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GO NZ: Te Araroa changed my life walking across New Zealand | Instant News


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Laura Waters, pictured at Masons Hut, the last shack on the South Island on the Te Araroa Trail. Photo / Laura Waters

My eyes cloud as I think about the time I walked from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Here it is again, my friends must be thinking as I talk about the joys, tribulations, and amazing sights encountered during a 3000 km journey through this country. As far as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, setting foot in Te Araroa has been transformative, and its long-term effects on my life have only made it even more memorable. With the challenges of today’s world, fleeing into the wild is again a tantalizing choice.

Long-distance lines are gaining popularity around the world and in 2011 New Zealand launched its own line, a linear route connecting many pre-existing lines with several new links. In the north it winds from the west coast to the east and back again, via secluded beaches, mossy forest, the volcanic desert of Tongariro National Park, and knife-tipped ridges across the Tararua Mountains. To the south, a more direct route up and along the dramatic Southern Alps is required. About once a week, sometimes more often, the walkway intersects the city where hot showers and general stores offer the opportunity to refresh and recharge.

The Te Araroa Trail takes hikers across the country, from remote beaches in the North, to country tracks in the South.  Photo / Laura Waters
The Te Araroa Trail takes hikers across the country, from remote beaches in the North, to country tracks in the South. Photo / Laura Waters

When I left in 2013, Te Araroa was an unknown quantity, a trail that few people have managed to complete. Even though I had walked a dozen or more days under my belt, none were even more than 65 km so it was an experiment with fire on body and mind. I need it. After the closure of toxic relationships and the stress of city life, my world has been taken over by crippling anxiety and depression, the symptoms miraculously and magically disappearing within weeks of being immersed in the peace and simplicity of nature.

Then I fixed a problem I wasn’t even aware of. Walking the trails, I face countless challenges: steep, open mountains, sudden blizzards, a number of unobstructed river crossings, dubious trail signs, shoulder dislocations and, not least, loss of hiking companions. I got injured on the second day. But in overcoming this challenge I found a hitherto untapped inner intellect and courage. I learned to adapt to the environment, listen to my heart’s content and overcome fear. I found I was able to do more than I realized and I noticed how little you need to be happy – food, shelter, and a bag of belongings is enough. It is clear that life can be fun if you simplify it and eliminate the “noise.” The insights gained during those five months changed my life forever, leading to a career change and a substantial re-establishment of personal beliefs and worldviews.

Upper Travers Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park, one of the DoC huts on the Te Araroa trail.  Photo / Laura Waters
Upper Travers Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park, one of the DoC huts on the Te Araroa trail. Photo / Laura Waters

Taking the entire route will give you an experience like no other, but if you can’t spare the time or energy to wade the 3000 km, consider climbing the section, taking bite-sized stages over a long period of time. Alternatively, choose an interesting part of the cherry. The stretch from St Arnaud to Boyle Village, across from Nelson’s Lake National Park on the South Island, really evokes a few tears from me as I see its beautiful snow-capped mountains, fast-flowing rivers and vast boulder fields.

A solitary prostitute descending towards Lake Tekapo on the Te Araroa Line.  Photo / Laura Waters
A solitary prostitute descending towards Lake Tekapo on the Te Araroa Line. Photo / Laura Waters

If you’re curious to know what it’s like to have the beach all to yourself for four days, the first 100 kilometers south of Cape Reinga follows the secluded golden trail of Ninety Mile Beach. Mount Pirongia, in Waikato, marks the first true mountain range for hikers to the south and a two-day portion of its steep green mossy cliffs. Real delights are lesser-known finds such as the stunning jungle on North Island Hakarimata Road or Telford Tops on the Takitimu Trail to the south. The four-day Mavora Walkway, south of Queenstown, is also renowned for its lakes, mountains, beech forest and amazing sense of isolation.

The highlight of the trail – which incidentally doesn’t involve walking – is the 200 kilometers paddling up the Whanganui River. Kayaks and canoes can be rented at Taumarunui for a six-day paddle out to sea in Whanganui. About 200 rapids are scattered along the route, light enough for beginners to traverse yet foamy enough to get their heart racing. In some places, the river carves its way through steep-sided canyon walls dotted with ferns and gushing waterfalls, and campsites overlooking snaking water are some of the most beautiful places I have ever come across.

The Te Araroa Trail passes through the misty and misty forests of the Tararua Mountains.  Photo / Laura Waters
The Te Araroa Trail passes through the misty and misty forests of the Tararua Mountains. Photo / Laura Waters

Most of the nights on the North Island are spent in tents, but on the South Island, hikers can make use of many DoC huts on their way, especially when the weather turns challenging. Buying an inland cottage entry ticket will give you access to all the huts on the trail and while some have all the sophistication and comfort of a garden shed, others are double-layered masterpieces with cozy wood-burning stoves and five-star views.

