After being a member of Te Araroa’s Facebook page since 2015 I am aware that it is almost time for the annual resurgence of FAQ’s! This post includes the top 10 frequently asked questions and frequently given answers along with some other popular questions/answers on maoritanga/kiwisms, food, water and cooking supplies, gear, river crossings and survival skills, accomodation, health and bodily functions and planning and logistics: before, during and after the trail. Are you ready to have all your burning Te Araroa questions answered? Lets go!
Top 10 frequently asked questions and frequently given answers
1. How long will it take?
2. When can I start?
3. Do I need a permit for Te Araroa?
The only permit required is for the Queen Charlotte Track section as it is a land co-op trail. This is payable when you get the boat to Ship Cove (SOBO) or at most of the accomodation options along the QCT. More info here
4. How much will it cost?
Minimum $1,000 per month
Minimum $20-25 dollars per day
Your total cost will depend largely on wether you are content camping and eating ramen and couscous even when your town or if you are more of a occasional motel room and fish n chips and jelly tips kind of person. This trail is not cheap and it is not recommended if you are on a strict budget
5. Boots or trail shoes?
Trail shoes. More on this and how many pairs of shoes you will burn through below
6. Do I need a PLB?
Yes or a spot tracker
However spot trackers are an incredibly expensive subscription option with less coverage ($362 USD for 12 months subscription which WILL AUTO RENEW). You can nerd out on comparisons between PLB and Spots here
7. Do I need bounce boxes?
If you don’t mind extra hitching just do that
Main sections where bounces boxes are helpful are Arthurs Pass and maybe St Arnaud. More info on bounce boxes and postal costs below.
8. Do I need river crossing skills?
Yes. More info on crossings and courses below
9. Do I need to treat my water?
Yes. More info on treatment methods below
10. Do I need a visa? 10b. Do I need proof of ongoing travel?
You do not need a visa to visit New Zealand if you are:
- A New Zealand or Australian citizen or resident
- A UK citizen and/or passport holder (you can stay up to six months)
- A citizen of a country which has a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand (you can stay up to three months). List here
If you don’t meet the above or need more than three months, then you’ll need a visitor visa, which allows you to holiday in New Zealand for up to nine months. The fastest and easiest way to apply for a visitor visa is online. From 1 October 2019, visitors from visa-waiver countries must request an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) prior to coming to New Zealand. You may also have to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL). For more information on the ETA and IVL, visit Immigration New Zealand
Citizens from the above mentioned visa waiver countries need to prove onward travel. Read more here
More popular FAQ’s
Pronounced Ah-teh-row-ah this is Te Reo Maori for New Zealand. Translation: long white cloud–apparently what Captain Cook saw when he came to land on aotearoa’s shores.
I keep hearing and seeing this word koha. What is koha?
Koha in short means donation
Sometimes a koha is suggested—for example Te Araroa trust suggests a koha of $500 per person to walk Te Araroa. Koha is often interpreted as monetary but it can also relate to being generous in other ways—skill sharing, labour time etc depending on the context.
I can’t pronounce anything HELP!
Can’t quite get your head around Ngunguru?? (‘nung-eww-roo’ NOT ‘Nah-gun-guru!’ you may occasionally hear ‘nang-a-roo’ which is a very… ahem.. European interpretation) Remember your AEIOU and this video might help as well as this link describing both vowels and consonants.
I just got given the stink eye by some locals. Whats up with that?
Were you sitting on the top of picnic table? Where you chowing down on some kai at Cape Reinga? Did you walk into a hut with your shoes still on? There are some basic cultural do’s and don’ts observed by most kiwis and further more some basic hut etiquette that you can familiarise yourself with before you start the trail.
Import cultural don’ts in particular for Te Araroa:
Cape Reinga/Te Reinga Wairoa (leaping place of the spirits) is the final destination for spirits making their journey into the underworld to return to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui. Out of respect no food or drink is to be consumed beyond the carpark.
