Day 70 – Botanic Gardens to Island Bay

Botanic Gardens to Island Bay

16kms

Total 1688kms

Katie and Hayley joined me for the final day. James dropped us off at the Botanic Gardens and we had breakfast at the cafe there. The walk started off nice and easy through the gardens, past the Beehive and down onto the waterfront which we followed to Oriental Bay. The weather was perfect. The sun was out and there was a good amount of wind to keep us cool. Then we climbed up to the Mt Victoria lookout and followed the Southern Walkway all the way to the south coast. There were great views along the town belt down onto the city and in all directions. It is a very nice walk. Katie and Hayley were not expecting so much uphill walking and I had not actually checked beforehand to prepare them but they both did very well. It was a nice easy day for me though!

The end of the trail is marked by Te Araroa’s foundation stone at Shorland Park. Catherine Hall, the CEO of Alzheimers NZ, was there to meet me as we approached. I reached my fundraising goal the day before which I am very pleased about. The donations are still rolling in so I am exceeding my target. So I will take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated to the cause and also to everyone who has supported me along the way, including all the efforts for fundraising that took place prior to me leaving which made this whole dream possible.

I did not feel any major sense of joy, relief or achievement when I reached the end. I had already spent plenty of time reflecting and thinking about it since I came out of the Tararua ranges. Day 69 was the day I felt like the job was done as I came over the hill and was looking down on Wellington city.

We were all hungry and keen to get to a cafe so we found a place close by and had a burger and beer to celebrate. Katie and I got dropped off into the city and we stayed at the QT hotel for the night. We went out for dinner and enjoyed some luxury. The next morning we went out for breakfast and then visited my step siblings, Adam and Hayley before catching our flight back to Whangarei.

The kids were at the airport waiting with Granny and Poppi. They had made a ‘Welcome Home Daddy’ sign for me and they all came running into my arms when I walked into the terminal. I have missed them all so much! We all went home for dinner and a few drinks and dad came around too. It feels great to be home again and getting lots of love from everyone.

This journey has been an amazing experience. It was hard work. Every day was hard. Some were easier than others, but none were ever easy. I pushed myself hard every day. Some days to total exhaustion. I learnt what my body and mind is capable of. I learnt about perseverance. Some days everything was against you, the wind, rain, mud, steep ascents, long distances, fatigue, pain, thirst, hunger. I never wanted to give up and a lot of the time that was not even an option due to where I was. Most of all, I learnt about resilience. I feel like a stronger and more confident person. I’m excited about setting more goals and I am confident I can achieve anything I set my mind to. I can see my kids are proud of me and I would like to think they will grow from this and be more confident themselves in achieving their own future goals or ambitions. They already want to go on big walks so I am keen to get them outdoors more and onto the trails. I hope that one day they might even do a ‘thru-hike’ with me. There are families walking the TA by the way. Parents and kids as young as six, walking the length of NZ together! I think that is just awesome. I saw many families out doing shorter hikes together as well.

We live in a beautiful country. The sights were amazing. I would encourage every New Zealander to do what I have done. As long as you do not have any major health issues then you can do it if you really want to. There are people of all ages doing it. You will get fit along the way and you can take as long as you want. I was not a hiker going into this. I still do not consider myself to be a die hard hiker. I did this for the adventure and to see my country. I am keen to try something new like Crossfit or cycling or even running, maybe trail running.

I have been living another life for the last 10 weeks. It wont take long though to adjust back to normality. I have another two weeks off before I go back to work. I need to come up with some new goals and a new health and fitness regime so I do not slip into old habits and get lazy. I have never been this fit, so I want to make sure I maintain it and build on it. I will start the South Island leg in a couple of years but I will not do it all in one go. I will break it up into 2-3 week sections each year. 10 weeks is too long to be away from home again.

There were lots of highlights along the way. I don’t think there were any lowlights. The worst days are also some of the most memorable because they tested my resolve and built my resilience. The highlights for me were:

  1. 90 Mile Beach. Three days walking down the beach with the constant roar of the waves and winds coming off the ocean.
  2. Then the right of passage through the Raetea forest. 10 hours battling a relentlessly muddy trail.
  3. East Coast from Kerikeri to Mangawhai. Stunningly beautiful coastline and understandably one of the top rated coastlines in the world. I had great weather for it too.
  4. Pureora Forest Park (The Timber Trail) Three days walking an easy going cycle-way through ancient forest and over massive gorges on long suspension bridges. Lots of history along the way too.
  5. The 42 Traverse. A long wet day through the Tongariro forest, crossing swollen rivers, flooded tracks, steep muddy climbs, all in the rain for 37kms and being nearly hypothermic by the end of it.
  6. The Tongariro Crossing. Its like being on another planet. The Blue and Emerald lakes, the Red Crater, bathing on top of a waterfall. I spent two days up there.
  7. Cycling the Fisher Track to Whakahoro. Mostly downhill mountain biking. Very fun!
  8. The Whanganui River. Paddled for three days with dad and Scott. The rapids were exciting and it was a very memorable experience.
  9. The Tararua Ranges. The toughest section of trail in the North Island. The views and landscape was spectacular with magical mossy forests.

