Eat, Drink and Be Healthy

Firstly I have to state that I am not fussy about my food. I generally eat anything and everything, with the exception of Peanut Butter and I think I may have been the only person on the Te Araroa who didn’t eat this disgusting food daily. I am not allergic to it but struggle just looking at the stuff, let alone smelling it,. However I was able to sit reasonably close to people eating it by the end of the trail. That was probably my biggest achievement on the TA.

Also I have never had any issues with regularly eating the same foods and believe that it is the nutritional value of the food that matters rather than the taste, form or presentation. Obviously, I am not interested in the recent cooking show fad and anyone who knows me won’t let me near the kitchen. This suits me fine as I would much rather be the person sitting on the other side of the kitchen bench drinking wine and chatting.

Therefore, adjusting to the reduced options of trail food easy for me. I basically ate the same things for the whole 5 months and was happy to do so. I kept healthy and always had enough energy to get through the day. So I kept doing what was working all the way through the Te Araroa. There were times where I enjoyed the aromas coming from other peoples’ dinners and I did enjoy looking at what they were carrying but I was happy with my limited menu.

50% of my dinners were trail food, and I estimate that I spent about $15 a day feeding myself. The remainder of the time off trail I ate “proper food” and didn’t skimp on that at all. I sometimes cooked a meal of steak and vegetables if I was at a backpackers but I usually ate out.

Cooking System

Started With

  • Jet-boil Flash 500 ml
  • Morsel Spork
  • Pocket knife
  • Cooking cosy
  • 2 Food packing cells
  • Titanium double walled cup
  • Collapsible cup
  • Total weight 896 gms

Finished With

  • Pot MSR 850 ml titanium
  • Macpac Cooker
  • Kitchen knife
  • Spork
  • Bic lighter
  • Zpacks Food bag
  • Total weight 267 gms

I saved 629 gms by changing changing to the cooker and pot I could prepare a wider variety of foods, however when I came to choosing foods to take I struggled with the choices and ended up only buying packets of instant pasta that had very little food value. So I was back to Back Country freeze dried meals most of the time. Twice I bought Instant Noodles which seemed to be the basic foods for most people on the TA and I did enjoy them. I saved 629 gms by changing systems.

Breakfast – A mixture of muesli and yogurt powder

Frances and I started out with porridge with some protein powder and a few chopped dates. We measured out the oats into our cups and added boiling water. About 5 minutes later our breakfast was ready. However after about 6 weeks of this I was having trouble eating it. Stodgy porridge no longer appealed to me.

So I changed to having a mixture of muesli and yogurt powder. I had seen other hikers eating this and I really loved it. This added macrobiotics to my diet and I could change both the muesli and the yogurt powder when I needed to resupply so had a good variety. This was my favourite food by far as it was easily prepared: just pour some of the mixture into my pot and add water. Yum

I started out having a cup of black coffee in the mornings but soon didn’t bother with this as it just took up an extra 10 minutes in the morning and I wasn’t enjoying it at all. Therefore I no longer needed to carry a cup. My pot became the go to for cooking, eating and drinking. I really enjoyed a proper coffee when I was off trail.

Lunch

Wraps (Farrah’s) or crackers (Arnott’s Vita-Wheat ) with cheese, salami and carrot with was my lunch for 95% of the time, followed by some dates and occasionally an apple or a mandarin. The slice of carrot gave it a fresh and crunchy feel and I stored the carrot in a zip lock plastic bag with a small piece of paper towel or toilet paper which kept the carrot fresh for many days. Sometimes I had an avocado instead. Sometimes I used a Parmesan cheese but usually cheese slices as they keep forever.

Occasionally I had a sachet of fish in my wrap but only as a last resort because they reminded me of cat food. Frances would toast a loaf of Vogels bread on resupply day to use for the base for lunches however I didn’t bother after she finished. I never tired of cheese and crackers.

Dinner

Fifty percent of my meals were on trail. Most of these trail meals were freeze dried meals from Back Country Cuisine. https://backcountrycuisine.co.nz/our-products

A typical Back Country meal

I bought the 2 person packs and halved them and repacked into small zip lock plastic bags. This reduced the weight of the bag and the room they took up. I would add a couple of tablespoons of extra instant mashed potato, noodles or rice to bulk it up a bit. These cost anywhere from $10.50 to $15 (For a 2 meal pack) and were available at most supermarkets and 4 Square shops on the trail. There are about 20 different flavors but most shops only stocked a limited variety. This didn’t matter too much because I never knew what I was eating from the zip lock plastic bag anyway. It was just Dinner.

To begin with I heated the water in my Jet Boil, poured it into the plastic bag which was in the foil cosy then let it re-hydrate. When I changed to carrying a pot I just added the dried food to the boiling water, sealed the lid and waited. This worked well.

Snacks while walking

Dates, Protein bars and OSM bars and occasionally some cashew nuts were my snacks. Each evening I would restock my snack bag that hangs on my front strap. I would try to eat at least a half a protein bar or a OSM each day by having a mouthful every hour or so in the afternoons. However most days I didn’t manage this as I was seldom hungry. The protein bars contained 45gms of protein each and were very dense and filling. I would stock up when Countdown had them on special for about $5.50 which was quite expensive for one bar. However I would see other hikers carrying 2 or 3 packets of cheap bars to get the same food value for probably more cost. So I thought they were worth the money. In the afternoons I would also have a few dates or nuts. I only bought chocolate 3 times on the TA and managed to make a cake of chocolate last for about 3 – 4 weeks. I really had little interest in it. This was quite out of character for me!

Snacks at Camp

On arrival at camp I usually cooked up a cup of soup and in the South Island I sometimes had a some chippies (Crisps) to keep me going until dinner time. I think the salt was what I needed. I started off with a stock of Cup a Soups that I had reduced the package size by down, but later bought Maggi Soups and decanted them into a zip lock plastic bag. I just kept refilling it with different flavours so it became a real medley of mushroom, chicken, vegetable and pumpkin etc. As I said earlier I am not too fussy. Soup is soup!

The chippies were a real treat for me and I carried in the outside mesh on the back of my pack so I had to be careful not to squash them. The mice really liked these so I found myself sharing them on a number of occasions.

Sometimes I carried a packet of Griffins Gingernut biscuits to have for my supper. They take a bit of chewing so feel satisfying after the mushy dinners and never break en-route so are a good choice for a tramping biscuit.

