Out of the entire 3,000 kilometre TA, I was about to hit its most unpopular section. Everyone who was already cherry-picking and skipping sections, was definitely going to skip this. And those who hadn’t, were considering it.
Are you preparing for your first thru-hike and find yourself completely overwhelmed by all the gear lists, technical terms and lightweight or ultralight musings? Like when you read other hiker’s blogs and they talk about their trail runners getting soaked while walking through wet grass and you just think: ‘What in the world are trail runners? Aren’t hiking shoes waterproof?’ If that’s you, then this blog post is for you.
If there’s one element that pervades everyone’s experience of walking the TA, it’s water. Streams, rivers, the sea, inlets and estuaries. New Zealand loves them. The TA loves them. They haunt you.
‘Trail name or real name?’ That was my reply whenever another hiker asked for my name, those first few weeks on trail. Trail names are a funny thing. Some hikers are keen on them, some not so much.
The Te Araroa settled into its typical north island behaviour. Each day the trail would take me though a variety of beach, farmland, 4wd backroads, forest tracks and roads: a collection of everything and nothing in specific. But I was about to create my own drama for a couple of days. And this is what happened.
The muddy forests. Three Northland forests made of nothing more than a jungle of trees and mud. It’s an introduction to bushwhacking more than anything else, with rivers to replace eroded tracks but mostly, it’s a cruel initiation to mud.