Aoraki – It begins

It’s a cool day in Queenstown. 11 degrees. Quite a bit different to last Monday’s 37 at home. There is more than a dusting of snow covering the Remarkables, offering a glimpse of what lies in wait in the higher peaks of the main range. The plane was on time and I cleared customs with no worries. It helps to have any thing to declare in the one carry on bag and ready to access. Mountaineering boots, climbing shoes and gaiters were all they were interested in which is good because I didn’t want to have to unpack everything, find that all is good and pack it up again. Anything thats been in contact with soil they want to have a look at. All good. I don’t have a tent for this trip an no climbing rope which they quiz me about.
The shuttle was waiting and it was straight on to Wanaka for me. 98km and about 1 hour by road, in early March this year it took my three and a half days to walk the reverse direction from Wanaka to Queenstown.
Very, very excited to be back on NZ soil and more so for a climbing trip on a big mountain. I can’t wait to get going. Organisation day tomorrow in Wanaka and into the mountains in Tuesday.


While Te Araroa doesn’t quite finish at the southern most point of New Zealand, I’ll take it. And by accepting that I can say I’ve walked from the tip of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. So almost a year on since I kicked off from Cape Reinga what is left to do? Hmm… let me think about that….

…how does the climbing to the highest point in New Zealand sound? Sounds bloody good to me!

So at the end of November this year I’ll be heading back to New Zealand to climb the ‘cloud piercer’ and since I’ve still got this blog running I thought why not continue to use it to capture my latest adventure in New Zealand. (I really have fallen in love with this country – bring on the day I can move here.)

At  3,724 metres (12,218 feet) Aoraki (Mt Cook) is no mean feat. It has all of the technicality of big mountain climbing seen in places like the Himalayas but without the altitude and acclimatisation issues. Nether the less it will prove a challenge.

With a high level of glaciation, large crevasses to cross and exposure to rock/ice fall and avalanches below the ‘gun barrels’ the climbing difficulty is not to be underestimated.


Mt Cook above the Hooker Glacier

I’ve climbed big peaks before, including ascents of Imja Tse (6,189m or 20,300 ft) and Lobuche East (6,145m or 20,100ft) in Nepal and Mt Aspiring (3,033m or 9,950ft) in New Zealand, with Aoraki always being on the bucket list and at the back of my mind. Somehow I have just never got around to it. Seeing it rise majestically above lake Pukaki to form an amazing snow covered back drop as I passed along Te Araroa earlier in the year only seemed to cement the idea of an ascent.

With a number of years rock climbing and mountaineering I’m confident I have the prerequisite skill base for an ascent but just to be on the safe side I will be taking a guide – to keep me on route and that little bit safer. Quizzing Aspiring Guides on whether I have what it takes, they agreed I did and worked with me to secure dates in their quickly filling summer calendar.

So what this space… November is fast approaching and I can’t wait.

To tempt blog follows… here are some photos and bits of pieces of earlier climbs.

Chick here for a 3D look of the route



Mt Aspiring


Summit ice cap on Mt Aspiring


Lobuche East 


Lobuche high camp


Lobuche East



Summit of Imja Tse 6,200m (20,300ft)

Te Araroa – The documentary

Well 4 months after finishing Te Araroa and a lot of video editing later,  I now have a documentary that is in reasonable form that I’m happy to share with everyone still following this blog. This is my amateurish attempt at a documentary of the trail. I captured footage along the way mainly as a lasting memory for myself but wanted to get it into some form of movie that I could share with others.  Here it is. Most of the footage was captured on my GoPro, held in my hand or supported on my walking pole so it’s a little shaking in spots. Ideally I would have loved to have done more with my cameras but I wasn’t prepared to bring along my Canon 7D SLR -weighing in a over 2 kgs. I also had big ideas of doing lots more pre-placing of the GoPro up the trail but I found constantly having to walk back to retrieve it difficult with so many big and long walking days. I would have loved to have captured more of the people I walk with as well to share to social aspects of the Te Araroa tramping community, but unfortunately didn’t.  The final product isn’t too bad IMAO. It’s also my first attempt at using a Mac and Final Cur Pro. Hope you enjoy it.


Te Araroa Stats

‘Attached below is a spreadsheet showing each days start and end points, distance traveled, total Te Araroa kilometres and where I stayed.

