There are things you somehow hope to do one day, but keep putting off for whatever reason. Then on your deathbed, very cliché, to think “I wish I had”… That’s how I’ve dreamed of walking the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand for years. This more than 3.000 kilometer long trail crosses my favorite country in the world from north to south and is perhaps a bit like the famous Pacific Crest Trail, but then different.
A month or two ago I made the decision that it is now finally time to do this trail. I’ll be leaving in October 2022 and in this blog series I’ll take you with me on my preparations and ultimately the journey itself. Today I’ll tell you about the decisive moment when it became clear to me that I had no choice but to make a decision. Enjoy reading!
If you wish to read this article in Dutch, please visit my Dutch website NieuwZeelandInfo
Love for New Zealand
My love for New Zealand started in 2002 when I first visited this faraway land. However, it would take until 2011 before I first heard of Te Araroa. I was in New Zealand for 6 weeks and did several multi-day hikes. On the way, I met a couple who told me they were hiking a part of Te Araroa. The trail was officially opened on December 3, 2011, but they already hiked a part of it. Since then it has always been in my mind.
I mean … how cool is it to traverse your favorite country all the way on foot? In addition, the idea of a thru hike (read: a long hike that you complete in one go) has appealed to me for a long time.
One too many excuses
Unfortunately, I always had an excuse ready for “not doing it.” A job, a relationship, a house … I said goodbye to all of them in 2017 to go a world trip with a one way ticket. But even then I was not convinced that I should hike Te Araroa. I had heard quite mixed stories about the trail (including that there are a lot of asphalt sections in the trail on the North Island).
In addition, during that trip I would go to New Zealand for 3 months, but I wanted to see a lot of things that were not on the trail. And besides that, 3 months wouldn’t be enough to do the whole trail. In other words, I decided to focus my 2017/2018 trip on several short treks that I wanted to do. In a period of three months I hiked the Angelus Hut Track, the Routeburn Track, the Greenstone Caples Track, the Hump Ridge Track, the Mueller Hut hike and had other tracks planned, which were ultimately canceled due to bad weather.
During the trip in question I came across Te Araroa at various places. I not only visited Cape Reinga and Bluff (the official start and end point of the Te Araroa), but I also encountered hikers at Whangarei Heads, in Nelson Lakes National Park and at the Greenstone Hut. I spoke to them and every time I heard their story, I felt a twinge inside. One day I would also do that trail. Just not yet.
And then you are running a profitable business
After returning home from New Zealand in the spring of 2018, my world trip and nomad life had officially ended. I decided to go for work (because: empty bank account) and turned my business into a profitable business. I let my travel blog We12travel grow into one of the largest personal outdoor blogs in the Netherlands, set up the podcast for Adventurous Women and also worked as a freelance copywriter for various companies within the travel sector.
Unfortunately, due to the current crisis, there is not much left of that profitable company. I’ll be honest about it: financially it has been very disappointing for almost a year now. My savings account for my retirement is getting pretty empty, partly because my fixed costs have risen sharply when I switched from living together to a LAT relationship earlier this year. Fortunately, I’m confident that once the vaccines start to work, I’ll be able to bring my companies back to their old profit level and even far above.
In the meantime I started building my new website. In November of 2019 I spent another month in New Zealand and bought the URL NieuwZeelandInfo – determined to make it the go-to place for your New Zealand trip.
Doing a thru-hike
In recent years I have further immersed myself in reading about thru hiking and watching documentaries about it on Youtube. And it always felt double: on the one hand I knew: I want that! On the other hand, I also felt very uncomfortable reading those blogs and watching those videos. I am quite an individual person and am not looking for crowds or a trail family. After reading “Alone” by Tim Voors about his solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, I was especially sad about the mentality of many hikers (parties, drugs, etc.) there. So I immediately crossed that trail from my wish list.
You can of course also look up much quieter trails and for a while I played with the idea of crossing Sweden on foot from north to south. But that idea didn’t make me hyper enthusiastic either. There was a thick blockage somewhere in my system and I didn’t know what it was or how to solve it.
I also have Te Araroa by Jasper van Riet Paap (a Dutch guy who did TA with his girlfriend) but the book did not convince me to do the trail either. Rather, I was frightened by the many mud pools, river crossings and other hellish endeavors he wrote about.
In the meantime, my boyfriend has been fantasizing for years about a long motorcycle trip that he wants to take in the future. He’ll talk about it as soon as the opportunity arises. I noticed a restlessness in myself. The feeling of really looking forward to something again and working towards it, of filling a savings account with a goal other than providing for your living… But still no matter how I tried to figure it all out in my head, the pieces just didn’t fall into place.
The decisive moment
Last summer I watched a video from Youtuber Elina Osborne about the Pacific Crest Trail that appeared in my feed. Although I didn’t want to see any more videos about the PCT, I subscribed to her feed anyway. This fall, her video “Should I walk New Zealand” appeared on my feed. I clicked it and… at minute 5 my decision was made. In this, an friend of hers, whom she interviews for this video, says:
“You go back and forth on it. Should I or shouldn’t I but it’s always gonna be there. ”
Those last 5 words hit me hard. Of course you can interpret “it’s always gonna be there” in different ways. For example, I showed this video to a hiker friend who took it as “you can always do it”. But it came to me as “If I don’t, I’ll always wonder what it will be like. I’ll never get rid of that question in my head if I don’t do it. ”
And that was him. The moment I decided to start planning it immediately. It was as if a weight fell off my shoulders. This was the last push I needed to make the decision to walk Te Araroa.
The word is out!
I believe that the same day I informed one of my best friends and my boyfriend. I’ll leave in October 2022 and will take 5 to 6 months for it. That is more than one and a half times as long as an average hiker. You may have already become aware that I’m not an average hiker. I don’t care much about speeds, time limits and other factors that determine how fast I should walk. The last thing I want is to be under time pressure and have to be “there” by a certain date. And thus cover as many kilometers per day as possible. So I made a number of decisions that immediately became a sea of relief when I decided not to do the standard thing, but to make my own version of Te Araroa. More about that in my next blog!
Until my departure, I’ll keep you informed on this site about my preparation, planning and everything that has to do with it. Don’t want to miss out on my next blogs? Then follow me on Instagram where I post as soon as the next article is ready for you!
Want to continue reading? My next article is about how I made a saving plan for Te Araroa!