I’m not going to cover it with sugar, walk all day, every day, need a little energy. I made it past the 10kg Whittakers in the five months it took me to complete the trail and I’m still losing weight (ah, those were the days). Te Araroa is also not for the faint of heart. The terrain is quite challenging at times and can be exposed to bad weather, but nothing compares to the feeling of being completely connected to the mainland as you peer through your flying tent as the moon rises over the remote Ahuriri River Valley. Or the shadow of a killer whale’s dorsal fin slicing through the surface of Queen Charlotte Sound as you follow the ridge trail above. Or a softer owl chirp in the dark northern forest night. Moments like magic make the trouble worth it.

Laura Waters is the author of Bewildered’s memoir, about her 3,000km hike along New Zealand.

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The Te Araroa Trail stretches 3000km from Cape Reinga to Bluff and takes between 4-6 months to complete. Topographic maps, track records and further information can be downloaded from teararoa.org.nz

For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, visit newzealand.com

This story was first published in the New Zealand Herald Travel on October 1

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The adventures of the Rotorua in New Zealand friends from Cape Reinga to Bluff | Instant News


A group of friends embark on a massive journey which they take from the top to the bottom of Aotearoa. Photo / Provided

A group of friends set out for a bike ride across the country, little did they know that they would complete the trip just days from the current record.

Rotorua doctor Darragh Grace says he has spent the past two and a half years trying to convince friends to complete the 3000km journey with him.

It wasn’t until she moved to Rotorua that she found some friends who wanted to cycle around the country.

Team of eight leaves the summit of Aoteroa on 28 November.  Photo / Provided
Team of eight leaves the summit of Aoteroa on 28 November. Photo / Provided

“I mentioned it to a few people and suddenly it went from me to having eight people to like ‘yes we can do it’.”

The current record is set by endurance athlete Marlborough and cyclist Craig Harper.

Back in 2017, Harper cycled across the country in four days, nine hours and 45 minutes.

Grace is no stranger to long-distance cycling but told the Herald she had completed the trip in a longer time frame.

However, because Grace and many of her team members are Rotorua-based doctors, she aims to complete the trip in less time.

“We’re trying to do it again but in a much shorter time frame so that more people can join in and really do it,” he told the Herald.

“I looked at the map and said it was pretty cool to go from top to bottom New Zealand and wonder how fast we could do it.”

After the team was formed, Grace said the date had been taken – November 28th.

“We picked a date and said look, hell or high tide we will try,” he said.

The team named Mikie Milloy (front) as the 'head entertainer' because she has 'a lot of talent to keep everyone motivated'.  Photo / Provided
The team named Mikie Milloy (front) as the ‘head entertainer’ because she has ‘a lot of talent to keep everyone motivated’. Photo / Provided

After nearly 13 weeks of training, Erin Foley, Sam Hulbert, Lachlan Cooper, Jonty Morreau, Mikie Milloy, Raewyn Cavubati, Elsa Carter, Selena Metherell, and Grace embark on their cross country cycling journey.

Dividing into two teams, riders will cycle relay, two hours of life and two hours of rest, for 18 hours a day covering 180km per team and a total of 360km per day.

The team included riders with varying experience on road bikes, including one rider who only rode a road bicycle 10 weeks prior to the cross-country trip.

Grace described the trip as “busy” but at the same time “extraordinary.”

Starting at the top of Aotearoa, the Rotorua friends left Cape Reinga and reached the town of Ahipara in the far north on their first day, covering a total distance of 140 km.

Sam Hulbert, Lachlan Cooper, Raewyn Cavubati, Elsa Carter, Mikie Milloy and Darragh Grace are the six members of the team.  Photo / Provided
Sam Hulbert, Lachlan Cooper, Raewyn Cavubati, Elsa Carter, Mikie Milloy and Darragh Grace are the six members of the team. Photo / Provided

“It’s incredible. Seeing the changing landscape alone is phenomenal, from going to the dunes and then on the same day you drive to Auckland via Helensville.”

The team planned to spend three full days covering a distance of 380 km, but they encountered some speed constraints.

No alarms, almost missing a ferry and other issues mean the team is cycling more than they expected on any given day.

“Instead of doing 50 km, we ended up doing 80 km with headwinds and rain.”

With an average of 150 km a day, Grace said the trip was “wonderful” mentally and physically.

Low on energy, Grace said the wind was very helpful on their last trip.

“We are finally getting a tow from Queenstown down.”

As soon as the team reaches Bluff, one of the team members kneels and surprises his fellow team members with a proposal.

At the end of the trip, the team was surprised by the engagement of Lachlan Cooper and Raewyn Cavubati.  Photo / Provided
At the end of the trip, the team was surprised by the engagement of Lachlan Cooper and Raewyn Cavubati. Photo / Provided

Team creates Give a little where friends and family can donate with money that goes to local charities Medical personnel to medical personnel and Brothers Rotorua.

Even though the team didn’t break any records, they completed the journey in just a week.

“It’s nice to finish but when you finish you start thinking about your days on the bike and you start missing him.”

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