Te Araroa translates as ‘The long pathway’ and was the visionary dream of a man named Geoff Chapel who tirelessly worked (with the help of countless volunteers) to make it become a reality. It was officially opened on December 11th 2011 and links 113 trails with connecting tracks to stretch the entire length of the country.
Many people have taken on the challenge and walked (or ‘through-tramped’ as it is known as in New Zealand) since the track opened. On average it takes trampers 120-160 days to complete the trail. I have managed to find out about 2 men who have run the trail: Richard Bowles, a Brit now living in Australia, was the first who completed it in 65 days and the UK’s Jez Bragg who holds the current record of 53 days, 9 hours and 1 minute!
Jez Bragg’s reflections
In an interview Jez said the roughness of the terrain in New Zealand was a big surprise and demanded every ounce of perseverance. Before starting, he thought he would run 65km in 10 hours, but found each day he was on the trail for between 12 and 20 hours. “I had to be patient and just accept the days were going to be long, but the time on my feet took its toll mentally and physically,” he said. “My best description of Te Araroa now is it’s an adventure route, not just hiking, but all around mountain skills. I think it’s a perfect reflection of New Zealand: mega rivers, mega crossings, mega rough terrain.” Bragg went into his journey wanting to test his outdoor skills – mountain safety, navigation, fuelling and nutrition – and says Te Araroa tested him to his limits.
Best and the worst, according to Jez:
• Toughest sections: Richmond Range, Nelson Lakes National Park. Deception Valley, Arthur’s Pass National Park.
• Favourite section: Queen Charlotte Track
• Favourite hut: Highland Creek Hut, Otago
• Biggest surprise: New Zealand’s wild and lush green forests
On the Te Araroa Trust (TAT) website they congratulate Jez along with saying “While acknowledging Jez’s accomplishment, TAT is quick to recognise that Te Araroa is a highly personal journey – done fast, slow, in sections or at once – to each and every person it presents its own challenges and achievements.”
I’m obviously not looking to set the fastest record but do plan to run as much of the trail as I can, as running is what I love to do. I will kayak the 120km stretch of the Whanganui River but plan to get the ferry from the North Island across to the South, as I do not have the experience required to kayak the Cook Straight. This is a notorious 26km stretch of water (and my mum made me promise I wouldn’t!) and thankfully is not officially part of Te Araroa! From what I can tell, I may also be the first woman to run the trail (if I can cover the 3000km that is!!)
I will have the fantastic support of both my husband James and my brother-in-law Ad along the route. Between them they will ‘man’ our brilliant support vehicle (my mum and david’s campervan – whoop!) as well as join me for different sections on the run. I hope to be joined along the way by different friends – Michelle, Greg, Dani, Marianne, Suzanne – at different points along the way and anyone else who wants to run with me! If you are reading this and interested in a day out on the trails then do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the amazing Te Araroa Trail visit www.teararoa.org.nz where you can download maps, trail notes and support their amazing work!