Gear review

Since my return from Bluff I have been asked questions about gear and this led on to what are my recommendations. The only way to work this out is to tramp overnight with what you have or can borrow and see what works for you.

Selecting my gear initially was expensive and I bought stuff naively and have remained with the best pick of pack and shelter. My kitchen has changed a lot

The first thing is to avoid buying until you have a clear idea by borrowing stuff and trying out what works for you. A sale is not a reason to buy anything unless it meets your gear needs.

What is important is the conditions you need to prepare for. Overnight camps in a hut is different than camping overnight outdoors where cold and conditions will dictate what you need.

I have reviewed all of my gear as I prepare for my next steps. I hope it helps sort your own style as you gather your kit together. Let me know below if you want to question my decisions, I welcome this as I too question them.

Nailed it – job done

12 March, return to Invercargill and transit home.
The rain and wind belted down overnight. The old Bluff post office building rattled and shook with the wind.

An impressive history here 1900.

As a historian this building reeked in history. Little signs still showing of it’s early days.

It was a gloomy morning but the overnight wind and rain had stopped.

I had booked the ferry bus back to Invercargill at 9:00 so was up and about at the usual walking hour.

I had breakfast in the lounge with the shearer who had stayed in the hostel for 3 months.

It’s always good to look back at the track from a vehicle. I was back in Invercargill within the hour and was dropped off at Tuatara Backpackers. I booked in untill Thurs morning.

My second breakfast was in the cafe where I began to catch up on the posts I had not yet written or published. Other track admin included ordering a TA patch for my beanie and buying the medal.

I have so many other walker posts to read and enjoy. It’s such a diverse country to walk through. The experience each of us has depends on simple things yet the outcome is so vastly different.

There was a cold wind and patches of rain so the raincoat continued to be worn outside.

Invercargill has a lot of building works going on but I headed out exploring the city noticing the difference without a pack.

Once I had access to my dorm at 1:30 I uplifted my stored gear and found my room and settled in. Ooh so nice to not move for a few days.

I sat in the corner of the cafe writing till quite late before cooking my dinner in the Backpackers.

I shared photos with Bex and Max and posted my last Te Araroa Instagram + Facebook post.

This is my last Blog on my Te Araroa experience. I haven’t yet worked out a statement to explain how incredible these last 5 months have been. I will and post as a final full stop. Until then, I appreciate all the support you have shown in signing up to my blog.

Who would ever have thought I could achieve this?

Day 115 FINAL Invercargill to Bluff via Foveaux Track

11 Mar, cloudy, light rain

I woke in the dorm and sorted my gear for one night. Stored the rest in a locker in the foyer of the Backpackers. I said farewell to the 70yo trampers still cuddled up nursing their tired bodies and was off.

My cooked breakfast and coffee at the cafe was a delightful welcome to city life.

I met Bex and Max outside and was driven to the track start.

The walk was 10.5km down a cycle track along an estuary in light rain. Quite pleasant.

We arrived at the railway crossing and bridge to cross the highway and join the cycleway beside the main road. Ahead was 16km on SH1.

It took no time for a bloke to reverse in front of us coming from nowhere to want to drive us to the Oyster shop, Bluff. There was a queue waiting to be served so we walked back to the Bluff sign and took some pictures leaving our driver in the queue.

This was just past the old building that is now a paua farm operation and at the narrowest part before the Bluff township. Here we are starting to get excited! But there’s still a track ahead to get the best this area has to offer, the most southern part of South Island NZ.

Max, me and Bex. The marker on the right of picture leads to the Foveaux Track. A must do! So much better than Highway walking.

From here the track went around the Bluff coast on a gentle wander. Lots of trapping and views of Stewart Island and Foveaux Straight. The track began on farmland before the track went through low bush with a variety of podacarp in forest that has never been harvested. A wide range of vegetation grows as it has forever.

Bex spotting the quick fire rat kill unit. A24
The kelp was very peaceful.

