The Next Stage

Good morning everyone! It has been a bit! I feel an update is sort of in order, both in their personal world, and my Tramping plans!

In the last post, I talked about taking the plunge with my skin reduction surgery. What has been exciting is that in the duration, I have made a couple of decisions to make a video series following my progress and recovery. I will be sharing those from YouTube in the coming weeks! I didn’t want to be redundant and share the same information, but don’t worry. I am going to keep everyone in the loop with that journey.

The other big thing is looking ahead to next year’s physical goals. With the Tongariro Northern Circuit firmly in the rear view, I start too look towards the next season and what I want to accomplish.

Last year, I had to shift my goals around a bit. From missing out on the Milford, and then the closure of the Waitakere Ranges a month before my Hillary Trail experience, I landed on my First Great Walk within New Zealand, and was not disappointed. This year, I have decided to do two big events, one in February, and one in March. I will also include a couple of smaller adventures along the way.

So lets begin with the Spring Training season.

With my skin surgery happening last week, I am now in a 10-12 week recovery period. For a surgery of this magnitude, there are different levels of recovery.

  • First there is the post surgery recovery, which takes about two weeks. This is where I have drains in my body, I am to stay close to home, and no driving or major movements except when necessary
  • Next, there is the 2-4 week period where I will slowly get back to “Normal.” Swelling should start going down more regularly, pain is less, and things are generally getting back to normal.
  • From 4-6 weeks, my body shape is settling down into place, the swelling is pretty much over, and the scar tissue will finish “hardening”
  • From 6-12 weeks, the scar tissue will begin to soften and change. And while the scar will take years to fade, it will finally settle during this face. From Week 6 and later, I will be able to walk, and gym and do all the things, but I will ramp up slowly to make sure I don’t over do or push anything.

After the three months, this should put me at the beginning of my Tramping Training season; Mid September, which is a perfect time to begin stretching my legs in the region again.

With the Waitakeres closed for the foreseeable future, I am setting my sights on the Hunua Ranges to the south of Auckland and a few trails outside the Waitakteres to the West. I hope to do the Te Henga Walkway, and I may go over to the Coromandels on a weekend or two to do trails over there.

My goal is to once again do trails most weekends, leading up the Labour Day weekend.

For Labour Day, which is in late October, I am considering an 1-2 night trip to either the top end or the Coromandel, or over to the Kaimai Ranges about 4 hours from Auckland. Both of these areas will be new to me, and I will be able to test out my new body, and likely some new camping gear!

From October, I will be planning more day hikes in and around Auckland, and over Christmas and New Years, try for the Pinnacles Overnight walk.

And from there, I plan two large events for the summer months.

First, I will be doing the Routeburn Track down in the South Island. The Trail which is next to the hugely popular, and already fully booked Milford Trail will take me through the Southern Alps over 3 days. The trail will be shorter than the Tongariro, 32kms, but I suspect that the views will be what draws me to the place. It will be my first major walk on the South Island.

Then, In late March, I will do do another trek. I will go to Stewart Island, and do a Cross Island Trek with my Father In-Law. This has a lot of personal connections for me. My Father in Law has been instrumental in helping me on this incredible journey, and it to be able to have a few days with him to bond, learn, and grow, something I am very exited about. While not a Great Walk (I will do Rakiura another time), we will traverse across Stewart Island to see incredible birds, sights, and hang out on New Zealand’s Third Island. The walk there should be around 40-50 kms, and it all depends on what we want to do on the last two days.

Of course, plans are made to be changes, and remembering last year, I want to make sure that I don’t get *too* wedded to these plans. However, I think I have a busy season of Tramping ahead of me.

The Tongariro Adventure: Part 3

This is a multi-part story of my Tongariro Adventure: Here is Part 1 and Part 2

Descending Tongariro

Climbing down the Tongariro Crossing

The decent off Tongariro was again difficult, but after the scoria section, it felt like a breeze. The ground was hard and rocky as the trail wound its way down the mountain.

Soon, I was let out on a lava plain/desert are with giant boulders strewn around from previous eruptions. The broken landscape felt chaotic as if a large child haphazardly left their toys after losing interests. The flies here were almost overwhelming, with the constant buzzing in your ears, and flashes of them around your periphery. Here, away from the crowds, I was given a bit more space to think and contemplate. I came upon a couple of the Kiwi Family, an older couple. The man walking with a walking cane/stick, and the woman walking with a knee wrap. They were having a little bit of a time with the decent. We ended up walking for a bit, talking about our backgrounds and our lives. She was quite quiet, focusing on her walk, but he spoke about his travels around New Zealand, and his aversion to large cities. He felt that Hamilton was still a bit too big for him, but he is mostly used to it. These trips helped him get away from the crowds.

Descending into Mordor

It felt like Mother Nature couldn’t decide what to do with this place. 

They decided to rest a bit, and I continued into the broken landscape. Crossing dry river bed, and climbing over rocky rifts. The sun beat down and while clouds were building, they seem to dodge the actual sun, making sure it beat down on me harshly.


22 - Oturere Hut
Oturere Hut

I began to start seeking out the Hut. Hoping to see the hut like last time in the distance. I would see each rise and hope that once I reach the top, I would see the hut in the distance, giving me that extra motivation with each step. The trail seemed to mock me however with only showing my the next signpost. Again and again, I had my hopes dashed. I turned a corner in between two rises, and suddenly, I saw it. Well… I saw something.



Along the trail, there are trail markers that lead your way. In many areas of the Circuit, there is no discernible trail, every 50 to 100 meters there is a marker sticking out of the ground pointing you to the next marker. Normally, they have a simple orange triangle pointing you along. This time, however, in addition to the pointer, there was a 1KM sign. That’s it. But it was enough. Despite not seeing the hut, and having no other sign than this vague hope that in 1 km, I will be done. I picked up my pace. Up and down over the rocky plain, and suddenly, as I turned a corner, there it was. The hut was small, and in front of it, a wide area leading up to the edge of a ridge where the tents were staying, the view swept out east into a valley. Behind the Hut was a low ridge to partially protect the hut, but also a wide expanse where you could see Mt. Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in the distance.

