Ahipara to Kerikeri and how I garnered my trail name

We walked from the Ahipara holiday park to the Herekino trailhead eight kilometers outside of town. We hiked the saddle, then made our way to the Old Diggers Road, we continued on until reaching an old forestry road, on which we set up camp. We camped along the track at the abandoned logger huts where Kem and I built our own shelter out of fern fronds, but the rain had penetrated through and through and I ended up sleeping the in broken down hut for the rest of the night. Tomorrow we continue on. I’m sick of rain.


start the Herekino!


camping in the rain at the old forest huts.


Our shelter. Didn’t work as well as i thought

The mud. Just accept the mud. Granted that the Raetea Forest is in the subtropical north, it is inevitable that it will heavily rain and you will become very muddy. This 18km beast throws you some serious leg work, as you’ll be steeply climbing through some of Northland’s highest peaks. Up and down, up and down, roots, vines (which I have nothing but spite for), and of course, more mud. Slipping and falling is difficult to deal with while tramping; you’re tired, you’re hitting your “wall” and you just want to set up camp, it happens. I (frequently) reached my tolerance for the mud and demanding terrain that was Raetea and flipped my lid out of frustration and exhaustion; thus my mates dubbing me as, “Angry Caesar” for my trail name. I enjoyed recalling back and laughing about how terrible a time we all had in that forest, how miserable our feet felt- “WHAT’S THE SAFE WORRRRD!?!!!!”, and how hearing each other’s cries of frustration sadistically reassured us that we weren’t alone through it all. Upon reaching the end of the track and passing through the three ‘oceans’ of mud, you’ll pass through a farm with many barking dogs. Praying that none of those chain leashes don’t break, you’ll come out to Makene Road. It was here where we set up camp after exhausting ourselves climbing out of the Forest, you win this round Raetea.


It’s an easy 7km walk to Mangamuka today. After having a late morning start, we made our way to the Mangamuka dairy to resupply. Instead of carrying on, we ended up staying the night in the backyard that the dairy owner, Eliza, had. Tomorrow we travel to the Omahuta trailhead to start the Omahuta Forest Track. It was here where I had run into Cyril Chapman, a veteran of the 1975 Land March protesting the seizure of Maori land. He had appeared at a panel discussion in Wellington celebrating the 40th anniversary of the march. I was residing in Wellington at the time before we started Te Araroa and was invited to have a listen on what the panel had to say.


We started the morning with a proper breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon, a proper meal for a 13km road connection. We make our way to the Omahuta start around 5 and set up camp next to the river, a satisfying end to a tiresome day. That night we had found wild onions growing and improvised a soup consisting of the spices we carried with us and milk powder, so good.


This morning we made our way to the apple tree campsite from the Mangamuka Dairy, the road enroute consisted pretty much of gravel road. Upon setting up camp, I went out and explored the nearby Kauri sanctuary. In it were plenty of beautiful Kauri trees to stare in awe at their sheer size. Later that evening back at the campsite, I realized how much I appreciate the lengths DOC (Department of Conservation) and local hunters go through to eradicate possums. They may look cute, cuddly, and downright adorable, but these little bastards can destroy native bush growth within a matter of years. They’re also noisy at night, by that I mean they have this odious “snicker,” they scurry around your tent your for food while you sleep and they screech, dear lord the screeching, not something you want to wake up to in the middle of the night.

Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary


Further along in the Omahuta/Puketi forest, we waded through 5 kms of Mangapukahukahu river before we sat up camp alongside the Waipapa river. Lots of river walking today, for once it was a nice change of pace from just walking in the bush the entire time.

Domi catching some rays on the Waipapa river banks.


Today we made it to the Puketi Forest Headquarters. Beat from transitioning from river walk, to bush track, to gravel road, we were glad to reach a campsite that had (cold) running water, as the past few days were some of the hottest we’ve had thus far. Tomorrow we start a 24 km walk into Kerikeri where our mate Tom will be waiting for us. Tom joined our group at Ahipara but left when we reached the dairy at Mangamuka. It was completely understandable why he left after the Northland Forest section; it was a hard intro to the T.A trail. Considering that this would be our first through hike, most of us were carrying way too much stuff and ill prepared.


