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Little legs log big miles

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April 2019 Issue

At nine years old, Elizabeth Rapsey is one of the youngest people to walk the Te Araroa Trail (the youngest is her seven-year-old brother Jonathan). On reaching Queenstown in mid-February, she chatted with Alistair Hall about her journey so far.

Whose idea was it to walk the Te Araroa Trail?
Daddy’s. It was sort of a joke at first and then we actually thought it over a bit more and then it was the right season to plan it and then we just started doing it.

What’s it like to walk 20km or more each day?
We started out doing that but our biggest day has been 40km. The first few days I was really tired and my legs were really sore, but now it’s normal and it’s easy. I think the third day of the trip was the hardest for me. My legs were really sore – I couldn’t even get up out of bed. But we ended up walking 30km that day.

Have you learned any methods for combating sore feet or blisters?
Johnny and I have been pretty lucky with blisters, we don’t get them. Mum got them really bad and daddy got them a little bit.

Do you keep up with school work on the trail?
We have notebooks that we carry along and sometimes we do numbers or write stuff in them, but most of the time we finish quite late, especially the last few days, and e don’t really have time to do that.

What has been the best part of this experience?
I really liked Waiau Pass in the Nelson Lakes. There’s about 500m of really steep track – it just goes up and up – but at the top, it was really nice. I liked playing in the snow – I took my pack cover off and used it to slide down the snow.

What are you most looking forward to when you finally finish the trail?
We’ve got a few animals at home in Dunedin, so I’m excited to get back to them. There are lots of goats and I really like playing with them.

You’ve been on the trail for four months – have you had a birthday?
I’m the only one who hasn’t had a birthday on the whole trip. Johnny had a birthday on the West Coast. We got stuck there because all the rivers were in flood. We stayed with a nice guy – Neil Silverwood – for a few days. Neil gave us his caving book and we gave him a compass because he needed one.

Will you walk other long trails around the world or is one enough?
We’re planning on doing Stewart Island straight after the TA and then we’ve got packrafts and paddles that we’ll paddle a bit with. We’ve got all the gear now.

The Rapsey’s completed the Te Araroa Trail on March 7