Home on Whidbey is a family blog revolving around Fran, Ed, Brad, Yessi, plus puppy Benton, and our family, travels, friends, neighbors and community. Thanks for reading.


Te Araroa Trail's End!

Bluff, New Zealand 4/20/12

Brad, one happy guy!

The Southland Times

Visiting hikers near end of NZ trek 
Celebration after four months in the wilderness 
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2012 
A group of international trampers were getting ready to celebrate surviving more than four months in the New Zealand wilderness 
when they reached Bluff and the southern tip of the country yesterday. 
After taking their first step at Cape Reinga at the northern end of the North Island on an epic 3000km journey, Australians Richard 
Wagner and Charlie Barran, French couple Flore Lasne and Ludovic LeMoine and American Brad Hankins set out from Invercargill 
yesterday morning to complete the newly created Te Araroa trail. 
Mr Wagner said everyone had started the tramp separately with some getting a head start last November before the trail officially 
opened in early December. 
"I have been on the road for about 166 days," he said. 
The story is a similar one for the other trampers with Ms Lasne and Mr LeMoine marking their 150th day on the trail, Mr Barran 
had been walking for 171 days and Mr Hankins was clocking up day 134. 
"It's quite nice to have evolved into a small group for the final few stages of the hike because at times it has been a very solitary 
experience that I think has physically and mentally challenged each one of us," Mr Barran said. 
It was only in Riverton the five came together along with Arnaud Zdziobeck a French tramper who had traversed the South Island, 
Mr Wagner said. 
Te Araroa Trust chief executive Geoff Chapple said to have so many separate trampers all converging at one place was unusual. 
With the end in sight, all of the trampers showed appreciation for the country's environment but all agreed the highlight of the 
journey had been Kiwi hospitality. 
"Along the way all of us at one time or another have been invited to camp on lawns or even stay in local people's homes," Mr 
Wagner said. "There have been offers of cups of tea and helpful directions." 
For some the sight of Bluff was a welcome respite but for others it was the starting point for further journeys. 
"Arnaud [Zdziobeck] and I will be going to hike around Stewart Island," Mr Barran said. "You can't stop at Bluff when there is still 
another island even further south." 
Mr Hankins who comes from Seattle in the United States is taking the long way home. 
"I'm going to fly to Mexico and walk 4500 kilometres back to the Canadian border on the Pacific Crest Trail," he said. 
- © Fairfax NZ News 
Photo by Charlie Barran

Photo by Charlie Barran


Bluff Today!

Six trampers finishing the Te Araroa together today!
Flore, Ludo, Brad, Charlie Arnaud,  Richard

Live from Oreti Beach

Today is the Day -- The Finish Line!

Six trampers, Richard, Arnaud, Charlie, Ludo, Flore and Brad, have tramped together, tramped alone,  and tramped in mixed sets for the last five months from the north tip of New Zealand to the southern most tip.  All along the  Te Araroa Trail they have shared blisters, huts, food, pain, laughter, joy, beauty, exhaustion, and wet feet.  Coincidentally, and with luck and excitement,  they all met up at the same hostel yesterday.   Today they will finish the trail together as they tramp into Bluff.  The NZ press  and TV have heard about their "hand-in-hand" finish and will be here for interviews.  2012 is the first year the trail has been officially opened.

This proud mom has tears.

Richard & Brad

Arnaud, Charlie & Brad

Ludo, Flore & Brad


Colac Bay

Yesterday Brad was at Colac Bay, reputed to be the surf capital of New Zealand.  The south coast of New Zealand's South Island is quite the playground for camping, surfing, fishing, diving, and hiking.

Arnaud Zdzlobeck

Brad Hankins (dbbrad)

Charllie Barran

Arnaud, Charlie, Brad, Te Araroa Trail, 4/12
Colac Bay

Today Brad, Arnaud and Charlie will arrive in Invercargill, before heading out for the final tramp to Bluff.  The remainder of the trail is all road and beach walking and, perhaps anticlimatic, but hopefully not, the finish line.  The final Te Araroa section is from Invercargill to Bluff.  An easy one day tramp called the Estuary Walkway.




Every Day, it is different.

Another 2012 Te Araroa Trail thru hiker, Annie Gustafson from Omaha, wrote:

We've walked over beaches ... we've walked through subtropical rain forest ... we've walked on every kind of road that exists ... and climbed over every kind of fence that exists ... We've walked over volcanoes, summited countless small peaks. We've walked up streams, in streams, and have crossed dozens of rivers ... We've walked up river valleys, down river valleys, over mountain passes. We've walked through cities and small villages. We've walked through botanical gardens and city parks. We've walked through tussock country and land of the speargrass. And every day, it is different.

Following the Yellow Brick Road



The straight line distance from Cape Reinga to Bluff is 1475 km, however the Te Araroa Trail will cover a longer distance of 3030 km (1882.8 miles). It is estimated that a tramp along the full length of the trail will take approximately 4 months. Brad had allowed five months, and that's what it will take. Throw in injury recovery time; side trips to special places; and towns that can snag you for rest, gear replacement, visits with friends, or "real food"; and the tramp time, and miles, increases. But, nevertheless, no matter the time needed to complete the trail, it turns the tramper ( hiker, trekker, walker or rambler) into a thru-hiker, end-to-end hiker, or end-to-ending hiker.  

I love this picture of Brad because, in my mind, he looks exactly like I'd expect a thru-hiker to look. It captures the essence of a person who had taken too many steps to count, looks a little rag tag from taking all those steps, but has a huge grin to show how exciting it has been to take all those steps.

