Trail Stories: Historical
Geoff Chapple - one of our great Kiwis - picked up the concept that had previously floated around without any real traction.
What followed was an 18 year labour of love to turn Te Araroa into reality, picking up many willing contributors along the way.
To bring Te Araroa to life, Geoff walked New Zealand himself - covering the North Island in 1998, then the South Island in 2002.
Geoff wrote extensively about Te Araroa, first releasing a publication in 2002 Te Araroa: The New Zealand Trail (One Man Walks His Dream) then in 2011 Te Araroa: A Walking Guide to New Zealand's Long Trail. Geoff also kept a blog of his walking expeditions and in 2001 produced a study of international long walking trails as part of a Churchill Fellowship.
The last New Zealand long walker we know of is George Spearing
George Spearing took early retirement from the Fire Department - the Devonport Fire Station actually - and decided to take a look at the North Island. He'd already walked the 4,000 km Pacific Crest Trail along the Sierra Nevada Range in America. His North Island route mainly off-road, started at the northernmost point, Surville Cliffs, and ended at its southern-most, Cape Palliser. He took 73 days - November 24 1996 - Feb 5 1997.
George firmly closed the door of his Whangaparaoa home to begin his long hike, and dislodged the lucky horseshoe. He set out donged and bleeding, was almost washed off Te Horo Beach Headland but got to Cape Reinga, then walked 90-Mile Beach to Ahipara. He was bitten by wild dogs just beyond that town, but kept beach-walking down the western coast, kayaked across the Hokianga and Kaipara Harbours, went on through Woodhill Forest to Muriwai and the Waitakere Ranges. He kayaked across the Manukau Harbour to Papakura, tramped the Hunua Range to Kopu, then Paeroa and entered the Karangahake Gorge. He followed bush tracks in the Kaimai-Mamaku Range then exited into Carter Holt Harvey forestry roads that led through to Taupo. He road-walked SH1 to the Kaimanawa Range, then entered the Ruahines. Bad weather closed in, strong winds lifted him off his feet, but he made it out, crossed farmland to Ashhurst, road-walked to Shannon, then traversed the Tararuas, linked with the Rimutaka Incline trail , road-walked to Lake Ferry then round the coast to Cape Palliser.
A good walk! But different from Te Araroa - exclusively, as ours is not, a coastal, bush, and mountain range trail. "Did I enjoy my walk?" he says. "I must honestly say that I did not." He found it "a slog really" with too few enjoyable moments. George - you gotta road-test Te Araroa some time!
In 1983/84, Rex Hendry walked from the top to bottom of New Zealand, through the bush – a little under 3000kms in 168 days. The route explored the possibility of a North-South Walkway through the country and stuck pretty closely to the mountainous geological fault line that runs the length of the country. A smelly old tramper from way back, Rex Hendry returned to New Zealand in the early 1980s after studying and working in Outdoor Education in UK and Europe. This journey provides a real link between the theory and the practice!!
He has written an account of the journey. It is a ‘first draft’ written a few months after the trip in 1983/84. The temptation to re-write it and ‘tart it up’ with exciting expletives and dripping metaphors has been resisted. The written word follows this intrepid trek and relays the true characteristics of the journey – rough, raw, tenacious, and at times tedious. It is an authentic account interpreted from the pages of his logbook, with foreword by Graeme Dingle MBE ONZM.
A. H. Reed
There may have been other hikes - but the first one everyone knew about was when A.H. Reed, then aged 85, walked the length of New Zealand between 22 September 1960 and 12 April 1961. The old man - founder of A.H. and A.W. Reed Publishing - walked on-road the whole way.
That's not Te Araroa's aim.
But, in his book From North Cape to Bluff (A.H.& A.W. Reed, 1961) A.H. says in explanation of the journey "Yes, I knew I wanted to travel leisurely on foot through the whole length of our favoured land..."A.H. that's it - you had Te Araroa spirit! The octogenarian did the North Island half in 86 days. In the 1960s the nation enjoyed surfing a single emotion - the Beatles right? and it got right behind AH.
The 85 year-old's journey entered New Zealand's heart. People clapped him through, brought him cups of tea, waved and tooted from cars, screeched to a halt by the entire busload. And along the route, class after class of school-children were gathered for compulsory, but unforgettable, immersion in the eerie spell cast by this old, gaunt giant of early hiking.
Interesting that A.H. chose, for his "leisurely" walk, a route that mostly followed roads, but which was, in its geography, similar to Te Araroa's off-road North Island trail. He went North Cape, Cape Reinga, Kaitaia, Herekino, Kerikeri, Whangarei, Warkworth, Puhoi, Albany, Auckland, Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui, National Park, Raetihi, Pipiriki, Jerusalem, Wanganui, Marton, Bulls, Palmerston North, Masterton, Wellington.