Off Trail Food

While on trail I didn’t really crave any foods and wasn’t hungry. For many people hiker hunger was a reality and I saw people eating huge amounts on trail. They talked a lot about what they would eat when they arrived in town but I was not particularly effected. However, when I did hit town I enjoyed a meat pie, or a steak and chips meal, a beer, a big bowl of fresh salad and some fruit, in that order. Early on, when it was really hot in the North Island, I would look forward to an ice cream at the end of the day. I enjoyed the social times sharing meals in town.

Weight and Health

I started the trail definitely over weight and somewhat unfit. In total I lost about 12 kg over the 5 months. My body fat % decreased by over 10% and my bone mass increased by 1% so my muscle % definitely increased. I lost 13 cm from each thigh, 11 cm from my hips, 5 cm from my waist and 7 cm from my bust. Overall I was a much healthier body than I started with. My challenge now is to keep it that way.

I am relieved to say that I did not have any sickness and had no injuries either. There was the odd day when I rolled an ankle and had a bit of pain but it was always okay the next day. I did develop a sore shoulder over the last couple of weeks and couldn’t manage to get my pack to sit right so that it didn’t hurt me. My hip gave me pain at night if I laid on it too long but this didn’t worry me while walking. This continues to be an issue now that I have finished. I need to get some help with this when the lock down is over.

Hydration and Health

I was never unwell, always finished the day feeling good and I was fit and healthy at the end of the Te Araroa. Therefore what I did worked well for me. However everyone is different and what worked for me may not be what works for others; there are endless combinations of food, fluids, supplements that can be used.

System

  • 125 ml bottle with hydration Tube
  • 2 x 1 litre Platypus collapsible bottles

Fluids

  • Town water
  • Rivers and creeks

Supplements

  • Hydration salts
  • Magnesium Tablets
  • Vital Daily Health Supplement
  • Water purifying tablets (very seldom)

I am a big water drinker at the best of times so keeping hydrated was par for the course for me. I had bought a system to turn a 125 ml bottle into a hydration system. The bottle sat in a side pocket or the back mesh area of my pack so I could see how much water I had. The attached hose mean I could sip as I walked. It was easy to refill and I bought a new bottle every month or so when it began to look a bit manky. I also carried 2 Platypus folding bottles for when I needed to carry a full days water. There were very few days on trail where I was unable to fill up during the day.

I carried some re-hydration salts that I would use at lunchtime during the hot days and usually had a dose each evening on arrival at camp, along with a daily Magnesium tablet. I had no issues with cramps on the trail but had a lot of cramps in my legs after the trail. I began taking the Magnesium tablets again and that settled down.

I also took a spoonful of Vital which is an All in One Daily health Supplement containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and pro and prebiotics. It is a very light powder which I carried in a zip lock plastic bag and refilled at my Christmas break. I also carried some Raro powder so I could have an orange drink for a change. I didn’t manage to find any dehydrated alcohol to bring with me.

I did carry some water purification tablets and used them mostly as a result of peer pressure. The Europeans all carried water filtration systems and even filtered the town water. Conversely, before the TA, I have never filtered or boiled any NZ water from huts or rivers or creeks. There were notices at all the DOC (Department of Conservation) huts saying that water needed to be boiled. These notices are only a recent addition, and I believe they are just to “cover their backs in case someone does get sick” and I mostly ignored them. The people from overseas all routinely filtered their water and this was a daily ritual for them, even on town. I had one yukky tummy in Tamarunui which saw me running down the main street and into an outdoors shop asking for the toilet. But other than that I had no problems. My father used to say that I had a “cast iron gut’ and I think he was right!

In the North Island finding water was rarely an issue as we stayed mostly in campgrounds or houses and all town water is good to drink from the taps in New Zealand. I carried plenty of water if I was going to be on a farm all day but that didn’t happen too often.

In the South Island I mostly filled up in creeks and rivers as I was usually up quite high and above animals. There was a couple of days in the Richmond Ranges where there was limited water so the pack was a bit heavy with the extra water at the beginning of those days. The huts tanks all had water however I tried to use the nearby creeks rather than the hut tank water if I could.

Hygiene / Night bag

A light, see through pencil case from a $2 Shop was used as my Night Bag.

It didn’t contain much at all. I didn’t even carry a brush or comb as I kept my hair short and I didn’t care what I looked like. We were all in the same boat anyway. When on trail I would have a quick wipe down on arrival at camp to remove the salt, sweat and mud, before changing out of my walking clothes. I always cleaned my teeth night and morning. Other than that the only times I was really clean was when in town where I would have a decent shower. I was most happy to find a proper sized towel and even used the bath mat if need be. I only used shampoo if staying at private houses and my hair was all good.

My luxury item was my razor as I just couldn’t bring myself to let my legs get hairy. Some of the girls did and I didn’t think it looked pretty at all.

  • Toothbrush with slightly shortened handle
  • Toothpaste 20 gm tube refilled when I stayed at a house
  • Small soap in a thin drawstring bag so I wouldn’t lose it. Used for body, hair and clothes washing
  • Small Kathmandu travel towel 20 cm by 20 cm (this was okay on trail but not much good for drying myself after a proper shower)
  • Earplugs – silicon type which I used most nights and would never be without. Once they are sealed well all mice rustling, snoring, wind and traffic noises are gone
  • Eye mask – Also a must have to keep out light from other peoples torches, devices, the moon, sun and other light coming in hostel windows etc.
  • Razor – disposable
  • Torch -LEDLENSER SOE 5. I replaced the heavy strap with thin hat elastic to save weight. I recharged it about once a month as I usually went to bed in the light and woke up in the light.

Toileting stuff

I soon got into the routine of using my bowels first thing in the morning which meant I was able to ditch my plastic shovel. Some of the toilets on trail were a bit rough but most were very good considering. Sometimes sharing with a lot of flies or sandflies made toilet time a bit interesting but I can’t really complain.

  • Kulacloth – PeeRag– An anti microbial pee cloth for wiping after peeing. – My best piece of gear. https://kulacloth.com/pages/faqs
  • Hand sanitiser – after toilet
  • Wet Wipes – a packet of 10 would last about a week- Used one each day to firstly to wipe my face, hands then my bottom, in that order. I usually carried the used ones out in a separate zip lock plastic bag.

