Te Araroa is way more than just a hike, it is as much about the people we met on the way, locals as well as other TA hikers, as it is about the beautiful landscapes, coastline, flora and fauna. Make no mistake, it is tough, both mentally and physically, to get through each day and then add the weather variables to the mix, it can wear you down unless you do proper preparation long before the hike begins. A year out from your start date is not too early to start to get your body trail fit with regular hill work and then adding a 10kg pack to your back as you train and get closer to the start. Breaking in new shoes properly is also very important and identifying any problem areas / pressure points on your feet before you start, makes it easier to rectify than after you start and are a few days in and on the beach.
The notion that you will get fitter as the hike progresses (which is true), doesn’t take into account that the first week and a half will be some of the toughest hiking of the whole trail and we can’t stress enough that you need to be as prepared as you can before starting. On 90 mile beach we saw the life sucked out of quite a few hikers, some of them made it through with encouragement while others hitched a ride on the many vehicles that are on the beach around low tide and we never saw and heard very little about them again. So your preparation also involves spending money on good shoes and socks because that is what will make or break you, no question. We saw and heard about horrific blisters on some hikers from the beach. So having heard only good things about Hoka One One trail runners we both decided to give them a try out …..amazingly at Trek ‘n Travel in Hamilton they had the very size and model ( Bondi 4 for me and ATR Challenger 3 Jan) for each of us, on sale for the incredible price of $50 each ! We have used Bridgedale trekker socks for years and have never worn a pair out so without question that was our sock of choice along with injinji toe sock liners to help fight against blisters.
The wind can be extreme on the beach, for two days we had it at around 35-50kph blowing from the dunes to the sea, side on to us. At times we had to wear our knee high gaiters to stop the sand sandblasting our bare legs. The sand is so fine that it gets into everything, through your shoes, through your socks and onto and between your toes. Add to this the stream crossings, (wet shoes,socks and feet) and you have the perfect recipe for blisters. To prevent them, you will have to remove your shoes and socks at least once during the day, air your feet and get rid of the sand as best you can. We also took our shoes off for one or two stream crossings during the day to keep everything as dry as possible. We also used ‘hikers wool’ on any potential trouble spots and at the end of 3.5 days on the beach, both of us came out blister free with our feet in really good condition. We did not come out unscathed though, as I mentioned the sand is fine and gets into everything and ends up everywhere. We both ended up with some chafing on our undercarriages when we reached Ahipara, as did most of the other hikers in varying degrees. Many remedies were discussed at the camp but the one we use, and I always carry some, is Mycota powder ( aka ‘ pixie dust’ ) Shower, dry thoroughly, sprinkle on ‘pixie dust’ and by the morning the chafing has gone….. almost instant relief. A couple of young American girls who were suffering with the problem, asked where you buy ‘pixie dust’ from, we told them the chemist so they were going to buy some next time they came across a chemist, asking for I guess, ‘pixie dust’ 😂 .
A final tip for the beach and more of an accidental one than completely planned out, was that in our planning almost a year before, we had timed our beach walk and the start of Te Araroa to coincide with low tide around midday on the first day so as to be able to get around the rocky point before Te Werahi beach. As it turned out, this worked out for all the places we needed low tide to be at a certain time of the day, right to where we came off the trail at Pakiri. Tides can be worked out at tide forecaster Also take into account that tides are always much higher and much lower around both a full moon and a new moon. Having to wait up in the sand dunes in the middle of a hot windy day for the tide to recede is nobody’s idea of fun.