Meet the George family – an adventurous septet from Melbourne taking on the Te Araroa Trail.
No strangers to intrepid journeys around Australia and abroad, parents Daniel and Kelly, Gabrielle (15), twins Holli and Asha (14), Rex (13) and Forrest (10) are set to become one of the youngest families (and likely the largest) to complete the 3000km trail.
Incredibly, no one in the family had ever walked an overnight tramp prior to starting the track at Cape Reinga last November.
Despite the steep learning curve, Gabrielle said the family didn’t experience any major issues in their first month on the trail – just the usual blisters and badly cooked dinners.
“It’s been easier than expected so far, and I’m a complete pessimist so I assumed it would be horrible,” she said.
The idea was concocted by Holli and Asha during an eight-month road trip around Europe, and the rest of the family took little convincing.
“Mum’s always wanted to do it, dad was happy enough to go along for the ride, and the boys are easy enough to talk into anything,” Gabrielle said.
Being home-schooled, the five-month break away from schoolwork shouldn’t be a problem, Gabrielle said.
“We’re not doing much at the moment – just walking. When you’re not on a school time frame, it’s easy to get ahead, and then if you get behind, you can catch up again,” she said.
With seven sets of gear to buy, the George family cut costs wherever possible.
This included buying $19 sleeping bags, cutting them to a mummy shape, and sewing them back together to save weight.
Gabrielle was able to slash her sleeping bag by nearly 500g.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge to see how little we could spend on everything, and mum and dad supported the challenge,” she says.
The family’s fitness is constantly improving, and hills are becoming noticeably easier.
“When we began, we were ruined at the end of every day but now we’re still able to do stuff – the boys will play, and everyone’s still got energy,” she said.
“To start with, I’d have to stop five or six times going up hills to get my breath back, but now I can walk all the way to the top and take a breather there, if needed – it’s quite easy.
“I don’t think we’re losing weight, but we were all skinny to start with – if I lost 5kg, I’d be unhealthy – but I have gotten stronger.”
Reactions to the walking family have ranged from enthusiastic to incredulous, Gabrielle said.
“Mostly, people ask if they can have a photo with us or they tell us we’re amazing, otherwise it’s disbelief, you guys are nuts, why do you want to do this?” she said.
And what’s next for the George family?
“We’ll go back to Australia and have a boring life for a bit, while we scheme up an even crazier adventure,” Gabrielle said.