First Aid and Repair Kit

I had very little in my First Aid Kit as my experience tramping showed that there was not much that I had ever needed and usually it was used for other trampers, rather than myself. In the case of any major injury that meant I could not continue I would use my PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) to obtain assistance. I expected Blisters, sandflies, sun protection, and minor aches and pains to be my issues. I was correct.

I had a few basic repair bits and pieces, which came in handy.

First Aid

  • PLB – ResQLink (Used twice)
  • A few plasters (used a couple)
  • 6 large blister pads (used 2 and gave to others)
  • 6 small blister pads (used 4)
  • 2 Op site dressings (Not used
  • Iodine swabs (Used on blisters)
  • Paracetamol tablets (Used)
  • Anti Inflammatory tablets (Used)
  • Anti Histamine Tablets (Used for bee stings)
  • DermAid Hydrocortisone cream (Used for rash on back and for others)
  • Sunscreen – Invisible Zinc (Used on face and backs of hands)
  • Insect repellent – BiteGuard (Absolute necessity in South Island)

Repair Gear

  • Needle and strong thread (used by others)
  • Zip ties (not used)
  • Small pencil (used)
  • Duct tape wrapped around pencil (not used)
  • Piece of bicycle tube (Used to light fire once)
  • Patches for air mattress (used twice)
  • Patches for Z Packs tent and pack (used )

After Trail Thoughts

Here are a few things I have noticed since I have arrived home. Some habits are hard to break and others are hard to get back into!

  • When I wake up my first thoughts are “Where am I?” and “What is today’s track going to be like”
  • I scan for somewhere to hang my food bag when getting ready for bed
  • Will the sandflies or mice get in if I leave the window open?
  • Remembering to have a shower each day
  • Thinking to look in the mirror
  • Brushing my hair as I didn’t even carry a comb for the whole trail
  • When out for a walk I scan for a tree to pee behind
  • I keep my torch beside my bed
  • When out for a walk I scan for orange triangles
  • Why are there so many dishes?
  • Deciding what to wear is a big deal even though I have very limited clothes with me
  • Slippers are so nice. I think my slippers were the things I missed most on the trail

Post Trail Stats

  • Pairs of shoes: 3 New Balance Trail shoes (last pair still in good condition)
  • Pairs of inner socks: 4 ( 2 x Ninjinji toes socks and 2 cheaper versions)
  • Pairs of outer sock: 3 Icebreaker
  • Other Gear items replaced: Air mattress, spork, 1 pair of gloves, sunhat, innersoles
  • Times I lost my PeeRag: 2
  • Times I found my PeeRag: 2
  • Pairs of gloves lost: 2
  • Other lost items: Morsel spork at John Coult Hut and sun flaps for sunhat, one walking pole left behind at second helicopter rescue
  • Gear repairs: strap on pack sewn up in Te Kuiti by Trail Angel, phone case replaced in Christchurch as camera lens scratched
  • Food carried for the longest: Sachet of Tuna from start to finish (I finally gave it away on my last day )
  • Average daily trail food cost: $12 a day
  • Total amount spent on trail: $12,400. This includes the gear that was replaced on the trail and my phone plan cost.
  • Trail food dinners: 50% (usually Backcountry meals) for half of the days.
  • Helicopter rescues: 2 Day 94 heart issue in Richmond Ranges and Day 146 lost in the Longwood Forest Conservation Area.

Walking Statistics

  • Days walked: 111
  • Zero days: 26
  • Days off trail: 13 (Christmas, Heart issue, Christchurch waiting on weather)
  • Total days: 149
  • Average distance walked (including zeros): 16 km / day
  • Average distance walked (only walking days): 22 km / day
  • Longest day (distance): 39.5 km, Greenstone Hut to Mavora Lakes Campsite
  • Longest day (time): 12.5 hours for 39.5 km, Greenstone Hut to Mavora Lakes Campsite
  • Top speed: 5.4 km / hr, Twizel to Lake Ohau Lodge, road and cycle trail
  • Slowest speed: 1.0 km / hr, Te Matawai Hut to Nichols Hut in Tararua Ranges (Excludes the day when my heart was playing up)

Accommodation Statistics

Overall I slept in beds for 50% of the nights on trail. Some of the beds were not the best but paying a little extra for a cabin or backpackers gave other advantages, such as chairs and tables and other common areas to socialise and sort out gear etc. My tent was used more in the North Island but I stayed in more huts in the South Island. I usually chose to pay a bit more for accommodation where I could so that I didn’t have to put my tent up. Most of the young ones on the trail generally had smaller budgets than me, so would have spent a lot more nights in their tents.

  • Number nights in a tent: 48, 32% (29 in Nth. Island and 19 in Sth. Island)
  • Number of nights in a hut: 25, 17% (8 in Nth. Island and 17 in Sth. Island)
  • Number of nights in a bed (on trail): 74, 50% (backpackers hostel, motel, holiday parks, and trail angels)

Weather Statistics

Overall I had very good weather on the trail. (Thanks Garry for buying the Weather Gods drinks and organising this for me). Even when it did rain it was mostly just light rain and I did not get any of the gale force winds and rain that New Zealand is capable of dishing up. I waited in Christchurch for 4 days to allow a huge storm, that hit the lower South island, to pass. We were basking in 30 degree days away from it.

  • Number of days with rain some of the day: 21, 14%
  • Number of days with wet feet: 61, 41% Mud, marsh, river crossings
  • Number of times I put tent up in the rain: 1, First night on the trail at Twilight Beach
  • Number of times I took tent down in the rain: 2, Twilight Beach on the 2nd day and Macetown on Day 133
  • Wild camped: 8 times

Wellbeing

Each day I scored my mind and body out of 10.

Body: In scoring my body a 10 would be human perfection and a zero would mean I was dead. I didn’t manage any 10’s as my body was well used before I started and, fortunately, I didn’t end up dead so no zero scores either. On the vast majority of the days I managed a 9 with the average being 9.4 and the lowest score was 2. This was Day 94 when I had heart issues and was rescued by helicopter from the Richmond Ranges.

Mind: I was in high spirits for most of the time on Te Araroa so most days I scored a 10. The trail was just what I wanted, I was happy to be there and never once considered giving up. The lowest day was again Day 94 when I was afraid that I would not be able to continue so I scored a 4. This brought the average down to 9.4.