Te Araroa Daily Log

Other trail stats and tid bits:

  • Trail slogan: keep putting one foot in front of the other
  • Starting kilometer: 0 km Cape Reinga
  • Finishing kilometer: 3008 Stirling Point / Bluff
  • Days walked: 108
  • Zero days: 16
  • Total days: 124
  • Average distance walked (including zeros): 22 km / day
  • Average distance walked (just walking days): 25.3 km / day
  • Longest stretch between resupplies: 7 days
  • Longest day (distance): 45 km, Whangauni to pines in Stantof Forest
  • Longest day (time): 13 hours for 36km in Reatea Forest
  • Top speed: 6.5 km / hr, road walking
  • Slowest speed: 1.5 km / hr, northern forests
  • Number nights in a tent: 42
  • Number of nights in a hut: 28
  • Number of nights in a bed: 52 (hostel, motel, holiday parks and trail angels)
  • Number of nights hosted by trail angels: 6
  • Favorite huts: Waitewawae, Hunter, Hamilton, Anne
  • Best tenting sites: 4 km south of Caroline Biv in beech trees above river; and Clents Hill Saddle
  • Funniest tenting site: veggie patch at Melva & Hiltons
  • Strangest placed slept: Nakid Inn; common room at Stillwater Holiday Park – it was free for TA walkers, Koriniti Preschool on Whangauni River trip.
  • Longest stretch between showers: 7 days
  • Longest stretch between clothes washes: 14 days
  • 4 monthly weather forecast: fine with showers
  • Number of gear items replaced: 14 (pack cover, shoes x 3, insoles, socks x 6, pot, sleeping mat, rain pants)
  • Number of gear broken: 3 (2 x shoes, pack cover ripped)
  • Favorite pieces of gear: Leki Cork Lite walking poles, Sea to Summit pillow, all of my IceBreaker merino clothing
  • Least favorite sections: road walking on north island, Moir Hill forest roads, Puketi sidle hell trail, gravel walking along Taramaku River, Otira River flood track, Two Thumbs Track tussock country, all out sloped sidle trails.
  • Favorite sections: so many. Papakauri Stream, Mangapukahukaha Stream (Ohamuta Forest), cliff top walk into Auckland, Hauhungaroa Range (Puerora Forest), Tararua Range, Pelorus River, Nelson Lakes National Park, Arthurs Pass to Hamilton Hut.
  • Best views: too many. Clents Saddle dark sky zone, Crooked Spur Hut, Lake Pukaki, Breast Hill, Travers Saddle, Blue Lake, Waiau Pass etc…
  • Hardest section (physically): climb up to Starveall Hut
  • Hardest section (mentally): long stretches of road walking, tussock walking
  • Number of wet feet day: 100, at least once a day for sure minus a few
  • Number of hissy fits: 100, every time my feet first got wet
  • Number of times swore each day: at least 5
  • Number of injuries: 0, minor scraps and cuts
  • Weight lost: 15 kg
  • Estimated number nut bars consumed: 216
  • Estimated amount of chocolate consumed: 6.5 kg
  • Estimated amount of tuna sachets consumed: 3.6 kg
  • Estimate amount of scroggin consumed: 16.2 kg
  • Most water drunk in a day: 6 liters

Amazing trampers I met and spent time with on the trail:

Bob: New Zealand, Dunedin, section hiking Cape Renga to Auckland

Vicky: United States

Christian & Cathi: Germany

Steffan: Germany

McKayla & Shaina: United States

Zeeda & Petra: Czech Republic

Sven & Catherine: Germany

Bastion: Austria

Antoine & Solenne: France

Logan: United States

Jay: Canada

Emma: Denmark

Jurgen: Germany

Gareth: New Zealand, Puhoi

Hanna & Ian: United Kingdom

Luke: United Kingdom

‘P.O.D’ & Disco’:  United States

‘Skittles’: United States

‘Bloody Mary’: United States

Marc ’10 speed’: Switzerland

Emma: Germany

Imme: Denmark

Emily & Simon: United States & Barbados

Mario & Andrea: Switzerland, walking south island

Silva & Martin: Switzerland, section hiking top of south island

Ben: NZ, section hiking QCT to Lake Coleridge

James & Mary-Kate: United States

Carl: Germany

Nadine & Philippe: Switzerland 

Celistino: Germany

Rune: Denmark

Bella & Mat:  United Kingdon

Tom: United States



Te Araroa Sound Track

‘I Don’t Mind’ by the Tabasco Donkeys provided the soundtrack to my journey along Te Araroa. The lyrics sum up a long distance thru-hike and many of the reasons why we take on such adventures. I share them with you here:

