Te Araroa: What, why, when

If you haven’t already heard of it, Te Araroa (literally ‘long pathway’) is Aotearoa/New Zealand’s version of those famous thru-hikes such as the Appalachian Trail, the Camino de Santiago, the Pacific Crest Trail. Thru-hikes are expected to take a significant amount of time (months) although you can do bits of them at a time (section hikes). In terms of age, Te Araroa is a baby thru-hike – not yet 10 years old (it officially opened in December 2011) – and is run by a Trust and loads of volunteers, not a Government agency. It’s a diamond in the rough, not a polished gem, but that only adds to its appeal.

We’re planning to do Te Araroa in around five months, depending on how our bodies and my head holds up (and contingent on any viral or other apocalyptic events). Some people do it much faster, but some people are also insane. We have no deadline to meet or plane to catch at the end of it, so we’ll take our time, enjoy the journey, rest our feet. And with 3,000kms to walk, we’ll need to show our feet some kindness.

We’re starting from Cape Reinga on November 10, heading for Wellington (SOBO – south-bound). Once there, we will reverse the trend, fly down to Invercargill, take a bus to Bluff and head up the South Island (NOBO – northbound). We wanted both the SOBO and the NOBO acronym experience. And at the end, it will be a quick ferry hop back home to Wellington.

Why walk Te Araroa? So many reasons… Here’s one – Aotearoa/New Zealand is spectacularly beautiful. We could explore its treasures for the rest of our lives and still not reach the limit of its bounty. The natural environment is where I feel at peace, connected, balanced. I want to know whether spending this much time in what is the equivalent of my church will help heal the dysfunction in my brain and body that triggers my migraines. What will it be like to walk and breathe the outdoors every day instead of peering myopically at a computer screen? To strip down what I need to what I can carry on my back? It’s a walk of discovery, to find out what is possible, to expand my limits and learn to live with them.

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