There is now a wealth of free mapping resources available on-line for the whole Te Araroa Trail.
Some of the best maps and resources I have found so far and that have helped me greatly in planning my trip for 2015/16 are as follows:
The official Te Araroa website is the obvious place to start.
The TA Trust posts the latest versions of the official route maps section by section in early September each year and provides updates on the status of each section, outlining closures and detours. As of Sep 2015, version 3.4 were the most up to date version of maps. The TA Trust also maintains and posts trail notes to accompany the maps, detailing the route itself, resupply points, accommodation and transport options.
The Te Araroa Trust maps indicate each and every kilometer mark along the trail.
The TA website also has a downloadable .kml file of the route that can be used in Google earth and a .gpx file for upload to a GPS. Much of the current kml is fairly rough and looks like it has been drawn in at a large scale.
Restless-Kiwi (NZ’s own Kirstine Collins) has recently painstakingly combined the v3.3 maps and TA trail notes into a single product in preparation for her own TA adventure in 2014-15 and has kindly made these available in .jpg and pdf formats able to be read on smart phones or tablets. Great job Kirstine – you’re a legend! Copies of the combined maps and trail notes can be found here.
Land Information New Zealand also publish the whole NZTopo50 series of maps on their website for free. These maps have great detail and have recently added the Te Araroa Trail. I’ll be using several of these for an off trail section through Cascade Saddle and the Dart Track.
I’ll start my trip using a mix of navigation tools including a Garmin GPS with NZ Topo50 maps pre-loaded onto an SD card from MapToaster; my mini Ipad with apps including MapToaster, Avenza PDF Maps; and ViewRanger. Avenza is capable of displaying high quality 1:50,000 topo maps that can be downloaded for free and overlay any Google Earth kml files you create, like the trail location kml provided by the TA Trust, as well as my location on top of the map using the ipad’s GPS. Avenza only shows one map at a time though and it is difficult to pan around or onto the next map. Maptoaster have been great and provide awesome technical support. Their maps are seamless and panning is easy; and you can create your own waypoints or routes easily. ViewRanger shows a different base map but also displays my location on to of the topo, although it doesn’t show streams, only contours – I’m only likely to use this to ping in my location at the end of the day and not for navigation.
I will also start with A4 hard copies of the Restless Kiwi’s Te Araroa combined map/trail notes – with updates to trail data from 2014-15 trampers that I’m making now.
This is a lot of gear and I’m keen to ditch the gps after first testing how much power the ipad will chew through during each day, given that recharges are likely to be a minimum of 4 days away. I’ll send hard copy maps ahead in a bounce box.
If you use the imperial system instead of metric and prefer mile markers on your maps, Simon Cook (Cookie) has also made the maps he used on his TA adventure available to download for free. However these are a few years old and there have been many changes to the official route since.
Other great resource material can be found on the TA wiki page and from other trampers blogs.
POST TRAIL UPDATE:
- I ended up taking printed A3 maps of the trail and had backup electronic georeferenced copies in my Avenza app on my ipad, plus trail notes in pdf reader.
- I found the TA trust published maps with trail notes combined into the one product were so much easier than what most people were doing – reading maps and trail notes separately.
- Printed in colour and on printed on both side, I carried a section at a time and mailed the rest of the trail ahead. Typically I posted them ahead to accommodation places rather than the post office so I wouldn’t get tied to standard post times.
- The colour way superior to black and white. what do you need most when navigating? Contours and creek lines right. Well in black and white all look the same and you want to be able to rivers, creeks etc…
- I carried my map for the day in a zip lock bag in my pants pocket and referred it at least 10 times a day.
- The TA maps are impossible to use through Auckland and other towns. Stick to the trail notes and signage.