Avoid sitting on table tops, particularly tables with food on them or those likely to have food on them at any point. Avoid putting backpacks, clothing and hats on table tops. Why? Putting your bottom or carry bag on the table is perceived to be unhygienic. Not sitting on tables is also linked to Māori beliefs about the tapu nature of bodily wastes and the need to keep them separate from food. More on bodily wastes below
Water, food and cooking supplies
Can I bring in food to New Zealand from overseas?
It is unlikely that you will be able to bring in any foods other than pre prepared, prepackaged food that has clear labelling. There have been instances of home made dehydrated meals coming through but it is dependant on the custom officials risk assessment at the time and if there are any known biosecurity alerts in place.
All food bought into the country must be declared at customs or you will be fined extortionately. Do not bring in any perishables (fruit, meat etc) or bee or seed based products.
Will I need to carry lots of water on the trail?
Dry stretches are indicated in the notes e.g Raetea Forest for when you need to carry extra water. Apart from that water, water everywhere until there is a drought.
Rain tanks have been dry above the tree line in previous years—Queen Charlotte track (2016/2017) and Richmond Ranges (2017/2018). Shortages are usually noted on both DOC and Te Araroa websites and Facebook pages. It is worth knowing how to read and navigate linear features and get to streams if going off trail is required. More on navigation below
Why do I have to treat my water?
Did you know New Zealand has some of the highest rates of Giardia in the world? A lot of the terrain on Te Araroa is adjacent to cattle farms. While we love to think of ourselves as clean and green the reality is there is a whole heap of cow shit in our streams. Tank water in huts is generally safe to drink but I would advise doing a quick check of the guttering and attachments to the tank first. Why? Because rats and possums love to die on hut roofs and lay in the guttering in which you’re drinking water passes through YUM!
What do I treat water with?
If you are using the steripen (battery version) consider the cost of CR123A batteries which retail between $8-14 NZD and being able to get said batteries when your batteries run out. We replaced the batteries about four times on Te Araroa. The sawyer squeeze was by far the most popular treatment product I saw on our walk in 2016/2017
What do I eat?
Food glorious food! More info on typical N.Z hiker fodder can be found here
*Best pies etc on Te Araroa
Pie: Miles pies Te Anau, Arrow Bakery Arrowtown and Cathy’s Pies Rangiriri
Scone: Lemonade scones at The Railway station cafe National Park
Flat white: Almost every single cafe in Wellington — but in particular: Goldmine, Lamasons, Swimsuit, Stories, Raglan Roast
Craft Beer: Garage project, Aro Valley Wellington
Big Breakfast: Top of the Dome cafe, Walkworth (just after Dome Forest)
Burgers and Fish n Chips: Ngunguru takeaway
Hearty old school tucker (steak and chips etc): Skotel Restaurant, Whakapapa
Mussels: The Mussel Pot, Havelock
All round cafe: Bespoke kitchen and Vudu kitchen Queenstown
I wanna do the bounce box thing whats the cost?
You can check rates here The cost of bounce boxes and postage rates in New Zealand is higher than most international postal charges as there are no fixed costs—its all based on weight and where the parcel is going.
There are a number of accomodation places along Te Araroa that will accept and hold your bounce box but there is usually a charge to collect your bounce box on top of postage costs–these places are listed in Te Araroa trail notes
Bounce boxes are something that we did do but mostly because I was on some kidney medication at the time that required waypoint collection. Our list of bounce boxes is here
But as I mentioned earlier, If you don’t mind extra hitching just do that
I’m outta gas. Where the hell do I get gas?
You can generally find gas canisters and cooking alcohol in all major towns and cities from most hardware stores, camping and outdoor shops and even some holiday park stores and at gas stations and general stores in some of the smaller but more touristy towns – National Park, Tekapo, Queenstown etc. But not always–In peak season supplies can run low so I recommend carrying a spare canister even if its a half or quarter full on some of the more isolated sections. Esbit tabs are harder to come across but some outdoor stores carry a product called wet tinder which are similar to the tabs
Whats up with this purple cooking alcohol?
