Trekking Te Araroa, New Zealand's Newest & Longest Hiking Trail
By Mariel Kennison
Known as Te Araroa, or The Long Pathway, the trail spans both the islands that make up New Zealand and is a staggering 1800 miles long. That is just shy of the 2100-mile long Appalachian Trail running from Maine to Georgia.
The Te Araroa is a not-so-recent attempt at connecting all of New Zealand’s hiking paths into one continuous trail; it has been incomplete since 1975, but recent efforts to finish it are finally paying off. It is set to be complete by February 2011.
What makes this long-awaited trail even better is that people of all skill levels can enjoy it. As advertised on the official website, “Te Araroa will provide the ultimate 120-day New Zealand through-tramp, but will provide also section tramps lasting anything from a few days to a week or more.”
Because the trails connect towns and cities, you don’t even have to pitch a tent if you want to stay overnight. The choice is yours to walk all day and sleep au naturale under the stars or, if you enjoy a roof over your head, spend the night in a hotel just off the trail.
Trusts Pay for the Trail
It is only thanks to several New Zealand trusts, funders, and volunteers that Te Araroa is, at long last, becoming a reality. After many years of being passed around by commissions, the idea finally struck the right chord and enough money and people came together to make it happen.
The TastyTrekkers, Anders Ford, 23, Landey Patton, 23, and Damienmarc Ford, 19, set off from Cape Reigna, New Zealand, in November 2010. They want to be some of the few people to ever complete the Te Araroa and have a life-changing adventure all while raising money for two different charities, Solar Light for Africa and WaterAid.
“It can be done quicker but due to our limited experience in long distance trekking, our laid-back approach to life, and our common interest in seeing natural and historical sites that may be some distance from the trail, it will take longer than three months,” Anders explained.
In fact, it may take them upwards of five months, so they are documenting their journey on their TastyTrek blog with photos, short video clips, and updates whenever they can access the Internet. Also available on their blog is a place to donate money to their charities.
The fact that the Te Araroa is nearly complete and has record-breaking potential was only a part of their choice to hike New Zealand. Brothers Anders and Damienmarc first heard about the trail on a family vacation to New Zealand in 2007 and Anders knew it was something he had to do.
“That year we visited New Zealand, it was serendipitous, it had beautiful and challenging landscapes, plenty of water and nothing in the bush that could kill or maim us.”
Anders had been inspired by Karl Bushby’s Goliath Expedition plans to walk the entire world and the Te Araroa presented him with an expedition of his own.
Back at the Imperial College in London, Anders told his friend and roommate, Landey, and the three knew it was a monumental challenge they could not afford to miss.
All the Tasty Trekkers have always been avid outdoorsmen and are not afraid of a mental or physical challenge like this one.
As Landey put it, “This is basically a test for myself set by me.” Damienmarc said, “I have always enjoyed traveling as it allows me to gain new experience and understanding, but this was a chance to do something epic with my brother. Also, I couldn't give up a chance to possibly be the youngest person (that we know of) to complete the trail.”
What’s so Tasty About it?
Are they eating gourmet trail mix? Maybe some delicious granola bars? Does New Zealand offer some yummy trailside flora for hungry hikers? No, it’s not that kind of tasty. It’s tasty because it’s… cool!
The three and their friends came to use the term tasty as Americans might say “cool” or “awesome,” so when time was running out to think of a name, they laughingly suggested Tasty Trek. Though it started as a joke, it stuck for good and sums up in two words what they are all about: a fun, laid-back but also serious approach to this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Meet the Tasty Trekkers
The Ford brothers grew up in Dubai and were always swimming, playing outdoor sports, and traveling the globe. For Anders, a one-month trip around southern Brazil sparked his interest in traveling and exploring.
Most recently he studied Materials Science and Engineering at Imperial College. Though he loves hiking and camping and a good portion of his life has been spent outdoors, he does not consider himself an “outdoor ‘nut’.”
Thanks to Dubai’s proximity to so many other cultures and countries, Damienmarc was able to see Thailand, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan by the time he was 16. “I love to travel because it broadens my knowledge of the world and helps me develop as a person through experience and understanding.”
In addition to traveling, Damienmarc has a passion for design and product technology which he will continue to study at Brunel University in September of 2011.
Landey’s academic choices are also related to his love for the outdoors. After studying biology, geology, and geography in secondary school, he lived in Austria for a year and went on to Imperial College where he continued with geology.
“Over the last two years I have, increasingly, felt the drive to do something epic. When Anders showed me the Te Araroa project I agreed that this would be a fitting 'epic' [challenge], and coming up to graduation this was the perfect time to do it.”
They may be young, but they are not naïve. Sure, they want to grow from their adventure and enjoy everything it offers, but it is not a totally selfish act. The more fame they gain from their trek means more money for the charities they chose to help.
Solar Light for Africa has a special significance, especially to Landey. His extended family started the charity and all three young men believe in its cause. Landey explains, “I read up about [Solar Light for Africa] and decided that what they are doing is well worth my support and the exposure we can help bring the charity.”
While Solar Light for Africa is a smaller charity, the other they decided to help out is already well established. WaterAid is an international NGO that helps to bring clean water and sanitation to areas in desperate need. “WaterAid is well known in its efforts to provide clean water and we figured they have the infrastructure to see our donation put to good use.”
When the epic adventure is over…
Although they have to continue covering more distance as the months come and go, eventually up to 20 miles a day, Anders, Landey, and Damienmarc are right on schedule.
They remain strong and upbeat, despite every obstacle, and have plans to celebrate the completion of their trek in a way that will set them apart from other walkers. Whatever the plan may be, rest assured it will be tasty.
GO FOR IT!
Trek the length of New Zealand's two islands on the Te Araroa Trail.
Solar Light for Africa
Mariel Kennison is a former GoNOMAD intern who now lives in Bend, Oregon, where she is a writer and editor who helps military families with housing.
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