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Day 69 – Porirua to Wellington City

Porirua to Wellington City

25kms

Total 1672kms

I started very early today and was walking back up to Colonial Knob in the dark before 6am. I needed my phone torch to see going up the bush track. By the time I got half way up the sun was providing enough light and the sunrise looked great from the top. I walked along the top of the hills to the west of Tawa and then dropped down to Ohariu Valley road. I walked about 5kms down through the valley then joined the track up to Mt Kaukau. When I arrived at the summit I got my first view of the city. That was a great moment for me. I have made it! I sat at the picnic table for a while and thought about how far I have come. I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved and it is a feeling I dont think I have experienced before. I was on a high today, walking without a pack and at times breaking into a jog. I had so much energy and I could have easily done the last 17kms to finish at Island Bay. The weather was perfect today as well.

I made my way down the mountain and came out at Ngaio, then through Wadestown, a few parks and finished at the Botanic Gardens. I had some time to pass waiting for Hayley to pick me up after picking up Katie from the airport. I went to a barber shop and got my beard tidied up then sat at a cafe for a while.

Needless to say, it was great to see Katie after six weeks! Tomorrow we will finish the walk and Hayley is coming too.

Day 68 – Paekakariki to Porirua

Paekakariki to Porirua

29kms

Total 1647kms

Before leaving town we had a coffee at a cafe and then joined the Paekakariki Escarpment track for 10kms through to Pukerua bay. The track has amazing views up and down the coast and sidles the hills above SH1 and the railway line. It was a great walk. We stopped at another cafe by Plimmerton beach and then carried on to Porirua. Most of the walking after the escarpment track was along footpaths and cycle ways running parallel to the highway.

On the way to Plimmerton I checked my online lotto ticket and I had won $609! One number away from first or second division! I have been playing the same numbers every draw for about two years now. What’s interesting is that I had picked the five numbers from all our birthdays. Abby 6, me 8, Jesse 15, Ayla 26, and Katie 31. If only I had picked the year Abby was born for the last number!

So anyway, Jesse and I stopped at McDonalds in Porirua and had a big feed that we had been fantasising about for a week. Then we finished by climbing Colonial Knob to the lookout point. I thought it would be good to finish there and knock out a big hill so I wont have to do it tomorrow. I had asked James to pick me up from there. When I got up there I realised there was no car access so I had to walk back down again. Before I walked back down I said goodbye to Josh and Jesse. It has been a pleasure walking with them and they are both really neat guys. I hope to walk some sections of the south island with Jesse in a few years from now.

Now I’m at James and Hayleys enjoying a catch up with them and the kids and enjoying their luxurious home.

I will not be needing my big back pack for the last two days which will be nice and I can smash it out tomorrow by 1pm with an early start. Katie will be flying in at lunch.

Day 67 – Waikanae Beach to Paekakariki

Waikanae Beach to Paekakariki

16kms

Total 1618kms

We decided to have a shorter day today and treat it like a bit of a rest day. We knew there was a restuarant and bar in Paekakariki and also a holiday park. We walked the the beach most of the way there and it was a nice easy day, stopping at a cafe along the way. We checked into a cabin at the Paekakariki holiday park and then walked straight into town for a beer and a burger. It feels good to be back in civilisation, relaxing and knowing there is nothing too challenging ahead on the home straight.

Day 66 – Otaki Forks to Waikanae Beach

Otaki Forks to Waikanae Beach

30kms

Total 1602kms

Another early start for me and Jesse. We left at 7am. We crossed the swing bridge over the Waiotauru river and then walked down the metal road to the carpark where the track up Pukeatua mountain begins. It is a very big hill at 812m abs. The first 400m of the ascent was hard work. My legs were tired and I was really struggling to find the energy. I have felt this way many times before though so I knew that after an hour or so I would be fine. It takes a while sometimes to get all the muscles warmed up and blood pumping efficiently through your veins. All of a sudden you just take off and can grind through the hard parts without slowing down. That’s when I feel the best too. It’s a real mental high.

At the top it was cloudy so missed out on some great views. We came down real quick as the track was in much better condition than we have had for some time. There were a few fallen trees and muddy patches but nothing too challenging. It took us just over four hours. Two hours faster than we expected. The track opened up on to recently harvested timber forest and we followed the logging track out to Mangaone South road. There was a stream crossing and then another swing bridge too. 10kms of road walking to Waikanae. We planned to stop half way at a cafe so kept up the pace only to find it was closed. When we got to Waikanae we saw Caroline and chatted to her for a while about what it was like. She knows she could have done it too but said she just got really scared the night before and could not shake it. She was waiting for Freek to come out behind us. We did our washing at a laundromat and went to a cafe, then the supermarket for resupply and subway while we waited for it to finish. Josh caught up to us in town and we walked another 5kms to El Rancho holiday park at Waikanae Beach following the Waikanae river track all the way there. I was very tired and very relieved to have finished the Tararua ranges. We got a room for $60 with bunks and kitchenette. So only $20 each which is the same as a camp site each. I had my first shower in five days.