If you have a stove requiring cooking alcohol you will need purple meths alcohol. Unfortunately its is only sold in IL bottles but can be purchased from hardware stores and can be found in the cleaning aisle of most grocery stores. It can sometimes be stored behind the customer service counter as some try to drink it as alcohol—its dyed purple due to the bittering agent that is added to dissuade this
Why trail shoes?
I can hear all the kiwis sighing but hear me out! Boots are generally too heavy and do not dry out well enough for the volume of river crossings, mud runs and beach walks on Te Araroa. You will generally suffer fewer blisters and rubbing as trail shoes are easier to dry out and have more flex
How many pairs of shoes do I need?
Two – three.
My best advice is to buy them right first. Buy a size up — if they feel like clown shoes good. If you do this then you can probably get away with two pairs rather than three as your feet wont be exploding out of them by the time you reach Auckland (SOBO)
In the last section of both the North Island and the South Island I did stitch the mesh toe box together with dental floss and resorted to duct taping them so they would hold together until the finish
Wheres the best lightweight info at?
There is a lot of information out there and I’m definitely not a lightweight hiker as I enjoy my comforts but a friend of mine, Ayesha is, you might know her as ‘Heaps’. She has a blog with her lightweight gear list for the PCT here
Camelback yes or no?
I say yes but….
This will obviously depend on your preference and your water treatment system. Jack and I used cheap water bladders from Macpac but we also carried a Nalgene bottle to collect water and to mix raro in. It was also easier to dip the steripen into as the Nalgene bottle has a wide mouth. We could then pour water directly into our water bladders without having to remove them from our backpacks
I loved using a water bladder because when we were on the move we didn’t have to stop to get bottles or even to tip our heads back. I did find a bladder with slide top system and unfortunately this is not so common anymore. The newer designs with screw caps have a tendency to leak and because of the capping material they are heavier
How many pairs of clothes do I need?
One if you don’t care. Two if you like some comfort
Check out the trail clothes I wore and the extra set here
Rain pants yay or nay?
Nah. Can you really be bothered taking your shoes off to get rain pants on? Unlikely when your shoes are already covered in Raetea’s mire. Newsflash–Bare legs are waterproof and easier to clean!
P.S Those fancy American rain skirts only work on cleared trail. You will find yourself in a rain skirt toggle vs gorse bush/supplejack show down in the first few weeks.
I need to repair or replace gear. Where can I do that on the trail?
Major towns or cities are your best bet with the following outdoor stores common on the trail:
Hunting and Fishing – Kerikeri, Kaitaia, Whangarei, Invercargill, Botany (Auckland), Palmerston North.
Bivouac —Newmarket & Botany (Auckland), Palmerston North, Wellington
Torpedo 7 — Newmarket, Mount Wellington and Manukau (Auckland), Hamilton, Palmerston North, Poirirua (Wellington), Wanaka, Queenstown
A bunch of Kathmandu, Macpac and smaller local retailers can also be found along the way but personally I have had mixed results regarding the quality of items I have purchased at these retailers.
I gotta charge my phone my insta’s blowing up. Recommendations?
We used smaak battery chargers (one each) which were efficient and light. The longest section in total was 10 days (Two Thumb to Tekapo) and we reserved our batteries carefully and used the chargers to power up twice during this stretch. We saved a lot of battery in general by having our phones on aeroplane mode and using our phones for GPS and photos only. You may also find this video helpful
River crossing and Survival skills
Do you recommend a river crossing course?
Yes, a river crossing course before Te Araroa is your best bet. It is important to know how to read a river, establish a crossing point and to know when a solo or dual/group river crossing is the best option.
This video by the Mountain Safety Council New Zealand also provides some useful tips on river crossing.
Can I cross the Raikaia River yes or no?
Nah. This crossing is not recommended as the river is well known for its multiple braids with high swift currents.
Crossing the Rangitatata yay or nay?
