What is the Te Araroa? That is the fundamental question when it comes to following this site. It’s a name is splashed all over the place. You best find out. And being the nice chap I am, I will tell you. Right now in fact.
The Te Araroa Track is a long-distance tramping track that runs from Cape Reinga in the far-North of New Zealand’s North Island to Bluff, a tiny little town right down South of the South Island. The track covers around 3000km and people complete it either in small sections or, if they’re like me, complete it in one go over 5-6 months.
Rather than regurgitate the history of the track, I suggest you go to this link over on the Te Araroa Trust website to find out more. It’s a really interesting story and may even inspire you to build your own track, or at least walk one.
The reason I am walking it. Madness? No no. I’m sane. Go here if you’d like to find out more. I’ve written a hefty spiel on my (ir)rationale.
A note I posted on Facebook:
“As some of you will be aware, I’ve been in Melbourne for the past three days. I won’t go into great details as to why, but I decided that I wasn’t ready to undertake the Te Araroa Track and as such, didn’t fly to Auckland as planned.
My time in Melbourne gave me time to reflect on a few things, as well as catch up with some friends which I feel was needed. The decision I made in the end was to fly to Christchurch instead, and tramp around the South Island for a month or two. As I type this I am on flight JQ159 on my way to Christchurch.
To give a bit more as to why I chose to not do the Te Araroa, I think the regime of the trip got to me. Back a year or so ago I decided I wanted to head to NZ. I wanted to potter about for sometime and see where the wind takes me. I then put all these elaborate plans in place and, in the end, that daunted me. I’ve just got out of 7 years of full-time work – that’s a fair few years for a 26-year-old; not that I am whinging – and I think, on reflection, I need to be a bit more impulsive.
So the plan from here is that there isn’t really a plan. I am staying at the Old Country House in Christchurch tonight. I might take a walk around the city this afternoon and see how it compares to last time I was here – seeing an earthquake has ripped through since then, – I need to purchase a travel towel (exciting, I know) so I can have a shower, and I might busy myself with the Lonely Planet “Tramping in New Zealand” guidebook to see what tracks take my fancy. I’m thinking about starting on the Queen Charlotte, as it is an four-season track, and it’s quite early in the season. However, I should probably best call into the Department of Conservation office in Christchurch to get their advice. I much prefer the mountains.
So this is where I say I’m sorry if I disappointed everyone. But you know what, I stand by my decision. I don’t feel I regret anything. And, after all, it’s my life.
To those that have thrown some gear my way for Te Araroa – On Veg, I could send it back if you really wanted, though I’d imagine that’s a bit difficult. Plus I tested some of it out on the Yurrebilla. Feel that you’re sponsoring “Paul Goodsell Tramping the South Island of New Zealand for a bit… On Veg” instead.
To all my friends, acquaintances and anybody else, out there. Follow the trip; wish me luck.
(P.S. Some irony. I am currently on a plane and Angus and Julia Stones’ “Big Jet Plane” just came on.)”
I got an email yesterday from somebody who intends to do the Te Araroa next year. They asked two questions. What am I doing about maps? and What am I doing about food drops? My answers are below for you all to read.
Maps – I spent a lot of time humming and harring on maps. I wondered whether I’d have to buy a full set of 1:50,000 topos, or whether a GPS with the mapping feature would be best.
My decision was made just yesterday. Simon Cook, a British guy who is setting off on the Te Araroa in a couple of weeks as well, has put together the entire set of topos from the sets freely available from LINZ (Land Information NZ) with track overlay, and as A4 .gifs so they are easy to handle and print. They look really spiffy too. I simply printed and bound the set and voila I have all the maps that I need.
I probably will get myself a broader maps just to use as a general reference when I am working on, say, food drops, and to show people that I meet roughly where I am tramping.
Oh, and I will also carry a compass (always important) and a little Garmin eTrex H GPS unit.
Food drops - Most people I spoke to in my research phase didn’t bother too much with food drops. There seems to be a town, they said, with adequate supplies whenever you need one. Well, I am a vegan, so will eer on the side of caution and will organise food drops of staple supplies to some parts of the track. Some towns that have only limited facilities may lack the necessary variety of things I require. Which makes me out to be some needy fuss-pot, but hey, I like to be well-planned. Plus, small town supermarkettes (as they seem to be called in NZ) are often very pricy.
So, I will be posting a small package of staples to list of towns on both the North and South Island legs of the track. I will start the phoning around when I arrive in Auckland but expect to post the packages to backpacker hostels that I have a booking at in these towns. The one I am staying at in Ponsonby, Auckland (Ponsonby Backpackers), has been rather willing to accept incoming packages, so I do hope the rest are as willing.