We chose a place for a late lunch and our first stop for the day. Amazing view over the Omaui reserve.

Eventually we came to the lookout, this was the southern most part of the south Island.

Here I am getting into the photo shoot frame of mind.

We were getting excited to nearly be there at the sign. When we did see the sign in the distance there was a few camper vans and cars in the carpark.

You have to squint but the sign is there.

When we got to the sign we photo bombed other people taking photos as we rushed to the sign to touch it like weirdos.

The people clapped and did a complete photoshoot with us. They took videos and made quite a celebration of group photos including us. They wanted to hold our poles in their photos, it was crazy and strange to take it all in.

When they had all moved on we then took the pics we wanted. Staged and predetermined. The best to show are during that short crazy time.

This guy had an interesting pose for a photographer, not sure of his agenda but he did not want us in his shot.😏

We then walked the 4km to the Bluff Hostel. On the way we stopped at the environmental group and was given explanation of Bluffs trapping programme and progress. Very impressive!

We were booked into the Backpackers, had a shower and rekaxed.

What a great place. It’s the old Post Office building. Kay the manager was the matriarch ensuring everyone was OK. I highly recommend this old place to stay. $25 dorm room.

After getting settled we wandered down to get a beer and cod and chips and sit down on the beach. The three of us reflected and chatted about this wonderful time we have had.

An ice cream on the way back to the hostel we met a bloke who had walked the TA and is now cycling it.

It’s satisfying to complete this epic walk.

Finishing with these guys, epic.
No drama, just learned how to accomplish it along the way..

Nailed it, Job done.

Day 114 Riverton to Invercargill via Oreti Beach

10 March, rain misty

We were up and off to the supermarket to get snacks for the day. Marina dropped us back to her place to pick up our packs.

Bex and Max with scones
Oreti Beach in the foggy mist. This lasted till late morning.
Abandoned cars to the beach. There were several of these along the beach.
The birds
Similar to Ninety Mile Beach accept we couldn’t see the destination until we were nearly there.
At the end of the beaches. Time to head inland and on the road.
The Cabbage Tree pub It was hot and hard walking the road. Although there was a shoulder and a gravel path to walk on it was a shared cycle track where often we had to walk on the road shoulder close to the white line. Dangerous with trucks coming and going.
Two old men taking their horse for a walk.
Finally made Invercargill.

Bex and Max walked on to their trail angels home and I stopped at the Tuatara Backpackers.

Later on four Waiarapa trampers appeared in the dorm. All mid 70 and had just completed a gruelling two night three day tramp.

They invited me to join them and we had a hilarious time over dinner. They had tramped every year together for over 40 years. They told some good yarns about the usual possum in the hut and others that come from shared adventures in huts and on tracks.

All five of us headed to our bunks and me to organise my pack and storage for final day to Bluff tomorrow.

Day 113 Martins Hut to Riverton via Tinaka Beach Track, Long Hilly Track and Round Hill Track

9 Mar, 24km, 9 hrs
We left Martins Hut quickly since Max had to be in Colac Bay at 2:00 for a job interview. The general idea was to get to Riverton yet I wasn’t sure I could make the long walk necessary and was hoping for an easy day and rest in Colac Bay.

We headed out, Max first in his race to meet the appointment and since it was uphill I said to Bex go with Max.

So through the mud we each went as a muddy continuation from yesterday, both ascent and descent. We reached Turnball’s Hut, dirt floor, mattresses and no water source or tank and all stopped for lunch.

Turnball’s Hut

The Ports water race was built for gold mining and yes it was muddy and yes it was the track to follow.

This section was a series of short day walks that lead to a carpark. It was really cold and wet in the carpark and Bex waited a while there for me but decided to carry on and walk to Colac Bay.

When I arrived at the carpark I stopped for a bite to eat and use the DOC loos.

As I was finishing my snack a car drove into the empty carpark and a guy with a backpack got out. His mother had dropped him off as he was heading North. I hitched 4km with her into Colac Bay, we picked up Bex 1km before getting there Max was already on his interview call.

