Yes, there’s an official route for Te Araroa but how you walk it, or whether you walk every kilometre, does not determine success or failure.
Build it and they will come. That’s what Geoff Chapple, the man who almost single-handedly took the idea of a length-of-the-country trail and turned it into a reality, said in an article he wrote for this magazine in 2016.
He was helping Wilderness celebrate its 25th anniversary (yes, readers, that means this year is our 30th) by reflecting on some of the momentous changes seen in the outdoors over the years.
There have been few more momentous developments than the Te Araroa Trail and Chapple mentioned how on a visit to Top Wairoa Hut, in the back blocks of Mt Richmond Forest Park and reached on a difficult track, he had seen the number of TA walkers increase from just nine in 2010 to 75 in 2014. When he visited the hut at the start of the TA season in 2015, the hut book indicated 45 had already stayed at the hut.
That trend, an annual increase in the number of people walking the TA, kept on going upwards until Covid closed our borders.
Now, Kiwis are walking the trail like never before. Up to 800 of them have registered to walk part or all of the trail this past season. That’s a milestone – and a legacy – Chapple can be proud of.
But you don’t just wake up one day and decide you’ll start walking 3000km. You need to prepare. Hopefully, the stories in our feature beginning on p46 will help you decide how and when you might take on the challenge of walking the length of New Zealand.
I particularly liked hearing about the different ways to walk the trail. From those who walk every [insert expletive] inch (abbreviated in thru-hike circles to EFI), to those who pick and choose which sections to walk and which to skip. Purists might like to say you haven’t walked a long trail unless you’ve walked the published route, and I once tended to lean that way myself, but when you’re hiking with young kids (as two of those we spoke with are), or you don’t have the time or resources to do the full trail, a bit more flexibility is warranted and it’s perfectly legitimate to walk the trail – indeed any trail – your way.