There only seems to be a couple of stretches where a restock is necessary and there is no town along the way. These are between Havelock and St Arnaud and Arthurs Pass and Lake Tekapo. Some people when doing the Havelock to St Arnaud stretch detour off track where the Pelorus Track meets the Richmond Alpine Track and restock in Nelson. This makes a 12-odd day stretch two shorter stretches, and for a lighter pack. I will consider this option but will also check what the people at the Nelson Marlborough DoC office and Nelson Tramping Club are doing at the time (I will look into this when I’ve finished the North Island around Christmas time) as they may be able to assist with a drop.
As for the Arthurs to Tekapo leg, most people arrange a drop to Mesopotamia Station and book accommodation to stay there a night. That’s what I will be doing.
FOR a track that passes through 7 of the most popular conservation parks in South Australia, the Yurrebilla isn’t all that well known. None of the people I spoke to along the way had actually heard of it, even though they had passed numerous markers. I only found out the full anatomy of the track a few weeks ago. Sure, I’d passed the markers on my regular tramps on the Mt Lofty and Morialta tracks, it’s just they didn’t mean much to me. Until I finally got around to doing some research.
At 54km it’s one of South Australia’s longest tracks. A long way off the Heysen Trail, at 1200km, but much more of a challenge in terms of length and terrain that most popular tracks in this state. Dare I say it’s a bit of a secret.
Anticipation was high on the Friday. This would be the first tramp of any distance I’d be doing since New Zealand last year. But 3:30pm rolled by quick enough and I was on the Belair train ready to take on the first leg of the Yurrebilla before setting up camp at the Belair Caravan Park for the night. I stepped off the platform at the Belair train station and was immediately greeted by an arch that read “National Park”. This way please.
Today’s leg would be short. Thankfully, too, as dusk was fast approaching. The track took me from the park entrance, past the duck-filled Playford Lake, to Gooch Road, and a detour later, across a couple of ovals and into the Belair Caravan Park. The Yurrebilla turns left on Gooch Road and the caravan park was to the right, so I’d resume my tramp in the morning from where I left off.
The park couldn’t have been better situated. On the boundaries of the Belair Conservation Park, and adjacent to a golf course, it’s nestled amongst the trees and really feels like it’s at one with nature. You know, to sound all cheesy and all. According to the number plates of the majority of the cars and campervans resting here for the night, it’s a popular place with Queenslanders. All I got from my fellow inhabitants, though, was a few nods and “hellos”: I wanted to boast about my impending adventure damn it! I set up camp, had some dinner, and tried to get some rest.
What a dreadful nights sleep I had. I forgot to mention, contrary to the beauty of the location is the fact that the park is located on Upper Sturt Road. Apparently a hotspot for turbo cars that like to tear up and down the road in the wee hours. That night, it sounded like every Japanese import in South Australia wanted to pollute the sound waves around Belair. I eventually got to sleep around 3am, and didn’t wake up too worse for wear thankfully.
Around 8am on the Saturday I continued on, on Gooch Road, from where I left off. I was soon passing through Echo Tunnel and making my first steep ascent for the day. Man could I feel the weight of my backpack, which I purposely packed with around 20kg of gear. Eventually I got the hang of it and was making my way up the Workanda Track, a fire track, and on out of the park. I shared this first stretch of the track with locals walking their dogs and joggers. I must have looked right out of place. A very user friendly section indeed.
My first road-walking section took me along the Pony Ridge Road. I envied each and every one of the residents. What a stunning spot, with views out over the Gulf St Vincent to the West and the Brownhill Creek on to the East. I was soon descending steeping, via a series of switchbacks into the Brownhill Creek gully, and was soon at the base and on the road again. I arrived at the Brownhill Creek Caravan park around 9:45am, 1 hour 45 minutes after setting off from Belair.
At this point I was keen on a hot coffee. Unfortunately, the kiosk at the caravan park couldn’t be described as anything more than that. If I wanted coffee, Farmers Union was all they kept. Unsuitable for a vegan. I snacked on cashews and chased it with tap water. Very civilised. If only I had packed my Trangia.
I was soon climbing steeply towards McElligotts Quarry. A particularly steep section that ran directly behind a patch of suburbia. I felt kind of cheeky looking over my shoulder to admire the views over Adelaide and catching a glimpse of people doing the washing up in their kitchens. Sorry residents. I passed the 10km marker, only 44km to go.
The track soon became more remote feeling with the houses and views making way for dirt tracks and rolling hills in the Waite Conservation Reserve at the back of the Waite campus. It was a pleasant spot and I was alone. Save the odd mountain biker. I enjoyed this section and was impressed to see the remnant Grey Box woodlands. A reminder why the Phytophthora cleaning stations must be used.