Maybe? It is possible but you need to be confident in river crossing (see above) and if you do decide to do this please ensure you are with a party so dual/group crossings are possible.
How do I get around the Raikaia and the Rangitata?
Shuttle, hitch or walk it.
All current shuttle information can be found in Te Araroa trail notes
Their have been walkers that have decided to walk the section around Raikaia River which takes on average two days with an overnight stay at Raikaia Gorge campsite
What are the best navigation tools?
You are only as good as your skill set in using and understanding the following tools:
Reference downloads —Te Araroa trail notes and PDF maps
Old School with a very roomy backpack and waterproof bags —Print TOPO Maps and compass
On our Te Araroa walk a combo of the Guthook app, trail notes and PDF downloads were utilised which was sufficient for our navigation. The Guthook app was an extremely helpful planning tool in 2016 when it did mark ‘potential camping’ spots however they were removed by trust request as they did infringe on private land in some instances.
Im not keen on using the huts so I won’t need a hut pass eh?
So said every American thru hiker before they did Te Araroa! Do yourself a favour and buy a hut pass. It will be the best $92 you will ever spend and you are likely to use it when you encounter the extremely changeable weather that New Zealand has to offer.
By using the long drops, rain water tanks or even just the huts as rest stop you are still technically using the huts so just buy it. You will get value for your money and you be supporting the Department of Conservation who does invaluable conservation work—you legend you! BUY IT!
Do I have to fill out the intentions books in the huts?
It is important that you leave details of yourself and your intended route in the intentions book as the information becomes invaluable in search and rescue situations. Therefore It is not sufficient to just to leave a trail name and ‘TA SOBO‘. There have been difficulties in locating missing persons in previous years due to LandSAR having insufficient information
A good example of how to leave your intentions might be;
Name: Amy Iko ‘Ikoliko’
Intended route: TA SOBO Waitewaewae Hut — Parawai Hut
Sometimes a little more information is necessary for example: TA SOBO Royal Hut –Camp stream Hut via high route (important when you know there are different routes to get to the same destination)
Also don’t forget to put in your hut pass number. After a while you will have the number committed to memory and you will no longer have to rifle through your backpack for your hut pass but you still need to carry your hut pass with you. Occasionally you will come across hut wardens who will ask to see your backcountry hut pass.
I’m in Tekapo in prime tourist season and there is nowhere to stay, not even a campsite what do I do?
Hitch to Fairlie, the next town over.
Sections that reach known tourist destinations need to be planned very carefully if you need accomodation. Consider forward planning for the following sections if you know you will be near them around public holidays or peak summer periods (Christmas/New Year & Easter/ANZAC or Mid Jan-Mid Feb–Chinese new year)—-Whanganui River Journey and Tongiriro Crossing, Lake Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown
Do I need a poo trowel/shovel?
YES YOU DO!!!!!
Please embody leave no trace principles. Kiwis have strong feelings about any perceived desecration of the whenua (land). Do not irk the locals
You can get light weight trowels and it is really important that you carry one always. A stick just isn’t good enough to break through the top layer of soil especially in places like Canterbury where the soil is arid and tough. If you need to know a little more around how to dig a poo hole or cat hole as American’s like to call it there is a helpful video here
How do I deal with my period on the trail?
The huge increase of exercise on Te Araroa meant I had one period before they stopped for eight months. I wish you the same crazy luck!
But for my one hit wonder which started in Raetea Forest (yay!) I used a sea sponge. This is usually what I tend to use as I find them more comfortable than menstrual cups and they just need to be rinsed well with water and squeezed out before being used again. They can also be washed while your in the shower with soap. They dry relatively quickly too. (I also use Thinx undies on shorter hikes–no more than three days)
There are plenty of resources out there on this topic but almost all of them round out to a menstrual cup being your best option. But if you are like me and they aren’t for you give the sea sponge a go. If you do want to stick to pads and/or tampons you will have to keep them in a zip lock bag and carry them out. Apparently adding a dry tea bag to the zip lock bag helps with odours
How can I avoid blisters?