A good part of the Kiwi Family was there having their lunch. I checked the time and saw that made it to the hut in just under 6 hours. While the day wasn’t my most strenuous looking back (My Birthday walk was longer and had greater elevation), I felt the most accomplished by far in my tramping in the last year. I walked inside and saw that the hut was smaller than the last one. The place felt homey with one large area for cooking, eating, and about a dozen or so beds, and two side rooms: one for people who snore, and another room for 6-7 people. The Kiwi Family wasn’t staying at this hut tonight, so I was one of the first people to get to the hut for the day. I quickly took a bed in the private non-snoring room.



Waterfalls near Oturere Hut

After dropping off my things. I started to explore the area. About 300 meters away was a waterfall bringing water to the valley below. The water’s roar was inticing after two days of sweaty walking, so I grabbed my towel and jandals and wandered down to the falls. When I arrived, I found out I wasn’t alone, as two other trampers, the German and Russian couple Fritz and Anastasia, decided to take a dip in the water as well. The water was frigid as I waded into one of the collecting pools above the falls. The water was just a little too cold for me, and as I was leaving the pool, I felt the first splatter of rain. The clouds have finally made it to the area. In the distance, thunder rumbled, and we hurried back to the hut. A child-like smile crept across my face; the second day of storms in a row! I thought to myself.


Over the next few hours, thunder and lightning rolled its way around the mountains. Since I was safely in the hut, I was able to relax and listen to the rain and thunder as it fell. The Auckland Siblings came in a short time later, and the last of the family left for their last three hours hike.

The Hut filled up throughout the afternoon, as the people from all areas of the park descended on this little patch of earth. There seemed to be even more Germans than before, now we had people from Poland, Quebec, the UK, Tonga, Japan, and more. Despite the rain, everyone seemed to be in good spirits, and when the Hut warden came to talk, the weather had begun to lift, and that heat had receded.

After the talk, there was a very chill atmosphere around the hut. The clouds from Ruapehu and Ngaruhoe were clearing, and an amazing Sunset was starting to unfold in front of us.


17 - Mt. Ngaurohoe 5

Mt. Ngaruhoe as the clouds begin to clear

Soon, people were perched on the various boulders around the hut to watch the changing light and clouds around the mountains. The Auckland Siblings were taking photos and joking around. The Quebecois were laying on top of the largest boulder soaking in the last of the sunlight of the day. The Hut Warden was simply drinking some coffee and enjoying the sights.

As the light faded, the Mountain gave us one last show.

Special - Amazing Sunset of Mt. Nguruhoe

Sunset and the dying of the light

Looking back, I saw “the hells of Mount Doom” as the sun drenched the area in red light. The imagination ran wild as I saw the wisps of cloud stream into the darkness. As a traveler, I also try to see sunsets and sunrises as I often feel that these are some of the best times of day to see a place. At sunset, you have the world going into sleep, where the busy day is winding down and preparing for rest. The moon was out for a good part of the night, but despite the added light, the night was gorgeous and calm. I woke up again late and looked out at the stars. It was becoming my nightly ritual.

I took stock of where I was. I was halfway finished with the walk, I was feeling good, and good weather was with me. I figured I had done the toughest part of the trek. But I definitely had more in store for me in the next two days.



The Hillary Trail: impasse, decision, and reflection

Journey before Destination

Brandon Sanderson – Stormlight Archive Series

Right now, I am reading a book by Brandon Sanderson named Oathbringer. It is a fantastic book in a fantastic series that I adore (future post alert!) In the book, there is the above refrain repeated often in the series,  and it is one that I find myself saying as I write this post. My goal is the destination, but the journey… the training, the discovery, the trials… that is what is important.

Last week, I received a pretty big piece of news in relation to my upcoming Hillary Trail walk.

It was announced that the Te Kawerau ā Maki iwi has placed a Rāhui on the Waitakere Ranges. This… made me need to learn a few things in my new home of New Zealand. An Iwi is the largest social group of Maori in an area. Often translated to a Nation, a confederation, or a tribe, Iwis make up the largest political system in Maoridom. For Americans, think of the Navaho Nation. Iwis work with the government on matters pertaining tot he Maori, but also matters of conservation, the environment, and other areas stipulated in the Treaty of Waitangi.

rāhui is an edict by the iwi that forbids entrance and passage into an area. In this case… the Waitakere Ranges… where the Hillary Trail runs right through.

Why are they doing this you ask? It is because of the Kauri Trees. The Kauri trees are facing a large dieback and possible extinction due to microbes that are killing the root system of the trees. The infection is carried through the soil, and can easily hitch rides on muddy shoes, animals, and water.  Kauri Trees are very old and grow very slowly. They were once logged heavily in the early days of European colonization of the North Island but was stopped starting in the 1920’s. Kauri Dieback started showing up in the mid-2000’s, and despite attempts to slow the spread of the disease, it has exploded in the last few years infecting upwards of 20% of the remaining Kauri Tree population in the Waitakeres… home of the largest remaining stand of Kauri Trees.

A big issue is that people who walk the park are not doing what is necessary to protect the trees. I routinely see people take dogs into the Waitakeres, which is not allowed, and people do not use the cleaning stations, nor the sprays designed to kill the microbes.

The relationship between iwi and the government is a tumultuous one. The Treaty was not honored for a very long time and starting in the 1980’s, there have been attempts to change that. Despite that, the iwis move is not binding in any way. People can come and go through the park regardless of what the iwi does or decide.

Today, however, the Auckland Council is going to vote on what to do about the situation. They are considering 5 options, one of which is the closure of the entire park as per the iwis wishes. The other 4 options will be considered, but it is likely parts of the park will be closed indefinitely. However, while  Waitakere councillor Penny Hulse has stated that a complete park closure is impossible to uphold (the park is 160 square kilometers), people should respect the rāhui.

When I heard the news last week, I was despondent. after missing out on going on the Milford Track earlier in the year, I chose the Hillary because it was something that I could do in my backyard so to speak. It was a challenge I made for myself, and for the last few months, I have strived hard to achieve it. I have pushed myself, I have hyped myself, and I learned to love and enjoy the Waitakere ranges in their beauty of awesomeness. Now, with a month to go before the big walk, I am told that I shouldn’t and that my walking it could further harm the region.

