good 4 Square and Supervalue.
Rakia river to Lake Tekapo: This entire section is essentially trailess and marked by orange poles except for about 40k of nice old farm road/trail. Client hills track from Comyn hut to Double hut was brutal. 51 fords of the creek and then insane tussock bashing. No trail, only poles marking the way. The rest of the trailess sections were better but still challenging. The tussock was smaller making it at least bearable to walk through.
The Rangatata was low enough and easy for me. Not much rain in the week before and then highest ford was only knee deep. The valley is a huge 10k across.
Best tip ever for when you reach Stagg saddle. Assuming you have good weather do not descend into the valley. Instead head for that amazing ridge to the right. Climb up the scree slope to the ridge (don't actually climb the peak) and walk the ridge for the next few hours. The footing is very good and a nice little trail goes most of the way. There are amazing views of Mt. Cook. We dropped down to the valley at the low point about 3k from the hut but if I had to do it again I would have continued on the ridge which has a bit of up and down but should be better than the valley choked with tussock. The ridge should intersect the jeep road that is across from the hut. This ridge walk was the best walk of the entire trail
Lake Tekepo - Twizel: This section is short and easy. Mostly roadwalking on gravel and a bit of pavement. The last 13k seems to have changed and instead of going south and then west you can now follow the brand new cycle trail southwest for 10k to Twizel.
Twizel-Wanaka: Overall this section was very scenic and mostly pretty good track/old farm roads. There were 2 notable tough parts: The descent along the East branch Ahuriri river was rough until the valley finally widened. The track along the Timaru river from Timaru to Stody's hut was very tough and then the climb to Stody's hut was straight up the ridge (steep!). Lastly, after following the Avon burn stream and just before starting the climb to Martha's saddle there is an old private hut that is/was left open for the public. It's not that nice inside but has character.
Wanaka-Queenstown: This is a short but tough little section. The Mototopo track was built by and goes through Shania Twain's huge farm station. The track is rather tough with several large, steep ascents and descents and sometimes trail, sometimes not. The huts are nice. The recommended faster walk down the Arrow river is interesting. For the first 45 minutes the river valley is very narrow and I found myself having to walk in the river a decent amount of time as there were cliffs on both sides (not the whole time but enough to be a huge pain). That's not fast walking! After 45 minutes or so a jeep track starts and it's a short ways to Macetown. The high water track looked harder for the first half but then looked to be easier. Tough call which is easier. For Macetown camping go 5 minutes past the first toilet for better camping.
Te Araroa Trail (3,000 Crazy Kilometers Through New Zealand)
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