A couple suggestions
- Break your shoes in prior to the trail and ensure you buy at least a size bigger
- Two pairs of light weight merino socks (icebreaker,mons royal etc) OR Toe socks (injinji etc)
- Wear gaiters to avoid debris and sediment getting into your shoes and rubbing
P.S As much as this kiwi loves (and I truly mean lovvees!) Hikers wool this stuff usually only works in sturdy boots without flex and when the terrain is dry. Once you do a river crossing it will usually soak through and shift the wool causing more rubbing.
What are the best remedies for blisters?
A couple suggestions
- Leave the blister and cover it with blister patch, band aid or second skin OR
- Drain it. Use a disinfected needle to pop the blister and drain out the fluid. Wash the blister with soapy water or if this is not possible just rinse with water (or salt water if your on the beach) and leave it to dry for a while (out in the sun is preferable but do not get your feet sunburnt!). If you are concerned about infection then you may want to cover it with a bandage however this will keep the area moist and prevent healing and hardening of the skin.
On Te Araroa blisters can be unavoidable particularly early on—ninety mile beach and all that sand. It’s a personal preference it terms of dealing with blisters but I did drain and dry out all of my blisters in Ahipara and did not bandage them afterwards. I also removed the loose skin to prevent further rubbing–controversial! This did mean slurping through the northland forests with open blister pockets but I did try my best to keep them clean and thusly the skin began to heal over faster than keeping them covered with bandages. The skin on my feet evolved to hard ‘armadillo skin’ within four weeks and this meant they were less susceptible to forming more blisters or rubbing.
I’m sunburnt to buggery. What can do for the pain?
You muppet! Aloe vera gel can be found in most supermarkets and chemists. Theres also spray on version but prevention is always best – carry 50+ SPF sunscreen as a minimum in New Zealand. Yes there are ‘natural sunscreens’ available from organic supermarkets (like Commonsense Organics) in larger cities but as they are zinc based they can harden in cold climates.
Sandflies are eating me alive. What is the best New Zealand repellent?
Goodbye sandfly is one of the most effective non deet products made with natural ingredients available from most chemists and supermarkets.
Planning and logistics: before, during and after the trail
What are the best resources for planning?
The Te Araroa Website is the most useful source for your baseline information but the most valuable resource for logistical planning can be found here. We met Erin (Wired) on Te Araroa and was amazed to learn she blogged everyday and in high detail as well. Her resources became invaluable to us particularly towards the end of the journey as she was about two weeks ahead of us by that point. We were able to plan waypoints and understand terrain using her blog as a guide
I need to store some luggage/gear while I walk. Suggestions?
There is are some lovely kiwis who are willing to support trampers. Be polite, ask nicely and always be grateful
I would like to do some volunteer work after Te Araroa. Suggestions?
Volunteer for DOC . Most of the Department of Conservation placements are seasonal but check out the latest listings for further information.
There are usually one off volunteer jobs advertised through an agencies Facebook. For example beach cleans with the Sea Shepard
I would like to do some temporary paid work after Te Araroa coz I’m skint! Suggestions?
*YOU MUST HAVE A WORK VISA*
If you are SOBO and finishing around March/April/May your just in time for wine harvest and high demand fruit picking season. Check out the job board here
I started Te Araroa but I don’t think its for me. Should I quit?
I’m gonna be candid about this. The North Island is not a particularly enjoyable hike— roads, farms, mud, roads, farms, mud…..(you get the picture right?). I wrote a lot about those feelings here. But I am glad I persevered because I do have some amazing memories and if you are keen on meeting the locals the North Island is where its at. Well, its up to you but there are thousands of other walks on the North Island that rival Te Araroa. If you are interested I have suggested 1,500 kilometers of North Island alternatives here
Got more questions? Comment below or check on the Te Araroa Facebook page and use the search bar as your question has likely been asked (and answered) before. More than once!