22 September 2008

Te Araroa: Hike the Length of New Zealand

A hiking trail the length of New Zealand by 2010!

The idea of a walking trail the length of New Zealand has been around for over 25 years. The Federated Mountain Clubs proposed the concept in the mid-1970s, and development of a north-south route was a priority for the New Zealand Walkway Commission.

2600 Kms. Long trails are popular around the world, from the Appalachian Trail in the States, to the Trans Canada Trail, to the Offa's Dyke Trail in the UK. My dad has done part of the AT with his dog for company. The dog carried his own food and water in a special pack.

I've been to both Cape Reinga in NZ's north(I'm in red) and to Bluff(I'm in purple), even across to Stewart Island, in the south. Now to just tie those bits together on Te Araroa.

I could start with the North Shore segment. The urban sections of the track will of course be different from the rugged and exposed parts, but there's some value in scenery seen at a snail's pace rather than just speeding past in the car or bus. Map for the North Shore of Auckland. Te Araroa logos, markers on posts, and small fingerboards on poles mark the all-tide route. This route follows cliff top tracks, pedestrian shortcuts, steps and footpaths.

This 23 km urban walk takes you from Long Bay in the north to Devonport in the south, where you can catch a Fullers Auckland ferry to link with Auckland’s coast to coast walk.

Another way to enjoy Auckland on foot is the Coast-to-Coast walkway, The hike that defines Auckland - a 16 kilometre trail across Auckland City. I've found, in the 3 times I've done the walk, that it is not so much walking across Auckland as eating our way across as there are cafes, lunch bars and ice cream shops in all the right places!

In 1998-99 Geoff Chapple walked the North Island section of the route for Te Araroa, and then he completed the South Island section. He obtained one-off permission to cross the private land along the way. He wrote a book that tells the story of his walk. Te Araroa: The New Zealand Trail

Forty years before Chapple and at the age of 85, the famous New Zealand publisher, A H Reed, walked the length of the country by road. He wouldn't have had the markers and descriptions of the track ahead as we do now. Chapple avoided the roads, instead contemplating . . .

" . . . the tedious, waterless curve of Ninety Mile Beach; the exhausting scree slopes of Mount Rintoul; the muddy ledge on the banks of the Tokomaru that stopped Chapple in his tracks for several pages; the menacing whirlpools of the Whanganui River; the savannah-like grasslands of the St James Station; the wide crossing of the Rangitata River valley, and the grave on its far bank of Dr Sinclair, the colonial secretary who didn't make it across; the volcanic throat of Ruapehu: 'If you wanted to see Dante's innermost stone circle of Hell it was embedded right down there in the moonlight.'"

It was more than just a journey the length of New Zealand:

"My mind was a blank, and it occurred to me this might be the actual, final and happy condition of a long walk. All those long days when there'd been nothing but the light on the grass, the next turn, the glad hut. To walk, to eat and drink, to find shelter, to sleep. Those were the four corners of my universe."

Download the maps.

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