Upset, Angry, shamed that I was angry, crushed at the loss of a goal, all went through my head. On one hand, there is nothing stopping me from walking the Hillary. It is highly doubtful that the Council will close the park, and the iwi has little bearing on laws. I can’t get arrested, they can’t bar the forest from me, or anyone (they even admit this). But… isn’t that what people have done for the last 150 years here in New Zealand? Ignore the Maori and their wishes when it didn’t suit them? English colonials ignored the Treaty, followed then by the NZ Government. The US had done similarly to Native Americans, making treaties and promises only to ignore them when it suited the US prerogative.

No, I can’t do that. Whenever I think about walking the Hillary in defiance of the iwis wishes, I get an empty pit in my stomach and I feel like I am ignoring one of the biggest reasons I am doing the Hillary in the first place: embracing this nation as my new home. And in the end, if I ignore the rules because they don’t suit me, I am not embracing my new home or those around me.

With the vote today, I will look to both the Council and the Iwi on what they want to do. It is likely that a two-pronged approach will happen. I suspect that the high-risk areas: Kauri Cascade, the Montana Heritage Trail, and other areas will be closed off from the public. I also suspect that they will also step up funding to combat the microbe, having found some success in areas, and being able to identify Kauri trees resistant to the microbe. If the iwi is satisfied with the decision and drops the rāhui, then I will go on my walk. If they keep the rāhui in place, then I will cancel my walk… which is a bit devastating. I love the Waitakeres, I want to walk them as much as I can. There is still so much of it I haven’t seen, but I can’t enjoy it if I am also going to help destroy it.

This also makes me worried about the Hunua Ranges, the next closest area of walks for me, which also have Kauri trees, and may be the next to close.

With this development, I tried to look at other great walks to go on during the Christmas/New Year break, and I have found that everything is either too far away, fully booked, or what is available is luxury tramping that is way too expensive. This made me very upset. Again, I have been hiking and training for months for this, and now… so close to the event, the rug gets pulled out from under me.

So… next steps.

If I cannot do the Hillary, I am going to look for a 2-day walk somewhere in the Hunuas or the Coromandel Ranges for me to go walking. I am considering the Pinnacles walk which is either a 1 or 2-day walk or I may do something in the East Hunua Ranges. Both are relatively close to me, so I should be able to find something. I just hope I can find a campground or hut to stay at.

The other thing I have done… is that I have decided to do the Tongariro Northern Circuit at the end of January. This is a great walk that also includes the Tongariro Crossing, something I was planning to do this summer anyhow. This 4-day walk will be just as challenging as the Hillary, so I am glad I was able to find campsites and a hut to stay at. The area is already protected, and it does not have any Kauri trees. So no danger there. It *is* considered sacred, but I will follow the rules of the local iwi there and that is perfectly fine for me.

If the Hillary does pull through, I will be thrilled, but only if the Iwi and the Council agree. Otherwise, I will go further afield.

“If the Journey itself is indeed the most important piece, rather than the destination itself, then I traveled not to avoid duty – but to seek it.”

Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer Chapter 120

It is a reminder that sometimes the goal is not what you should focus on, and this situation is making me recognise that a bit more. I hope I can do the Hillary, but I am prepared to change the destination, for, in the end, it is not as important as the journey.

The Hillary Trail: Week 7 – Heading South

Hello again! After my last big test, I have taken the last two weeks off to recuperate as well as reassess my plans for the Hillary Trail. The good news is that I have decided to continue forward with my plans and I am super excited about the next phase of my training.

The two day test for me was a lot of fun, but it highlighted a couple of things that I have been concerned about: my general fitness. Overall, my walking and hiking is doing great, but the big unknown for me is what to do when I am carrying an extra 15kgs on my back when I am hiking. My knee acted up when I pushed myself pretty hard. That first day, I did almost 19kms, and I suspect that was the reason why I ended up with a sore knee: I decided the first time with a full pack, I was walking 30ish kms. Not a good idea.

So, for this next phase of my training, I am going to switch it up a little bit I think.

The start date for the Hillary is 8 weeks from today. (Oh god…) So, I am going to start planning this phase and make sure that by January 2nd, I am ready and able to do the entire trek.

This weekend, I plan on going South to the Hunua Ranges. This is an area south of Auckland, about the same distance for me as the Waitakere Ranges. Before I started training for the Hillary, I did the Massey Track/Cossey Gorge Track which was a lot of fun. This time, however, I will be heading slightly south of there, and I will be doing two tracks.

While not as intense as the tracks in the Waitakeres, I think this is a good start after two weeks off, and to get a fairly good feel for my knee. I suspect that I will be fine with the walk, but I don’t want to overextend myself the first time I go out after a break. There are some steep spots, which is good, and apparently, there is a slip in the road at one point, so I will need to scramble over some loose rock. That actually sounds a bit exciting. The walk should be about 10kms, but it may come out to be a bit more. It also looks like I will be crossing a stream a few times, so that sounds a bit exciting!

For this walk, I will be taking my day pack, but I may bring some stuff to give it some weight. I am doing this mostly for conditioning as I build up for the Hillary.

Beyond this weekend, I am looking at a couple of milestone events leading up to the Hillary that I want to accomplish so that I feel the most comfortable heading into the 6 day tramp.

Camping weekend number 2

The first thing I want to do is another overnight camping trip on my own. With Labour Day weekend going well, despite the knee. I want to give it another go in terms of making sure I can carry a pack for two days without hurting myself in some way. I am targeting the weekend of December 2nd to do this. And I am considering doing a camp in the Hunua Ranges. Not that I don’t love to Waitakeres, I just want to make sure I do not exhaust all the cool places before I do the Hillary. I am looking at the East Hunua Ranges, and I hope to nail down the route in the next week or two.

Tongariro Crossing

The weekend before Christmas, I am looking to do the Tongariro Crossing. A friend and his Fiance will be in the country over that time and asked me if I wanted to do it with them, and upon thinking about it, I think it would be a fantastic time. It is a 19.5km walk, and it is definitely a challenge. Doing it two days Before Christmas, and a week and a half before the Hillary is a good chance for me to give my legs and fitness a final workout. I will be carrying a day pack, given the distance, but I suspect it will be a good walk regardless. Also, seeing “Mount Doom” is kinda a bucket list item. I will not scale the mountain… this time, but I suspect that I will be making another trip there later in the summer, or maybe next summer. Hopefully, I can nail down this soon, and be able to have a great day with it.