Colac Bay was dead, closed and no cod and chips like I was holding out for. We had 2 hours to wait for the pub to open for access or a meal and it was very cold.

Max finished his interview and we snacked together, I cleaned the mud off my boots in the dog water bucket.

I was intending to stay here but it made no sense so I decided to carry on and leave for Riverton with the others to first walk Tinaka Beach.

The beach was stoney and a real challenge to walk on round stones. A lovely coastal walk until we climbed up over the farms to Moores Reserve.

I wasn’t sure where we were to meet our trail angel host for the night and got lost finding Moore’s Reserve carpark hoping that is the meeting place.

Our host Marina drove us into Riverton and to her home. Her home was the old Riverton Nurses Home. It had sat empty for years and Marina and her husband are intending to renovate to house short term vulnerable families. Impressive.

We had a wonderful home cooked meal and lively chats before showers and bed.

Day 112 Merrivale Hut to Martins Hut. Longwood Forest

8 Mar, 28km, 9 hrs, overcast

I left the hut first to get a head start knowing a hill climb was ahead of me.

It was a beautiful pink sunrise telling us rain could come later.

It was no time before I was joined on the 7.5km road walk up to the trail by Max and Bex. We passed deer farms on the way up the road.

There was a gradual climb for 2.5km up to a clearing before entering the forest again. Soon after the transmission tower and then more road after crossing the tops.

Forestry file management. Logs all laid out in some order not known to me but very tidy.
And then onto Bald Hill and a descent
Mud, damp, mud, deep mud, mushy mud, MUD.
The view from the Longwood Forest to the coast. Still have to squint to see the coast.
Bex and Max about to walk the road to the quarry.
The soft bank that easily breaks away was a pretty pink colour.
It took 6 hours after all that mud to get to Martins Hut from the quarry.
The ridge along the top was soft track snd better than the mud. A pleasant respite for a while.
Water was scarce. This source proved fresh mountain water from the drain.
I was walking along and behind the rock on the tops Bex popped up over the rock and said, time for a break. They were well ahead of me after the hill climb. It’s so nice to have company along the way especially this mud reknowned track.

We did catch up on mud patches. So much mud and deep difficult to skirt around mud. Max took videos of our different tactics to avoid over knee high bogged in muddy tramping.

And the view at the top.
A buoy a long way away from the ocean. On the descent to the hut that never seemed to end.
Roots and mud.
The sign said 2km. It took forever to get there.
Evidence of gold mining in the 1880’s began to come into view.
One small window in Martins Hut. Build 1905. The stream was a bush bash to get to, and report I avoided further bush walking do drank from the tank. It tasted rusty after boiling.

Cleaning the mud off gear proved a challenge without going to the stream. I used a small hut pot, all the scrubbing made no difference.

Once dark we all sank into our sleeping bags for a good well earned rest.

Day 111 Birchwood Station to Merrivale Hut

7 Mar, 27km, 9hrs, light rain

As I left Birchwood through the back shortcut the farmers had flocks of sheep herded into the building and some sort of farming operation going on. The music was loud and rocking.

I had to walk through the holding paddock that held the sheep last night. No grass, slippery and wet. One sheep dead on the track.

I skipped through the paddock quickly and was on the road, light rain falling and cool.

The Woodlaw Track goes through private land; Birchwood Station, through Matariki Forests and other private owners.

First the track went up a fence line climb. It followed new felled trees and new planting of acres of eucalyptus trees. Then a hard left turn straight up a steeper hill. Whew I was not expecting such a hill climb.

As I was climbing I got 4G and a message from Max saying he and Bex were staying over at Merivale Hut and they will see me tonight. So excited I got to the top in no time. Company tonight!

Misty over the top
An old type of marker on this section.
The mast at the top
A long walk on a forest track with several junctions. The light rain kept me moving.
A further long road walk 3.5km connector section to get to Island Bush Track was monotonous.

