The Te Araroa trail is not as physically challenging as the Appalachian Trail - but it requires lots of thought and planning, Matt Swanson says.
He and his girlfriend Mieke Horns were at the Whanganui River Top 10 Holiday Park in Aramoho on Thursday. They had pitched a tent and were taking a break from walking 25 to 35km a day.
Mr Swanson is from Montana in the United States. He owns a business that runs itself in winter. He's been able to spend five months walking the 3500km Appalachian Trail - a straightforward walk, but physically demanding.
The Te Araroa trail, 3000km from Cape Reinga to Bluff, is more of a mental challenge. The route is not always well marked, and moves from state highways to roads to tracks. Trail walkers need a GPS, he said.
He and Ms Horns spent a week on the Whanganui River, starting in Taumarunui. They stayed at Whakahoro, John Coull Hut, Tieke, the Jerusalem convent, The Flying Fox and Hipango Park.
"It was incredible. It was beautiful. It was the way New Zealand was 1000 years ago," he said.
He also loved Tongariro National Park, and likes the variety of the trail in general.
"You never get bored. You can be in deep forest and pop out and things completely change on you in an instant."
The most dangerous part has been walking SH1 to get through Auckland. And he's finding the North Island section is more about "getting to know the country and people". He expects a deep wilderness experience in the South Island.
Mr Swanson and Ms Horns had just hitchhiked to Taranaki and climbed to the summit of Mount Taranaki on a clear day. They may skip the next section of the trail because it involves a lot of road walking.
"We'll probably have coffee in the morning and discuss it. That's usually the way we make decisions. We try not to plan ahead too much. The adventure can come to you if you do it like that," he said.
Rain will be no problem for the two, unless there is flooding.
"We don't let rain deter us from forward progress."