Boxing Day Adventure

This is not set in stone, but since I will be spending the Christmas holiday in the Coromandel Penisula, I am considering doing a Boxing Day Tramp somewhere in the area. I have done some walking in the region before, but I may do something a little more challenging for Boxing Day. This is the one I am least sure about. Given that the Tongariro will only be 2-3 days before, I may be worn out. However, given that I need to do 6 straight days of walking, I need to see if I can handle big walks over a short amount of time. I need to give some thought to this before I make a decision. Luckily, it is well within my holiday period so I can decide a bit closer to the time.

And that is it. For the next 8 weeks, I look to do a lot of walking, and I am really excited about it. On Thursday, I plan to book my campsites for the Hillary and make my decision on the Hunua Ranges Camping trip. Until then, I will let you know how it goes!


The Hillary Trail – Week 6: Achievement Unlocked: Camping

Friday Night

I think I packed and repacked 3 times over the night. I was excited, but I was nervous. I decided to have pizza and sort of carb-load. This turned out to not work out as much as I had hoped because I didn’t eat enough pizza. I still had some chicken sushi I had yet to eat as well. My pre-eating wasn’t going well.

(note: In Australia and New Zealand, they *also* have Chicken and Beef sushi. No, the meat is not raw, but cooked. Generally, you can get Chicken.Beef Teriyaki or Crispy Chicken, its strange to me as I had never heard of non-seafood sushi before moving here, but I dislike seafood, so it is the only sushi I eat.)

I ended up going to bed at 11pm, a little later than I typically do for a walk.


Starting off

Starting in the Garage. Gotta start somewhere. 

I woke up excited and nervous around 5:30. From there, I waited until 7:30 to leave home. From there, I headed to Huia. The ride was pretty nice, and starting right off by the ocean, I knew I would off for a big day.


I arrived at the car park at around 8:10 am, and the first thing I noticed was how many people were already there. Generally, when I get to a place, I am the first one here. Not today. I soon realised that a lot of people had the same idea as I had, and wanted to spend Labour Day weekend tramping.

I am actually excited to see people on the trail.

Fletcher Track  – So starting off on the Karamatura Loop walk. I see a sign for the Fletcher Track. And it is going pretty much going up. I take a look, and start off. Of course, the Track walk is well maintained. The Fletcher track. is. not. I head up the trail, and it is definitely a challenge. I am taking to it pretty voraciously, right up to where I needed to climb about 3-4 meters to continue.

I utter a phrase that I found myself saying often over the course of the next two days.


I look at it for a few moments and decide to give it a go. A few minutes, and some crafty sidestepping later, I was at the top. This is officially tramping, I feel super excited and if anything, I did some fucking climbing.

So, I immediately turn the wrong way.

The good thing was that it wasn’t the “wrong way” it just led to a lookout.

Fletcher Lookout

Lookout from Fletcher Trail

From there, I turned around and made my way to the next track.

Donald McClean track – Officially apart of the Hillary Trail, this was like night and day with the Fletcher. it was well drained, wide, and it was a nice walk. I got to point where I could climb Mt. Donald McClean Walk to the top, but in looking at my time, I figured I could save it for a future Saturday walk. I am very glad I made that decision.

Puriri Ridge Track – From Donald McClean, I took the Puriri Ridge Track. This was my first encounter with mud. Up to this point, there is a no rain, but a little wind. Having rained earlier in the week. I expected mud. But up to this point, the trail had been pretty good, or at worst, easily avoidable mud.

Also, I have decided that after this tramp, there need to be more words for “mud.” Like “snow for the Inuit, I feel that New Zealand need to have 5, 6, 45 words for mud. More on that later.

Puriri Ridge seeing the Omanawunui Track

On the Puriri Ridge Track, behind me, the next challenge. 

Anyhow, the Puriri had some majestic views, it was a good decent through the bush. It didn’t realise it until after I got home and looked at my elevation changes how much I initially climbed. I hit an open patch and I was able to see the Tasman Sea and the opening of Manakau Habour. Of course, I knew I was going to walk that ridge, hens the face.


Anyhow, this was a good walk, and it led back to the road a few kms. Now… I was ready for the big walk of the day.

Omanawanui Track – This is one of those tracks that people talk about on the tramping sites. It starts along the road (at least for the Hillary) and you start heading up the ridge. There are two big peaks in this walk, and they can be pretty daunting. By this point, I met another tramper, Emma. She was doing the Hillary so we were going to end up at the same campground. It was cool to know someone on the trail, but also know to look for them at the end. It was actually a bit of comfort.

The ascent was significant, but every time I stopped, I saw awesome-ness… Seriously.

Omamawanui Trail 1

Omanawanui Track – Before the First Peak

I made it to the first peak, and it was stunning to see. The only downside was that there was a large group of trampers who had stopped for lunch. And while I did not begrudge them (it was a fantastic spot), I moved on quickly. That, and the wind was picking up, so I moved on. There was a second peak a bit further on, so I decided to try and snap a pic there.

The descent from the first peak to the second peak was surprisingly hard. At one point, there was a chain bolted to the rock, and you had to use that to lift/lower yourself to the next level. When I saw that, I did my now trademark, “Seriously…”

Finally, the second peak was mine. I sat down at the seat at the top, drank some water, and took an amazing pic.

Omamawanui Trail 2

Omanawanui Trail – Second Peak

From the second peak, I descended quickly to the Whatipu car park area. That was when I encountered my first Black Sand in a while. While I only had sand on a tiny part this time, I have to remind myself that future sections of the Hillary will have more sand.

After taking a brief break, I then headed off towards my campsite.


Gibbons Track – The Gibbons track is one of those tracks that are amazing after the first third. The ascent was pretty challenging, but it was dry. I did a steady climb, but I started to notice my right knee was starting to give me trouble. With a tinge here and there as I was climbing, I wasn’t sure what was going on. The trail was steep, and surprising a lot of people were on it. I had to stop several times to let people pass. I actually enjoyed it. I wished everyone well, and it was great to see so many people and so many types of people enjoying rural New Zealand. Throughout this experience, I have mostly been a solo hiker, but today, I got to meet a lot of people and it was really nice to see. I also found Emma a time or two as we were travelling. I was really excited because she was an experienced tramper, and I am such a noob, so I felt that I could be in the ballpark of decent tramping speed.


