Cape Reinga to Bluff – Without a Hitch!
Hiking Days Remaining: 0
Remaining Distance: 0km
Distance Covered: 3301km
Total Traverse Hiking Days: 148
Only 13 kilometres remained until I would reach the very end of the trail – Stirling Point, Bluff! My last day of hiking started from Stanley Township Rd where I finished hiking the night before. It was early in the morning and a lot quieter on Bluff Highway than it was yesterday evening when many trucks were hurtling past me. The predicted forecast for 10th May was once again the opposite of the weather I was experiencing. There were clouds about and rain on the horizon but as I neared Bluff the sun emerged from the clouds. So with these changes, my day was fast becoming what I had hoped for.
One of my goals was to hike a continuous trail apart from canoeing 42km down the Whanganui River (from Mangaparua Landing to Pipiriki on the North Island). As I approached Bluff, it’s difficult to explain in words how I felt but I felt more than satisfied knowing that I’d hiked this far without too much going wrong along the way. I found it hard to believe that this was the last day of the life I had become accustomed to for the past seven months.
As I was walking along Bluff Highway I thought about the last scenic stretch of the Te Araroa Trail that was coming up – The Foveaux Walkway. The walkway would take me around the southernmost point of Bluff before reaching Stirling Point. I was pleased to see the beginning of the walkway and immediately my surroundings were a lot more peaceful. In the distance I saw a big orange triangle nailed to a gate so I hiked up to it. When I got there I noticed that the gate was padlocked and there were high fences all around. I recalled reading about this a couple of years ago when two hikers had to scale the fence in order to hike the rest of the walkway. So I climbed the tall fence which had obviously been climbed many times before because there were big holes in it from where people had wedged their boots. Eventually I was on the other side and that’s when I spotted an unusual looking stile which I had missed. The reason I had overlooked it was because I followed the orange marker which was placed at the gate. It would have made more sense if it had been attached to the stile instead of where it was on the gate, some thirty meters away. My frustration with badly placed markers leading me astray, added enormously to the distance over the course of the trail. On this occassion the distance was nothing but it was more the fence climb with backpack and poles to contend with that I could have done without. Hopefully writing about my frustration will be of some help to future hikers.
Earlier in the day, Gordon started hiking from Stirling Point back towards me. As planned, we met at the lookout point which was the southernmost point of Bluff. We discovered a plaque there which was the Foveaux Memorial. I found the memorial rather interesting and although I’d researched the trail in detail, I saw no mention of this plaque. The wind here was quite strong as it was coming from the east and up till this point I was protected from it by Bluff. My flag was flapping furiously and I loved the sound of it. We hiked on and Stirling Point appeared in full view about a kilometer away. I could see other flags around the finishing post and wondered why they were there.
As we hiked the last kilometer it felt strange that the end of the trail was closing in. Many times on this trail places have crept up on me very quickly and this was one of them. The ocean swells were crashing against the rocks down below on our right. Although there weren’t many people around the atmosphere of this place was really alive. It was the sun, the wild swells, the sound of my flag and knowing that my family were there too which made the end part of this walkway quite dramatic.
Gordon and I hiked through the small carpark towards Stirling Point’s signpost where the trail ended. As I got closer I discovered that the flags and banners were there for me! Gordon had designed two other flags and two banners which were all flying well in the wind. I was surprised and really appreciated the effort he had gone to. I walked between the flags and right up to the signpost. The trail, which I had looked forward to for so long and had enjoyed every day of, had come to an end. All things going to plan, finishing this trail was inevitable and since I had been enjoying myself so much along the way I always expected that arriving at Stirling Point would be somewhat of an anti-climax. As it turned out – it was very much the opposite.
I was so pleased to have my family there with me at the end to share in the moment. I couldn’t imagine completing such a journey on my own. A moment like that really should be shared with at least one other person you know.
I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the finish with my family at Stirling Point. We stayed at Lands End Bed and Breakfast for the night. It’s less than 100m away from the end of the trail which I figured I’d be able to walk, so we booked it in advance. We were the only guests staying there for the night so we could choose whichever room we liked. Gordon and I took the corner room which overlooked Stirling Point. Later that night we could still see Stirling Point’s yellow signpost lit up by floodlights.
It would only be a couple of days later when I arrived in Queenstown that the realisation of seven months of pure adventure had come to an end. My dream hike had been fulfilled, and what a dream hike it was. I really can remember each of the 148 days for what they were.
At some stage I’ll be putting together another post which will include an overview of my time spent on the trail. I will also be updating the website and filling in some gaps which I did not get around to at times whilst I was hiking.
More about the flags:
The yellow in the flag (below) represents Stirling Point’s yellow signpost at the very end of the trail. The circle of blue symbolises the vast amounts of water that surround me on the Te Araroa Trail in the form of the Pacific Ocean, the abundance of rainfall, the powerful rivers and the constant need for safe drinking water along the way . . . and that’s me hiking in the centre of it all with my SPOT Satellite Messenger transmitting my end of day locations. All the names of the towns I’ve passed through are mentioned in the order I reached them. The two TNZ logos are the East and West pointers of the compass. The compass symbolises direction which is invaluable on such a journey. The tiki symbolises good luck.
My favourite out of the two flags (above) is the one with my TNZ logo on it which is interlinked with the tiki. Along the way I have come to regard the tiki as my brother Gordon. Gordon was the one who oversaw the planning behind my traverse from beginning to end so that’s why my reflection appears in the tiki’s right eye. The tiki is a symbol of a good omen which is what Gordon has been to me all along.