A further bush section to finish with a tiring long highway road walk to Merivale Rd.

I arrived at the small 5 bunk private hut, Bex and Max greeted me with their stories of the last few days. It was a tranquil farm setting but small hut with a scratchy mouse in the cupboard.

A little later NOBO Jesse arrived and hitched to the pub, it was his birthday and said he would return and he did. He filled our heads with the section ahead and we had lots of laughs before we all settled in to the sleep noises we each make after a long day walking these hills.

A little excitement tucking our food away from the scratcher in the cupboard.

Day 110 Telford Campsite to Birchwood Station

6 Mar, 20km + 7km road, 8.5hrs, Northerly strong gusts, overcast

Sunrise was a lovely sight this morning as the light hit the mountains.

There are lots of rules to follow crossing this Mt Linton Station. It is rumoured that past walkers have abused the right to cross private land and so TA walkers must stick to the track or be trespassers and sent back to where we came from. There is much more behind public or Te Araroa access to these tracks and paths I have since heard.

There’s also no water source on this track. I’m not sure if it’s because of the stock roaming and spoiling the waterways or trampers having to leave the track to fetch it.

However, my calf muscles were screaming this morning after yesterday’s climbs and camping in my tent last night on a bit of an incline.

From the campsite in no time the track went into a river crossing, so wet feet. It then followed a farm track down to the side of the Wairaki River before going inland away from the river.

pretty grass to walk through
So many thistle seeds everywhere about to burst.
Pretty but spreading the prickly thistle.

Around the corner came two black dogs, they got as much of a fright as I did and backed off. Then I saw the white farm truck of a station worker pig hunting in the weekend. He was really friendly and gave advice on the 4WD from here to the river.

I followed markers along the farm track through the hills to a sidling back along side the river.

I stopped for lunch and then missed the turn for the river crossing. Others before me had done the same. It took a walk back along a new fence line to find the track, climbed the fence and crossed the river.

I rejoined a farm track that was meant to be busy but being Sunday no farming activity was taking place today.

A strong northerly was blowing me over as I climbed between hills, it was hard walking in the open tops. As I neared the top of the hill I saw markers go up a scrubby hill. I chose a farm track that went around the hill and came out at the same place, just no hill to climb. Despite the trespass warnings.

Where the true track and 4WD track merged

There was a lot of variety in today’s walk. Small stream crossings changing direction, straight up short paddocks, through herds of black cattle on the track, beside and around large stands of pine and it went on.

Through farm gates and stiles across turnip fields. My hand slipped on a fence stile and I was reminded they are electric fences. Acres of turnips, paddocks and more paddocks as the gradual climb off the Linton Station down to the highway.

Up and over so many of these stiles.

Finally I arrived under the power lines to the final paddocks, across a bridge and onto the road.

Instructions to get to the station were fairly easy and I got there at 4:45. A short road walk and I was there. A short cut and direct line missed a little bit of road.

Birchwood Station Hut

I washed off the mud and sorted my resupply box. It was when I was getting my dinner ready that I saw the mouse. And then I saw it again skittle over my bunk.

So I packed everything in my yellow pack liner and hung it up next to my pack hung upside down.

My food bag was hung next to the washing line inside.

I settled in for the night having organised my stuff and prepared for yet another long day tomorrow.

Day 109 Lower Wairaki Hut to Telford Campsite

5 Mar, 9km 4hr, very light wind on the ridge, hot and sunny

I had a good night rest and restoration at the Lower Wairaki Hut and am feeling good even though cramp and sore hands woke me through the night.

The walk today was mainly within the forest. A long uphill first to the Telford Tops in Takitimu Forest.

I’ve seen a lot of this unusual blue colour on twigs and branches that have fallen on the track. I’m not sure what causes it. It doesn’t appear to be a blue colour seen in nature.

It was a slow and steady climb and then quite steep at the end just before hitting the top. This sign appeared.