Brad, now the consummate freestyle thru-hiker, on the Routeburn Track, Te Araroa Trail detour

The words of a thru-hiker, on another trail, but a thought I've wondered about as Brad has tramped from Cape Reinga to Bluff on the Te Araroa Trail:
At some moment during the trek, I wondered if I would be happy the day I reached the Canadian line, or if I'd feel dull and letdown because there was no trail left to do. Sure enough, my last hiking day was not my best. I found myself wanting the trail to continue... It's an old truism, I guess: the enjoyment is in the going more than in the goal...
Anonymous End-to-End Hiker

To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.
Ralph Waldo Emerson



Just wondering if NZ did this for Brad...

"I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man." 

 ~ Zhuangzi

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."

  ~ Christopher Reeve

"Dreams are the touchstones of our character."

 ~ Henry David Thoreau

"Dream in a pragmatic way." 

 ~ Aldous Huxley

Placing Brad on the Map -- Otautau

Brad departed for Doubtful Sound and then no word for six days.  A very quick e-mail placed him in Otautau last evening.  He's departing early this morning, with two other through trampers, Charles from Sydney and Arnaud from France, with Invecargill in their sights.  They have two days of forest tramping before they come to Invecargill, where Brad plans to spend two days, and then he heads off for a day's tramp to the finish line -- Bluff.  As he draws close to completing his Te Araura Freestyle adventure, I find my excitement growing, along with sadness that his adventure is coming to a close.
In and around Otautau.  Is there ugly countryside in NZ?

I guess, technically, if Brad wanted to get to the southern most tip of NZ he'd need to drop down onto Steward Island, but that's not part of the Te Araroa Trail, so he finishes in Bluff, with a huge shit eating grin, I hope.  I wish, like when he was a little kid reaching the finish line, I was there to greet him.  But I know he knows, I am standing there, albeit about 7,000 miles away, cheering and beaming with pride.

Before flying away from NZ on April 30, Brad still hopes to climb Mt. Aspiring.  So although the Te Araroa adventure is almost over,  NZ is still promising challenges to the very last moment.  

Aspiring, 3028m - a classical...
Mt. Aspiring


Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Yesterday Brad departed for a 24 hour cruise of Doubtful Sound.  I don't know which, of the many cruise lines Brad went with, but the one I've sited has a lovely description of Doubtful Sound, with nice photographs.  I believe Brad departed from Manapouri and will return to Manapouri.  From the photograph posted here, and the map, it appears like this will be the whipping cream on the Te Araroa Trail's delicious slice of cake.   From my arm chair (really desk chair at the computer) tour of New Zealand, I'm struck with the beauty I've seen from tip-to-tip as I've followed along on Brad's Te Araroa tramp.


NW Spring in the Garden

Benton Pup 
Looking Northwest from Main Living

Looking east toward Guesthouse

Garden to the North



Mugho Pine


Rhododendron outside Guesthouse


Grasses and Mugho


It's garlic planting time here on Grace Lane.  The garlic book I have ("Garlic!  Grow West of the Cascades" by Frank Parente) said the bed needed to be 12 inches deep, fertile, and sandy, so here are pictures of the trench we dug, with Ed manning the pick.  Both Thursday and Friday we both shoveled, turned, picked, and shoveled some more.   We then added manure and compost and lime to make conditions favorable for a good crop. The soil was amazingly compacted, but now, today, Saturday, with soft, amended soil, we were able to plant.    Viva la garlic!

PS  This is the "container" garden.


Cup and Pup!

When Brad's at home on Grace Lane he observes  the Cup and Pup ritual unfolding each morning.   When, no matter what,
  •  the weather -- rain, sun, wind, cold, hot, snow or ice
  •  the season -- spring, summer, winter or fall 
  •  the outfit -- many layered, sloppy, wrinkled, worn, borrowed, torn, chic or shabby
wander-in-the-garden takes place.

This ritual started many years ago (first with Roshi Pup and then Annie Pup), and is still going strong as the first activity of each morning with the Benton Pup.  As soon as the coffee is brewed, Benton and Fran head for the garden.   There we wander and wag until the pot's empty.

So, dear Brad, join us for a vicarious pup and cup wander-in-the-garden as we join you for a vicarious tramp-on-the-Te Araroa Trail.


Routeburn Track

The next leg is Routeburn Track.  Just the stuff Brad loves, with high alpine meadows;  steep, rugged mountains; challenging tracks; beautiful vistas; and clear, clean streams, lakes and falls.   A meadow is the location of a rare triple continental divide surrounded by the peaks of Mt. Aspiring, with three valleys, the Hollyford draining west into the Tasman Sea, the Eglinton draining south into the Southern Ocean, and the Greenstone draining into the Pacific.

Mt. Aspiring
Photo by Craig Potton

Brad was in Queenstown yesterday, catching a bus early this morning to start the Routeburn Track.  He needs to be at Lake Manapouri on April 9 to begin his Doubtful Sound trip.  And, then, he's off to Bluff, marking the end of the Te Araroa Trail.  From Manapouri he will be tramping the Southland, and last section of the Te Araroa Trail, with only about 100 miles to go before reaching the southern terminus at Sterling Point, Bluff.  It's difficult to believe he's almost completed this journey, this adventure, this trail from one end of New Zealand to the other.  From Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south, over 3000km, step-by-beautiful-step. 

Signpost in Sterling point Bluff, South island of New Zealand Stock Photo - 8902483
Sterling Point Signpost, South Island, NZ.