Food over a 3,000 km tramp will be challenging. The hardest issues to deal with are:
- nutrition – the right mix of calories, protein, carbs and fats
- ease of cooking – meals need to be easy to prepare with minimum fuss
Typically on the North Island I’ll be on the trail for 3 to 4 days before hitting a town where I can resupply with food, have a fresh cooked meal, shower, wash clothes, possibly stay in hard accommodation and find wifi service to upload photos and update this blog.
I’ll also make use of a ‘bounce box’ – basically a box of food and gear that I’ll mail ahead to myself using New Zealand’s Poste Restante service. A bounce box will allow me to send ahead heavy, occasional use items and gear that I don’t immediately require. This will include things like my camera battery charger, maps for future sections of the trail, toiletries, spare socks, trail runners (I’m expecting to chew through 3 pair) and surplus food. The downside to this is the cost required to constantly send a heavy package ahead, but I have budgeted for this, and possibly being tied to a town if I arrived early or late and have to wait for postage services to open – this may be an issue around weekends in particular. I’ll assess how it goes and possibly ditch the idea if waiting around proves to chew into too many days.
Things get a little more tricky on the South Island, with several stints of 7 to 8 days before a resupply is possible. For a couple of these stretches, in addition to forwarding my bounce box I need to assemble and send ahead several food drops to key locations. Typically TA hikers send food parcels ahead to St Arnaud, Boyle Village, Arthurs Pass & Lake Coleridge. I’m yet to make arrangements with accommodation places to do this and will get around to it closer to my departure date but it doesn’t sound too hard if you arrange to stay at the accommodation as well – sounds like a fair deal to me.
Hitching out to nearby towns close to the trail is also an option when I hit major roads or highways.
Options for a typical days food on the trail will look something like this:
Back Country Cuisine meals options are ideal for a long distance thru-hike. Basically a one pot, wholesome and nutritious meals that requires a cup or two of boiling water, left to soak for 15 minutes and eaten right out of the bag. Perfect! I am a huge fan of the one pot cook up, boil water and eat out of a bag – no fuss, minimal fuel use and very little clean up. And based in Invercargill in New Zealand they are a local company which I’m happy to support. The variety of meals is large these days and there is a range of side dishes and deserts.
There is bound to be on trail cooks up as well, particularly the first day after a leaving town with fresh supplies. I can taste that fresh orange already. I have quite the range of back country cook up recipes so that will be fun. Included in this range is making use of a DIY double boiler, made from a foil oven tray and perfect for cooking up delicious treats like fresh-baked muffins, cakes and breads.
Many people choose to pre-pack food parcels and mail them ahead as food drops but this is more difficult for me to do given that I’m currently in Oz and there are a lot of customs restrictions on sending food overseas. Arranging this in country will also chew into time that I don’t have. The other major factor pushing me away from regular food drops is the fact that I have difficulty deciding what I want for dinner day-to-day – who knows what I will feel like several months into the trail. There is a good chance that meal preferences will change on the trail and you always run the risk of not enjoying the food you’ve sent ahead. I love meal time in the bush and it must be tasty and enjoyable!
After resupplying at supermarkets or four square’s, I’ll repackage most foods to dispose of unwanted packaging and typically try to arrange meals into day packs to make it easier to start the next day.
Fuel wise I’ll see how things pan out and will adjust as required. I’ll start TA with both a stove head for a gas canister and a DIY fancy feast stove that runs on methylated spirits and see what is easiest to obtain in towns. definitely should be fairly easy to purchase from just about any where – gas canisters may be more challenging.
POST TRAIL UPDATE:
- I ditched my metho stove after about a month and collected my gas stove head from my Auckland bounce box. I found that you can only buy metho is 1Lt bottles but was only every carrying about 250ml so every resupply meant buying 1Lt and giving it away or wasting it.
- My menu was fairly consistent with what is outlined above. Trying to keep things light and interesting was the main challenge and keeping the calories up towards the end.
- Backcountry meals had their place, mainly as a backup/spare meal to carry; and featured strongly in food packages I sent ahead to myself for the south island from Wellington. But they aren’t cheap at around NZ$9-12 for a single serve and around NZ$14 for a double serve. My favourite was the good old spaghetti bolognaise.
