Finally….. What We’ve Been Looking For

We just completed the Tararua Range Crossing.  In an email from our trail dad (that’s what we’re calling our friend Jon J in Christchurch, he deserves his own post, which will be forthcoming in the future), he told us ” You are heading to the famous Tararuas – classic NZ tramping! And the boring part is now all behind you!”. And how right he was.

The Tararuas are a range about 100km north of Wellington. We entered the park at 1pm on Wednesday and climbed 1100m before stopping for the night in a hut.  We both agree, one of the most exhausting days of the trip so far for both of us.

The next day we climbed up to 1500m, down to 800m, then back up to 1500m, all along a ridge line going up and down the peaks.  But man was it worth it!  We had an early start and were above the cloud line for much of the day, allowing for incredible views.

Then the sky cleared and we had perfect weather (they get 80 clear days a year) and we just continued to climb up rock faces and barely-there trail. Since we were so far up, the flora turned to low tussock, so the views were endless as we walked along.  Is it any wonder I had ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from the Sound of Music running through my head the entire day? (This gave way to ‘A Few of my Favorite Things’ and ‘The Hills Are Alive’) We arrived sweaty and exhausted at the peak, but the trail had more in store for us. 1250m straight down, again down rock faces and super steep terrain. Going down was almost as hard as going up. But we finished the day strong and cleaned off in the river and had a nice stay in a  beautiful hut. 

We’re expecting more of this kind of scenery in the South Island. It’s bound to impress. Now, on to Wellington for some days of rest!!

Just a bunch of pictures. There were to many tempting views to pass up.  See our next post for some 360 views.

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Z, January 31, 2014

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The Critter Post

We’ve been seeing a lot of big and interesting bugs here. Here are the highlights of our smallest trail friends.

Some German guys we were traveling with for a while found this stick bug near the Whanganui River.

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We see these ones occasionally on the trail. They really stand out with their flashy color.

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At the Mangapurura campsite and in Tararua forest we caught site of the famous weta, one of the largest bugs in the world:

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We’ve also seen big old spiders:

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Big bees:

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Hat cicadas and shirt spiders:

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And biggest of all, an earth worm longer than my shoe (size 14!)

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More bugs are certain to be in a later post…

Update: two more critters wet forgot to mention are below!

First, this teeny-tiny blue bug is fascinating. It camouflages itself as a drop of water.

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Second, I forgot to mention the hedgehogs! Mostly, these are roadkill, but we managed to find one live one. It couldn’t care less about us… Just sat there for the photo.

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M, 1 February 2014

1500 km day!

Making good progress. Haven’t had a zero day since Waitomo, about three weeks ago, but today we hit 1500 km, which is halfway done.

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In a six more days we’ll be in Wellington, the end of the North Island.

M, 28 January 2014

The town of Bulls

We went through Bulls yesterday. It’s a funny place. Two cafes, one bakery, one stop sign. Not much else, except one big joke: Everything in the town has a bull adjective.

The cafe is “the socia-bull”. The other proclaims to be “delecta-bull.”

The trash cans say “Be Responsi-bull”.

The police station says it’s the “consta-bull”.

Oh and they have paintings:

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It’s pretty darned enjoy-a-bull.

M, 27 January 2014

Sometimes the trail does this.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the Pacific Crest Trail and how it compares to the Te Araroa. One conclusion I’ve come to is that the PCT is just a more mature trail.

For example, yesterday the trail did this:

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The little white thing glued to the rock is a sign indicating that the trail goes over the rock, but next to the rock is an electric fence and behind the rock are bushes as high as a man. In front of the rock there is no trail, only grass. The reason we found the trail there is because we had jumped the fence prior and casually walked on a farmer’s land (though we’re urged not to do this, sometimes it’s the only way).

As the trail matures these things will get fixed, but it’s amusing and interesting to walk such a new trail.

M, 27 January 2014

The Kiwi Family that Took Us In

We had quite an experience yesterday. Unexpected and amazing. We had just spent 20kms on the state highway, barely avoiding huge trucks and cars speeding down the road (by far the most dangerous part of the trip) and it was getting late. We decided to end the day and find camp. The wind was howling though and there was only farm land for miles. So we decided to ask one of the farm houses if we could camp in their yard. We approached one and were greeted by Laura who said that that shouldn’t be a problem. We then met her mom, Christine, and dad, Stewart, and sister, Claire, who directed us to their flat, grassy, protected back yard. After we set up, they invited us in for beers and a chat and 3 hours later (midnight, waaaay past our bed time)  we made our way back to the tent.  We learned that Laura just got done with a road trip from England to Mongolia, Stewart is a sheep farmer, Claire has two lovely daughters, and Christine makes amazing sultana cake.
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The next morning, we were invited in for eggs and toast and hot tea and coffee. What a way to start our 31km day!  We definitely didn’t want to leave.  On our way out, Mike said to me that this is the most ‘civilized’ we’ve been since M, M and M took us in in Auckland.  We now return to our feral savagery.

Thank you to the Kiwi family that took us in. You rock and we appreciate it.

Z, January 25th, 2014

Paddling Down the Whanganui River

We just completed a 4 day section down the Whanganui River. This is an official part of our trail and we enjoyed the break off our feet. Not to say that this was a 4 day break.  Far from it.

Day 1: We got picked up from the Mangapurura Landing by Ken who had brought us our canoes.  It was a bit cloudy but Ken assured us that the rain wouldn’t start until 4. Good thing we got into Pipiriki at 3 and only got a little drizzle.  We ate an ice cream, had a nice hot shower, thanks to the camp operators Josephine and Ken, and spent a night in a bed.

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Day 2: It rained all night and was raining when we started on the river the next day and just continued to rain all day long. We had a big push (38km) and it took us 9 hours in windy, rainy, horrible conditions.  We had strong headwinds for most of the day with the current sometimes even pushing us UP the river.

We got to the hut shivering but in no time M had a fire going and when we changed out of our soaking clothes, we found that the evening was quite pleasant.

Day 3 proved to be sunnier and windy, but the wind and currents were at our backs. It took us no time to complete the 24km required of the day and we spent the afternoon reading in the sun at the campsite.

Day 4 started with the sun in our faces and the river calm.  We made amazing time along the mirror like river. The last 5km killed us though. We were fighting a rising tide and had super gale winds in our faces.  Not a great ending to our river voyage but Wanganui town proved to be an enchanting place with sushi and Thai food for wary travelers. 

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Next up, Palmerston North and Wellington, not to mention, our half way mark and our second “major resupply”.

Z, January 23rd, 2014