New Zealand Day 60-63: St Arnaud

Day 60: We got some coffee so I could wake up in the morning, then walked to the I-site in Nelson for wifi and to finalize our route through the South Island, and there were a shitload of people passing through on their way to Abel Tasman National Park and its gold sand beaches. The weather was supposed to turn foul over the next couple days, but the radar showed that some of the inner mountain ranges might stay dry, so we set our sights on St Arnaud, a place I had researched thoroughly while back in the states while trying to map out some off trail traverses on the South Island, though our goal would not be quite as ambitious.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 57-59: Hitching South

Day 57: When we woke up, there were already a lot of people hiking and jogging on the nice, wide, flat rail-to-trail. We walked into town, talking about growing up and our perspectives on money and social status, stopping for some breakfast, then hitching out with some Maori folks- two dudes and a girl probably in their late 20’s, one dude with tattoos on his face, talking about all the places their friends have tagged with graffiti, making apparent gang references and day drinking in the car. They told us that we absolutely can’t pass up Raglan, but we did. They dropped us off near Hamilton, where we got some drinks and snacks at the gas station before hitching across the street in the shade of a mini-mall sign.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 52-56: Whangarei and Poor Knights Islands

Day 52: We hitched back to Whangarei in the morning, booked a room at the same hostel/former jail I had stayed at with Nuthatch and Magnus- the Cell Block. We got a room in the back building this time, requiring a climb up a steep metal ladder, walking through a bunkroom and past 3 or 4 other dormitories to get into what used to be a building for correctional officers/police for 5 days while we got our open water diving certifications. Our room was called “the barn”, because of its independent top and bottom halves of the door, and had a queen sized bed, wide windows opened by hand cranks, and was right next to the kitchen.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 45-51: Paihia, Waitangi, and Urupukapuka Island

Day 45: We hitched out to Whangarei with a couple young farmhands, one kiwi teen and a twenty something dude from Denmark, talking about the hard work of raising cattle and the amazing feats of well trained working dogs. They dropped us off at the Pak n’ Save, where we established another ritual- taking our shoes off to walk around the grocery store. I had seen a few barefoot shoppers since I got to New Zealand, attributing the pattern to the proximity of nearly the entire country’s population to one beach or another, but after seeing a shoeless man at the Four Square in Waipu and trying to explain this phenomenon to Xena, I realized that the proportion of barefoot shoppers is just high enough to constitute a socially acceptable behavior, and we concluded that we ought to exercise our social freedoms by following suit.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 40-44: Auckland to Waipu

Day 40: Her plane was late to arrive. I sat by the wall with my guitar, playing quietly to myself, sipping a cup of coffee, checking my watch constantly, and watching a large maori family perform a haka for someone’s return from abroad, but time was moving at a glacial pace… When I finally saw her she was wearing the same black hiker dress she wore when I first met her at the Chinese buffet in Virginia, and this time had mismatched socks in a pair of pink new balances. Her pack was small and had a curled up hula hoop tied to the webbing on the side.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 34-39: Whanganui River

Day 34: New Years Day 2017. Wake up to a light drizzle around 7:45. I moved my stuff under the tarp outside the kitchen and a group of 18 thruhikers was getting all their shit packed into dry bags and plastic barrels and the kayak shuttle van and trailer was getting ready to roll. I made breakfast and that whole trip left while I was eating, but there were still some people waiting here to head out on the 9th, including Choop, who was excited to see my boat. I blew up the boat, put my pack into the trash bags, and Choop, one of the nondescript American dudes, and another chick helped me bring my stuff down to the river by the bridge right outside the Holiday Park.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 31-33: Auckland to Taumarunui

Day 31: Woke up around 7:00AM to a breakfast spread that had been laid out the night before because Dennis and his wife would be out of the house in the morning. When I left after breakfast, I walked to the ferry, adjusting to the newly heavy pack and making a mental note to fully repack my backpack later in a way that is more sustainable long-term. The morning is cool and cloudy and it looks like it will rain later. Morning walkers, joggers, and fishermen in Bucklands Beach all say good morning as I walk by and I make it onto the ferry 2 minutes before it launches.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 27-30: Kaimai Range Back to Auckland

Day 27: Christmas Day. 75 degrees and sunny on the beach in Whitianga, New Zealand. I made jalapeno cornbread and a ton of salad as my American dishes to share with everyone tonight, then spend some time catching up with friends and family who were still on the 24th. I hung out with the other Swedish couple that is in the same bunkroom I’m staying in, then started an early Christmas dinner with everyone there and we all talked about our different Christmas traditions. I realized that although I had cleaned all my clothes, I had forgotten to wash the dirty socks that I had left drying out on the outside of my pack, still caked in mud and funk, so I spent some time hand washing them.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 20-26: Hunua Ranges and Coromandel

Day 20: Woke up around 6:30 to a great breakfast spread at Dennis’ and made arrangements with him about picking up my packraft. We all went out to the Te Araroa Trailhead in Hunua Ranges and started hiking along the Wairoa River, feeling a bit slow to start, tempted by chilly swimming pools all along the river, but quickly gaining speed and we were flying down the trail the rest of the day. There were many people on the well groomed and graded gravel Massey Track, with an excellent view of Hunua Falls along the way.

Steep Steps in the Hunua Ranges


Magnus on the Wairoa River


Nuthatch and Magnus at Hunua Falls


Quiet Earp at Hunua Falls


Massey Track in the Hunua Ranges

There were many birds to be seen, including a morepork that flew out of the canopy, a silvereye that posed just right for a photo, and the complex songs of tuis and the loud wing flaps of the NZ pigeons could be heard.… Read more

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New Zealand Day 14-19: Whangarei to Auckland

Day 14: I woke up first, around 7, when the rain had stopped, but the drops were still falling from the trees. As we ate breakfast, the German couple passed us, and were very surprised to hear our story about James, because they had nothing but good things to say about him, his hospitality, and his campground. Perhaps this was because they paid him upfront? Probably not, but our experience made me wonder. Once we were packed up and walking, it didn’t take long to get to the road, but when Sarah and I stopped to stick our thumbs out, Magnus was still undecided about leaving the Te Araroa.Read more

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