Just short of the 15km mark I had my first glimpse of Eagle on the Hill and Mt Lofty. Mt Lofty was covered in cloud and the telecommunication towers were invisible. The temperature had dropped. I donned my fleece. From the boundry of the Waite reserve to the Mt Barker road is private property so special care was given to ensure the gates were closed to not let the stock out. There was a lot of construction taking place on this land, with some rich son-of-a-guns mansion under construction and what looked to be some commercial accommodation. Maybe some cabins or something. Certainly a good spot for it.
I followed the Mt Barker Road up to Eagle on the Hill. Again with the road walking, but it was quite safe as walkers are required to talk in the bike lane which is protected by a kerb. By the time I got to Eagle on the Hill some 2km later, my feet were getting sore.
I was going to break for lunch at Eagle on the Hill but the picnic area was on the other side of the road so I decided to wait until I was in the Cleland Conservation Park. The track notes (available from South Australian Visitor & Travel Centre for $9.95 including a nifty topographical map of the track) states that the walking time from Belair to Eagle on the Hill is 6hrs (17.5km). It took me less than 4 hours. I was quite happy with this. Soon I arrived at the Chinamans Hut ruin in Cleland. Here I broke for lunch and took my boots off to rest my feet.
After a 30 minute break for lunch I was back on the track. This time in familiar surroundings, for this section follows the Waterfall Gully track which starts at Waterfall Gully and climbs to Mt Lofty Summit. The Yurrebilla drifts away from the main track just past Wilsons Bog and follows the Bilba Track up to the road into Cleland Wildlife Park. I was down to 1 litre of water (from 2.5 litres) when I got to the Wildlife Park, but thankfully they allowed my to fill up at their water fountain. I was soon back on track, 2.5 litres of water at my disposal, and on the Wine Shanty Track. Such an apt track for me to be walking.
This section is also used by guided mountain bikers. A few months prior a colleague of mine, Igor, had done this guided mountain bike ride with his fiance. It was nice to see the section of track they’d ridden, and I honestly have nothing against such tourism ventures. It would be nice to see guided walks in some of SA’s conservation parks too. So many opportunities untapped in this state, I say.
I shared the Wine Shanty Track with few people, but quite a few koalas that keenly climbed and ate their way up the lush Eucalypts. The top of the Pillbox Track where it meets Mt Lofty Summit Road marked the 24.5km point. I’d almost come half way and it was 3pm-ish.
At the junction of Greenhill Road and Mt Lofty Summit Road the track climbed steeply through some private land, and descends just as steeply down to the Ridge Road, which it then follows to Coach Road. It makes one deveation from Ridge Road and that’s around a telecommunications tower with a funny whirly thing on top, but gives way to stunning views of Adelaide over Greenhill. This was a nice spot for a rest.
By about 4 I reached the gates to the Horsnell Gully Conservation Park. I’d be camping in this park, as much as it isn’t allowed as far as I am aware. This is something I don’t quite understand. In South Australia there are so few bushcamping options available. Sure, there are a lot of disrespectful people out there that would leave rubbish and start bushfires, but why is SA so exclusive when they have great facilities in other states and overseas, like in New Zealand? Take a page SA.
The way I look at it is, if the facilities are made suitably difficult to reach, they will only attract those dedicated enough to carry the right gear, and these people are usually the ones that will respect the environment. Anyways, I set up camp near the Rockdale Hill Track and got an early night. Oddly, I heard a group of people pass my tent at around 9pm. They were preparing for the Trailblazer I think, which requires a night-tramping section.
Stay tuned for part 2, Horsnell Gully to Morialta.
Firstly, it’s really exciting and encouraging to receive emails from randoms offering their support and advice. Thank you.
I got an email from Simon Cook, “Cookie”, the other day. He’s a Pommy designer / illustrator who did the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) a few years ago and created a documentary of the trip and did an awesome job putting together a comprehensive and rather nifty looking map of the track. He, and his girlfriend Nicky, will be setting off on the Te Araroa roughly the same time as me.
Hope to bump into Cookie and Nicky and can’t wait to see their doco of the trip and the lush maps.
I challenge you all to something better though. Rather than celebrate the day vegetarian style, go vegan for the day. I will be with a yummy BBQ at work lined up with vegan sausages, potatoes and onions, a nice green salad. Oh, and lots of vegan-friendly beer and wine!
One sneaky pic for now.
I did the Yurrbilla over the weekend. Well, sorta. I did it, that’s for sure. But I didn’t quite complete it. I did 42km instead of the full 54km. No biggy in my book and I called it short for good reason. I’m no hero. I wanted to have something of a Sunday afternoon seeing I had to work today, and the rest of the week. So I decided Morialta Conservation Park was a nice place to finish up seeing it is serviced by great public transport and that way I could be home by midday, and I was.
I intent to publish a proper write up and I shall endeavour to. And I will post some pics soon.
F0r the record. I did 42km in 11 hours including breaks. Nice effort I think.