From the Puketi campground we made our way across more farmland (yeah..) until the trail connected with the Kerkeri river track. The T.A. trail itself runs alongside the river and into the township whereupon it brings you to the magnificent Rainbow Falls. I didn’t have the chance to take some photographs as both my phone and camera were out, but I can remember how magnificent those falls looked from up close. Walking the track brought us through city center. Seeing all the food shops had me tempted to buy anything and everything I could fit into the bottomless pit that is my stomach. Thankfully, I found a burger joint that sold mad decent burgers for $3 right at the entrance of city center; I ended up stuffing myself full with $12 worth of chicken burgers (beetroot never tasted so damn good!). The lot of us stayed at the holiday park on the Puketotara stream, swimming and sunbathing were in the works. Our mate Tom had gotten in touch with us and invited to his parent’s place outside of town for a bbq. Aside from not having to pay for much of the food provided, we still brought what we could offer to make the evening heaps better (lots of alcohol). The sight, let alone the taste of a home cooked meal had us all giddy to stuff ourselves silly. What we experienced, what we ate, was typical Kiwi hospitality that you can run into when walking the trail, thus aptly dubbing Tom’s parents, “Trail Angels.”

The hunger is real.

Updates from the trail

Cape Reinga to Ahipara


Hi my name is Caesar, and I like reeaaally long walks on the beach

Day 1

We get to twilight camp around 3, hiked ~12k from the light house at the cape. This is going to be challenging. But, we did find green mussels on the beach, so sea food was had for dinner tonight!


theres’s a reason why they call it Twilight Camp
Day 2

Hard day. Got up late, started late.  ~32k from twilight beach to the bluff campsite (worst campsite ever). Two more days worth of this before we reach hukatere. It’s raining tonight and it’s windy, fucking awesome. :/

Day 3

Hiked around ~26kms before my body (mostly my feet) succumbed to blisters and exhaustion. Had the worst day as the tide caught us many times and soaked our boots through and through. Had to hitch hike the rest of the way to Hukatere with Hodor, we are so fucked today. Tomorrow should be good as we are getting off this damn beach. 

you win this round

Day 4

Hiked all day today completing the final 32kms to Ahipara from Hukatere. About half way through at Waipapakauri, I meet up with Kem and began talking about how good fish and chips are going to be once we get into town-delerium and hunger have set in, two characters I know I’m going to get to know very well on this trip. Thank goodness the next two days are rest days.

PS: Happy Halloween from NZ!

A long overdue update: Christchurch to Wellington

Detailing my travels from Christchurch southbound then northward towards Wellington.

Nugget Point

  I left Christchurch at the end of August and traveled further south. My first destination was to Dunedin, a city known for it’s architecture, hilly geography, and is the home to the University of Otago. Dunedin gets its name from, Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. After spending two nights I left for the Catlins, an incredibly underrated, rural and gorgeous part of New Zealand. I spent an incredible three days down there based in Owaka. I stayed at the Split Level hostel with manager, Jean Pierre, a South African transplant who migrated to New Zealand when he was 27. Jean manages the hostel full time but is also a member of the local fire brigade as a volunteer firefighter.

Wild, untamed Catlins

  There’s so many sights in the Catlins that it’s nearly impossible to write them all down, some popular tourist destinations and some only accessible with local knowledge. The easiest way to see much of the sights in the Catlins is to drive along the Southern Scenic Route. On my way to the hostel, I stopped by Nugget Point on the northern end of the Catlins coast. The point gets its name from the rocky islets known as The Nuggets that surround the lighthouse. From Owaka, I headed to Purakanui Falls, then the Matai/Horseshoe Falls, then to McLean Falls. Of all the falls, McLean had to be my favorite due to the opportunity to climb up the falls (for those with a keen eye, you can climb up the waterfalls to the tree that hangs over the falls themselves, be very careful, don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning).