When I got up to the top of the Gibbons trail, I was treated to a spectacular view.

Gibbons Track 2

The trail then evened out and walking was good. Finally, I hit the last track of the day.

Muir Track – At this point, I was almost to the campground. I am feeling my right knee, and it is not doing the best. I have never hurt my knee before, but generally, I know that things are not going perfectly. While I was walking on a level surface, or ascending, I was fine. It was Descending that was the issue. And my campground, Pararaha Valley campground was definitely down.

So, I descended.

Muir Track

Muir Track Descent

The good thing about the Muir Trail is that there are a lot of steps. Normally, I hate steps but today, they were the perfect thing. I could put weight on my leg, it would just hurt if I put weight as I was stepping down with my other leg. Steps made this process easier.


The downside of the Muir track is that it is steep, and the step down was a bit rough. At one point another Chain bolted tot he rock appeared, and I had a little harder time traversing it. But I managed. In the back of my mind, I am worried about tomorrow morning, as I am walking up this very same trail. but that is for tomorrow.

With my final steps, I make it to the campground. Emma was there, smiling, and welcomed me. She was very positive the entire trip, and I was really happy to see her.

Pararaha Campground


My tent! I put it up myself!

The campground was pretty amazing. Nestled in the valley next to a stream, it was pretty epic. I set up camp and my tent, and I felt that I was very successful. Next, after setting set up. I made dinner in a small shelter (at 5pm, but I don’t care), and met the other people coming in. It was kinda crazy how many people showed up. The campsite can hold 40, and there were like 25 people there easily. I saw a family with two kids there, they were like 8-10 years old. There were duos and trios and singles as well. It was a nice group of people and talking about my

Aaron dinner.jpg

Making Dinner

training, and their experiences… it was an amazing time to get to know them. I was worried about the social aspect of camping, especially because I figured I would be kinda introverted. But it was a positive experience… and I also crashed early so there was that.


Now, onto the stats of the day.

Overall, I walked 18.91 Kilometers on the trail. I did the walk in 7:27:22 which means I did an average of 2.5km per hour for the day. I did four peaks during the day, though my first one was the biggest by far. I actually thought that the ridge peaks were taller, but I was surprisingly wrong. I did get down to just around sea level at Whatipu, which was expected, but the second ascent from the Gibbons Track was surprising for me.

Day 1 Map

My Day 1 Hike on the Map


Day 1 Walk

Day 1 Elevation Map




Pararaha Campground – Waking up at 5:30, I felt good. The place I put the tent was really good… with the exception of it being on a slight angle, so I moved around a bit during the night. Otherwise, the wind stayed down and I got a good nights rest. Also, Emma gave me some nurophen (aka Tylenol) and some tape for my leg. Also, my leg felt almost perfect! I got changed, ate, and packed my stuff, and I was off by 7:15. This was a good move on my part because the weather began to set it. While I was packing, the rain started, so I was lucky that I was able to pack up before the rain set in. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t try my knee in wet weather.

Muir Track – Going up was much better than going down. The ascent was quick, and my knee was in good spirits. I think it had to do with being kept warm all night in the sleeping bag and not moving it too much. The Chain section was pretty easy on the way up, so I was happy with that. With lots of motivation, I met back where the Gibbons and Muir meet, and then went in the third direction.

Walker Ridge Track – Mud gets a new name on the Walker Ridge Track. While I had

Walker Ridge Track

This was the best of the mud situation on the Walker Ridge Trail

avoided mud for most of this hike, my luck ran out here. Walker Ridge was a mess. Going up, going down. It was slop from top to bottom. And worse, the rain had started coming regularly. While under the bush, the rain wasn’t too bad, it created a mist that hung over the trail. It was some serious Cursed Hallow/Blair Witch/Horror Movie vibes going on. But rather than being scared, it was crazy peaceful. I was chuffed that I did not have a better camera to capture the mist better. Next time… next time.


Anyhow, the ascent was decent, while windy and rainy over the exposed parts. The Descent was tough, my knee was starting to act up, and I knew this would take a while. It was this moment when my husband’s words of “pacing myself” popped into my head. So, I slowed down and took the descent conservatively. This slowed me down a lot, but overall, I think it was the right answer. The rain was making everything wet, from the ground to rocks, and one wrong slip could mean something worse. So, I took my time and came up finally to a big fork in the forest. I am nearing the end.

Karamatura Track – I thought Walker was a challenge. No. Karamatura is a bigger challenge. It was pretty much a pure descent off the mountain. That big mountain I walked yesterday? Yeah… that was the one I was now walking down from. Of course, I didn’t realise this until afterwards, so this descent just kept going… and going… and going. The mud was insane, and the decent so steep I slowed down to below 2kph. Again, I wanted to make sure I didn’t fuck anything up for the future, so I was ok with that. Slow and steady wins the race.

I didn’t get my phone out because I wanted to focus on the decent, but even in my state, I absolutely loved what was around me. The trees, the rain creating a mood (which was mostly good), and I could hear the stream getting closer and closer. Finally, I crossed the stream, and I knew I was nearing the end.

Karamatura Loop walk – This is the final leg. I only had to do half of the walk, since it is a loop, but since the ground was fairly even, I made excellent time. My knee was sore, but not hitting me with pain. I quickly made way back, and finally, with a steady rain on me… I made it back to my car.

Huia Lodge Car Park –

Overall, my second day was shorter than my first day. I basically took a more direct route from the campground to my car. Today, I did 9.84km in 4:37:10 which equates to 2.13kph, which while slower than yesterday, is considered good given my knee, the sharp descent throughout the day, and the less than great weather. Let’s look at the maps/stats:


Day 2 Map

Day 2 Map




Day 2 Walk

Day Two Elevation Map



Closing thoughts

Overall, I did 28.75km over 12:02:32. That is an average of 2.31kph, or about 1.42 miles an hour. When saying it in miles doesn’t sound so impressive though, but in saying that, the trampers I met over the two days all said I was doing really great, and gave me a lot of confidence. I think I did well, and I think if my knee didn’t act up, I would be at a solid 2.5kph, and I will be happy with that overall.

