Te Araroa Expedition – Video Dispach 2: It was bold but Jez Bragg pulled it off

Te Araroa Expedition – Video Dispach 2: It was bold but Jez Bragg pulled it off

Enjoy this second video Dispach of Te Araroa expedition in New Zealand. At 1601hrs on Saturday February 2nd 2013 after, 53 days 9 hours and 1 minute setting from Cape Reigna, The North Face athlete Jez Bragg crossed the finish line of the Te Araroa trail, arriving in Bluff – lands end on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. “I’m just so proud of that because, it was bold, and I did pull it off. And that’s cool.” Jez...
Te Araroa Expedition- After 53 Days and 3,054km of Running, Jez Bragg Crosses The Finish Line

Te Araroa Expedition- After 53 Days and 3,054km of Running, Jez Bragg Crosses The Finish Line

Start: Riverton (2,988km) Finish: Bluff (3,054km) Distance for the day: 68km Cumulative distance: 3,054km Distance to Bluff: 0km At 1601hrs on Saturday February 2nd 2013 after, 53 days 9 hours and 1 minute setting from Cape Reigna, I finally completed my long journey down the Te Araroa trail, arriving in Bluff – lands end on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Gathered there waiting were my crew, Mark & James, my wife Gemma, my mum and my mother-in-law, Hilary. Damiano from the Storyteller Collective was there capturing the moment on photo and video, just has he done so magnificently throughout the expedition. They sprayed me with champagne and we danced around the landmark yellow finger post like we’d just won the lottery. There were bystanders around too, probably wondering what the heck was going on, but none of us gave a hoot. It was raw emotion for me; all my heart and soul, sweat and tears, had been put into realizing this moment, and it almost happened too suddenly to take it all in. I’ve been a robotic state for most of the time since I started – in my own little bubble – and I think it’s going to take several days to snap out of it. My body is also going to want to know what the heck is going on when I don’t run tomorrow; so I think some wind down jogging/ walking is going to be important. So how did the day unfold? Well in the usual manner really. A 5am alarm call felt a wee bit harsh as we had all been...
Days 50-51: Mavora Lakes Road to Merrivale Road (Longwood Forest)

Days 50-51: Mavora Lakes Road to Merrivale Road (Longwood Forest)

Start: Mavora Lakes Road (2,797km) Finish: Merrivale Road (Longwood Forest) (2,924km) Distance for the 2 days: 127km Cumulative distance: 2,924km Distance to Bluff: 130km This trail is making me work for my kilometers right to the last, as it has done all the way. It would be a real mistake to let my guard down at this stage and think that the final few hundred kilometers would be a run in. My run down the Mararoa River Track yesterday morning is a good example. Gem joined me and we set off bright and breezy at 6am, just catching first light and then a sky coming to life with simply amazing shades of red and purple. I’ve learnt already from my time on the trail that riverside trails usually spell trouble, and so this track proved to be a complete nightmare. It was marked byorange topped poles which were difficult to spot due to the height of the undergrowth. The river bank rose and fell regularly and the terrain varied from bog to rutted pasture to thistles to long grass, and my patience wore think very quickly, particularly from the amount of barbed wire fences to be negotiated. It was clear that very few through hikers use the track, instead opting to follow the gravel road running parallel around a kilometer to the side. If I had not been so focused on following the trail to the tee in order to set a completely legitimate record, then I would have been on the road too! The first 18kms took nearly 4 hours – thank goodness for the early start. The...
Days 28-30: A traverse of the Richmond Range

Days 28-30: A traverse of the Richmond Range

Day 28: Pelorus (1,801km) to Starveall Hut (1,848km) Day 29: Starveall Hut (1,848km) to Top Wairoa Hut (1,886km) Day 30: Top Wairoa Hut (1,886km) to road head (1,920km) Cumulative distance: 1,920km I’m just in from a 3 day north to south fast pack across the Richmond Range. If that had been a standalone adventure trip, I would feel very satisfied, but to think it came just a couple of days after the Cook Strait and the Queen Charlotte Track is pretty mind blowing. Anyway, I need to look forwards not backwards. There is something rather refreshing about ‘tortoising’ like this – having everything you need on your back – but it’s obviously considerably slower than just having a daypack setup. In contrast to Queen Charlotte Track the range offers ultimate solitude and some seriously challenging terrain, which dictates a slow and steady pace you would be unwise to force. I couldn’t have ‘run’ it any faster if I tried; the only way to crank up the distance is to be out there longer, and that I did, running 3 x 14 hour days. Now I’m tired…. The trick I find is not to skimp on food. To keep moving for that length of time for three consecutive days requires a lot of energy, so I carried generous quantities of food, and stopped regularly to have hot meals – well freeze dried meals for two. They are pretty good actually although now I’ve worked my way through the full menu selection I’m getting a little more choosy about flavours. I was fortunate to have James and Mark offer to walk...
Te Araroa Expedition – Video Dispatch 1

