The Long Pathway of New Zealand
The Te Araroa (TA) is a 3000km/1900 mile route stretching the entire length of New Zealand (and then some!) from Cape Reinga in the North Island to Bluff in the South Island. It is a relatively new route, officially opened December 3rd, 2011. In the first few years, only around 50 people walked the whole trail. Now there are hundreds doing it. Please see the Te Araroa Trust’s website for detailed information, including maps, trail notes, and trail status updates/closures.
Key Features along the route include:
- 90 Mile Beach (really less than 90km)
- Tongariro Alpine Crossing (Great Walk)
- 100km kayak of the Whanganui River
- Tararua Range
- Queen Charlotte Track
- Richmond Range
- Travers Saddle and Waipu Pass, Nelson Lakes
- Hurunui River & Deception Valleys
- Greenstone Track
- Longwood Forest
A word of caution is due here. The TA is not like the long trails of the USA (PCT, AT, CDT), as it is not continuous. The route is a mix of beach walking, farmland tracks, connector trails, gravel and paved roads, urban pathways, river and estuary crossings, stream tracks (where you walk directly down the streambed), a 100km kayak/canoe section, and some really heinous backcountry routes.
Hiking/backpacking in New Zealand is known as “tramping” and the Kiwi’s (being the unique, independent, industrious, and hardy folks they are) have very different standards. Switchbacks are almost non-existent (a straight bee-line up a mountain) and tramping tracks are often muddy, full of roots, thick with brush or tussock, and not-benched or formed at all.
Water crossings are by far the most dangerous aspect of travel in the NZ bush. It rains frequently and the ubiquitous rivers easily become swollen and impassible. There are some bridges, from elaborate swingbridges to the very basic 3-wire bridge (2 cables for handholds and 1 to tight-rope-walk across). There are even cableways (trams). Many of these can be as scary as fording a river! Sometimes it is easier just to get wet feet, as they are pretty much wet all the time.
The upside is that New Zealand has the best hut system in the world. For a country roughly the same size as Colorado, there are more than 900 backcountry huts! These also range from extremely elaborate with heating to simple A-frame, 2 person structures. And please, anyone reading this blog, I BEG you, do not write graffiti on these huts! It is common in the US but this is New Zealand—here they are considered a national treasure and deserve the utmost respect. Many have historical significance. Because the weather is so often bad, a nice, clean hut is a necessity and a blessing.
So Yes, the TA does have some epic scenery and ‘sweet as’ accommodation but also long road walks, logistical challenges, major river crossings, and probable weather bombs. It is NOT ideal for a first thru-hike or those with little experience. For a first visit to the country, I recommend doing some of the more well-known 4-5 day hikes and traveling around by bus or caravan. Please see my post “Why I am hiking the Te Araroa”