I am looking, I am searching, I have found
Near the ground, my soul, myself, Beneath this trail
There’s no other place I’d rather be
Can’t you see me out here walking, In the rain and hail
The purpose of life, it seems to me Is not to take yourself too seriously
I wouldn’t want to be an old man
Sitting in an office building someplace far away With worry on my face

Well you can take my car, my stereo, my little money
Leave me with nothing but my trail family
Take my dress up clothes, my cheap cologne, my college loans
I don’t mind
I don’t mind

Well if that tax man comes looking
I’m at ten thousand feet cooking up some oatmeal
Or some rice and beans
I worship the spirit who doesn’t just look down
He looks up and through and all around
Find him in the rocks and trees
Cause there’s no reason to pray
When you wake up every day to the sunrise
Over Cito Peak

So find some ground, lace up your boots, start walking
And you will find reason
Enough reason to believe
Well you can drop your worries at the parking lot
Or way down in the city where the sun burns hot
Although civilization is a nice place to visit
I wouldn’t want to live there

And just one final paragraph of advice
Don’t burn yourself out
Be as I am
It’s not enough to fight for the land
It’s even more important to enjoy it while you can
While it’s still here

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around
Ramble out yonder, explore the woods, encounter a grizz
Climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep
That yet sweet, lucid air
Sit quiet for a while, contemplate the precious stillness, that mystery
And awesome space
Enjoy yourself, keep your brain in your head, and your head attached to your body
Your body active and alive

And I promise you this much
I promise you this one sweet victory, over our enemies
Over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a box
And their eyes hypnotized by calculators
I promise you this one sweet victory….
You’ll outlive the bastards!

Finale night

Talk about going out with a bang.

With the trail complete it was time to head back to town, get cleaned up and celebrate some more. Most of the people I’ve shared Te Araroa with, having left jobs and homes, are on tight budgets, while I’m still bringing in a salary from work while on paid leave. And I thought it only fitting to show this crew my appreciation of their friendship and congratulatins by putting some money over the bar for celebratery drinks.

We met up at a tavern later that evening and I got the tab started. First rounds ordered, everyone was in a celebratory mood. Me, I put down a nice dark ale in quick time and was ready for a 2nd while I waited for the kitchen to bring out my dinner. But my evening didn’t go so well from there. Before ordering a 2nd beer I was talking with Mat about the camera he used on the trail, because it was small, could change lenses and he took awesome photos with it; I started to feel light headed. Mid conversation my vision blurred and my world was reduced to black.

I don’t remeber fainting but on opening my eyes I was on the floor looking up at everyone. I remember asking, what am I doing down here, did I just faint? Apparently so. That’s not good. I’ve never fainted before. Initially I don’t think anyone quite knew what was going on. Did I trip, was I drunk, did I faint?

Luckily we had a doctor in the house. Bella is a doc but in her own words “usually deals with lady parts and babies”. I was well looked after and felt fine so got up and returned to my seat. Moments later it happened again but this time I knew what was going on. Poor Jacinta looking on frightened as hell, as it was only a week or so ago that a 30ish somethng world renound mountain biker died from a heart attack and this was fresh in her mind. The second faint had me a bit worried as well.

Bella skillfully took charge of the situation and I was kept on the floor. An ambulance was called and arrived minutes later. The paramedics initially attending to me on the floor but I felt ok. Probably a little fatigued, a little dehydrated and no food for a good few hours. I knew this and was desperately hungry. Food had been ordered and I was waiting for it to come out of the kitchen. They wanted to assess me properly and got me into the ambulance and hooked up to an ECG.

I’m a fit bloke and and at the best of times I have a low resting heart rate in the range of 55 to 60 bpm. Having just spent four months walking 3000 km, I was in peak fitness and my heart rate still low. Jacinta, Bella and myself tried to explain this to the paramedics but they were not convinced. The ECG kept reading my heart rate below 60 bpm and the medics were keen to get me to hospital for a thorough check over. They had tested blood sugars which were fine and had a cannula in my arm with saline drip flowing.

It was not the way I had expected or wanted the night to end. My friends all gathered around the back of the ambulance saying farewells as a mountain of wires extended from my chest to the ECG. A bit confronting I’m sure but the ambo’s were just fulfilling their duty of care and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

So it was off to hospital we went, poor Jacinta following in the car.


