Everyone asks what was our favourite part of the walk and it is an impossible question to answer. We couldn't even decide which Island we preferred - we loved the trail! The list we provide here gives some of our favourite sections. This is not to say that they are the best or most scenic parts of the trail but on the weather conditions we had, with our personal experiences on those particular days, they are some of the sections that we enjoyed the most.
1) Kiwi hospitality – The single most impressive aspect of the trail!!
We were overwhelmed by the hospitality we were offered along the trail, people giving us cups of tea, meals and putting us up for the night. At some of the most desperate and miserable points along the trail we would be invited in out of the pouring rain and given a hot meal and a bed for the night and suddenly things didn't seem so bad after all. It was great that so many people kept in touch with us along the trail sending texts messages to check on our progress and we received so many messages when we reached the end, it was wonderful.
1) Native Forests of Northland
We found the native forests across NZ stunningly beautiful. Our first experience of the NZ bust was Herekino. Off track (in other words lost) in the disorientating Raetea forest is where we first learned that having a GPS on the Te Araroa was useful!
Walking through the streams of the Puketi forest was gorgeous and it was our first experience of wading through water with our boots on, strangely it felt rather liberating. Being European we tried to keep our feet dry but when it became impossible we learned how much easier it was just submerge your boots into water and keep plodding onwards. Little did we know then how frequently our boots would be filled with water over the next few months….
2) Ocean Beach and Bream Head
We had lovely weather and walked the length of the beach without seeing a soul until we got to the very end where Oyster catchers attacked us defending their newly hatched chicks and we met Paul, a NZ Department of Conservation (DoC) officer, who put us up for the night. We sat on his balcony with stunning views along the beach and out to sea. The following morning we walked up Bream Head where we climbed up a rock and had 360 degree views.
3) Tongariro Crossing
4) Whanganaui River
The route through the Tararuas provided the steepest climbing on the North Island that we encountered. We felt as if we were on top of the world when walking on narrow ridges surrounded by mist and fog with just the tops of hills visible through the clouds below us. The hill tops looked like islands in the mist. As we looked down we could only imagine how deep the valleys were...
A night in Nichols Hut with 8 people (it's designed for only 6) was very cosy but entertaining.
With a bit of preparation and going off the TA trail the route through the Tararuas could be extended which, in good weather would make an interesting option.
6) The approach to Wellington
1) Queen Charlotte Track
2) Richmond Alpine Track
3) Waiau Pass
4) Descending from Stag Saddle
5) Breast Hill Track
We arrived at Stodys hut to find a hunter, Anthony, already there. He was a nice bloke and warned us that the hut had rats that came out to play in the night. After a recent mouse experience I decided to take no chances and camped outside. Madeleine risked the rats. The following morning (after a mice free night) we continued ascending and were rewarded with beautiful views. Then there is a point where you cross a stile and there is this massive view of Lake Hawea with the mountains towering up. It was somehow unexpected and one of the best lunch spots of the trail. The route then follows a steep ridgeline with wicked views all the way down to the lake shore.
6) The autumn colours of central Otago
Its not so much one view that we remember, as the overall impression of the autumn colours throughout the central Otago region. I don't think that I have seen such vibrant natural colours, yellow and orange leaves, red berries and glacial lakes. Phew it is a sight to be seen.
Arrowtown might be touristy but oh those colours.... and it is only a day away from Queenstown and then it really must be all down hill to the coast!!