Te Araroa Expedition – Video Dispatch 1

Enjoy the first Video Dispatch from the Te Araroa expedition, a new trail that meanders the full length of New Zealand. The North Face Athlete Jez Bragg is running a distance of 3,054 kilometres from the tip of the North Island to the tip of the South...
Day 27: Camp Bay to Pelorus

Day 27: Camp Bay to Pelorus

Start: Camp Bay (1,724km) Finish: Pelorus (1,801km) Distance for the day: 77km Cumulative distance: 1,801km South Island distance note: the total mapped distance for the North Island is 1,623km, however with the diversions it was significantly more. The South Island starts at 1,700km, but even with the Cook Strait distance there is still a gap. However as mentioned before, I am certainly well in credit with mileage, as my Garmin distance gauge confirms! I was definitely excited about today’s run; my first full day on the South Island, and a spring in my step from the euphoria of the Cook Straight crossing yesterday. I also had the best part of the Queen Charlotte track to tackle, and I knew the running would be good from yesterday’s ‘taster’ (24km). It was some of the best running of the whole trip so far, helped somewhat by the cloudless skies, which amplified the incredible views. The trail generally follows a forested ridge, in some parts on the thinnest slither of land with water either side. Being well graded, and dusty/ rocky underfoot, it was fast and attackable, something I was certainly in the mood for. This afternoon wasn’t quite so grand. It got a little bit too hot, and the highlight was an ice cream in Havelock. It was a lot of road with short trail sections between, but at least it was still pretty quick, allowing me to nail 77km and reach the edge of my next big challenge, the Richmond Range. Ahead of me I now have a 100km section of inaccessible trail, but served by a series of DoC...
Day 25: Oharui Valley Road to Island Bay (and on to Makara Beach by bike)

Day 25: Oharui Valley Road to Island Bay (and on to Makara Beach by bike)

Start: Oharui Valley Road (1,595km) Finish: Island Beach (1,623km) Distance for the day: 28km Cumulative distance: 1,623 The plan for today was ambitious, and unfortunately I didn’t quite pull it off, but we remain positive with a new day tomorrow and a good looking forecast. I set off from the van on the final North Island run section at 6.30am, and made good progress, enjoying the climb up the Old Coach Road to Mount Kaukau which provided my first view of Wellington and the Cook Strait beyond. What an incredible city; much of the residential suburbs perched on the hillside and the CBD condensed close to the harbour. It’s a city of hills, but the route was very enjoyable, following the Northern and then the City to Sea Walkways, mostly around the parks, botanical gardens and green lanes to finally reach the south coast of the North Island. By no means an easy ‘about town’ run… Like Auckland, I really enjoyed the opportunity to run through the city and to take a bit of it in, albeit at a rather un-leisurely pace. I was on a tight schedule because I wanted to get to the run finish by 11am, and then to complete the bike link leg to Makara Beach by 12.30pm, where the guys would be ready and waiting to hopefully start the Cook Strait kayak crossing early afternoon and be across before dark (I told you it was ambitious). Having exchanged a few tweets last night with a local runner, Jonathan Williams, he was ready and waiting at the high point of the botanical gardens to run...
Day 24: Parawai Lodge to Ohauri Valley Road

Day 24: Parawai Lodge to Ohauri Valley Road

Start: Parawai Lodge (1,515km) Finish: Oharui Valley Road (1,595km) Distance for the day: 80km Cumulative distance: 1,595km Today’s objective was to get as close to as possible to Wellington, the finish point of the North Island. We made the decision last night, based on careful interrogation of the weather forecasts, to set our Cook Strait departure time as 1pm on Saturday. There seems to be a near perfect weather window which we need to pounce on and, although the timings are tight, the whole exercise has the potential to be super slick and very time efficient – which of course I like. I started at 7.30am this morning, 30 minutes later than intended, because my alarm clock didn’t go off – again! However I woke up naturally and felt very refreshed which wasn’t such a bad thing. The only real challenge in today’s schedule was the last little part of the Tararua Range which came first; a forest climb up to Pukeatua at 812 metres, and then back down the other side. It was fine if a little slow. The views looking back towards the main range were incredible, making the exercise seem worthwhile. From there, the running for the rest of the day was gently undulating on a mixture of tarmac, beach and multi-use trail, so it was all fast. The highlight was unquestionably the weather for the long coastal section – clear blue skies and a fresh breeze. It was a pretty heavenly setting, although the temptation was to curl up in the long grass next to the dunes and have a little snooze although I managed...
Day 23: Te Matawai Hut to Parawai Lodge