Looking back at my scores I have noticed that I was still feeling good in myself even when the days were hard and challenging. I am sure that the right attitude and state of mind is what keeps the body going when things get tough, and there was a lot of really tough sections. Some of the toughest sections received 10 out of 10 for the mind score as I was usually very pleased with my achievements for the day.

Day 140. 10 Mar. A long, hard, wet day.

I had really enjoyed my evening in Te Anau, with Fiona, the English woman, as we swapped travel and tramping adventures over huge pizzas and beer.

Next morning I stayed snuggled up in my bed in the tepee for longer than I should have and mucked around packing and breakfasting in the hostel kitchen. Then I realised I hadn’t bought enough dinners so put on my pack and headed to the supermarket. Whilst there I realised I had left some stuff in the fridge at the hostel so went back in and bought more salami and cheese.

Then I couldn’t resist a coffee at a cafe so I wasn’t out on the road hitching until after 11am. But the days walk was only 5- 6 hours as I remembered. I was soon picked up by a woman working for the Guide Dog Association. She had just delivered a retired dog to it’s new home in Te Anau and was heading back to Dunedin. We chatted about the Camino de Santiago as she had been considering walking it.

She dropped me at nearly noon at the start of Princhester Road which I was to follow to the Lower Princhester hut where I planned to eat my lunch. No rain at this stage but this is Fiordland, one if the wettest areas if New Zealand and it had rained solidly for the last 2 days and was forecast to rain again in the afternoon.

Nice looking sheet and farm house

The trail goes firstly through a farm, then through the Takitimu Conservation Area before crossing Mt Linton Station, ending on the highway between Otautau and Tuatapare. The trail notes say 3 – 4 days and I was aiming for 3 days.

However I arrived at Lower Princhester Hut 1.30 to see a sign saying it was another 8 hours to Aparimu Hut. The sign indicated that this would take 4 days of 8 hours each. So much for my plan of doing it in 3 days. I ate my lunch quickly then took off like a mad woman determined to get to Aparimu Hut before 8 pm when it would be dark. That gave me 6.5 hours to get there. My Plan B was to make camp at 7.30 pm if I wasn’t on track to make the hut by 8 pm.

So into the bush I go and it is now raining and the track is already very muddy, slightly reminiscent of Raetea Forest, way back in the early weeks of the trail. I have been spoiled with the good weather for the vast majority of the trail so felt I couldn’t complain. Not that there was anyone to hear my complaint! Is a complaint a complaint, if no one is there to hear it? This question kept my mind occupied for quite some time.

Damn mud
Just slosh on through it

Some parts were steep and slippery and hard going so now I was realizing why it would take so long to do 16 km. I didn’t stop to take many photos at all after the first hour as I was on a mission: I didn’t want to waste any precious minutes of daylight.

Okay I see the way

Eventually I came out into high tussock grass that was very wet underfoot. I struggled to see the markers with the rain, fog, and grass nearly as tall as me. It was very slushy underfoot and I had to use all my concentration to miss the deep holes filled with yukky, smelly, muddy water. I fell into many of them and had to pull myself out just to step in another hole shortly afterwards. This was really hard work!

When I was just about over that it was back into the bush and the slippery roots and mud again. The rest of the afternoon alternated between these 2 scenarios. It really was hard going but I didn’t stop at all except to dip my cup in the creeks to drink as I came across anything that looked halfway drinkable.

I was on a mission, and even though it was bloody hard work, I was enjoying myself and my spirits were good. My mantra was “Just keep going at a good rate and you will be there by 8” And that is just what I did.

Whew! At 7.45 pm I was nearly overcome with emotion when I smelt smoke from the chimney of the little Aparimu hut. This hut is renowned for having the biggest and boldest mice population but I didn’t care.

Photo of Aparima Hut taken as I left the next morning

Inside was German man doing a few sections NOBO and Natalie who I had met at Te Anau. She had told me that she had been following me for weeks but hadn’t been able to catch me. My extra rest day in Te Anau allowed her to catch up.

The hut books are our permanent record of where we have been and who is in front of us, what the weather was for them and they are a compulsory and an exciting read. We know each others handwriting well before we may meet in person. For most of us it is the only reading we do each day.

I was very wet and fairly cold so changed my clothes out on the veranda. My hands were so numb that it was difficult to take off my socks, undo buttons etc. I thought about asking for some help but didn’t want to make anyone come out into the cold. So I fumbled on and soon I was inside in the warm getting my dinner on. The others were in their sleeping bags telling me about the cheeky mice trying to get into their food bags as they were cooking their dinner and running over their feet as they sat at the table. Mice are okay but I couldn’t sleep knowing there were rats in a hut.

I hung up my pack with my food bag inside it and was soon warm, with my mask and earplugs in, feeling extremely satisfied with my day. This was probably the hardest day I have had on the trail, physically and mentally, but emotionally it was good. The mice could do what they wanted.

Day 150 20 March 2020. The final day- Bluff

I was up just before 5 am as I wanted to start the last 39 km before anyone else. That would mean they could all catch up to me and we could finish together. So I sneaked out of the dormitory, pulled on my hiking clothes and muddy shoes and socks for the last time. By 6am I was on the road in the cold and dark with mixed feelings. My shoulder was very sore, as it really needed a good massage but I hadn’t been able to find anyone to give me one. I have got this far with no injuries so I was cursing my body for giving me problem at this late stage. 7km down the road I needed the toilet and a bush on the side of the motorway wasn’t going to do the job. It was early but there was already a lot of traffic out to the port and the Aluminum Smelter at Bluff. I had a HiViz vest on so I was quite noticable.

So I veered off following the signs to the local hospital and just made it to the toilet, after the required hand washing and questioning on entry. Covid-19 precautions were really obvious now.

Then I sat in the warm for a while and, again, just didn’t want to walk any more. So I walked the 7 km back to town. Then caught a shuttle out to Bluff. I hung around in a cafe and found a door knob at the right height to do some work on the knots in my shoulder. What a relief! At about 2 pm I got a text saying Anouk and co were getting closer so I put my pack on and walked 7 km along the motorway out to meet them at the edge of town. We stopped to take photos on the rusty sign. How big are those smiles?

They trail walked around Bluff Hill but this group had decided to walk up and over the hill to the end.