I liked this weekend. Knee and weather on the second day aside, I had a fantastic time. The people I met on the trail and campground were really awesome and so nice. At the campground, I met people tramping from all over the world, and to see so many people just enjoy the scenery was awesome. Throughout the trail, I saw Kiwis (the people) and tourist seeing the area, and again, it made my heart sing. New Zealand is an amazing place, and I am so lucky to get see it.

I consider this an achievement unlocked. I am going to take a few days to rest my knee and reassess on what I want, and then… make the final decision on the Hillary and planning the nights out. I may take next weekend off, but I am considering some other tramps in the Waitakeres, as well as the Hunua Ranges as Spring (hopefully), dries out.

I feel like I met the challenge, and I am looking forward to the next time I head out.


The Hillary Trail: Week 6 – The Test

This is a big week for me. After 5 weeks of walking in the bush, this weekend I will be taking my first overnight camping trip in the Waitakere Ranges.

I am really excited, and I am a little nervous.

Firstly, let’s talk about the route I am taking.



This should be about 16kms on the first day, and 7 km on the second day. I figured I would want to do the hardest part first, and then allow myself all day to get back on Sunday… though realistically, I want to be finished by midday because…

A Weather map of New Zealand for Sunday

Sunday Midday Weather – getting out before the weather settles in.

The weather looks to be cloudy on Saturday, possible rain overnight, and then a variable morning until the rain starts to come in during the afternoon.

From Sunday afternoon, the weather further deteriorates and I hope to find myself back home either napping or playing Shadow of War, South Park, or Desinty 2.


During the week, I have tested out my tent, my sleeping bag, and other equipment ahead of this weekend, so I feel that I competently can handle the trip.

The big question, of course, is food.  I have been the most nervous about my food intake, and my energy levels during my single day tramps, so I am doubly worried about an overnight trip. I have some freeze dried food that I bought this week, and today I will be buying some water, some trail mix, and (at the behest of my Husband) something for breakfast. But I worry it will not be enough, or that I am underestimating my energy. The other big thing is that this will be the first time I travel with a full pack, which will add 10-12 kilos to my weight, making things a bit harder. So, I am trying to figure out what my body needs, what I should bring, and what I should avoid.

This weekend, I am not planning on bringing my camera. With a mixture of the weather and the fact that my full body camera is bulky and heavy, I feel it is best to leave it behind. It sucks though because I really want to take pictures other than my phone. If this weekend is successful, I think the next thing I get will be a small camera to take photos. I may have my Olympus Tough somewhere… and if I can find it, I may charge it up and see what happens. But otherwise, I think I will be without a decent camera for this trip.

The other “concern” I have is what to do with myself after I get to the campground. I have a full day of hiking, then I will spend (hopefully) about a half hour setting up, and then of course dinner.


What does one do when they camp by themselves?

On on hand, there are other people scheduled to be at that campground so I won’t be “alone,” but conversely I am not likely to spend the whole night with them either. Now, typical me would be like “My iPad”, but I find it a bit hysterical to bring such a piece of tech on a hike like this. That, and the weather may cause issues. The same thought goes for books in that situation. Do I just sit there and gaze out until dark and go to sleep?  Do I explore? What do I do? I am still trying to figure that out.

I really like the idea of doing this on my own. It is a big test for me. I have set myself to do this Hillary, without any camping experience, or hiking experience. For me, this weekend is “proof of concept” that I can do this. ANd if I am successful (and I enjoy it), then on my next paycheck. I will book the Hillary.

It’s a big moment.

With that, I will let everyone know how it goes, and I hope it is a good experience for me.

Wish me luck, and see you on the other side.



The Hillary Trail: Week 5 – Planning

It is crazy to think that I am now planning my 5th consecutive weekend Tramping in the Waitakere Ranges. I have been really happy with my progress so far, and I am starting to look ahead to the next big phase of my Tramping training.

For Week 5, I am actually going to do a fairly easy walk ahead of Labour Day weekend next weekend. I will do the Fairy Falls/Old Coach Road track once again, and I will be doing it either 2 or loops, depending on my mood on the day. I am doing this for several reasons.

  • I want to walk with some friends, and trying to get them to do a 15km walk is much harder than a 5.5km walk.
  • I can do several loops, meaning I can go further, even if my fellow walkers want to do only one loop.
  • I want to save up some energy ahead of the Labour day weekend.

It seems that planning for this week is pretty easy, so let’s talk about next weekend; Labour Day weekend.

So, last week, I settled on a campground to stay at. I will stay at the Pararaha Valley Campground. The Question is of course, what is the trail there and back going to be?

For this weekend, I see it as my first big test for the Hillary. While I have proven that I can walk 15+kms in a day and that I can do it with a small pack on, I need to test myself with a larger pack, and a multi-day walk. This is where I am most worried. I can walk just fine on my own with a day pack, but can I walk with my tent, my sleeping bad, and everything else? And will I be able to trudge home afterwards?

Well, I am going to find out!

Labour Day weekend, I think I will focus on the Southern Portion of the Waitakere Ranges, a place I have yet to go on my walks.

Currently, this is my tentative plan for the walk:


By my estimates, this will make for about 9 hours of walking, which is what I will need to be prepared for on the Hillary. It sits at around 16kms, but I suspect it will be longer because everything I have done has been longer than I thought it would be. This also covers the second day of the Hillary. It is not exact, but many of the trails line up with the Hillary, and again. I see this as a great opportunity to learn the area and to test myself. Also, I am planning some stopping times, so I see this as a true full day walk.


Sunday is a much shorter day, with only about 7-8kms for the walk. There are some challenging bits to this walk, however, and I suspect it will be slower going than I initially think.

It is obviously the most extensive walk I have done yet, but I feel that despite the ambition, I am close enough to services if I need help or if there is an issue. I am really excited about the walk, but also a bit nervous. Hopefully, this technophile will be fine living off the grid for two days.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will do this weekend first with friends, and then on to the big weekend! Hope to see some friends out there!




The Hillary Trail: Week: Week 4 – The WanderingExPat trail

Hello again! Sorry for the late entry. I had a busy weekend.

