8. Te Araroa, Tararua Range (Palmerston North to Paekakariki)

Day 1 – we hiked this section with our new friends and fellow hikers Michael and Katie. We took a leisurely start leaving ‘Palmy’ and followed the path through nice parks and the suburbs. For a change we actually had nice weather! It was a great day walking (even though there was some road walking). We eventually camped up on the Back Track which apparently is a very popular cycling area (about 30 cyclists passed us as we cooked up dinner!).

Drinks in Palmy with Katie and Michael
Drinks in Palmy with Katie and Michael
Exped tent
Scenic wild camp spot

Day 2 – Burttons Track, this was a bit of a disappointing track for several reasons. It was really churned up and very much like a good old ‘Raetea’ experience to start with. It’s also pretty annoying to have a famous ‘whare’ signed at both the start and end of the track but not actually when you pass it on trail! Subsequently we missed this suggested lunch spot! On the plus side there were some pretty river crossing along the way. We camped next to the no’ 3 reservoir, where we had spectacular storms throughout the night as well as intermittent gun fire from hunters.

Classic TA track here...
Classic TA track here…
Stream crossing to find the mysterious 'whare'
Stream crossing to find the mysterious ‘whare’

Day 3 – day 3 started wet but we only had 20km or so to our stopping point at the Makahika Camp. However, the track is a TA connecting track so you can never be sure on the conditions and sure enough it proved to wet, muddy and covered in fallen trees and vines. The rain did stop for the afternoon and once more there we some pleasant stream crossing towards the end of the section. The Makahika Camp was absolutely brilliant, plenty of places to dry wet things, showers, kitchen and comfy beds and sofas! Great night!

Great views from the lookout...
Great views from the lookout!

Day 4 – we hiked into the Tararua range on day 4. The TA path in was disappointingly more like a route than a trail, but we did have some intermittent sunshine to keep us smiling. As we ascended we started to get glimpses of the views which were pretty spectacular. We made it Waiopehu hut exhausted and bowled over by its scenic vistas! That night it was freezing and we wore pretty much everything we owned to keep warm and were extremely glad to have splashed out on good sleeping bags at the start of the trip!

Alex loves mud
Alex loves mud
Views from the hut
Views from the hut, happy to be out of the bush

Day 5 – the weather didn’t look great as we set out early, so we made the decision to only hike to the Te Matawai hut where we arrived at 11.30am. We spent the day making fire, playing Yahtzee and drinking tea. That evening we were joined again by Stefan who we hadn’t seen since Herekino, so it was great to catch-up with him. We also met Rachael from the UK now living in New Zealand who was also great company on the trail.

Cold day up high
Cold day up high

Day 6 – Stefan brought the sunshine with him which ensured we had the best day on the Tararua range! We hiked a long day to Nichols hut, crossing alpine ridges, native bush and some extremely sketchy sections of ‘track’. The views were magnificent all day and we arrived at the hut exhausted but very happy. Unfortunately Katie had hurt her knee so once I’d dropped my bag off at the hut I went back down the trail to carry her bag for the last section, it was a joy to be moving in the mountains without my bag and reminded me why I love fell running so much! That evening we met Celestino (Road Runner or Jeronimo) a friend of Katie and Mikes and a prolific chocolate sharer! That night we had 11 people in a 6 bed hut. Cosy.

Finally some sunshine in the Tarauas!
Finally some sunshine in the Tarauas!
Alex loves the mountains!
Alex loves the mountains!

Day 7 – was another very long day which was worryingly miscalculated in the trail notes and maps in terms if both distance and elevation gain! We started the day on glorious alpine ridges and was arguable one of the best bits of trail so far! However as soon as we descended into the bush things disintegrated into a mess of steep, muddy, tree route infested non-trail made worse by regular trees blocking the path. We made it to the next hut for lunch and to re-coup before setting out on the last section. This started much better until we reached an ‘upgraded’ section of trail which caused Harriet to swear a lot. 12hrs after starting we were in the hut surrounded by friends and were much happier! We managed a quick swim in the river before cooking dinner.

Spooky fog on the ridges
Spooky fog on the ridges
Amazing walk up on the ridgeline
Amazing walk up on the ridgeline
Top of Mt Crawford!
Top of Mt Crawford!

Day 8 – a 15km forest walk followed by a 10km road walk was all that stood before us and civilisation! We set off with hopes there would be reasonable trail and joy of joys there was. It was an excellent walk through the forest, even though all the views were obscured by low cloud. Stefan left us a Kit Kat nailed to a tree in the forest, what a legend! Upon reaching Waikanae we realised the accommodation options were limited and our friends has pressed on to the next town so we followed suit. We all met up in Paraparaumu for beer, wedges and kebab! Amazing!

We have never been so happy!
We have never been so happy!

Day 9 – we had a late start to the day  after a cooked breakfast in a local cafe. We then headed down the coast from Paraparaumu to Paekakariki. After 12kms of chatting away with Stefan and Emmanuelle we reached town and the end of our hiking in the North Island! We’re now looking forward to Christmas in Wellington.

Merry Christmas from the Mighty Ducks!
Merry Christmas from the Mighty Ducks!
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