So off we went up the last hill of the trail. me trailing Anouk, Jimmy, the 2 Frenchies. I had mixed emotions, one step feeling like crying with relief that it was over, the next crying with pride in myself, crying because I was close to going home and seeing may family and friends again, and then crying with sadness because it was all ending.

After a time at the summit where we all reached into ourselves to say a quiet good bye to Te Araroa it was down the other side to see the sign we had all dreamed of for 5 months. I walked faster and faster with Jimmy always out of reach in front of me.

Then, just like that, we were all there. There was tears and hugs before we opened the bottles of “champagne” we had been carrying in our packs. Then we sat in the sun having a picnic and congratulating each other.

Our last mission to to head up to the Oyster Cafe where we collected our medals and had a beer. Then the shuttle I had organised arrived to take us back to Invercargil. The lovely driver stopped at the supermarket and then the bottle shop for us. Invercargil still has a Licensing Trust so alcohol can’t be sold anywhere other than bottle shops. We needed some supplies to celebrate in style.

We had a fun evening, all wearing our medals and managed to stay up until midnight. That was a TA record.

I made it.

I have been on a journey where the destination has always been “The Real World.” However I have finished with the whole world going into a lock-down because of Covid-19. So am I returning to “The Real World” or is this going to be a world that we have never known before?

Thanks to all my family and friends and all the other people who have followed my blog and my Facebook page for your support motivation and enthusiasm. Also thanks to all the other Te Araroa walkers I have met on the way. These interactions have helped me remain focused and (usually) kept a smile on my face and my legs walking.


I have seen so many amazing parts of New Zealand that can’t be seen unless you have wet shoes and a pack on your back. I know most of you couldn’t do what I have done and more of you wouldn’t even want to do what I have done so am pleased to have taken you along on my Damn Long Walk. It has been a pleasure having you accompanying me and sharing my beautiful country with you.


Hopefully I have encouraged some of you to get out and do some of the things you have dreamt about. Just go and do it. Life is too short to just dream; so get on and make a plan.

Thanks to my trusty Zpacks pack .

Day 149. 19 March. 2nd to last day.

The Colac Bay pub was rocking that night with about 20 of us TA walkers all catching up with each other. There was a bit of talk about the corona virus but most people just wanted to savor the last couple of days on trail and think about that later.

Dinner time
Early morning start

So I started out the day with Anouk and Jimmy (Australia). Only 2 days of walking to do and it would be beach and road walking. So NO MORE MUD. A few days ago I didn’t want to finish but the Longwood Forest and the sight of Bluff has changed my attitude. I just want to finish and get home. So many of the others are feeling the same. No one is going over to Stewart Island. The trail has made it easy for us to finish. Mud, beach , signpost. this is just the opposite of how we started: Signpost, beach, mud. A fitting end.

We walked along the beach and I was not enjoying myself. The tide was at it highest so we were walking on horrible deep stones on a slope.

A difficult surface to walk on

It was hard going and I couldn’t keep up with the others. I think I am fast when I am on my own but I am still just a bit slower than many of the young ones. They have all got faster and fitter and stronger too.

Chase those guys

Then we veered off over some cliffs and down through big flax bushes. Soon I was ankle deep in mud, slipping over and sitting in it. The language coming out of the flax bushes was not pretty! I had cleaned my shoes and did not want and more mud. I have lost all interest in the damn long walk!!! I don’t care anymore – I just want it finished!!

After 13 km we reached the small coastal town of Riverton and headed to a cafe. Soon there was a big table of walkers chatting madly as we do.

But my mind wasn’t with it. Outside it had started to rain. That was it for me. I just did not want to walk in the rain so asked about buses to Invercargil. There was only a morning service and I had missed it but I was given the number of the local freight company. ” I will be there in 10 minutes to pick you up” she said. Decision made. No 26 km beach walk for me today. I didn’t want my second to last day to be miserable. Was I getting lazy? I don’t know and I don’t care!

So I had a night in Invercargil in a hostel and dinner in the local Irish Bar, with only a group of local guys in overalls there. Covid-19 was beginning to take over.

Day147 – 148 17-18 March. Colac Bay rest days

A rest day or 2 has been ordered by my children: wait until there is someone to look after you, has been the order. I think I have done quite well. 2,900 km and only 2 rescues!

So the usual washing of body and clothes and scrubbing shoes and multiple rinsing of muddy socks, tent drying and a bit more gear sorting than usual. With the arrival of the helicoptor I had to quickly stuff stuff into my pack before it blew away. I have found that I had left behind one of my walking poles. I am definitely not going back to pick it up.

I was reasonably presentable and odorless by the time the local policeman arrived to interview me. This is part of the Search and Rescue procedure I was not in trouble.

The cop knew the area well and said that they thought I was probably down a mine shaft. Again I did all the right things except lose the markers. So I began to feel better about it all.

I spent the afternoon in the bar writing up my blog and taking phone calls and replying to messages. The TA family had heard about my rescue and were either laughing or commiserating with me. Maybe I hold the record for the most Helicoptor rides on the trail.

I shared a feed of freshly caught shellfish with a local guy and dinner with some TA hikers. They were dribbling in throughout the day.

The Israeli guy, Armin, who took the short cut, looked much better than the two who had walked for 13 hours on the official trail. Armin had actually spent the night in the infamous Martin’s Hut which was alive with vermin. He is a tough, fast guy having got all this way in only 3 months. I have taken 5 months.

Next a very clean looking Sirkka (Netherkands) arrived. She had decided she did not want 2 long days of mud and rats so had walked on the road from Otautau. It was about 40km of long boring gravel road walking but better than what her husband Roy had encountered.

Her hubby, Roy (Netherlands) and Caroline (USA) had kept to the official trail and camped at the cellphone towers, before Martin’s Hut. They were plagued with rats running over and under their tent all night. They gave up trying to sleep when one began chewing through the netting. Our government is aiming for us to be predator free by 2025. I think they had better do some wide spread 1080 drops. There is a real problem down here that a few traps is not going to fix.

Rat attack in tent (excuse the language but understandable I think)

They packed up and left at 3 am with headlamps on and walked in the dark. They arrived at about 6 pm, muddy and tired. A 15 hour day. I was sure that the short cut was a better way.

It was St Patrick’s Day so we shared the pub with a few revelers in their green hats but we were more interested in our food and swapping TA stories. They had all seen the chopper go over and had joked that it is probably that Karen again.

