90% of the conversations between hiker trash basically revolve around two things: food and poop. But once in a while, you do actually hear a hiker talk about that thing they’re doing all day every day. You know… hiking.
And when hikers talk about hiking, they love most of all to talk about any trail other than the one they're currently on. “Trail X is harder than this one.” “Have you done trail Y?” “I’m definitely doing trail Z next.”
Very early in my first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (2012) and before I really knew what I'd gotten myself into, another hiker told me about a mystical, international thru-hike involving canoes, an epic ocean beach walk, the gnarliest forests imaginable, and some insanely tall mountains. With all the zeal and confidence of someone who'd made it 100 miles into her first trail (read: a full-blown n00b), I decided then and there that I would, one day, hike that trail.
A few thousand trail miles later, this trail stayed stuck in my imagination. This year, I somehow managed to convince my crazy partner, Jonathan, that we should quit our jobs, put all of our stuff in storage, and fly halfway around the world and be homeless in the woods. Again.
Meet Te Araroa.
"Te Araroa" means "The Long Pathway" in New Zealand's native language, Maori. The trail stretches 3,000km (~1,864mi) from Cape Reinga at the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island to Bluff at the southern tip of the South Island.
The trail starts off with "90 mile beach" along the Tasman Sea, then veers up into a series of forests with some of the gnarliest terrain on the trail. It then passes through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, before heading into a realm of ever-changing terrain types: farmland, rainforest, and even... wait for it... Mordor. That's right, the trail ventures daringly close to the one and only Mount Doom (otherwise known as Mt Ngauruhoe). There's even a section where hikers take to a river and canoe for several days! And that's just the North Island.
The South Island is home to the Southern Alps. The high point, Aoraki / Mount Cook, soars from sea level to 12,218ft and another one of this island's destinations, the Milford Sound, was apparently called the Eighth Wonder of the World by Rudyard Kipling. The trail here goes through two national parks and includes a number of New Zealand's famous Great Walks.
There are so many reasons that this trail has intrigued us, but here are a few of the juiciest:
1. Flora and fauna.
That's right: New Zealand's sheep-to-person ratio is about 6:1, meaning that there are far more sheep there than people. Not a bad place for two people who love Merino wool as much as Jonathan and I do.
3. Tramping ≠ hiking.
“Tramping” is what New Zealanders call hiking or trekking, but it’s not exactly the same thing. In New Zealand, a good deal of the tramping goes cross-country, without a real dirt pathway or trail. Navigation is more complex and though nowhere in NZ is more than 80 miles from the ocean (according to Thermarest, anyway), it still gets pretty wild out there.
As you might imagine, adding international travel to a thru-hike complicates pretty much everything involved in the logistics and planning. But that’s part of the appeal, too. Jonathan and I are looking for an adventure that pushes us in every way: unpredictable weather, tough and unfamiliar terrain, 15-hour flights… trying to figure out which noodle brands in NZ offer the best calorie-to-weight ratios. All of the important ways.
Over the past 3 and a half years in Colorado, we’ve both grown a lot. Jonathan has grown into a new industry, now managing a sushi restaurant in downtown Boulder. I’ve also made a career change (or several) and will leave Boulder having managed a crowd of over 3000 writers and built out a suite of business analytics for a growing startup. We’ve also grown as adventurers, adding skills in all different types of rock climbing, backcountry snow travel, and ultra-running.
But now, it’s time to go back to the life that we dream about in our spare time. The life where we sleep in a new place every night, where we’re smelly and tired and sore. The life where we’re free.
Once hiker trash, #hikertrashforlife.
Stay tuned for more about our gear list, buying flights and travel insurance, and our pre-trip gear test adventure.