Trail arcana

Arcana, specialised knowledge, language or information.

The TA has its own terminology and in-group arcana. Walkers become initiates into a select support group where we recognise fellow walkers and have an instant connection from our shared hardships. Here are some of the key words to know.

TA = Te Araroa, or long pathway; New Zealand’s ~3,000k through walk from Cape Reinga to Bluff; also known simply as ‘the trail’. Although you end up walking a lot more than 3,000k, factoring in the walks to get food, the extra walks for ‘fun’ or to see something off-trail, the walking around campsites when doing chores and hygiene maintenance.

Through walker = TA walker who is doing the entire TA in one go.

Section walker = TA walker who is doing a piece or section of the TA, e.g. the Northland section.

SOBO = southbound; TA walker who is going from North (Cape Reinga) to South (Bluff).

NOBO = northbound; TA walker who is going from South to North. We were SOBO in the North Island and NOBO in the South Island.

HOBO = homebound; our own special category of TA walking. We are always walking home, to Wellington.

Slack packing = walking with only a day pack, not your full pack.

Zero day = a day with no trail walking.

Nero day = ‘nearly zero’; a day of walking that is finished by lunchtime.

Purist walker = TA through walker who insists on walking every step of the trail, or else you haven’t really walked it. We aspired to purist status at the beginning but downgraded to ‘prefer-to-not-get-run-over’ walkers after some hair raising road walking experiences. In my view, the greatest danger to TA walkers is not the wilderness but the traffic. I’m still going to say I walked the TA even though I skipped a few bits of road.

Trail angel = person who offers services to TA walkers, especially accommodation. The Trail Angel Facebook page wants to only include those who offer free services but it seems exploitative not to give a koha to those angels who get inundated with walkers wanting a place to stay, and hot showers, cooking facilities and phone-charging.

Guthook = an app with lots of useful information about the TA that walkers add comments and notes to, e.g. places to stay, where you can camp out, water sources; requires a subscription but supplementary to the official TA app. On both apps, you have to take the noted water sources with a grain of salt – they include cow troughs, algal ponds and muddy ditches.

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