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Te Araroa - epic NZ walking trail opens

Te Araroa - epic NZ walking trail opens

‘Te Araroa - The Long Pathway’ will join a select group of the world’s epic walking trails, such as the famed Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails in North America.

While intrepid hikers will want to take on the complete journey - a three-month odyssey through iconic New Zealand landscapes - the trail is formed from a network of regional pathways offering shorter excursions to appeal to both serious and leisure walkers

The trail begins at Cape Reinga, on the tip of New Zealand’s North Island, and ends at Bluff - a fishing port at the southernmost extremity of the South Island. Midway, it passes through the capital city, Wellington.

Epic production
If the trail is an epic journey, there’s another epic in the tale of Kiwi ‘can do’ which saw the development of this project from a dream into a 3000km reality.
The trail was first talked about more than 35 years ago when the New Zealand Walkways Commission - which eventually became the Department of Conservation (DOC) - was formed. However, most material progress has happened over the past decade.

Te Araroa has been master minded by a charitable trust of like-minded volunteers, and hundreds of passionate volunteer workers who’ve helped develop the tracks and signposting.
No one knows the story better than Kiwi journalist and Trust founder Geoff Chapple who began to campaign for Te Araroa in the ‘90s with a newspaper article that described the proposal as “patriotic, but also practical”.
Chapple - whose promotion included walking the proposed route - saw Te Araroa from a community perspective, with construction of the trail creating jobs, and the completed trail bringing tourists and business to remote rural areas.


Dream fulfilled
On the eve of the realisation of his dream, Chapple says that he is feeling “in a word - fulfilled”.
“In 1994 I wrote a newspaper article demanding action for a Kiwi long trail and the lesson there is ’ Be careful what you write. It gains power and can take you over.’
“It took me over for 17 years but they were years of exploration and reward. We resurrected many of the old Māori routes, and discovered a wellspring of popular support and generosity.”

Although figures have not been finalised, Chapple said that “about 1650km or 55% of the route comprised new linkages to existing trails”.
In some cases this involved building new tracks, or erecting signposts on routes that were already legal access - such as coastline - but not recognised as track.
The remaining 45% already existed, though some were just remote routes that were very rough and seldom used, Chapple said.

New Zealand landscapes
Te Araroa traverses a range of New Zealand landscapes from coastal lowlands to native forests, and into hill country, alpine and volcanic landscapes. It includes sections that offer day, overnight and multi-day excursions for shorter trips.

In the North Island, there is a lengthy water section - about 11% of the distance - which is travelled by kayak. This is “mainly on the Whanganui River, a rather beautiful journey,” Chapple said.

A few sections can be cycled, including a 58km section across the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island.

Guide book
The route is signposted and a new guide book, due to be released this week, will help walkers to make the most of their travels.
Studies have predicted that approximately 100 people annually will walk the length of the country, 2000 people will do multi-day walks in the North Island, and 1000 in the South Island.
Around 7000 people will walk overnight sections, and 350,000 people will use the trail for day walks.
By the mid-2000s and well ahead of the trail’s completion, eager walkers were already hitting the trail - up to 10 a year, using roads as by-passes where necessary.

Trail opening
The trail’s official opening is set to take place on the Wellington sea shore at the spot where the North Island trail ends.
New Zealand’s Governor-General, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, will open the trail, with satellite links to simultaneous ceremonies at the northern and southern ends.
The opening coincides with the release of The Walking Guide to Te Araroa, written by Geoff Chapple and published by Random House.


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