On admittance it was straight to the resuscitation ward in the emergency department. I felt fine, truly. A million questions, blood taken for tests, another ECG and blood pressure taken. Most ECG’s are set up to sound alarms with a bmp of less than 60. My machine kept beeping. I kept explaining I typically had a low resting heart rate and I was fine. Surely someone else was in greater need of this bed than me. Chest xrays followed and that got me a little worried but again everyone was just doing the right things and fulfilling their duty of care.

Anyway long story short…. a few hours of monitoring and all tests coming back fine I was given the all clear from the doctor for discharged. I forget the full name of what she said but basically just a typical one off fainting episode due to a combination of emotions running wild on finishing the trail, fatigue, lack of food, mild dehydration and standing still as opposed to walking for which my body had got used to. Phew…. What a relief….and what a way to end Te Araroa. Rune had promised a big finale to Te Araroa but I don’t suspect he thought one of us would be carted off to hostipal in a meat wagon.

Thanks to all that helped. Most importantly Bella, Mary-Kate and Jacinta but also the St Johns ambos, nurses, docters and staff at Southland Hospital in Invercargill. Not to one attending nurse though…I never did get that meal that was promised and was starving on leaving the hospital, hooking into the doggy bag that the tavern had kindly packaged up our meals in. I swear that was all I ever needed. Some food in my system and a beer to wash it down.

I left hostipal with the all clear but with the biggest injury I’ve suffered right through Te Araroa – a sore and bruised left butt cheek from when I first went down like a sack of shit and hit the taverns concrete floor, my now boney bum having lost all excess fat along the journey through New Zealand.

Day 124: Invercargill to Bluff!!!

Distance traveled today: 34 km, plus 2km from hotel

Total TA distance covered: 3008 km.

The finish line.

Sleep did not come easily last night. It was one of those restless nights you have where the mind continually wanders, thoughts popping in and out. Remembering the trail for all its good bits and bad; the people I’ve met; moments of bliss and pain; and the realisation that this journey is coming to an end shortly. Looking ahead to what is next and thinking through the transition from life as a nomad back to my life in Oz. I got to sleep at some point because my alarm woke me early, signalling to get up and moving. Te Araroa wasn’t over just yet. There was another 34km to complete.

I left a sleeping Jacinta and the hotel before day break, making my way into town to find some breakfast and a coffee. I had an extra couple of kilometers to reach the trail head than the rest of the crew who were more centrally located. I didn’t know if I’d be leaving before or after them and was super keen to meet up along the route. Finishing at Bluff together was always on the cards but it depended on regrouping along the way. By leaving early, my thoughts were I would be able to see anyone in front along the wetland walks or highway; and if not, it would be easy to sit put and wait for them to catch me.

Reaching the trail head, I started along the estuary wetlands walk for the first 10.5 kilometres of the day. No-one was around. The walking was flat, easy and fast but a little boring. Only a kilometer in I reached a trail junction with masses of flagging tape and council signs stating that this section of the trail was closed. Surely not. We’ve come all this way and the last section of trail is closed. This can’t be. Ignoring the signs I continued on. If the trail was in fact damaged beyond repair the only option would be to cut inland and walk all the way to Bluff on roads. But it turned out OK. There had been some storms and high tides that had washed debris onto the path but nothing to prevent walking through. Along the way more tape and closure signs were encountered but nothing to prevent further progress along the track.

Long stretches of the estuary walk were on levy banks, standing tall above the surrounding area and offering good views ahead and back. I still couldn’t see any other trampers and continued on. Nearing the end of the estuary walk I spied a solo tramper back about a kilometer. So on reaching the end of this section to where TA exits onto roads I stopped, refueled and waited.

It was Celsitino. He had spent the night at a home stay and had the same thoughts as me in leaving early to ensure we could regroup for the final push to Bluff. While enjoying a snack and a drink, the rest of the crew started to appear and join us on the railway track, Tom, Bella, Mat & Rune. Not far behind Solenne and Anotine and a few minutes later POD and Disco. It was definitely going to be a mass finish at Bluff today. I was thrilled and looking forward to finishing with others who had been on the same journey and who could truly understand the significance of reaching the sign at Bluff. Although walking solo for much of Te Araroa and happy in my own company, finishing by myself would have been bit hollow. Jacinta will be meeting me at the end in Bluff and has a great appreciation of this trip but ending with other trampers, particularly those who I met early in the piece and those I’ve connected to over the last few weeks will be extra special.