The finish line is close now. I am so proud of what I have achieved and how far I have come. It has been an amazing journey and an experience that I will cherish forever but at the same time I am so happy to be finishing and coming home.

I have learnt a lot about myself and what I am capable of but I think it will take a while to fully reflect on the whole journey. So more on that to come.

A well known quote that has helped me through some hard days and climbs…

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Day 65 – Nichols Hut to Otaki Forks

Nichols Hut to Otaki Forks (Tararua Ranges)

17kms

Total 1572kms

I woke up to the sound of wind whistling around the hut. The door was also knocking in the wind. Not a good sign considering we were climbing to the summit of Mt Crawford early in the morning along a long, narrow and very exposed ridgeline. I had set my alarm for 6am so Jesse and I could make an early start at it. The wind was forecast to get gradually stronger throughout the day. When we got up it was cold and blowing and we were in the clouds. I had a quick breakfast of trail mix and got out of my warm thermals that I wear to bed most nights. I layered up with a windproof jacket and neck gaiter but that’s all as I knew I was going to get warm very quickly.

Straight out of the hut the steep ascent started. It took just under two hours to make the 2km climb. The wind was blowing hard as we followed the narrow ridgeline up to the summit. It comes in sideways but with lift as it comes up the mountain. We could not see anything but cloud. There were no views but it was such an awesome and exhilarating experience. It was really fun being up so high and battling the wind and elements. We did not spend long at the summit. On a fine day it would have been spectacular views but much the same as we saw yesterday on a peak that was at about the same elevation. I am glad I got to experience both the good and bad weather up there that the ranges are notorious for.

Then we had to come down. We dropped 1000m in elevation over 4kms. In other words, we were looking down through our feet for over two hours. We descended for some time before coming back into the treeline and back into the ancient mossy forest. It looked even more magical in the clouds than yesterday. Then we were below the clouds. As we got further down, the forest changed and we could hear birds again. At the bottom we crossed a river over a wire foot bridge. Not as strong as the ones on the Timber Trail so much more wobbly. We stopped at the Waitewaiwai hut for lunch and then carried on for the second half of the day out of the ranges to Otaki Forks. It was a tough trail starting with another big climb up 500m of elevation. There were heaps of fallen trees over the track. Some you had to climb over, through, under or right around. There were stream crossings and lots more mud. Jesse and I are both feeling tired after so many big days but really enjoying it too. We talk a lot about what food we plan to eat when get out and if there will be a bar or cafe. We arrived at the Parawai lodge doc hut just before five so it was another 10 hour day.

Josh rolled in two hours later, followed by Freek and then Katrina.

Technically we have finished the Tararuas but tomorrow there is one more big mountain to get over before coming down into Waikanae. We will rise early again to get stuck into it. It is the home stretch now for me and Jesse. While I am really enjoying it still, I am also really happy to be finishing and going home soon. But I’ll save my reflections for later.

Day 64 – Te Matawai Hut to Nichols Hut

Te Matawai Hut to Nichols Hut (Tararua Ranges)

12kms

Total 1555kms

Today started with a big climb up to summit of Pukematawai. The track was very over grown in places with thick tussock grass and shrubs. At times there was no “track” and we were climbing rock faces. At the summit the views were incredible. You could easily see the south island and for miles in every direction. We were also surrounded by all the other peaks and ridgelines of the ranges which was very impressive.

It was a bit of a mud slide coming down off the summit. We walked along a saw tooth ridgeline for several kms coming in and out of the forest. The forests are amazing up there.

We did lose the trail a few times and had to trace our steps back and use GPS to guide us. There were lots of big fallen trees over the track along the way which were challenging at times to get over or around.

One final climb up to Nichols hut which is on the ridge line leading to Mt Crawford. It is another big climb tomorrow and we are expecting the day out to Otaki Forks to take between 8 to 11 hours. The weather will be deteriorating as the day goes on so we need to be coming down as early as possible. Jesse and I have decided to get up and go at 6am. It is bloody cold up here overnight and in the morning but we have another massive climb ahead if us starting as soon as we walk out of the hut so that should walm us up.

Staying at Nichols hut tonight. It is a small cosy hut with 6 bunk beds. There are 8 of us here tonight. A couple offered to pitch their tent so we can fit. They are doing the ranges very slowly as one of them injured their knee on the way up so it will take them twice as long and they are having to ration their food out carefully too.