WHERE: Te Araroa “the long pathway” – New Zealand, North Island
WHEN: November 6, 2020 – January 10, 2021
WHO: Karma & Scott
OBJECTIVE: Te Araroa thru-hike (North Island)
DISTANCE: 1846 km
This episode covers the sixth and final north island section of our Te Araroa thru-hike, 336 km of hiking from Whanganui to Wellington—over the mighty Tararua mountain range!
A write-up along this section… add or take a few km…
WHANGANUI TO WELLINGTON (1361 – 1700 km):
So we left Whanganui heading to Bulls… on roads… roads… and more roads. Then we had a good look at the weather for the Tararua Ranges coming up. These mountains are notorious for bad weather and the trail is quite exposed for parts of it. The last time I (Karma) hiked the TA I had to skip this section due to torrential weather, so we are VERY keen on actually getting to do it this time. That is why we have been keeping a close eye on the weather. We saw a tiny weather window between fronts developing about mid-week. At our current speed, we would miss that short window walking roads for two more days into Palmerston North, then we would have to wait for the weather to (hopefully) clear again?! So we made the executive decision to skip the roads and hitch directly to Palmerston North. Resupply, and head directly up into the Tararuas to take advantage of the good weather.
It was really nice to be back into beautiful bush again. We have planned a slight detour from the Te Araroa trail on day two after Burttons Track. This route saves us a day and allows us to actually stay in the mountains instead of dropping out for a resupply at Levin as most TA hikers do. Our detour took us up the Mangahoa river valley where we stayed a night in the Mangahoa Flats hut on the way. A beautiful hut perched just above a bend in the river. The next day, a 10 hour day of pretty demanding hiking brought us out of the bush and up on the ridge where we reconnected with the TA trail again at the Pukematawai summit (1432m). From there we followed the main ridge of the Tararuas toward Nichols hut (1242m). The 6 bunk mountain hut was hosting 8 hikers the night we stayed there. A bit of a squeeze, but at least we stayed warm. Nights up here have been pretty cold, it even snowed two nights ago. But the good weather window is holding. So far it has been amazing!! For a range that sees plenty of storms, and over 200 days of rain per year, we have had slightly overcast and sun with temperatures in the mid-teens, but most importantly—no wind! The forecast should hold for another two days before the next weather front moves in.
We woke up to an absolutely stunning morning in the mountains! Sun coming up as the clouds slowly began to rise out of the valleys. We left the hut early and were first to climb up and over Mt Crawford and we had the mountain to ourselves all day. After the summit, the trail follows a beautiful exposed ridge with amazing 360-degree views before starting the very strep descent down to the river. A pretty rough track with lots of slips and huge downed trees lead us through the valley below following the river out. Sweaty as, so we jumped in a great swimming hole in the river to freshen up a bit at lunch. Loved this section!!! A North Island favorite.
Coming out of the Tararua Forest ended with a long road walk into Waikanae on New Year Eve. We were just looking to chill, so we found some awesome trail angels in town who invited us to stay. We were sound asleep by midnight.
Man… road walking really sucks! The many detours up here have increased the number of km on roads quite significantly this year. We love being on trail and we usually just suck it up and smash it out, but we are a bit over it and frankly—it hurts! So moving into Wellington we hiked the good bits and took a ride cutting some of those roads short for once. We spent some time in the capital preparing for the South Island. Like carb loading, getting new shoes, and sending a few food drops before heading to the ferry.
We are super excited about the next chapter of the trail! We love the southern alps and we just cannot wait to be back up in the mountains again!
HAPPY NEW YEARS!