On Being Unprepared, Failing and Trying Again (Part 1)

It’s now April, about the time we would have been scheduled to finish the Te Araroa. As you will no doubt notice through the entire lack of updates, this Te Araroa project did not go as planned.

We set off with the best of intentions, but with the experience of someone who has never undertaken such a project before and has only a slight idea of what it will be like and what endurance will be required, and the preparedness of someone who thinks having done a couple of day walks qualifies oneself to walk the entire length of a country.

To put things in simple terms; we underestimated how hard it would be and left ourselves too little time to fix any mistakes we would, and already had, made.

The first day we headed north, via Kerikeri, to the township of Kaitaia. After a fairly long bus journey we were dropped at the opposite end of town as our accommodation, and we started the trek to our hostel. Erin had already discovered her bag did not fit her well, so we stopped by an outdoor/camping store on the way to our digs but alas the bag selection was poor and overpriced, so no alternative bags were purchased.

We checked in and made some food and played some table tennis in the nearly-deserted hostel dining room, before spending the rest of the night packing, unpacking, and re-packing our bags to try to cut out as much excess weight as possible. My bag, although more comfortable than Erin’s, was overloaded with too much gear whilst weighing about 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) empty, making for a very heavy pack once hiking gear, clothes, food and water were added.

Already we were second guessing a number of our gear choices and wishing we had practised more before setting off to walk the entire length of a country. It was already November 29th and we were already pushing our finish date out to mid-to-late April, leaving not much time for us to source and replace equipment and still finish the trail in time.

November 30th, Day 1

The day started with a lift to Cape Reinga – the northernmost (easily accessible) part of New Zealand’s North Island, and the official start of the Te Araroa trail. We left our accommodation around 8 in the morning, and we were up at Cape Reinga by around quarter to ten in the morning.

We took an obligatory photo and then I flew the drone around the cape and lighthouse for a few minutes before we huffed our packs onto our backs and set off – our first footsteps on the Te Araroa. The walk starts with a quick under-2-kilometer escarpment down to Te Wehari beach, but we hadn’t even made it onto the beach before the weather turned and it started bucketing down. The weather turned so suddenly that I only managed to cover my top half with my wet weather gear; my shorts were already soaked before I had a chance to cover them, and I thought it better to walk with my wet shorts exposed, rather than trap them inside rain proof pants.

The walk wasn’t as hard as I had initially thought it would be (or at least, in hindsight that’s how it seems), but the weather was a little bit wearisome. By the time we were coming to the end of the last beach I was feeling a little bit exhausted and certainly ready for the first day to finish, but I was pleasently surprised by how long it took me to feel this way.

On the other hand, my pack was feeling quite heavy and I was mighty pleased to have it off my back for a bit of a lie down when we got to Twilight Beach campsite. We were the first here and so we had our choice of campsite. After a quick lie down, we set up our tent and with the last hour or so of light before dusk we went down to the beach to watch the sunset.

Dinner was a freeze dried “Backcountry” meal, which we started to feel was a bit inadequet when a European couple rocked up and started steaming fresh vegies. We didn’t regret the saving in weight, however. We were eventually joined by one other group – two young French men who rocked up late and who’s evening meal was the other end of the spectrum – instant noodles.

We were in bed quite early and asleep not long after that. Overall, a good first day.