Once out of the forest and onto the ridge the entire landscape changed. The views were breathtaking after so many days in the closed in forest. If you squint you can see the sea.

It was a bit if a scramble finding a path down the ridge line. It was rocky with several paths to choose from. The markers were a clear guide down yet all you needed to do is reach each one.

When at the roughest part of the rocky downhill I looked up and a falcon was sitting a meter away from me. Once I moved to get a picture it gently flew away behind the ledge. No sound from the falcon very quiet take off.

It was exposed up there on the ridge but the very light wind was refreshing. The markers were easy to follow at this stage.

A most enjoyable half day today. Very glad I didn’t squash two days together.

As I neared the last ridgeline hill and the track was getting flatter I turned internet on and had 4G.

There wad a return message from Jinny telling me their plans and where abouts. I was able to send off a reply.

I could see the camp toilet from the hills before the drop down into the valley.

I arrived and set up camp and then came the sandflies. It was very hot with no shade. I sat in the stream bathing my feet, washed and changed.

I ate and read a book for the remainder of the day. The birds, I thought falcon pairs, squawked and danced in flight. They were either dating, two male rivals or juveniles exploring their world.

my cook up

Day 108 Aparima Hut to Wairaki Hut

4 Mar, weather cloud then fine
13km 6 hr

Bex’s alarm went off at 7:00 and I was instantly awake too. I sleep really well. Max and Bex were heading to Telford Camp a bit further on than me. They headed out at 8:30 and I was all set to go at 9:30. I was a bit disoriented when I left the hut from coming in after dark last night. I wasn’t sure of any direction even the one I arrived in. I did a quick survey on the way to the loo.

Web design

There was a second but older hut on the site.

I would stay in here if the o
new hut was full.
The back side
The site
A shelter/Bivvy dirt floor. Now used as a wood shed

With wet but clean shoes I swept the hut and left. I wasn’t sure of the way out. I tried every exit to return to the hut uncertain. Finally I found the bridge I had to cross and crossed it to then miss a hidden path I should have taken. I walked up a 4WD track that led to the exit road and found my GPS told me I was way off track so returned to the bridge.

I found the hidden track and followed it. No markers to be seen so off track again and in long grass and matagouri. And then I saw a marker up river. I followed the river in the river bed and had to climb a bank.

I climbed the bank by throwing my pack and poles up and finally I edged up inch at a time. There was the pole, 100m away from the bridge. It was 11:00 at this stage and I’d been walking for 90 minutes.

Finally underway I headed into marshland. Uneven tracks on soggy spongy spaghnam moss. Slow going I decided I should have had zero day to rest. I’d slipped several times and tumbled down a few more onto soft landings.

Committed I kept walking albeit at a slow pace within the forest. Travel from marker to marker was slow. I had a short break then just meandered on through a less dense and prettier forest than yesterday.

The track was rolling up and up to a high point but was more gentle. There were many more varieties of trees than beech. It was written in the hut book, koromiko, miromiro, plus many more, heaps of different variety of tree.

The track was littered with branches and sticks blown down or fallen off. These easily caught my back foot and many trip ups but no falls.

It was a beautiful track of rolling forest. The mud became wetter on the west side. The track then followed the Wairaki River. Nice company to walk with.

The moss growing was light green good to see spaghnam moss growing in the wild.

The sign came into view 2 km to go.

To get to the hut had to cross the river and climb to the hut. So glad to get here at 5:15, have a good wash and clean my shoes and socks properly. I prefer to enjoy each tramp rather than rush and miss things along the way.

I cooked a hot meal and explored the hut surroundings. I missed that yesterday coming in after dark. That made me disoriented as I left the hut this morning.

The open fireplace.
The kettle
The wood box.
The toilet seat cover was a paint tray. And what a doozy the seat is. It took a lot of trust to sit down on this seat.
The view from the dunny.

Enjoyable walk today. I will miss these shelters and exploring these forest paths.