Day 23: Te Matawai Hut to Parawai Lodge

Start: Te Matawai Hut (1,484km) Finish: Parawai Lodge (1,515km) Distance for the day: 31km Cumulative distance: 1,515km I ‘ran’ for just over 13 hours today, and covered the rather measly distance of 31km. The reason? I was crossing the pretty epic and wild Tararua Range. Everyone you talk to about this section of Te Araroa has a tail or two to tell with the common theme being poor weather, mud and some generally very challenging terrain. I wasn’t disappointed. The best analogy I can come up with doing a big route up in the Scottish Cairngorms (the elevation was similar here), taking in a load of Munros, but the mountainsides would be clad with thick, dense bush, with plenty of mud and marsh under foot. So I’m pleased to say I completed the main ‘crossing’ in just over 24 hours, setting off from the van after an early dinner last night at 6.30pm, and finishing tonight about 7.30pm. My first stop was at Te Matawai Hut around 15km in, located on a ridge at about 1,000m above sea level. It was a slow start – a slow 24 hours generally – battling the mud, tree roots and relentless climbing/descending. I listened to a couple of podcasts to pass the time, but they ran out before I was done, then it was just the howling and whistling wind to occupy my mind. The forecast was for rain overnight, but thankfully it held off until after my arrival at the hut at around midnight. It was special making the climb by night under head torch, but not for the feint hearted....
Te Araroa – Day 21: Koitiata to Turitea

Te Araroa – Day 21: Koitiata to Turitea

Start: Koitiata (1,339km) Finish: Turitea – Greens Road (1,418km) Distance for the day: 79km Cumulative distance: 1,418km Don’t get too excited about the distance covered, it was pretty easy running today – flat, some beach and forest, but mostly road. It was always going to be one of the easier days on the whole project, effectively a lead in to the Tararua Range which starts in earnest tomorrow. The first section of the day along Santoft beach was pretty cool. It is the most bizarre section of beach I’ve ever seen – a really wild moonscape scene with dark grey sand, a relentless westerly prevailing wind and incredible amounts of sizeable driftwood. This shoreline clearly takes a constant battering. Overnight we had high winds and some showers, and the winds remained high all day today. Thankfully I was generally travelling west today so I got nicely blown along, including the beach section. Thereafter it was a relatively uneventful road run, mostly on quiet-ish back roads, with the odd section of link trail. I did enjoy the notable change in scenery and climate in this southwest part of the island – drier, fresher and more open. It almost felt savannah-like at times with pine trees and fields of long dry grass swaying around in the wind. Very mellow and pleasant to be running through. It’s been a sunny but windy day too – lovely running conditions. Just before lunch I had a surprise visitor – Perry Newburn – a local ultra runner from Feilding, which was one of the towns I ran through. Perry has recently completed a perimeter road run around both...
Te Araroa – Day 19

Te Araroa – Day 19

Start: Bridge to Nowhere (1,191km) Finish: Atene (1,263km) Distance for the day: 72km Cumulative distance: 1,263km A day off! Well from running…. This was a major milestone for me; reaching the Whanganui River for the 120km downstream paddle. I worked hard to reach this point ‘cleanly’ – i.e. ready to start it on a fresh day, having established that it was possible to do so around a week ago. Boy did I have to work hard to achieve it. It was a fairly meaningless thing to target really, but it certainly worked to drag me through some of those remote and rugged North Island sections. To me, have a significant ‘water’ component to the trail really adds something special, and particularly appeals as I’ve become a passionate sea kayaker over the past couple of years. Thankfully it’s a real strength as opposed to a weakness, so not just a thorn in the side of my expedition plans as some may initially think. So as a kayaker, a big river journey like this is a pretty mouth-watering prospect, particularly as the Whanganui River is such an iconic river for its size, remoteness, dramatic gorges, exposed rock faces and incoming waterfalls. Mark and I made the journey together. Neither of us had paddled anything like this distance before, but after the first hour we realised a 10km/hr pace was achievable, so we targeted a 70km day – which would certainly break the back of the journey. Mark and I have paddled a lot together before – in fact he got me into the sport and has taught me most of my skills – so...
Te Araroa – Day 18

Te Araroa – Day 18

Start: National Park (1,113km) Finish: Bridge to Nowhere (1,191km) Distance for the day: 78km Cumulative distance: 1,191km Big day. It was another case of the official paper/mapped distance not reflecting the true distance due to a long road diversion (see earlier posts explaining why). We reckon my actual distance for the day was more like 94km. Anyway, it was a great day, probably my best day of running yet. The misty overnight rain hung around for the first hour or two of running, but it made for pleasant running conditions – much cooler than anytime since I started the run. The route followed a long distance mountain bike route across a historic mountain route, and it was a real pleasure running through somewhere so remote, yet with fast underfoot conditions. After a short climb, the trail descended for a good hour, quickly losing the height we had been at in the Tongariro area. There started a long diversion of around 40km on winding gravel roads, to reach a dead end village called Whakahoro. James kindly followed me down there in the van – providing regular sustenance and company – and we were both pretty blown away by the remoteness and beauty of the location nestled at the junction of steeply sided forest valleys. The area has loads of history to it, and did use to have ‘vehicle’ links to adjoining valleys, but they have since become dilapidated and turned into tramping tracks instead of roads. The main source of income in this area is adventure tourism – cycling, walking etc – but in the height of the summer in the middle of...