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NZ’s youngest Te Araroa Trail walkers reach Bluff

Jonathan and Elizabeth during the South Island leg of Te Araroa. Photo>Jorinde Rapsey

Two Kiwi children have become the youngest people to walk the length of the country, completing the 3000km Te Araroa Trail at Bluff’s iconic Stirling Point signpost.

Jonathan Rapsey, 7, and his sister Elizabeth, 9, set out from Cape Reinga with their parents Chris and Jorinde in October 2018, completing the North Island segment of the trail just prior to Christmas.

The South Island had been a real highlight, Jorinde said.

“We really enjoyed the ability to camp in so many places along the trail in the South Island,” she said. “It has had more of a wilderness feeling.”

The family averaged around 20km a day over the whole trip, something Mrs Rapsey initially thought the children might struggle with. However, they’ve done two 40km days and walked more than 30km on several occasions.

“The children were great the whole way,” she said. “A 20 or 25km day became a nice cruisy one for us by the end of it.”

She says there haven’t been many fights, with the most contentious issues early in the trip being the flavour of muesli bar, while latter fights revolved around who got to walk with mum or who dad.

“If you are going with children, you really need someone in your group that knows what they are doing, but you can definitely do it,” Jorinde said. “Chris is a keen mountaineer and hunter so he has a lot of experience. For families that aren’t as experienced, I would say join a local tramping club or go on overnight trips with the children to get them excited.”

The Rapseys rented out their Dunedin home to help fund the trip and Jonathan and Elizabeth were able to keep up their homeschooling, incorporating their experience into their learning.

“Walking the last stretch feels a bit unreal really,” Jorinde said. “We’ve been reflecting and thinking about what we’ve achieved, but I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”

She said celebrations were “low key”, with the family enjoying a nice dinner out in Bluff before returning home to Dunedin.

“We keep talking about other trips we could do, either on Stewart Island or in Fiordland. We will definitely do more.”

Te Araroa Trust chief executive Mark Weatherall encouraged more New Zealanders to give the TA a go.

“Te Araroa embraces much of what is at the core of our national identity – the great outdoors, dramatic landscapes and a sense of adventure. Whether you tackle the whole trail like the Rapsey family or walk a section of the trail in the weekend, it’s a great way to see the country.”