The atmosphere at the railway line was palpable. Excited smiles all around. We had one last 16km road section to complete to reach Bluff and a final 8 kilometres of trail to reach the end at Stirling Point. No-one was looking forward to walking on the road but everyone was keen to get this done and reach the end. And so we ventured out onto the road, a motley crew of 10 from across the globe.

Walking on the road was fast. Made faster by the eagerness of everyone to finish. Being a Sunday, the traffic wasn’t too bad. A few trucks but mostly cars. Many local cars, acknowledging our monumental trip and signalling they knew where we were headed and why, hooting their horns as they passed. We got split up along the road at several points with different walking speeds but intermittently stopped for breaks and to regroup along the way.

For me the road section couldn’t be completed quick enough. It was long, boring and hard on the feet. Not the most exciting way to complete Te Araroa but the trail is what it is at the moment. I know the local council has been looking at ways to get this section off the roads and provide a more appropriate trail finish for TA trampers. I guess it’s a matter of watch this space for the future.

A welcome sight indeed was the town sign for Bluff. A few of the crew had reached it already and I just about ran on seeing it. This also marked the 3000km mark on Te Araroa. 3000km! Starting the trail 4 months ago, 3000km seemed so far away and was put to the back on the mind, only ever focusing on a few days to a week at a time. To have reached this marker was awesome.

Talk about timing. Just as everyone had regrouped at the Bluff sign, Jacinta drove past, turned around and joined us, to finally met these trampers I’ve been writing about for months and to take group photos. Only 8 more kilometers to go. Jacinta would drive to the end, start walking up the track, meet us along the way and share the big finish with me. It has worked out so well that she could get the time off work and travel across the ditch to be there for the big finale. Virgile, another TA tramper who the other guys knew, and who finished the trail yesterday also happened to be walking by and greeted everyone, staying for our groupie photo.


We hit the trail towards the end. The final kilometers were quick. You could feel the excitement pervading the air around us. The focus most definitely on the end point now. Walking along the coast for a few kilometers the trail crossed one last stile to join onto a graveled walking track to Stirling Point. From here, the trail was wheel chair accessible and we knew the end was neigh. We got within 1 km of the end and stopped one last time to wait for everyone to regroup and end this as a group. Jacinta came up the track to met us bringing much needed provisions – a nice cold beer.

With everyone together we hit the trail almost running. Around a corner or two, there it was. The sign post marking the end now in sight. There were a stack of tourists around as we arrived but as we counted down 3, 2, 1 to sprint to the end, we soon muscled them out the way in our celebrations. We had done it.

4 months. 124 days. 3008 km walked, paddled and ridden from Cape Reinga at the tip of the north island to Bluff at the bottom of the south island. Te Araroa complete!!!


For a final few paragraphs I’ve borrowed heavily from Colin Arisman. We hug each other and kiss the sign. Champagne is sprayed and a round of beers clash to the shouts of cheers. Initial hollering petering out, we fall silent. The journey is done and we don’t really know what to say, what to think or what to do. There is no great realisation, no epiphany, no feeling of bliss. These moments rested in the life of the journey itself, not in its ending.

Throughout this journey I met some of the most unique, determined, intelligent, kindly people I have ever known and made some of the most unlikely friends. I tramped, paddled and rode with Germans, Americans, French, Brits, Danes, Swiss and Kiwi’s. We laughed, we danced, swore, sweated, shared huts and hitches, muddy, wet and cold, but mostly we just walked. Complete strangers offered countless random acts of kindness, rides, meals, beers and places to stay.  I wore my shoes until they fell apart. And then wore through 2 more pairs. I felt exhausted and crazy at times but never once did I wake up and think I don’t want to do this anymore. I dropped out of society during one of the longest summers of my life. I performed a feat without any concrete value that most people can’t seem to grasp. Somehow each day I fell more in love with the wild, with the journey, with humanity. And people must have seen this in me. For if they couldn’t understand what drove me, they saw the grin on my face, that neither pain, nor rain, or mud could seem to wipe away.

Thanks for following this crazy adventure with me. I have a few more posts to wrap up Te Araroa and am hoping to get some video up on YouTube over the coming weeks.

Happy trails.