- I found a lot of pre-cooked off the shelf type meals as well – curries, stews, flavoured rice & cous cous – anything that is 2m microwaveable works with a tiny bit of water on a camp stove. They are a bit heavier than say cooking rice from scratch but save you heaps of fuel and water to cook from scratch and are minimum clean up.
- By far the most valuable source of protein came from tuna sachets, jerky, salami and nuts.
- South Island resupplies were as described; St Arnaud, Boyle Village, Arthurs Pass and Lake Coleridge. I always over estimated sections and send far too much food ahead, often giving it away and humping it anyway, eating the best and ditching the rest.
- I don’t think there was a single big trail cook up. At the end of hard days, if it wasn’t a one pot meal I wouldn’t be cooking it. You want food fast at the end of the day and the last thing I wanted to do was indulge in big, complex meals. Everything went into the pot at once with some strange combinations for sure but food none the less – the strangest? Not quite sure – something like instant potato, pasta, tomato paste, jerky, chicken soup mix, cheese, chilli sauce and jerky.
- Morning coffee and tobascco sauce are mandatory!
Things were looking great budget wise 18 months ago when I began setting funds aside for this trip but the Aussie dollar just hasn’t held up against the Kiwi dollar in recent months and it’s basically dollar for dollar at the moment. This is not likely to change in the next 8 months. Not to worry.
How much does it cost to walk Te Araroa? How long is a piece of string. You could walk the whole 3,000 kms on a shoe-string budget, camping every night, eating cheaply and make it just fine; or live life large, styling in luxurious accommodation, indulging on restaurant meals and fine New Zealand wine at every opportunity, if you wish.
For me I’ve allowed a mixture of the two scenarios that does include hard accommodation and good food during zero days.
I’ve gauged costs from previous trips to New Zealand and more recently from previous years trampers, and estimated the following:
I reckon that less than $8,650 is fairly good for 4-5 months. Heck, if I can get away with that I might have to completely rethink daily life and live permanently on the trail and I’m sure I can do it cheaper than my estimate above.
DONATE TO THE TA TRUST
Please, please also factor in making a donation to the Te Araroa Trust. Help the trust to help you along the way in terms of providing advocacy with government, landholders and infrastructure. The TA Trust needs a hand in providing the useful topographical maps and trail notes free of charge. Just think about this for a minute – how much money have you investing in gear, airfares etc… to get to the starting line and compare that to what you could donate to the TA Trust. I don’t think $200 to $500 is unreasonable to ask. And with upwards of 300 full thru hikers, I’m sure the Trust can make excellent use of $60,ooo to $150,000 each year to help you enjoy your thru tramp.
POST TRAIL UPDATE:
- I lost track of my expenditure but wasn’t really keeping track of it. I reckon it was close to what I estimated above. Money put aside to act as my budget for this trip never ran dry anyway.
- The easiest way to get by was purchasing most things on my Oz credit card and then dragging money across from my debit account through internet banking to pay it back off. I don’t think there was anywhere I came across that didn’t accept my credit card.
- A few places had minimum purchase amounts before accepting credit and the odd place no credit facilities or eftpos at all – for these occasions I carried around NZ$250 cash on my person – enough to get me a bed, a feed, beer and some resupply.
- There a lot of hidden costs along the way to factor in. To name a few: bus to Cape Reinga if not hitching; water taxi from Pahia to Waikare; back country hut pass; kayak hire from Puhoi if you take that option; kayak hire for Whanganui; Bike hire if you take that option from Lake Tekapo; Interislander ferry; water taxi to Ship Cove; shuttle to start of Greenstone Track if you don’t hitch etc..
- I spent more nights in motels than I thought I would in towns but could afford to and liked to split time between sharing rooms in busy hostels and motel rooms to myself.
- You can definitely do this trip much cheaper than I did.