Planning for Te Araroa

Last weekend I booked my flights to New Zealand for the beginning of January, with a return flight at the end of March. It now feels much more real! Work gave me the go-ahead for 3 months extended leave at the start of 2018 and I’ve been slowly getting on with planning my trip to hike Te Araroa (TA) on the south island.

Done so far:

  • Booked flights! Flying into Wellington to get sorted, then will get the boat to Picton at the top of the south island. My return flight is also from Wellington, but I’ll book the connecting flight back from Invercargill once I’m out there and nearer the end and know where I want to be.
  • Gather necessary gear (and test) – over the past few months I’ve been collecting the backpacking gear I needed: tent, big enough backpack, sleeping bag, and testing them out on hiking trips – the Coast to Coast and wild camping in Wales. At the moment my base weight is around 11kg, which I’m still looking at ways of decreasing where possible.

To do over the next 7 months:

  • Experiment with food for multi-day stretches in the wild. For some parts I’ll need to be carrying enough food to last ~9 days, so it needs to be as calorie dense as possible!
  • Research and get a GPS unit/personal locator beacon/both. For my Alpine Pass Route trip I rented a DeLorne InReach SE Satellite Mesenger unit which I used to let my parents know I was still alive every now and then, as mobile reception was pretty sketchy. The two-way communication worked well, and was reassuring to know my messages would get through in an emergency. As the TA is substantially more a wilderness than Switzerland, it’s pretty reckless to not take a GPS/PLB – I will most likely use the GPS for navigation at times too, going on accounts of previous hikers where the trail disappears at times.
  • Download the official TA maps when they get updated in September. The TA Trust publish updated maps and notes in the Autumn to take into account changes to the trail – it’s a fairly new trail so things are still changing as land agreements change.
  • Decide my resupply strategy. There are different tactics on using resupply/bounce boxes where you post ahead a box of food at specific locations where the trail comes out of the wilderness, but not to a large enough town with big enough shops to restock on food properly. Most people seem to send at least 2 boxes for the south island. Then there’s the option of trying to hitch out to larger towns.
  • Look at potential side trips off the TA on other trails. The TA is my enabler to wander around New Zealand for 3 months – some sections of it are pretty grim, and I’m not adverse to skipping sections in favour of doing some of the other Great Trails.
  • Create a post-trail civilisation re-entry strategy. I always feel a bit flat after coming back from a few days in the hills, so will need a plan after coming back from a few months! Anna McNuff writes better than me about coping with post-adventure blues.
2016 trail map for the top of the south island

To do in Wellington on arrival:

  • Go food shopping! Lots of restrictions on what you can bring into the country. I’ll then need to package these up and use the Poste Restante service/food drops to ship them ahead to wait for me later on the trail. Also buy a gas canister.
  • Get a NZ SIM card for my phone.
  • Get a 6 month mountain hut pass so I can stay in the network of mountain huts on the trail.

Currently UK citizens can get a 6 month tourist visa on arrival, so I don’t need to worry about that.

Yes, the to-do lists are substantially longer than the done-list…

4 thoughts on “Planning for Te Araroa

  1. Hi Kat, we use a Spot as a plb. Take a look and see if it might work for you. And consider using Viewranger on your phone if you can get maps for NZ. We’ve used in Sweden and our friend James Boulter used on Colorado Trail. Saves carrying a stand alone gps.
    Good luck with your prep.

    1. Thanks Geoff, Viewranger does have New Zealand maps so will likely use that as well, and will look at Spot!

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