Te Araroa Trail between Herikino and Raetea forest

Meeting a psychopath on New Zealand’s Te Araroa trail: Raetea Forest

I don’t know how to describe these forests best for you, but I think a killing psychopath comes close. They invite you in, welcoming with a gentle path, charming and pleasing you with the sounds of birds and sight of beautiful plants and trees. When entering Raetea, the track was wider and easier to navigate than in Herikino. For a second, Raetea even lured me in thinking that its forest would be enjoyable. Yes, that is how manipulative Raetea is.

Te Araroa Trail to Raetea forest

The road to Raetea forest

It won my trust, untill we were deep down in the woods. Then it surrounded us, locking us up with its arms. It started throwing things at us. Mud. Leaves. Branches. The mud slowed me down, tried to keep me in the forest. The branches hurt me, cut in my once so perfect young legs. The leaves hit me in the face, making it almost impossible to find my way through.

Raetea was smart enough to drift us apart. Victoria was like a forest elf; she knew how to move around here. Reinier followed in his steady pace, which didn’t much differ whether he was road walking, beach cruising, or forest tramping.

It was me who Raetea chose as his first victim. The distance between us three didn’t have to be far apart to make us single, helpless victims. This forest was so thick that a cry for help wouldn’t reach your trail mates. I was alone when Raetea attacked me with distraction…

I was lost.

I kept going back to the last orange triangle I had seen. I didn’t want to start bushwhacking my way around, because I knew I would never find my way back.

Orange triangles on New Zealand's trails

Orange triangles on New Zealand’s trails

I started panicking, because everywhere I looked, it bloody hell looked the same. It was just thick bush everywhere. Where am I?! Where do I need to go??? I started screaming.

I checked my phone. Reception! I texted Jasper, a fellow TA hiker who tramped this section a few days ago, and who, thus, roughly knew my location based on the description I gave (‘not far from the first viewpoint’). It somehow reassured me, knowing that someone knew where I was.

It didn’t really help though. I knew Jasper couldn’t do anything for me right then. I was still alone. Stuck and lost in this bloody forest.

Suddenly I heard a voice. It was Reinier’s.

I was walking right behind him, when Raetea took me. There was a bend in the track we followed, and somehow I turned and started walking backwards, without realising it. Oh Raetea, you’re so smart, you totally had me fooled. Luckily, Reinier noticed my disappearance after a while. He realised what had happened and tracked his way back.

He yelled. I yelled back. And then the tears came.

His voice helped me navigate to him. I think I cried even more when I saw him again.

Raetea, the narcissist

Exhausted I pushed myself to the top of the forest. The hill is called Raetea. Yes, like the forest. I guess Raetea forest is a narcissist as well.

Te Araroa - Raetea summit

Raetea summit

At Raetea – the summit (727m) – there is a campground. I felt like slowing down the others and feared we wouldn’t make it out of the forest before dark. So I doubted if I should stay behind and camp here. I struggled. Reinier and Victoria would be so much faster without me. I also knew that it was safer for me to stay together. As bad as I felt for my trail mates for holding them up, I forced myself to put myself first.

Beating Raetea in the dark

We continued. The trail didn’t get any better. Raetea was still doing everything in its power to keep us there. Throwing more mud at us, hitting us with its branches, and impair our visibility with its leaves. As with a naughty child, I tried to ignore Raetea’s tricks, keeping up a steady pace.

Time was passing by and it became unevitable that we wouldn’t make it out of the forest before dusk. For hours, I had feared the darkness. But then, when I had to face my fears, it wasn’t as bad I thought. Yes, it was dark and still muddy, but somehow I pulled myself together at the end of the day. We stayed together closely and finally reached the tree line.

Camping after Raetea forest - Te Araroa

Our GPS signal said we were lost, but frankly, we couldn’t care less. We made it. Out of the forest!

Out of Raetea forest

Yes! We survived Raetea forest!


One thought on “Meeting a psychopath on New Zealand’s Te Araroa trail: Raetea Forest

  1. Ioanna - A Woman Afoot says:

    Thick forests can be scary like hell, with no visible markers anywhere! All the same… I am glad you found your way out (or rather your fellow hiker did) – I can understand your creeping panic!

    I follow your adventures, I hope to do all or sections of this trail one day 🙂

    Happy (and safe!) hiking 🙂
    Ioanna – A Woman Afoot


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