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Walking to his own drum

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Ivan Clayden is a composer and performer based in Christchurch. When he isn’t offering equipment advice at his day job at Further Faster, he might be found in remote corners of the country recording natural audio for his music. Ivan’s tramping knowledge was put to good use when he walked the 3000km Te Araroa Trail.

What’s your advice for walking Te Araroa?

There is so much information out there that I tend to tell people not to plan too much. I really like to encourage people to go with the flow of it. It’s not a huge undertaking, but can be a life-changing experience.

What are the gear needs when walking the trail? 

It’s always good to be familiar with your gear before starting, especially your sleeping setup and cooking system. 

And don’t be afraid to spend up a bit and get the best options for your raincoat and tent. In New Zealand, you need equipment that’s durable and will stand up to our weather, so find the balance between weight and performance. My own favourite gear is my Aarn Mountain Magic pack, followed closely by a Nemo Dagger tent.

Was there an especially challenging part of the trail?

Tramping-wise, areas like the Richmond Range where there are days of walking through alpine regions which are amazing, but quite demanding physically.

Northland was a favourite section, but it’s a brutal introduction. Stunning, of course, but you’ve got three days minimum on Ninety Mile Beach, which is tough walking and hard on your feet, especially for anyone starting out with new footwear. Incredible in hindsight, but mentally and physically tough. 

How about a highlight?

I’d have to say the Two Thumb Range, as you head over the Stag Saddle. Every-one’s walk is unique to them and I don’t think I had been really enjoying the Arthur’s Pass section, because I’d just come down off these huge mountains in Nelson Lakes and was feeling a bit drained. But getting to that beautiful golden tussock and those rolling hills rekindled the passion again.

How was Te Araroa in terms of social interaction?

That’s a real highlight of the TA. You don’t walk with people as such, but sort of ‘around’ them. You might see someone every other day, or once and then not again for a month. There’s a shared camaraderie on the trail and on meeting someone for the first time you almost skip the small talk and go straight to being mates. It’s quite special and I haven’t experienced that anywhere else. 

Would you do it again?

I think I’ve been hooked. I can definitely see myself doing it again and I’m very keen on walking northbound next time.

If people are on the fence about doing the TA, I really urge them to go for it, take the plunge. I would also encourage them to pursue their passions while on the trail. I took my field recorder and now have recordings from the whole country after walking the trail. I write and compose a lot of music using these sounds.