In 2015/16 I hiked, biked, and paddled my way across New Zealand on Te Araroa.
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The variety of landscapes on Te Araroa is astounding. The route alternates between sandy beaches, muddy forests, rolling farmland, river tracks, and alpine terrain - often within the same day. The locals are some of the friendliest people on the planet and there are no animal dangers to worry about. River crossings can be a safety concern. The quality of the actual trails can vary dramatically from well-groomed single track and open alpine travel to crumbling paths of roots and foot-swallowing mud. Many consider the North Island of New Zealand to be more of a cultural experience, while the South Island is more wild and scenic. If time is limited I would recommend the South Island.
I've been a huge Tolkien fan ever since grade school, to the point where I had already researched the movie set locations in New Zealand, should I ever get the chance to visit. After falling in love with long distance hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, there was no way I could resist the allure of travelling a route that spanned the real-world Middle Earth. Once I found out about Te Araroa ("The Long Pathway" in Maori) it was only a matter of time before I found myself at Cape Reinga, heading south on a new adventure.
For this trip I decided to try a new approach to record and share the journey with others. I would shoot, edit, and upload shorter videos while I hiked instead of a single longer video after the trip. It took a bit more time and equipment but was a lot of fun - until my phone failed on the South Island, putting the videos on hold. Perhaps I'll get to the remaining footage at some point, but for now enjoy the first 11 videos of hiking across New Zealand!
A short (6 min) overview video of Te Araroa is below, followed by the first of the hiking series videos.
By the Numbers
Length: 3000km (I didn't hike the entire trail. After recovering from a foot injury I skipped a large section of the North Island to catch some friends. We also ventured off the official trail on the South Island to hike the Routeburn Track, Rees Track, Kepler Track, and others. I've been a 'purist' on my US thru-hikes, but with my limited time in NZ I couldn't justify sticking to the official trail and missing these incredible places)
Start: Cape Reinga (Dec 1st, 2015)
Finish: Bluff (March 28th, 2016)
Methods of Travel: 3 (Hiking, Paddling, Cycling)
Notable Lord of the Rings film locations on Trail: At least 2 that I noticed - Mt Ngaurahoe (Mt Doom), and Rohan/Edoras (Mt Sunday). Visiting Hobbiton is also an easy side trip from Hamilton.
Best Memory: Partying at Punga Cove followed by night swimming in bio-luminescent waters
Practical Info and Resources:
Te Araroa FAQ (Official Website)
Trail Notes, Maps, and GPX Downloads (Official Website)