The Israeli guy ate a full steak, eggs and chips meal, then a big plate of fish and chips followed by a chocolate pudding and ice cream dessert. Hikers hunger at it’s best. I only had the steak dinner and the dessert. We are all going to have to watch our eating when we finish thus damn long walk.

Happy hikers. Food eaten.

Day 148 Another day hanging out

Gail has arrived as she hitched from Otautau, also not wanting 2 long days of mud and rats. Gail has been walking for a few weeks with her daughter, Aliss. They are from Wales. I have walked with them a bit before including an awful river walk.

I have decided to leave tomorrow with Roy, Sirkka and Carolyn. I am sure they can look after me. If I stay here any longer eating and drinking at the pub I will put back on the weight I have lost. We are aiming for 2 days to Bluff, but need to have a good look at the tides as there is a long stretch of beach walking. Total to go about 73km. Actually I am now getting excited about finishing. And some of you will be pleased to get a break from my KarensDamnlongwalk posts.

By the end of the day there another 10 walkers had arrived, including Anouc. Dinner will be a lively affair tonight

Day 146. 16 March. Lost in the Bush

The rain continued all night but I was dry and warm in my tent. Because I had cellphone coverage I could see the forecast had changed to rain all morning and easing by 1pm. So I watched a series from Netflix on Pandemics. Very interesting. I had more muesli for breakfast, then an early lunch and prepared myself to hit the track a soon as the rain stopped.

The TA track from here is a very gnarly, muddy 9 – 10 hour day, but I had been sent through a short cut that only takes about 5 hours. Some of the track was on the maps but the latter part wasn’t. Others had used the track and said it was well marked. I had had enough mud walking to last me about a quarter of the rest of my lifetime, so decided to take the short cut. Below is the screen shot I had been sent of of the route. Looks simple. I had Googled the track this morning and it actually said that it was part of Te Araroa so I felt confident. Follow the orange track.

I would put my live tracker on my Topo GPS app on my phone so if I got into trouble I could easily retrace my steps. The trail notes warned us to stay on the track as there were numerous old mine shafts in the forest, covered with thick layers of moss. Dangerous country.

I packed up my wet tent and was off on a roll following markers on a nice dry track. It was a bit overgrown as not used very often but it was obviously an old track. It followed a water race for the first couple of hours to Turnbulls Hut. I was enjoying this wholeheartedly. I would be at the Colac Bay Hotel and Campground by 6 pm, all warm and clean with a beer in hand. I am in Southland now so it is colder than I have had on the trail. But I had the right gear so was warm and happy.

I stopped briefly at Turbulls Hut and wrote my intentions in the book. This was to be the last time I would write Karen Griffiths TA SOBO. I wanted a good trail for anyone to follow as I was off the marked Te Araroa.

The last 2.5 hours was to be the track not on the map. But I was pleasantly surprised at how well marked it was. This was obviously a track that had been around for many years. No problems at all. I stopped to check my tracking and could see that I was well on track to make it out in 2.5 hours. I congratulated myself for my good decision making and started off singing away out loud. I only sing out aloud when I am in the bush alone or in my younger days very drunk on Karaoke.

I don’t know more than choruses for songs but the nuns taught us a lot of religious songs so I was merrily singing “Away in a Manger” when I realised I hadn’t seen a marker for a while.


No markers. Okay I’ve got this as I had put on my GPS tracker on. I will just go back where I came from.

I just couldn’t get back to a marker
Very dense mossy bush.


After 1.5 hours going in circles in bush full of old mine holes, I was getting cold and there was no sun to orientate myself with. I put on all my layers of clothes as I was cooling off fast, I ate and drank. I just needed to head South and I would hit the road eventually. It was probably less that an hour away. But the bush was too thick the moss soft and could well be covering mine shafts. I felt really ashamed and annoyed with myself. I tried to get phone reception, thinking I could get the local Search and Rescue guys to walk up the track and get me back on track. However I couldn’t get coverage: it just wouldn’t send any messages.

I didn’t want to wander around any more trying to get cover so realised I had to push the button on my Personal Locator Beacon, yet again. I could have spent the night there but would have still been lost in the morning


So push the button AGAIN.


A helicopter arrived about 40 minutes later. I was in very thick bush so waved my orange sleeping bag and shook a tall spindly tree to attract them.

Soon a guy was being lowered down to me as I scrambled to get everything back into my pack and be ready for him. The wind was blowing my stuff around.

I climbed into the sling, hooked onto the man and my pack hooked onto him Then we were winched up. It is all very noisy and windy and we had a few trees to negotiate through but soon I was up scrambling into the chopper and safe feeling very silly.

My rescuers.

The helicopter came from Te Anau and when I said I could hitch back here they said they could drop me at my destination. So off we went straight to the Colac Bay Pub where I had a room booked. They landed in the empty section directly across the road from the front door of the pub.

Spot the pub

The locals thought I was a rich celebrity come to town so were out with their phones filming me. How embarrassing! One of the crew insisted on wearing my pack right into the pub and delivering me onto the hands of the staff. He then told the 30 or so patrons that I would tell them how I managed to hitch hike to the pub.

This is the only time I have had my pack carried for me.

I have no problem telling everyone about my achievements so I have to also be as open about my stuff ups. So it was ” Give that woman a big bottle of Speights” and listen to her story.

The locals said I was very lucky to escape a fall down a mine shaft. They all had a story about a hunter who had lost a dog down one. The publican told me that many of the TA walkers use the short cut, more successfully than me obviously. Maybe they don’t sing Christmas hymns?

Cheers guys.

Day 145. 15 Mar. The last night in my tent.

As I went to bed last night I met three older than me men and got chatting, as I do. They were very impressed with my walk. One was a scientist, a Microbiologists and something else. They were on a speaking tour of N.Z. giving a different view to the usual about climate change. I didn’t ask too many questions but gathered that all was going to be okay in the world, in his learned opinion. We had a good few laughs and I enjoyed the company of people nearer my age for a change.

In the morning I decided to try and get a lift back to the trail head with them. They were heading to Gore the same direction as me and were planning morning coffee in Colac Bay. It would take me 2 longs days to walk to Colac Bay. I tried to get one of them to come along and carry my pack but no good.

One of the men had the farm beside the one that Frances, who started the walk with me had grown up on. It is a small world here in New Zealand.