So, bright and early, I set off once again for the Falls Road parking lot in the Cascade Kauri region of the Waitakere Ranges. For my first “Choose your own adventure” walk, I decided to do a mix of trails I have previously done, with a couple of new trails as well. I figured this would be a good time to start being a little more adventurous, as well as getting some confidence with my decision making.

I started on the Auckland City Walk which is a nice easy start. One of the things with starting a trail you have already done is that you get to look up more often. Right now, I will admit that I have an issue of being too focused on the goals of walking, and not enjoy the walking itself. This time, knowing the trail a bit more, and being a bit more comfortable, I was able to take in the scenery much more than before. Which was quite awesome.

walk3From there, I then decided to head off to the Anderson Track. The Anderson track was new to me, and soon, I found it to be a bit similar to some of the other tracks int he immediate area.

After crossing a small stream, the climb went pretty uphill. There was a lot of mud covered steps along the path, and while I generally despise stairs like these, I manage to get past them quickly without too much grumbling.

From there, I kept up with the walking and soon came to my first decision point. In my planning, I was considering going down a long tunnel. On the map, it said it was open, but I couldn;t find any information on the tunnel, or how good/stable it was. My original goal was to go to the East side of the tunnel, but on the day, I decided to take the trail to the west end of the tunnel, and skip it all together. I am glad I did because as I came upon the tunnel, I found it to be closed.

The Tram line was pretty awesome honestly, and one of my favorite trails so far. Maybe it was the scene of walking down overgrown tracks. Maybe it was the setting, an overcast day, but thick with humidity, but I loved the feel, the smell, and the ambience.

Walk main 2

Soon, I came upon the Waitakere Dam, and from there, met up with the Fence Line Track, which I had done previously. This portion I have done before, but the last time it was raining pretty consistently. This time, however, I was able to enjoy better the area. And it is quite gorgeous. Taking the walk by the lake is really nice, and the trail is nice and clear. This was where I thought I had escaped the mud that has plagued me for the last three weeks.

I was wrong.

The Long Road track is a muddy one. It is really muddy. I am not sure if it is because it is used a lot, or if it is just muddly all the time, but it is just a muddy mess. There were points where I just had to suck it up and get dirty… which… fair enough. Both times I have walked this trail it has been equally muddly, so I am not sure if I should go on it again until there is a significant dry spell (and for Auckland… well… we will see about that.)

Walk Main

Taking the long Road past where I turned off last time, I walked to the edges of the park and to the Whatitiri Track back to my car. At first, I thought this would be a kinda easy track. It sits just on the edge of the forest and it is buttressed against a golf course. Sounds really easy. But surprisingly, the forays into the forest were spectacular.  I ended up crossing a couple of streams and had a great time of it overall. I truly loved the day.

walk2My timing for the walk exceeded my expectations. Firstly, doing a longer stretch this time than week one’s trek was a good decision, and I felt stronger and healthier throughout the process. I *did* eat more the night before, and I felt that the extra food helped me out greatly in the walk. I did not feel tired or run out of energy, and I was really happy about that. The first week, I did 10-11kms (my app didn’t work for me so I cannot give a direct comparison sadly, but this walk, I ended up doing 16kms in just under 4 hours. This was a great result for me. While not as high or as long as last weeks hikes, this one was a much better one for me to scale and conquer, and it gives me more confidence heading into the next couple of weeks.

Also, looking at the elevation differences, I did not have as huge of an elevation change as the previous week, but having almost 475 meters (1550-ish feet) in elevation gain is a good effort for the weekend.



I did like how the climb was one “big” climb other than several different climbs, but I suspect that I will get better with time in that regard. I will admit though, that descent didn’t feel as sharp as the graph says it does, and there were no steps on the way down… lol.

Overall, this was a great walk, and one that I would put as an early favorite. With the Long Track and the muddiness aside, I really enjoy this walk, and I hope to do it again sometime later in the summer. I may also try and do another similar walk by cutting out as much of the Long Road as possible… we will have to see on that.

Next week, I will go back to familar territory, but also a lot of planning for my big walk for Labour day weekend. Stay tuned.

The Hillary Trail: Week 4 – Planning

So this week, I am tossing up a break in the training. After 3 weeks of building up my endurance and my walking, I was thinking perhaps a week off, especially heading into the period ahead of my weekend away.

Then I started looking at new routes to take.

Right now I am looking at both my weekly walks, as well as my Labour Day weekend overnighter. The more I look, the more I think I should walk this weekend. And this morning, I decided, fuck it, I am walking this weekend.

After looking through routes taken by other people, I have decided to try and make my own route. This will be interesting because I am only a month into the whole tramping thing, and I have been following other people’s routes. So, this will be interesting to try. For my first “Choose your own adventure” route, I will go back to some familiar territory but also set off to some new tracks.

So, here is what I am looking to do (I will need to give it a name at some point):

In week one, I did the Montant Heritage trail, which starts in the same place but creates a smaller loop in the area. This time, I am planning to go a bit wider, and further, and see how I go. The good part of this is once I am on the Long Road Track, I can decide to cut things short by taking the Upper Kauri Track, which I have taken before. This will be important if I feel my energy depleted by that part of the walk.

Going back to the same area will be good. it will remind me to look up more, and see the sites. And, because I am planning to skip the first part of the Fence Line Track (which is a lot of stairs), I think I will find it a little more enjoyable. That being said, I *think* the Anderson Trail is actually quite challenging so we will see.

Also, there are some Tunnels! I think that will be quite fun, though I am trying to figure out what the name of the big tunnel is… I will admit, that the maps are not super clear on this.

In other news. My city walking shoes are giving me problems again. Since getting these shoes a few months ago, it seems that I cannot break them in, getting blisters on my heels almost every time I walk in them. I am at a loss to how to fix the situation outside wearing hiking socks all the time or buying new shoes… which I am loathed to do.


I am hoping to decide on my two-day walk here in the next couple of days, I have an area, I just need to finalise the route. Take care and talk to you on Saturday!




The Hillary Trail: Week Three – The Inland Piha Loop

Yesterday, I made my way to the wild west coast of the Auckland region and decided to do a more challenging hike than the previous weeks. Of course, in doing the Hillary, I will have challenging days, so I decided to pick a trail that is would match one of the more strenuous days of the Hillary. Since most of the tracks in the Waitakeres are relatively short, I use to find a good challenge. I found, the Inland Piha Loop.

