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Te Araroa trail magic at its finest

Jen Hanlon experienced Kiwi trail magic before even setting foot on the Te Araroa. Photo: Jen Hanlon

Christmas came early for one Te Araroa hiker.

When Canadian Jen Hanlon arrived in Auckland, she got the news that every traveller dreads: her luggage was missing.

Hanlon had lost every piece of gear she needed for the trail, which threatened to ruin her plans for completing the 3000km walk from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

“I was just lost. I was in Auckland, and I didn’t know what to do – I had nothing. I didn’t know who to talk to,” Hanlon said.

Someone recommended Hanlon post about her situation in the Te Araroa Facebook page, so she put up a message asking for advice on how to get discounted or second-hand gear to replace what she’d lost.

The responses came rolling in. Rob McKay was one of the many who offered advice; he told her the Auckland Tramping Club would be a great place to source borrowed gear, in the hopes that her bag would eventually resurface.

But McKay didn’t just offer advice. He took matters into his own hands, and emailed about 50 of his tramping friends in Auckland, explaining Hanlon’s situation and asking if anyone would be willing to help out.

“It was amazing. Almost instantly people came in and said, ‘I’ve got a pack, I’ve got a sleeping bag, a stove’ – the response was fantastic,” McKay said.

Within hours, Hanlon received several messages from trampers willing to offer gear; one Auckland Tramping Club member even drove Hanlon around Auckland to collect everything. Within two days, she was kitted out and ready to go. For Hanlon, it’s been an incredibly heartwarming experience.

“I was just floored. Because before, I was in a place where I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do,” she said. She’s a new grad student, and had already spent $3000 to get all the gear she needed for the hike.

“This really just made me feel so much better. Even just having exchanges with people who live here, and getting to know them – it’s brought me in touch with Kiwi culture before even starting the trail,” she said. “It sucks that I lost my bag, but really it’s made my experience that much better.”

From three different people, she borrowed everything she needed: a pack, sleeping bag, tent, cooking stove, eating utensils and a knife. Hanlon will use the gear for the first section of the hike; Cape Reinga to Auckland. Her hope is that the airlines will have found her bag by the time she returns to the city. If not, she’ll purchase new gear when she’s back in Auckland and continue on her hike.

McKay was equally floored by the response. “It restores my faith in humankind. I never doubted it, but it’s just glorious to see,” he said.

“It’s the Kiwi way. The tramping fraternity – we’re a great bunch of people. We go tramping because we love self-sufficiency, and when we see somebody that’s had that taken away, we jump in to help. But it’s not just in the bush, it’s in the community in general. This is what we do in New Zealand.”