They gave me compliments on my nice looking legs which I haven’t had before in my life. I must be looking as good as I feel.

At trail head at 9.30 am up forestry road into very muddy bush track, then out on to open tops , very marshy. A wee bit of sun peeked through occasionally which cheered me up. Then overcast again.

It is “The Roar” which is when the Male deer roar out trying to find a female to mate. This means the hunters are out and I saw 4 vehicles along the track. Consequently I need to be visible so as not to get mixed up with a horny stag and get shot. Unfortunately this happens regularly in NZ so I had my white hat on and my bright orange puffer jacket hung over my pack. I had left my Hi Viz vest and big orange poncho behind at Christmas time as there is very little road walking in South Island.

I don’t look like a deer do I?

The mud was smelly but there was not too much surface water most of the time because no really recent rain. Similar day to a few days ago but not raining so nowhere near as bad. But at times quite deep .

I managed quite well to keep myself clean except for shoes and socks until about 5.30, when I went in up to my knees and fell on my bum in the wet slushy, smelly mud. There was no one to pull me out so I took quite a while to get upright again.

Only one more day of mud then beach then mostly road walking to Bluff. Yeah. This day of mud made me decide that I won’t go to Stewart Island as it is well known for its mud. I am over mud. No more mud for me!

Time-wise I was doing well by the time I stopped for lunch. I sat behind a big rock out of the wind beside a number of big cellphone towers on Baldy Hill. This is aptly named as there was not much growing up here in the wind.

In the distance I could see the coast and bays ahead of me. I was so close now and absolutely wanted to finish this damn long walk.

Bluff in sight. The end is near.

Thereafter I was on a mission to get to Martin’s Hut and find camp spot before dark. I was not planning on sleeping in Martin’s Hut as renown for its very bold rat population. I moved quickly down 4WD track then it is back into the bush, mud, roots, moss, with a steep ascent and descent of Little Baldy. I only keep going because I know that I am nearing the end of the mud, I can nearly smell the sea.

I arrived at the hut at 5.30 pm and one look at the outside confirmed my decision to camp somewhere down the track. It was beginning to rain lightly so I needed to get a move on. I left note on a scrap of paper in the hut giving my intentions as could not find book. I was aware that I was taking an alternative route the next day so wanted to make sure I did all the right things in case I ended up lost. My family need to know my last whereabouts

Martins Hut built in 1905 and home to a very bold family of rats
Note the holes in the wall behind the fireplace.

Even so finding a flat spot was hard as I was on a very wet and muddy and steep downhill track. Eventually about half a km away I found a spot on soft moss and decided it would have to do.

I put up tent, set up gas bottle with pot of water for my dinner. Pot tipped, wet cooker, then I blew it dry but then the gas bottle was leaking at the attachment. Flames coming out everywhere. It was buggered. So muesli and beef jerky for dinner.

I took this as another indication that I should definitely not go on to Stewart Island . This is to be the last night in my tent and cooked dies. I hang up my food on a tree and make sure I leave no food in my pack or tent so hopefully I will be left alone tonight. I do not want to meet the local rats!

Try and get that you damn rats.

I just had enough time to get all set up before it got dark and it really was dark. No need for a mask tonight. It is raining very lightly but just drops on my tent from the trees above me. No wind and I ask Garry to stop the rain by the morning. Rain was not forecasted nor requested. He is slacking.

I have cellphone coverage so don’t feel so alone. I make a few posts and watch an episode of Coronation Street to put me to sleep.

Goodnight little tent. This will probably be our last night together in the Te Araroa. Only 100km left to go.

Last night in my tent.

Below is a video one of the other hikers posted of his night in this area the night after mine.

Day 141 to 144. Telford Camp to Otautau

Day 141. 11 Mar. A day of two halves. Aparimu Hut to Telford Campsite

I woke to find that the mice had been in my pack and into my food bag. They had enjoyed a good feed of my muesli which has a packet of passionfruit yogurt mix added to it.  Nothing else was eaten but I was slightly revolted by the fact that they had been in my food bag as Cara told me that mice are incontinent. I don’t so much mind sharing my food with them but am not happy with them peeing in my food bag.

So I was off again at 8.30 am heading for Telford Campsite. Lower Wairaki Hut, another old NZ Forest Services Hut, was about half way. The DOC sign said 8 hours to the hut AND another 7 to the campsite. 15 hours all up???

Our trail notes said 6 and 4 hours making 10 hours all up. So off I went not knowing how long this day was to be but pushing myself to go as fast as I could. It was about a 250 metre elevation gain through the muddy forest to begin with then down the other side to the hut in a small clearing. I arrived about 1pm , only 4.5 hours so what are those DOC signs thinking saying 8 hours to here?

Natalie and I played leapfrog throughout the morning and she was at the hut when I arrived. I boiled up some water for a hot drink for us both as were were cold from the wet feet we had had all morning.

Taking off my shoes and socks at lunch time has been my habit the whole of the trail and it has definitely helped keep my feet in good condition. But it is an awful job when I have been up to my calves in mud all morning. Putting them back on is even worse.

We were back out for another steady climb up to a ridge that became quite steep at the end. I huffed and puffed up there determined only to stop for a moment at each 10th marker. This track is one of the best marked tracks I had been on. At times I could see up to 4 markers ahead. Thanks to the people who look after this track.

Coming out of the bush at the top was a real shock. I was in a completely different world. Gone were the trees, ferns and mud and they had been replaced with a rocky alpine terrain with little growing on it.

I stopped to soak up the views to the south down across farmland and right out to the coast. I hadn’t seen coast for at least a month and I knew that I could now nearly see the end of my damn long walk.

I could also just make out the toilet at our campsite 6km away down below. It was steep going down and I had a couple of slips that sat me on my bum. These sit downs are a good chance for a wee break and to take photos.

Taken after a fall

I carried on down and arrived at the campsite at 5.30, only 9 hours after I began. (Not 15 as per the DOC sign)

I erected my little house and went off to visit Greg and Vivienne from Cromwell. They had shared the Mavoura Lakes campsite with me and are doing sections of the TA as training for the Dusky Track. We chatted for a while enjoying the instant bonds that happen when we share similar experiences with others like minded people.

Day 142 . Telford Campsite  to Birchwood Farm.

I had a mouse invasion again and woke to find they had eaten a whole muesli bar and had a good go at my half bag of chippies.

