The Te Araroa Trail has been re-routed this season to reduce the amount of walking on busy roads in the King Country, but it may come at the cost of cutting out a trail icon.
The changes affect 137km of the trail, which has been re-routed along the Pureora Forest Timber Trail and back roads, rather than beside SH4.
But the new route will skip out 13-year-old Sam Pepper’s ‘Te Araroa Time-Out’ stall, which has become a highlight for many a weary walker, after emerging from the Hauhungaroa Range. The Pepper family have been welcoming Te Araroa Trail walkers since the trail opened and have built a rest stop – a small wooden stand that houses freshly picked fruit, water, and even lollies. The family also allows walkers to camp in their backyard.
Sam’s mother, Shannon Pepper, said the family would miss having walkers from around the world pass their doorstep.
“It will be sad for the kids,” Shannon said. “We used to have walkers stay for three or four nights a week. We had a barbecue for them, which we would crank up and give them a feed.”
Sam’s gone to boarding school, but Shannon said he would still man the stall during holidays and weekends to sell eggs and other goodies to passersby.
“We have still had walkers come out our way, so obviously some people are still following the old route,” Shannon said.
Te Araroa Trust chair David McGregor said the new route provided a safer and more scenic experience for walkers.
The trust had worked closely with DOC, Ruapehu District Council and Ongarue landholder Cliff Tombleson to reach agreement on the new route, he said.
Ruapehu District Council Economic Development Manager Warren Furner said Te Araroa was an asset for the district.
“The prominence of Te Araroa walkers in recent years has been easily noticeable by the local community,” he said. “They provide a sense of adventure and a significant economic boost.”
Taumarunui Holiday Park owner Phil Draper said more than 400 Te Araroa walkers had stayed at his holiday park over the past year, stopping to refresh and recover before heading back into the forest.
“Most of them stop for two days because they have just done five or six days in the bush,” Draper said.
Over the past year, about 550 people walked the full length of Te Araroa, which was estimated to have contributed more than $5 million to the New Zealand economy. Walkers reportedly spend between $7000 and $10,000 throughout their four to five month journey.