The Heron Lodge

  From the Catlins, I continued west to Invercargill; I didn’t stay long enough to see anything there unfortunately, then continued to Manapouri, the lakeside town where you can take an overnight cruise in the Doubtful Sound. The cruise itself was an amazing experience, and what made the experience even better was that you can kayak around the sound with a guide. Fortunately for us, it was drizzling that day, so there were waterfalls cascading off the cliff sides everywhere, a gorgeous sight to behold when you’re on the water. While in Manapouri, I stayed at the Freestone Backpacker 10 minutes outside of town. Jimmy the manager built the 5 timber lodges in the style of huts complete with gas stove and iron fireplace. The Heron Lodge (click through for description of the lodging conditions) is the only lodge with dorm bunks for $20. It was here where I met my friend Any, who runs the website, Island lullaby (it is in German). After spending three days in Manapouri and doing a horse trek with him, it was time to move along to Te Anau (only 20 minutes drive away from Manapouri) the lake side town where most travelers base themselves for the Milford Sound Cruise or the famous Milford Track multiday tramp. Continuing on with my travels for the West Coast, it was imperative that I visit Wanaka again to see my friends -which whom I hadn’t seen in five months- and attend a mate’s birthday party.

Beautiful day on the West Coast

  I arrived in Wanaka around midday to perfect, sunny weather, very characteristic of Wanaka and was in the mood for some quality food and drink. So I parked my car at my former work hostel -it was surreal seeing that place again, so many great memories were made there over the summer- and headed over to Relishes Café. It was great seeing them again and even better catching up with everyone at Paul’s birthday. As much as I wanted to stay longer in Wanaka, I needed to continue on for the West Coast. Only spending the day and one night on my friend’s couch, I made my way up highway 6 for the Haast Pass and the West Coast, but not before running into some travelers I stayed with in the Freestone Backpacker. After catching up, we all agreed we’d travel together to Franz Josef and ultimately take a guided tour on the Franz Josef Glacier. The drive through the pass was incredible, as the sights were vast with snow capped mountain ranges, dramatic valleys, rivers and of course, sand flies! Driving, lots and lots of driving, we eventually make it to Franz Josef and stay at a rather large hostel that doubles as a hotel, Chateau Franz: Sir Cedrics Backpackers. With $20 for a bed, free popcorn, dinner, breakfast, AND wi-fi, this was an incredible come up. This backpacker was massive and can host a large amount of travelers, we were lucky enough to arrive to a minimally occupied 9 bed dorm room. This place had many amenities readily available for cooking a decent meal for the four of us so we did take advantage and made a decent pasta dinner which consisted of real, fresh ingredients.

Jérémy at Okarito

  Come next day, we head into town for our heli ride onto the glacier. Now, the West Coast is notorious for having constant wet weather because it is a temperate rainforest, but we were lucky enough to be welcomed with two glorious days of unadulterated sunshine, glorious, glorious sunshine; which made our tour of the glacier a real pleasant experience. The next day we went to explore the area of Okarito and walked the coastal track. Unfortunately this day was overcast and cloudy with light rainfall so we couldn’t see the mountain ranges we were advertised, but we enjoyed the track for what it had to offer. After spending a total of four days in Franz Josef, we continued northward towards Greymouth. This time, we experienced what wet weather on the West Coast was like: torrential downpours then light rains, then torrents again. We had planned on visiting the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, but due to the poor weather conditions we decided to head for Nelson; I really regret not making it towards Karamea, because I had heard many great things about the area.