Greg had been up in the night to pee and saw a bird circling around their area. After getting back into his tent the bird swooped down into the tent vestibule to catch a squeaking mouse. No luck for me.

This year is what us known as a “Mast Year” which means that conditions are right for everything to grow well. This means lots of good food for the animals so they breed particularly well too. Hence our mice plagues on the trail this year. I do hope that all the humans who are wanting to breed this year have mast year too.

I left again about 8.30 and noted that leaving times are getting later as I get further south and the sun rises later.

As I crossed the first fence I entered Mt Linton Station. I would walk 25 km across the largest privately owned  farm station in New Zealand. Renown for its genetics. It is beautiful farm to cross.

The many signs warning us to keep to the assigned route and what would happen if we didn’t, coupled with the extensive trail notes outlining the rules of our access, indicated that this access was difficult to obtain by the Te Araroa Trust.

The days started well with an easy to walk on farm track through paddocks filled with nice trees giving shelter from the elements for the livestock. Then I had this wonderful view from a fodder paddock.

But then the day went downhill from there. Well not all down hill but up hills and down hills like a yo-yo. And we curved around and back and around and back again following fence lines and farm tracks. The farm tracks were very uneven and hard to walk on because they had recently been ripped up by some machinery to lay water pipes to troughs for the stock. Add the recent rain, a whole lot of big sloppy cow poos and animal tracks. This proved to be very difficult walking.

The route across the farm seemed to be designed to be as difficult and long as possible. No such thing as the shortest route but let’s give them a complete tour of the place and make it as hard as possible.

At one stage I got a bit lost and had an encounter with some cows who were a bit close for comfort. Also I couldn’t see any track markers so was afraid of the farmer who was notorious for finding people off track and sending them back where they came from. This wasn’t the nice farm walk I was expecting at all! But maybe the cows knew I was going the wrong way as I retraced my steps and found I had been wrong.

I managed to get back on track to then share my day with young steers who were less interested in me and then mothers and calves. I made sure not to split them up. Over stile about number 25 and I was I in the land of the sheep. I feel much more comfortable with them.

Now I could see my end goal for the day and it looked further than the 7 km it was.

I had been having wardrobe problems all day. Coat on, coat off, hat and gloves on then off. The sun had come out but there was a cold wind that got me every second corner. Add in the ups and downs and my poor body didn’t know how it felt.

Also I had run out of water by lunch time and I don’t do well under dehydration. The water sources shown on the map were very popular with the sheep and cows. They have no idea of good hygiene as they stand in the water and pee and poop as they drink. Even I won’t share that.

All the overseas hikers have water filters with them and some even filter the town tap water. This makes me feel lucky to be living in New Zealand. I do carry some water purification tablets and have used about 10, mainly to appease the people I have been with who are horrified at what I drink from. The water from creeks, rivers and huts, and cheap wine hasn’t done me any harm yet. As my Dad would say, “I must have a cast iron gut”

I am digressing. So I am not really enjoying the nice farm walk that the day had started out to be. Sometimes I might even get up a gallop on the downhill parts but the ruts in the track make this a bit risky. I don’t know whether I am hot or cold and I am damn thirsty. I tried to listen to a couple of podcasts to take my mind off myself but today I didn’t manage to get myself in a happy place. I slipped over few times and the last 6 km seemed to drag, especially as I could see the end in the distance.

I had booked to stay at a private hut about 2 km from the track end and was glad to finally arrive at the Birchwood Hut to be greeted by Greg and Vivienne. I felt better after 4 glasses of water and finding out that they had had a hard day too. I don’t think I am competitive, but just want to be able to measure myself against others to ensure that I am doing alright.

Sarah arrived with our huge hot roast meals and a couple of beers each for us. She told us that she had seen the Ta Walkers coming through about 4 years ago so decided to clean up an old farm building and make a haven for us and a couple of dollars for herself now that she was home with with her babies. I was happy to pay the $45.

A hot shower, armchairs, microwave and a kettle, books, phone reception and no sandflies. Too good. But there were mosquitoes which we haven’t see for a while. But I had a good nights sleep after dealing to a few of them.

Day 143 A rest day on the farm

I woke in the morning having decided that 3 long hard days in a row was enough for this old bird so I have had  another rest day.

Consequently I have sat on the porch in the sun watching the farm work around me. I have been visited by some big bulls, some farm dogs, had tractors and sheep trucks, farm bikes and the farmers and their kids past. They lit the annual bonfire and I updated this blog.

A young German couple arrived at about 7.30 pm and they had also had a very hard day. They were pleased to arrive to a warm welcome as I had chopped wood and had a roaring fire going, although I needed to open the windows to let some of the heat out.

Tomorrow is another 27 km farm walk. Then 3 days through Longwood Forest  and then another 3 days maybe to reach Bluff and the end of this damn long walk.

Day 144. MAR 14. A nice farm and forestry walk.

This was a lovely day which started out cold and foggy but I soon warmed up as is usual there was soon a hill to climb. Dean, the owner of Birchwood Farm had spent the previous day moving the trail that weaves through his farm to accommodate stock and crops. So I was a real trail blazer this morning. I had learnt what that phrase means from Americans on the trail. They call the track markers blazes where we call then markers. So a trail blazer ui someone who puts out the original markers on a trail.

I christened about 10 new stiles and made the pathway for others to follow. The sun came out and I managed to get through the few boggy bits without getting too muddy. However my shoes were wet from the dew on the grass. I was joined, for a while by husband and wife from Invercargil who were section walkers.

The sheep were friendly and they don’t make such a mess of the ground so the farm walk was pretty good. Lovely views back across the Takitimu Range I walked a few days back.

Then it was down to a forestry block where I stopped in cleared area in the sun for lunch. The mess left behind after logging is a blot on the landscape and always unsettles me.

Lunch spot
I need to resupply. Lunch is getting limited.

After that there was a few km of back country gravel road in the sun before back into a Forest again.

By 3.30 pm I was out on the road between Tuatapare and Otautau. I needed to get some more food for the journey ahead so decided I would try for a ride in either direction. So here I am in Otautau because I was picked up by a van of young shearers on their way home from a days work. I think they were impressed when I said I liked the way they smelt as it of reminded me of Garry. They did not reciprocate.

So I have a room at the Otautau Hotel for the night and their menu looks good too.