I got to Piha a little earlier than expected. I generally try to start after 8am, but yesterday, I ended up getting to the parking lot about 15 minutes till 8am. So I decided “why not! this is a long trek!”

The weather was forecasted for trouble, with light rain for the morning getting a bit heavier around 12pm. My goal was to try to end by 1pm.

On the good side, the weather, for the most part, stayed away. I only had 2 real periods of rain, and it wasn’t that bad overall. The downside was my belief I could smash the route out in only 4 hours.


A Map of my talk, called the Inland Piha Loop Trail

Starting from the parking lot, I made my way west to the first incline. This was the first of two major elevation inclines of the walk. The trail was immediately different from the other trails I had taken so far. Unlike the Montana Heritage Trail and the Fairy Falls/Old Coach trail, this trail was smaller, narrower, and less kept up. This means some fallen trees, so brush across the trail, and later on… lots of mud.


I made my way to McKenzie Junction, this is a small clearing where 5 or 6 trails meet up. In my pre-trip planning, I was considering a deviation from NZtramper, but on the day, I decided that with the muddier conditions, a little time on the road wouldn’t be too bad. So I I decided to keep to the original course and walk up to Anawhata Road. The Pole Line track was actually really nice. It was more in line with some of the other walks I have done, and it was a bit drier there. From there, I walked along the road until I hit the Centennial Track. Now, the Centennial track is kinda amazing. It got REALLY narrow, and it hugged some cliffsides to show some amazing views.

Centennial Track 2

Then, the track began to slow down a lot. The decent for the Centennial track is definitely some of the more challenge walks I have done. There were some washout points, as well as a lot of fallen logs, and trees. It was here when I was thankful that I had two walking sticks instead of one. This may become my standard moving forward. The fact that I could anchor myself which traversing mud and steep steps without losing my balance too much.

The biggest challenge of the walk came with the next three tracks; The Home Track, the Marguerite Track, and the Kauri Grove Track. These tracks had obviously not seen much human interaction in the last few days. Spiderwebs crisscrossed the track, and debris, trees, and mud were rampant. My first 2 hours, I did 8 kilometres, after that, I slowed down a lot in this section. This was also when the rain started. slowing down mighty, I trudged through these three tracks methodically, stopping a couple of times after a slip, or an after a huge incline. This was also where I felt my energy shift. Similar to the Montana walk, I just felt my body switch into a new mode of burning.  I slowed to about a 2.5kms an hour pace, but I had my pace. The second incline was really tough, so I am going to have to figure out how I am going to approach those late day inclines so I can keep my motivation, and speed.


Mauritga track

The Marguerite Trail 

The trail was muddy but gorgeous, and soon the rain stopped and I was still making my way back to my car. I ended up heading towards Kitekite falls. The way to the falls was pretty cool. I ended up crossing some headwaters in several places, and as I walked along the Kauri Grove Track, I could hear the water coming down and collecting into the stream. The water was so gorgeous. Cold and with a blueish/turquoise tint, the water was so inviting, and I can definitely see another trip to enjoy the water when things are a bit warmer, and dryer overall.


Now up to this point in my walk, I had met no person on the trail. With the exception of seeing a biker on Anawhata Road, I hadn’t seen another tramper on the trail. There is both a thrill and a worry with that throughout the day. For the most part, I loved the solitude. Being out in nature on your own is great, and you get to do what you want, and there is time and space to think and contemplate things in your life. Conversely, it is a worry, because knowing how little these tracks were being used, and how narrow and potentially dangerous some of the parts were, I was worried that if I got hurt, and being out of Mobil service range, I could be stuck for a while. The good thing is that with this blog, as well as my manic planning skills, people should know where I am generally to find me if anything were amiss.

But the thought did cross my mind a time or two.



Top of Kitekite Falls

I made it to the top of Kitekite calls at around 1:15pm, about 525 hours into the hike. This is much longer than I anticipated. My overall walking rate came to about 3.5 Kilometers and Hour, and that is pretty good, but I will admit, I felt a little bad with not maintaining a 4km pace. That being said, I did do a much harder tramp than ever before, so I need to keep that in mind.


It was here I saw the first people on the tramp of the day. Three people were just finishing a quick swim in the pool area right before the falls. As a side note, it was not warm yesterday. I was wearing my walking coat, tramping pants, thermals underneath, and I was still cold. Maybe it was because I was warm and cold, sweating throughout the tramp, and then go through rain and mud. Luckily up to this point, my feet were still dry.

Being really tired, I took a break and then crossed the falls. Now, I could have gone down the side and walked around the falls, but I was quite tired at this point and took the path of least resistance. I did wash my face briefly in the water, and OMG, it was so gloriously cold and refreshing. This is definitely a place I want to stop again and spend some time there.  From there, I descended the rest of the way to the parking lot. Towards the bottom, I had to ford one more stream, There were rocks crossing the stream, and as I had before during the day, I started hopping from rock to rock.

And there, I slipped on a slick rock and my foot plunged into the refreshingly cold water. However, it was no longer refreshing. My hiking boots are waterproof… to a point, and unfortunately, water just dumped into my shoe. The last 500 meters or so were quite squishy and cold in a not good way.

I got back to the parking lot, to see that it was full, with more people heading off into the tracks. The weather had cleared in the last 15 minutes, and the skies were now clear. But I was done. Checking my phone, the 15.3-kilometre track advertised turned into a 17.9km walk for me. I don’t know where the extra distance came from, and I wonder if there is a GPS program that is more accurate than my phone. I did the whole track at 6 hours, which, looking back is a good first effort for a first medium difficult track. I ended up doing about a half hour longer than NZtramper, but that being said, I may have walked further than they did.


One last thing, the elevation of this walk was more strenuous than my other walks. I did two main climbs, and the first one was rather easy, but the second one was my struggle.I think it was the up and down, and of course, the depleted energy likely played into it. But it was a good for me.

Overall, I enjoyed this track, but one I will not do again for a while. walking nearly 18kms in the bush is longer than any point on the Hillary Trail, and while I want to train up, I don’t want to overdo it. Next week will be a shorter tramp I suspect, and maybe an easier one as well.

With that, thanks for reading, and see you next week!