Jacee and I
Jacee and I at Cape Farewell

  Nelson was a nice break from the wet weather. From Franz Josef, we had picked up two more travelers Jérémy, from France and Jacee, from Malaysia. Resting up for a bout two days, I took Jeremy and Jacee to Takaka and Puponga. Playing tour guide, I took them to the places I had been before: Pupu Springs, Cape Farewell, Wharariki Beach, and the Rawhiti Caves. It was great revisiting these beautiful places with fresh, new eyes to experience them. Our first stop, Pupu Springs, the water was the same clean turquoise color as I had remembered it to be. We continued to Cape Farewell. Windy as ever, we took in the sights of emerald rolling hills, dramatic cliff sides, and turquoise ocean water of the Tasman. We then headed over to Wharariki and had lunch in a cave where we watched the waves break upon the massive land formations that stand along the shoreline. From Puponga, we made our way to the cave in Takaka. The hike was a demanding one as much of the track needed maintenance, but due to its remoteness work has yet to be done. Upon arriving at the cave, the sound of our footsteps and the constant drip of water resonated throughout, making the cave not only a visual sight, but an audible experience as well. Making our way back to Nelson, the sun had begun its descent behind the mountains making the drive up Takaka Hill a spectacular yet difficult drive in the dusk. After adventuring through Nelson and the surrounding areas, it was time for Jacee and I to make our way back to the North Island. We hop on to the ferry and sail our way back to Wellington.

A moody Wellington

It was here where we parted our ways as she needed to be in Auckland for work. Following the same route as I took, Any, my friend from Manapouri, arrived in Wellington only a few days after I had arrived. He too continued up to Northland where I plan on heading. It begs to mention that I had been approved for a five month visitor visa so that a few mates and myself can walk the Te Araroa trail, the track that spans the entire length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff; roughly a 3000 kilometer walk. I’m basing myself in Wellington for the time being so I can take care of logistics and plan accordingly what my next step will be. Over the next few months I will have limited or no internet access at all, so this blog will have random updates from life on the trail.

Stay tuned in for our adventures from the Te Araroa; adventure is what you make it, so go out and do it!

Thanks for reading,


Continue reading “A long overdue update: Christchurch to Wellington”

Fall struts its stuff, Wanaka pirouettes in its splendor.

    It’s April, and Fall is here. Since my arrival in February, I’ve watched the hills surrounding Wanaka transform from a golden, amber hue into a drab, muted, brown. But like how the Tui’s song breaks the morning drag, the poplar trees that line the lakeside break the dampness with their golden brilliance. I sit silently observing the surrounding area, the silver clouds that hang from the mountains shroud their peaks, as if the giants shy away their own extravagance. The falling, cool, moist air fills my lungs and brings my eyes to tears from its revitalizing bite. This brings back memories of when we would bask in the sun’s warm embrace. But now, like the summer season since passed, the sun’s warmth is now an ephemeral entity. It’s a privilege to witness first-hand the magnificent changes New Zealand undergoes–at times I’ve taken Wanaka’s beauty for granted and I chastise myself for doing so, but I redeem myself through exploring rogue territory and rekindle my wonder for New Zealand’s endless natural beauty. The landscape changes as drastic as the weather is mercurial and it’s surreal to witness it change before your eyes; as if you were riding the passenger’s seat of your mind.

    Change, change is the underlying theme of this post and I’m offering some insight as a solo traveler. It seems that every stop becomes a little part of home, only to be torn away from you, as you want to make the most of your time here. The people you choose to be a part of your story can become markers of where you’ve once been. Places lose their romance and can be alienating for those who have stayed in one place. But that’s the nature of the traveler life, things are constantly changing for the better or worse–it’s here wherein adventure lies. For the two months I’ve stayed in Wanaka, I’ve met numerous acquaintances and made lots of friends that I hold dear. I’ve realized I’ve become complacent in the duration of my stay and are a bit nervous of becoming transient again. Back home I was escaping complacency, only to find it here in Wanaka again. As nervous as I am to move along again, I’m rather excited to see things I’ve never seen and meet all sorts of new people, it’s an adjustment. I have to keep reminding myself that even though change is good, finding a bit of stability once in a while does grant you time to decompress and recenter. As the winter season approaches, the weather is going to change again, New Zealand goes along with it and I should do my part and flow along as well.

Thanks for listening.